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New York Yankees roll dice on Corey Kluber

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Timing is everything, in sports as well as life. If the timing is right between Corey Kluber and the New York Yankees, with whom the longtime ace was finalizing a one-year, $11 million deal late Friday, it will be good news for the pitcher in the long term — and perhaps even better for the team in the short term.

Speaking of timing, in the larger context of this winter’s free-agent market, the timing of Kluber’s free agency reveals an irony when you consider the similar status of former Cleveland teammate Trevor Bauer. Kluber is nearly five years older than Bauer, but for five full seasons (2014 to 2018), Kluber was the most dominant starting pitcher in the American League, leading the circuit in wins (83) and WAR (31.7), according to Baseball-Reference. He won two Cy Young Awards and finished third in the balloting two other times.

In each of those seasons, he was better than Bauer, with the debatable exception of Bauer’s breakout season in 2018, when both star righties ranked among the American League’s top Cy Young candidates. Yet here we are, two seasons later, and it’s Bauer, not Kluber, who is the most coveted pitcher on the market. It was Kluber, not Bauer, who had to audition for teams, throwing a reported 30 pitches before scouts and other interested parties earlier this week at a gathering at which as many as 25 teams were represented.

If anything, that should help light a fuse under Kluber. So, too, will the short duration of his new contract, which is in part a result of his own preference, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, as he hopes to set himself up for a bigger payday next year. That has to be A-OK for the Yankees, who have acquired a pitcher who has thrown just 36⅔ innings over the past two seasons. In 2020, which represents the whole of Kluber’s career with the Texas Rangers, he threw 18 pitches, or 12 fewer than he threw at his showcase earlier this week.

For Kluber, the deal is a chance to prove his outstanding career has a promising second act in the works. For the Yankees, it’s a low-risk, high-upside deal for a hurler who only recently was among the elite of the elite but whose recent string of injuries renders a multiyear splurge as just too risky.

So what kind of Klubot did the Bombers just acquire?

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Francisco Lindor channels Eddie Murphy, sports classic ‘Coming to America’ New York Mets jacket

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Francisco Lindor continues to endear himself to the fan base of his new team, rocking a replica of the New York Mets jacket worn by Eddie Murphy in the classic movie “Coming to America” while making his entrance at the team’s spring training facility Thursday morning.

“Good morning, my neighbors,” Lindor says in a video tweeted by the Mets, repeating the iconic line Murphy’s character, Prince Akeem Joffer, yells from the balcony of his Queens apartment in the 1988 comedy.

The sequel to “Coming to America” — called “Coming 2 America” — is scheduled for digital release on March 5 via Amazon.

The four-time All-Star shortstop came to New York this offseason, along with starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, after the Mets traded infielders Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, along with minor leaguers Isaiah Greene and Josh Wolf, to the Cleveland Indians.

New Balance recently made Lindor a rare baseball player with a signature sneaker, announcing on Monday the release of the Lindor 1, part of the brand’s first-ever MLB sneaker and apparel collection.

Lindor has embraced Mets culture so far, rocking blue hair, but his contract status with the team remains a question, with the shortstop scheduled to hit free agency after the season.

“We haven’t found the time [to negotiate], and I obviously have to get to know the organization, get to know the people, and they have to get to know me,” Lindor said Monday about a potential extension with the Mets. “If something comes up, we’ll see in the future; that is between my agent and Sandy [Alderson, team president] and the rest of the staff. It’s been nonexistent, the conversations. It’s too early, I think.”



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Fantasy baseball rookie rankings for 2021

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It’s the season for fantasy baseball rankings, and this one is for players that are rookie/prospect eligible, which has both a service time and playing time component. Some already have major-league experience, but all are still considered Rookie-of-the-Year eligible. I’m ranking them for 2021-only value, so not for their dynasty or keeper league value, and based on a head-to-head category scoring, but will mention players with standout skills for points leagues (like hitters strikeout-to-walk ratio) as relevant. When referencing average around contact (batting average), power (homers), and plate discipline (strikeout-to-walk ratio), average is a .250 batting average and 15-18 homers in a 550 plate appearances, and 9% walks with 23% strikeout rate for hitters, while for pitchers the important averages are a 4.45 ERA and 9.0 K/9.

Almost every pitcher mentioned here is a starter, and those pitcher averages include relievers, so the standard for an average, or No. 4 starter, is actually lower than that, particularly in strikeout rate. There’s a balance between impact/ability and opportunity/playing time which will be noted in the blurb, but the top dozen or so players will be opening day starters that will have to be seriously injured or really underperform to lose their spots. And if you have strong preferences for a particular type of prospect, moving one up/down a few spots is fair, as these rankings are pretty tightly-packed from top to bottom.

1. Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays

Arozarena has the unique combination of everyday tools, a clear spot in the lineup, not enough experience to have graduated prospect status, but a historic run of performance down the stretch in 2020. I don’t think he’s a runaway number one, since there isn’t infield eligibility and he won’t be truly elite in any category, but should be above-average in every category, unless your league uses hitter strikeout rate.

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MLB Stock Watch: First look at win projections, playoff odds and more

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Here’s how we rank baseball’s 30 teams as spring training games begin.

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