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Carlos Correa open to long-term contract with Houston Astros, if done before season starts

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HOUSTON — If the Houston Astros want to sign shortstop Carlos Correa to a long-term contract, he says they need to do it before opening day.

“I feel so good, my body feels so great and I feel like I’m going to have such a great season that once the season starts, I don’t want to be involved with or distracted with those conversations,” Correa said Monday after the Astros held their first full-squad workout of the spring.

The Astros avoided arbitration with Correa, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, by signing him to a one-year, $11.7 million contract.

Correa has spent his entire career with the Astros after they selected him with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. He said he’d like to stay in Houston, but so far, the team hasn’t talked to him about an extension.

“There’s no talks right now about that,” he said. “Talks are nowhere right now. I leave that up to my agent and the organization, but right now, there’s no talks about it. I haven’t heard from them since the arbitration was settled. That’s where we are right now.”

If Correa does hit the free agent market, he’ll do it with a strong group of shortstops that could include Javier Báez, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story and Corey Seager. Correa will be just 27 years old when he’s eligible for free agency if he doesn’t agree to an extension with the Astros.

“I’ll be really young. I’ll be one of the youngest players going to free agency next year,” he said. “I feel like it would take the right deal to stay here. I’m not going to sell myself short, but at the same time, I know what I’m worth … I’m expecting to have a great, healthy season, which will help my case for free agency being the youngest shortstop out there. We’ll see how it goes.”

Houston’s other two stars on the infield have already agreed to long-term contracts – second baseman Jose Altuve signed a five-year, $151 million deal in 2018 and third baseman Alex Bregman agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract in 2019. The Astros lost star outfielder George Springer this off-season when he signed a six-year, $150 million deal with the Blue Jays.

Correa, who was the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year, is a career .276 hitter with 107 homers and 397 RBI in six major league seasons. He hit .264 with five homers and 25 RBI in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but heated up in the postseason where he had six homers and 17 RBI to help the Astros to the ALCS.

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Fernando Tatis Jr. cites legacy as reason for 14-year deal with San Diego Padres

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SAN DIEGO — In discussing options for a long-term deal with electrifying young shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the San Diego Padres brought up the concept of “a statue contract.”

As in, if the kid is as good as Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman were, maybe in 15 or 20 years there will be a statue of “El Niño” alongside those Padres greats in a grassy area just beyond Petco Park.

The options were year-to-year, a multiyear deal that bought out a year or two of Tatis’ free agency or a contract in which Tatis was with the Padres for likely the rest of his career.

“In typical Tati fashion, his only real comment was, ‘Why not my whole career?'” general manager A.J. Preller said Monday in announcing the two sides had finalized Tatis’ $340 million, 14-year contract, the longest in baseball history.

“He wanted to be one of those very unique players that plays his career in one spot,” Preller said. “He loves the franchise, he loves the city, he loves his teammates and he talked a lot about really wanting to get on the path of that statue contract.”

Said Tatis: “I want the statue on one team. I want to be able to stay on one team and build my legacy over here in San Diego.”

If Tatis and the Padres are correct, the big decision will be which version of “El Niño” the statue shows: the one one making slick plays at shortstop, the one with a “Matrix”-type move to avoid being tagged out at first base or the one with the epic bat flip after homering for the second time in a playoff game?

“I’m going to put those numbers first and then we can discuss it,” Tatis said with a laugh during a videoconference from spring training in Peoria, Arizona. “I don’t know. Maybe we can have three statues in different ways. We will see what happens.”

Tatis, 22, had been eligible for salary arbitration after this season and for free agency after the 2024 season.

A son of former big league infielder Fernando Tatis, he has played in only 143 games during two seasons, including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, yet has quickly become one of the faces of baseball.

He stands out because of his flair, easy smile, blond dreadlocks flowing from under his cap and his dance moves in the dugout after hitting home runs.

Most importantly to the Padres, Tatis has made baseball fun again in San Diego after years of futility. He helped San Diego end a 13-year playoff drought in 2020 and win a wild-card series against the St. Louis Cardinals before the Padres were swept by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

“I’m just the same kid on the field. Nothing’s going to change,” he said. “I’m playing the game I love. And I feel when you do the things with passion and with love, I feel like it’s going to reward you. And I feel like when people ask me how I’m going to play this game, I’m just going to be the same kid every single time.”

Tatis has dared to challenge old-school norms. After hitting his second home run in an 11-9 win in Game 2 of the wild-card series against the Cardinals, he unleashed an emphatic bat flip. A photo of Tatis in that moment is on the cover of the video game “MLB The Show ’21.”

In August, Tatis caused a stir when he hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count with the Padres leading the Texas Rangers by seven runs. The furor died down, and the Padres became the first team in MLB history to hit grand slams in four straight games and five in six games, leading to the nickname “Slam Diego.”

“He has a tremendous respect for the game of baseball. A lot was made last year, young players changing the game of baseball,” Preller said. “What results in success, it doesn’t really change from era to era. Some of the styles change, maybe some of the skills change at times, but he respects greatness, he respects the people that have come before him. A lot of that credit goes to his family.”

Tatis has hit .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 143 games.

San Diego promoted Tatis to the majors on opening day of 2019, forgoing the chance to delay his free agency by waiting a few weeks — a reality of the game experienced by other young stars like Kris Bryant with the Chicago Cubs and Bryce Harper with the Washington Nationals.

The length of Tatis’ contract exceeds the $325 million, 13-year agreement in November 2014 between Miami and Giancarlo Stanton, who was traded to the New York Yankees in December 2017, and the $330 million, 13-year contract ahead of the 2019 season between Harper and Philadelphia.

Baseball’s biggest deal by dollars remains Mike Trout’s $426.5 million, 12-year contract signed with the Angels in March 2019. Tatis’ deal is the third-largest, also trailing Mookie Betts‘ $365 million, 12-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers that starts this season.

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Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman will be late arrival to camp after birth of twin boys

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NL MVP Freddie Freeman won’t report with the Atlanta Braves‘ position players on Tuesday following the birth of his twin sons.

Manager Brian Snitker said Monday he supports Freeman arriving later in the week.

Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, on Sunday used their Twitter accounts to announce the addition of twin sons by posting “Officially a family of five.” Their first son, Charlie, was born in 2016. The Freemans did not immediately reveal names of their twins.

Due to coronavirus protocols in place at all Major League Baseball spring training sites, including the Braves’ facility in North Port, Florida, Snitker said Freeman will have to spend “a couple days” away from his teammates after reporting. Other position players already have had their intake testing so they’ll be cleared for the first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

Even so, Snitker said it was “no big deal at all” for Freeman to arrive later in the week.

“Actually, I’ll be honest with you, he doesn’t need to be here,” Snitker said. “I’m kind of glad he’s doing what he’s doing right now.”

Snitker noted Freeman normally swings well at the start of spring training “and then gets bored for 10 days.”

Even after battling high fever following a COVID-19 diagnosis before the delayed start of the 2020 season, Freeman returned to post dominant numbers. He was a runaway winner of the NL MVP award, landing 28 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Freeman hit .341 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a NL-leading 23 doubles in the regular season. The Braves finished one win shy of the World Series when they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Freeman, 31, is entering the final year of a $135 million, eight-year contract. Even in a lineup that includes Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, Freeman is the Braves’ leader and most established hitter.

In 2019, Freeman hit .295 and set career highs with 38 homers and 121 RBIs. He has finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting in five seasons, including the past three. He was fourth in the voting in 2018, when he won is first Gold Glove at first base and hit .309.

He has a .295 career average with 240 homers in 11 seasons.



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Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman will be late arrival to camp after birth of twin boys

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NL MVP Freddie Freeman won’t report with the Atlanta Braves‘ position players on Tuesday following the birth of his twin sons.

Manager Brian Snitker said Monday he supports Freeman arriving later in the week.

Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, on Sunday used their Twitter accounts to announce the addition of twin sons by posting “Officially a family of five.” Their first son, Charlie, was born in 2016. The Freemans did not immediately reveal names of their twins.

Due to coronavirus protocols in place at all Major League Baseball spring training sites, including the Braves’ facility in North Port, Florida, Snitker said Freeman will have to spend “a couple days” away from his teammates after reporting. Other position players already have had their intake testing so they’ll be cleared for the first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

Even so, Snitker said it was “no big deal at all” for Freeman to arrive later in the week.

“Actually, I’ll be honest with you, he doesn’t need to be here,” Snitker said. “I’m kind of glad he’s doing what he’s doing right now.”

Snitker noted Freeman normally swings well at the start of spring training “and then gets bored for 10 days.”

Even after battling high fever following a COVID-19 diagnosis before the delayed start of the 2020 season, Freeman returned to post dominant numbers. He was a runaway winner of the NL MVP award, landing 28 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Freeman hit .341 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a NL-leading 23 doubles in the regular season. The Braves finished one win shy of the World Series when they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Freeman, 31, is entering the final year of a $135 million, eight-year contract. Even in a lineup that includes Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, Freeman is the Braves’ leader and most established hitter.

In 2019, Freeman hit .295 and set career highs with 38 homers and 121 RBIs. He has finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting in five seasons, including the past three. He was fourth in the voting in 2018, when he won is first Gold Glove at first base and hit .309.

He has a .295 career average with 240 homers in 11 seasons.



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