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New York Mets owner Steve Cohen says he’s ‘all-in,’ expects team to make playoffs this season

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NEW YORK – If there was any doubt that the tenure of Steve Cohen would mark a new era of New York Mets baseball, the team’s new owner hopes the 10-year, $341 million contract given to shortstop Francisco Lindor erases any skepticism.

“I told you I’m all-in,” Cohen told reporters Monday, “and this should leave no doubt.”

Under the ownership of Cohen, the Mets became one of the most aggressive teams in baseball during free agency this past offseason, pursuing big-name free agents such as George Springer and Trevor Bauer as Cohen tried to make his mark as the team’s new owner.

In addition to acquiring Lindor, the Mets also traded for pitcher Carlos Carrasco and signed catcher James McCann, infielder Jonathan Villar, outfielder Kevin Pillar and reliever Trevor May.

“We made different attempts that we’re serious about this,” Cohen said. “Like I said, when people want to sign a contract, two people sign a contract, not one. It was great to get Francisco. We like him a lot, and I thought it was a very successful offseason too. We built up our depth, and we’re thrilled where we are and are looking forward to the season.”

Cohen said that, during the course of negotiations, he and Lindor became “good friends” as they shared several dinners.

“We text all the time,” Cohen said.

Team president Sandy Alderson also addressed the contract status of Michael Conforto, who is eligible to become a free agent after the 2021 season. While Lindor set an Opening Day deadline for the negotiation of his contract, Conforto indicated previously that he’s willing to talk to the team during the course of the season.

Alderson said that the team is willing to talk to the outfielder about a new deal.

“I would say that our negotiations were brief but cordial, and I do believe there is room for continuing those conversations and I’m hopeful that the dialogue will continue,” Alderson said. “We’ll see where we end up.”

While Cohen would not predict a World Series title, he did say he expects the team to make the playoffs this season.

“What I do think is that we are going to be real competitive, and I do believe we are going to make the playoffs,” Cohen said. “Once we get to the playoffs, anything can happen, right? I’m pretty optimistic. The team looks good to me, and I think fans are going to really enjoy this team.”

Alderson mentioned that the Mets will be encouraging all of their players to get the COVID-19 vaccine by providing education about its public health benefits.

“We want to encourage not only our players but everyone to be vaccinated,” Cohen said. “I’ve been vaccinated, and I would encourage anyone in my family who hasn’t been, who’s not yet eligible, to be vaccinated, so we’re going to encourage our players to be vaccinated, but we’re also going to provide education so we have something in Philadelphia [where the Mets are slated to open their season Monday] for all of our players provided by our medical staff and an independent medical staff to inform our players about the impact on our own health and the health of our families and specific questions they may have.”

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Albert Pujols in agreement with Los Angeles Dodgers on major league deal, sources say

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The Los Angeles Dodgers and first baseman Albert Pujols are in agreement on a major league contract, sources told ESPN on Saturday, confirming a report by the Los Angeles Times.

The agreement isn’t expected to become official until Monday, a source said.

Pujols, in the last year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels on May 6 and was officially released on Thursday after clearing waivers.

Pujols, 41, would seemingly be coming in for a part-time role. Max Muncy has started 32 of the Dodgers’ first 38 games at first base, but he also provides the versatility to help at third base and second base, which would open up some playing time for Pujols at first base.

The Dodgers entered Saturday with a .663 OPS against opposing left-handed pitchers this season, 136 points less than the team’s OPS against righties.

Pujols, one of the best right-handed-hitters in baseball history, could help with that. Pujols was batting only .198/.250/.372 in his first 92 plate appearances this season, but his .513 expected slugging percentage suggested he had also been running into some bad luck.

He is fifth in major league history with 667 homers and 13th with 3,253 hits. A three-time National League MVP and two-time World Series champion with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols has a .298 career average and .921 OPS. He is a 10-time All-Star and had been the oldest active player in the major leagues.

Pujols was in a 7-for-43 slump at the time he was cut.

He batted .328 with a 1.037 OPS in St. Louis, but hit .256 with a .758 OPS in Anaheim along with 222 homers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tampa Bay Rays deal reliever Hunter Strickland to Los Angeles Angels

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The Tampa Bay Rays traded right-handed relief pitcher Hunter Strickland to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Strickland, 32, has appeared in 13 games for the Rays this season, registering a 1.69 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched.

He made the Rays roster in spring training as a non-roster invitee.

The eight-year veteran has a 16-16 career record with 21 saves and a 3.14 ERA and 249 strikeouts. He also has pitched for the Giants, Mariners, Nationals and Mets during his career.

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Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ ‘good’ after being activated from IL

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The Chicago Cubs activated outfielder Ian Happ from the injured list after he missed time due to bruised ribs.

“They’re good,” Happ said Saturday morning. “I feel great. It’s not like anything I’ve ever had before. Working out the last three to four days, being able to throw, hit, run and do everything it takes to play in a major league baseball game.”

Happ, 26, was injured in a collision with second baseman Nico Hoerner as both players converged on a pop up in the outfield earlier this month. Hoerner also spent time on the injured list with a forearm injury. He was activated on Friday.

To make room on the roster for Happ, infielder Ildemaro Vargas was designated for assignment. Happ is batting sixth and playing centerfield against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

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