Shohei Ohtani, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and Robbie Ray highlighted the list of those who claimed Players Choice Awards for the 2021 season. The awards, announced Thursday on ESPN, are presented by the Major League Baseball Players Association and are voted on by the players themselves.
Ohtani and Ray were named Outstanding Player and Outstanding Pitcher, respectively, for the American League, while Harper and Scherzer claimed Outstanding Player and Outstanding Pitcher for the National League, honors similar to the MVP and Cy Young awards that are voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Ohtani was also named Player of the Year, given to the player who “exhibits the best on-field performance” in either league, according to the MLBPA.
Ohtani — also presented with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award prior to the World Series — put together an unprecedented season as a two-way player for the Los Angeles Angels, boasting a .965 OPS with 46 home runs and 26 stolen bases as a hitter and a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings as a pitcher.
Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez finished second and third, respectively. Guerrero was also runner-up to Ohtani for the Player of the Year Award, with Harper finishing third.
Harper, an MVP in 2015, led the NL in OPS (1.044) and weighted runs created plus (170) while finishing second in FanGraphs wins above replacement (6.6) and adding 35 home runs for the Philadelphia Phillies. Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto was the runner-up for the award, while San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley tied for third.
Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who was traded from the Nationals to the Los Angeles Dodgers at midseason, went 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings. The 37-year-old right-hander also sported the lowest walk rate and hit rate in the NL and ultimately finished ahead of Corbin Burnes and Zack Wheeler, respectively, in the voting.
Ray had a resurgent season for the Blue Jays, lowering his ERA from 6.62 in 2020 to an AL-low 2.84 in 2021. Ray added 13 wins, a 1.05 WHIP and a major league-leading 248 strikeouts in 193 1/3 innings. Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees and Lance Lynn of the Chicago White Sox finished second and third, respectively.
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini, who hit 21 home runs and played in 147 games a season after battling Stage 3 colon cancer, and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, an All-Star after sitting out the 2020 season, captured Comeback Player of the Year awards in their respective leagues. Orioles left fielder Ryan Mountcastle, who hit 33 home runs, and Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India, who accumulated 3.9 FanGraphs wins above replacement, captured Outstanding Rookie awards.
The Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, given to the player “whose leadership most inspires others to higher levels of achievement,” according to the MLBPA, went to Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien.
Mark Belanger, who spent 18 years in the major leagues and then became the first former player to work for the MLBPA in 1983, won the Curt Flood Award, which, according to the MLBPA, is given to a former player “who in the image of Flood demonstrated a selfless, longtime devotion to the Players Association and advancement of players’ rights.”
Belanger spent 15 years working for the Union until his death at the age of 54 in 1998, and before then he was a key confidante for Miller, the longtime exec who turned the MLBPA into one of the strongest unions in the country.
What happens to Marcus Semien’s fantasy value in Texas?
The first of the big-name free agent shortstops — or, in this case, second base, which was his primary position in 2021 — is off the board, as Marcus Semien reportedly agreed to sign with the Texas Rangers on Sunday, for a whopping seven years and $175 million.
Semien was the best in fantasy terms from that group, finishing fourth among shortstop-eligibles and third among second basemen in 2021. He’s also the oldest, having turned 31 years of age in September, so it’s curious to see a rebuilding team like the Rangers turn in his direction. It might be one of the few places where his chances of repeating what was a marvelous past season took a definitive hit.
Kevin Gausman finds new home, agrees with Toronto Blue Jays on $110 million contract, sources say
Gausman was a reliable back-end starter early in his career, posting a 4.22 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.02 strikeout-to-walk ratio while averaging 146 innings per season for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds from 2014 to 2019.
But his career truly took off upon joining the San Francisco Giants, who helped him fine-tune his splitter to form a devastating combination with his four-seam fastball.
Gausman, originally obtained on a one-year, $9 million contract, posted a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 59 2/3 innings during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The 30-year-old right-hander returned to the Giants after accepting the qualifying offer and was even better in 2021, combining a 2.81 ERA with 227 strikeouts and only 50 walks in 192 innings while anchoring the starting rotation for a team that won a major league-best 107 games.
Gausman made his first All-Star team that year, then finished sixth in National League Cy Young Award voting and became one of the most coveted free agents on the market.
Gausman could help fill a new hole in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Last week, Toronto lost starting pitcher Steven Matz, who posted a 14-7 record, with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts last season. The veteran agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.
ESPN Staff Writer Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.
MLB free-agency grades – Texas Rangers bet big on their future with Marcus Semien signing
Raise your hand if, like me, you uttered something unprintable when you heard the reported terms of Marcus Semien‘s new contract and the team that had offered them. That’s what we call a knee-jerk reaction, which isn’t always rational or correct. Your real response is what you come up with after thinking through the factors involved. Often, then, you see a reason and a rhyme, even with surprising news.
For me, after thinking this deal through, I still think something mildly unprintable, but it’s a word that’s less severe than my knee-jerk phrase — and it comes with a slightly more positive connotation.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Semien and his representatives agreed to a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Texas Rangers. It’s the richest deal by far of this year’s free-agent season, matching the average annual value of Justin Verlander‘s deal with the Astros ($25 million) but for a half-decade longer.
In finding a new team, Semien becomes the second member of the long-anticipated shortstop free-agent class of 2021-22 to find a long-term home (the first being Francisco Lindor, who agreed to an extension with the Mets last season). Let’s consider that class with a few numbers from baseball-reference.com:
Here, it’s worth noting that Passan is also reporting that Semien is far from likely to be the last of the Rangers’ high-level free-agent targets, even among that shortstop class. Still, for now, we’ll look at how he fits as if he were the jewel of the Rangers’ winter push, and not just a jewel.
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