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Milwaukee Brewers hire Ozzie Timmons, Connor Dawson as hitting coaches

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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers will go with multiple hitting coaches next season after hiring Ozzie Timmons and Connor Dawson to replace the fired Andy Haines.

Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns announced Thursday that the National League Central champions had selected Timmons and Dawson to split up responsibilities as part of their “hitting coach team at the major league level.”

Stearns said the Brewers also plan to hire an assistant hitting coach to join that duo.

“What we are doing is really a recognition that this has transformed into a very big job,” Stearns said. “Over the last three to five years, as information continues to proliferate our game, we’re asking more and more of our coaches in general and that’s certainly true of our hitting coaches.

“… I think we’re going to see other teams in the industry follow similar structures in the not-too-distant future, so we think this is the right way to go.”

The Brewers announced Oct. 20 that they wouldn’t be renewing the contract of Haines, who had been Milwaukee’s hitting coach for three seasons.

Milwaukee scored a total of six runs in a four-game NL Division Series loss to the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves after ranking 12th out of 30 major league teams in scoring, 20th in OPS and 27th in batting average during the regular season.

Stearns said he didn’t interview the two hitting coaches together but was seeking individuals who were open-minded and willing to collaborate. Stearns said he believes he found two coaches whose divergent backgrounds will make them an ideal duo.

“Connor’s coming from the new school,” Timmons said. “I’m a little bit of old school. We can combine that together. We can make the Brewers roll. That’s the plan.”

Timmons, 51, was the Tampa Bay Rays‘ first base coach and assistant hitting coach from 2017 to 2021. He also assisted players with baserunning and outfield instruction during that time. He played with four different MLB teams from 1995 to 2000.

Dawson, 28, had worked in the Seattle Mariners organization since 2019 and was their minor league hitting coordinator this season.

“I’m relatively new to professional baseball,” Dawson said. “Having a guy like Ozzie, and his experience as a player, as a coach, it’s invaluable. His wisdom complemented with what I have to bring to the table, I think it makes a great pairing, and I think it can make us really good teammates in this endeavor as well.”

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Wander Franco finalizes $182 million, 11-year contract in ‘great day’ for Tampa Bay Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Wander Franco and the Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a $182 million, 11-year contract that includes a club option for the 2033 season.

The shortstop’s deal, which could be worth up to $223 million if the club option is exercised and incentives are reached, was announced Saturday.

“This is a great day for Wander and for the Rays, and is evidence of the mutual trust between Wander and our organization,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. “We are committed to fielding competitive teams year in and year out, and we all expect that Wander’s presence and contributions will play a large part in maintaining our standard of excellence.”

Tampa Bay won the AL East in 2021, but was eliminated by Boston in the ALDS.

The contract is the largest financial commitment to a player in the Rays’ 24-year history. It’s also the biggest deal in major league history for a player with less than a year of major league service time.

Franco is the fifth player with less than a year of big league experience to sign a long-term extension with the team. The others are third baseman Evan Longoria (2008), left-hander Matt Moore (2011), right-hander Chris Archer (2014) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (2019).

“The pace at which Wander has developed speaks to his potential,” Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said in a statement. “We have seen him do special things on the field, particularly for a player that is only 20 years old. He’s an exceptionally driven, budding superstar who can contribute to our success for a long time.”

Franco made his major league debut June 22 and hit a three-run homer. He batted .288 with 18 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 39 RBI in 70 games. He finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Franco put together a 43-game on-base streak to tie Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest in major league history among players under 21. He went 7 for 19 (.368) with two homers and four RBI in four postseason games.

Franco would have been eligible for free agency after the 2027 season. He gets a $5 million signing bonus, with $2.5 million payments on Dec. 1 and June 1, 2022.

The yearly salary breakdown is: $1 million in 2022, $2 million in 2023 and 2024, $8 million in 2025, $15 million in 2026, $22 million in 2027 and $25 million in each of the last five seasons. The 2033 club option is $25 million, with a $2 million buyout.

Franco’s deal also includes salary escalators if he finishes in the top five in voting for AL MVP. If he is traded before April 2, 2029, Franco receives a $3 million assignment bonus. It drops to $2 million if he is dealt on or after that date.

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Hector Neris agrees to 2-year, $17M deal with Houston Astros

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The Houston Astros have agreed to a two-year, $17 million deal with right-handed reliever Hector Neris, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Neris, 32, started the 2021 season as the closer for the Phillies but lost the job in June. He finished the season with a 4-7 record with 12 saves and a 3.63 ERA in 74 games.

In parts of eight seasons with the Phillies, Neris was 21-29 with a 3.42 ERA and 84 saves.

NBC Sports Philadelphia first reported the deal.

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New York Mets add talent, depth with Starling Marte and more

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Black Friday, a great American tradition, is supposed to be about a frenzied, wild-eyed scramble for bargains. And on this particular Black Friday, the Mets were certainly frenzied — we can only imagine what the eyes of Steve Cohen looked like as his club signed three free-agent hitters over the span of a few hours. Whether any of the deals for this trio qualifies as a bargain, though, we’ll have to wait and see.

It’s been an eventful offseason so far for the Mets, whose initial task after they wrapped up a 77-85 season was to find an executive to oversee all of this. It took them awhile, as they were linked in the rumor mill to everybody from Theo Epstein to Branch Rickey, but they landed on former Angels general manager Billy Eppler.

Meanwhile, as the early free-agent market heated up for starting pitchers, New York saw former rotation members Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz sign elsewhere and watched from afar as Justin Verlander, Eduardo Rodriguez, Anthony DeSclafani and others came off the market. Then Cohen sounded off about Matz’s agent on his always-entertaining Twitter feed.

It has all been, well, kind of frenzied and a little wild-eyed. In other words, the Mets have been in Black Friday mode all along — it just wasn’t until the day after Thanksgiving that they finally got some players to show for it.

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