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Pittsburgh Pirates trade Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings to Miami Marlins

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PITTSBURGH — Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings is heading to the Miami Marlins.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have traded Stallings to the Marlins in exchange for pitcher Zach Thompson and prospects Kyle Nicolas and Connor Scott.

Stallings, 31, is coming off the best season of his career. He earned his first Gold Glove for his handling of an inexperienced pitching staff that ranked among the worst in the major leagues while hitting .246 with career-highs in home runs (8) and RBIs (53) in 112 games.

Stallings joins a team that is trying to elbow its way into contention in the NL East. Miami signed outfielder Avisail Garcia to a five-year deal worth $56-million and agreed to terms with pitcher Sandy Alcantara.

Pittsburgh is in the middle of a franchise-wide reboot focused on hoarding as many prospects as possible. Nicolas and Scott, both 22, fit that mold.

Nicolas, a right-handed pitcher, made 21 appearances between Class A and Double-A in 2021 and struck out 136 batters, the most among players in Miami’s minor-league system.

Scott, an outfielder, hit .276 with 25 doubles and 10 home runs in 2021 while playing for Class-A Beloit.

Thompson originally drafted by the Pirates in the 48th round of the 2011 draft, went 3-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings for Miami in 2021. He began the season as a starter before shifting to the bullpen in September.

The Pirates on Monday also signed veteran pitcher Jose Quintana to a one-year contract and avoided arbitration with outfielder Ben Gamel by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal.

The 32-year-old Quintana gives a needed veteran presence to a starting pitching staff that was among the worst in the majors in 2021. Quintana is 83-80 with a 3.84 ERA in 10 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco.

Quintana split time between the Dodgers and Giants in 2021, going 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in 29 combined appearances, including 10 starts.

The well-traveled Gamel played well at times for the Pirates in 2021 after Pittsburgh claimed him off waivers from Cleveland in May.

The team’s deal with Gamel is worth $1.8 million, the Associated Press reported, with an additional $100,000 in performance incentives available if Gamel makes 450 and 550 plate appearances.

Gamel hit .247 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs in 111 games for the Pirates, primarily playing left field. He is the second position player re-signed by Pittsburgh over the last week.

The Pirates agreed to terms with first baseman/outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo on a one-year, $4 million deal last Wednesday.

To make room for Quintana on the 40-man roster, Pittsburgh designated left-hander Steven Brault for assignment.

Brault went 12-18 with a 4.77 ERA while filling a variety of roles for the Pirates. He struggled to stay healthy in 2021 and went winless in seven appearances (three starts) with a 5.86 ERA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Cleveland Guardians sign agreement to extend lease at Progressive Field through 2036

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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Guardians have reached an agreement to extend their lease at their downtown ballpark through at least 2036 while making improvements to the facility, team owner and CEO Paul Dolan announced Thursday.

Team officials said they’ve obtained financing to renovate Progressive Field, a ballpark that opened for play in 1994. The cost of the improvements has been estimated at just over $200 million. Renovation work is expected to begin after the 2022 season.

“We are confident that this agreement will create a more compelling fan experience and keep this facility modern and relevant for many more years to come,” Dolan said in a statement.

The Cleveland City and Cuyahoga County councils previously approved the agreement. The city and county will contribute a total of $17 million, Ohio $2 million and the team $10 million a year to pay for the improvements and costs such as repairs, maintenance, operations and property taxes.

The agreement could be extended another 10 years to 2046, team officials said.

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Gene Clines, World Series winner and part of MLB’s 1st all-minority lineup, dies at 75

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PITTSBURGH — Gene Clines, part of the first all-minority lineup in Major League Baseball history and a line-drive-hitting outfielder for the 1971 World Series champion Pirates, died Thursday. He was 75.

Clines’ wife, Joanne, told the Pirates that Clines died at his home in Bradenton, Florida, the team’s longtime spring training site. No cause of death was given.

On Sept. 1, 1971, Clines batted second and played center field for the Pirates in a starting lineup that was entirely players of Black and Latino descent. He doubled, singled and scored twice as Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia 10-7 at Three Rivers Stadium.

Clines was at PNC Park in September when the Pirates celebrated the 50th anniversary of the occasion, with fellow starters Al Oliver, Dave Cash and Manny Sanguillen joining the festivities.

Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Rennie Stennett and Jackie Hernandez also started for the Pirates on that historic night in 1971. A month later, they won the World Series, beating the Baltimore Orioles in seven games.

Clines batted .277 in 10 seasons, playing the entire decade of the 1970s with the Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Texas Rangers. He hit only five home runs in 870 games but connected in the 1971 NL Championship Series against the Giants.

He hit .308 with 15 stolen bases in 97 games in 1971 and batted .334 in 107 games the next season. He played his first five seasons with Pittsburgh.

“Gene was a speedy outfielder who was a key member of our 1971 World Series team,” Pirates president Travis Williams said in a statement. “He made a tremendous impact on the game, not only as a player after his career with the Pirates, but also as a longtime coach in the big leagues.

“It was an honor to have Gene back in Pittsburgh this past September to recognize him and his teammates from our 1971 World Series championship team who took the field as part of Major League Baseball’s first all-minority lineup. It was a joy to talk to him about his deep passion for baseball, his love for his teammates and his appreciation for the city of Pittsburgh.”

Clines later coached in the majors with the Cubs, Astros, Mariners, Brewers and Giants, and he worked in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization for outfield, baserunning and hitting instruction.

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MLB won’t require minor league players to be vaccinated against COVID-19

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Major League Baseball will not require minor league players to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to play in 2022 but will mandate on-field staff working with players be “up to date” on vaccinations, according to a memo sent to teams Thursday morning and obtained by ESPN.

The league had considered mandating vaccinations across the minor leagues, which it could have done without players’ consent because their working conditions are not governed by a collective bargaining agreement, like major leaguers.

Ultimately, MLB decided against it, though it did put conditions into place for managers, coaches and others who will have in-person contact with players.

The standard for “up-to-date” vaccinations is that those eligible for a booster shot have received one and those who have not been vaccinated can receive a Pfizer or Moderna shot before reporting to spring training and have another scheduled to be in compliance. Additionally, the memo said, “only bona fide religious and medical exemptions requests may be considered by Clubs.”

In a statement to ESPN, the league said: “Our expert consultants have advised that fully up-to-date vaccination of all on-field staff and others with close player contact provides a safer environment in which to prevent infection and transmission. Reasonable accommodations will be considered for staff members who receive an exemption to this requirement. Such exemptions will be considered on an individual basis and in accordance with state law. We continue to strongly encourage vaccination among Minor League players and make resources available to Minor League teams and players toward that goal.”

Around 88% of minor leaguers were vaccinated during the 2021 season, according to a league official, a number that mirrored the percentage of players and staff vaccinated at the major league level. COVID-19 protocols at the major league level are decided by the league and MLB Players Association.

Baseball’s calendar has played in its favor over the last two months, as the Omicron variant ravaged NFL, NBA and NHL rosters and caused the postponement of games. The recognition that players are younger, generally healthier and, according to doctors, at less risk for severe infection played into the decision not to mandate vaccination, sources said.

Vaccinated players in the minor leagues, the memo said, “likely will be subject to some — albeit less restrictive — testing and health and safety protocols.” Their unvaccinated teammates, according to the memo, “will be subject to increased regulation and prohibitions, including the requirement to conduct intake and regular surveillance testing, mask wearing, and restrictions on their access to Restricted Areas.”

Minor league players and staff are expected to report to spring training at the regularly planned time — for most in late February.

The memo, which addressed a number of issues in addition to COVID-19 protocols, said that despite the lockout that is approaching its second full month, teams “may not adjust their previously scheduled Minor League Spring Training dates as a result of the work stoppage at the Major League level.”

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