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Sources — New York Mets, Max Scherzer finalizing 3-year deal

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Star right-hander Max Scherzer and the New York Mets are finalizing a deal expected to be in the three-year, $130 million deal range, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

There are still details to be worked out and the numbers could change, the sources said.

The Mets have gone on a spending spree over the weekend, signing center fielder Starling Marte, infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder Mark Canha to deals worth a combined $124.5 million.

And after seeing starters Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz sign with other clubs in the last two weeks, new owner Steve Cohen wasn’t going to be denied one of the best pitchers on the market in Scherzer.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, was among the preeminent pitchers of the 2010s — along with Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw — and has rolled his dominance into the 2020s.

In 2021, during his age-36 season, Scherzer went 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA in 179⅓ innings for the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, striking out 236 batters and walking only 36. He ultimately finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting, marking the eighth time in the last nine years he has finished within the top five.

During that stretch, which dates back to 2013, Scherzer has posted a 2.82 ERA while averaging 15 wins and 192 innings per season (even though the 2020 season was shortened to 60 games because of the coronavirus pandemic). His 51.2 FanGraphs wins above replacement since then leads all pitchers.

Scherzer was originally the 11th-overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who flipped him to the Detroit Tigers three years later in a major three-team trade that saw Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, among others, switch teams.

In Detroit, Scherzer formed a devastating duo with Verlander on perennial playoff teams that often fell just short of a championship. He joined the Nationals on a seven-year, $210 million free-agent deal in January of 2015 and somehow outperformed his contract over the course of six-plus seasons, a highly impressive run that culminated in the 2019 World Series championship.

The Dodgers acquired Scherzer alongside middle infielder Trea Turner in late July of 2020 in exchange for their two best remaining prospects, catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray. Scherzer dominated initially, with a 0.78 ERA through his first nine starts, but his arm was slow to recover from being used in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.

Scherzer languished through Game 2 of the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, later saying his arm was still tired from his relief appearance three days earlier. He was initially scheduled to start again in Game 6 but was pushed back for Game 7 due to lingering soreness — then watched the Dodgers get eliminated in Game 6, abruptly ending another dominant Scherzer season.

Scherzer is 190-97 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 major league seasons. He has 3,020 strikeouts, which ranks 18th on the all-time list.

ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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MLB Players Association to make counteroffer to league in Monday meeting

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The Major League Baseball Players Association plans to make an in-person labor proposal to the league on Monday, sources told ESPN, countering MLB’s offer last week that did little to loosen the gridlock that has gripped the sport after the league locked out the players Dec. 2.

Should the players’ offer do little to advance the negotiations that thus far haven’t yielded any substantive progress, the scheduled start to spring training in mid-February will grow that much unlikelier. And the longer discussions on a new collective-bargaining agreement last, the more they jeopardize Opening Day on March 31.

The gap between the players and league remains significant, with the union seeking major financial gains in a number of areas and owners trying to hold firm with what they currently pay in salaries. Other issues players have said remain a priority include anti-tanking measures and fixing service-time manipulation.

Any concessions players make in their offer could provide a roadmap to the negotiations. Before implementing the lockout, the league asked the union to drop three areas of discussion: earlier free agency for players, salary arbitration after two years instead of three and changes to the revenue-sharing plan. The union did not agree to the condition when presented with it Dec. 1, and the league left the bargaining table, locking out the players hours later.

Forty-three days later, the league returned to the union with an offer that included paying players with two to three years of service based on a formula, slight modifications to the draft lottery it previously had proposed and a mechanism that would reward teams with draft picks when top prospects who started on opening day rosters win awards.

The proposal did little to entice players, who after losing financial ground during the previous labor agreement want to make gains this time around.

News of the MLBPA’s expected counterproposal was first reported by The Associated Press

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Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022, one step away from major league baseball

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NEW YORK — Robot umpires have been given a promotion and will be just one step from the major leagues this season. Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the highest level of the minor leagues.

MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball-Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. The system also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.

There were no minor leagues in 2020 because of the pandemic, and robot umps were used last season in eight of nine ballparks at the Low-A Southeast League.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed in its labor contract that started in 2020 to cooperate and assist if commissioner Rob Manfred decides to use the system at the major league level.

“It’s hard to handicap if, when or how it might be employed at the major league level, because it is a pretty substantial difference from the way the game is called today,” Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, said last March.

MLB said the robot umpires will be used at some spring training ballparks in Florida, will remain at Low A Southeast and could be used at non-MLB venues.

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Tampa Bay Rays say split-season plan with Montreal rejected by MLB

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays‘ proposed plan to split the season between Florida and Montreal has been rejected by Major League Baseball.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced the news on Thursday.

“Today’s news is flat-out deflating,” Sternberg said.

The idea of playing in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal has been discussed over the past several years after attempts to build a new full-time ballpark locally failed.

Montreal had a big league team from 1969, when the expansion Expos began play, through 2004. The Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals for the 2005 season.

The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season.

Since Sternberg took control in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the field but not at the box office.

Despite reaching the World Series in 2008 and 2020, the Rays have annually ranked near the bottom in attendance. The Rays averaged about 9,500 for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.

St. Petersburg mayor Ken Welch feels a new stadium in his city remains a possibility. Governmental officials have been working on a redevelopment plan for the Tropicana Field site.

“We are working with our county partners and city council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals,” Welch said in a statement. “With this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create a new and iconic full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while also achieving historic equitable economic growth.”

Sternberg said the team will definitely explore options in the Tampa Bay area.

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