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Frazier ‘surprised’ to be sent down by Yankees

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CHICAGO — Minutes after he was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday afternoon, New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier admitted he was “pretty surprised” to find out he was being sent down.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow, yeah,” he said. “It’s never fun, especially with how much I felt like I’ve contributed to this team this year.”

The 24-year-old Frazier heads back to the minor leagues as Edwin Encarnacion, the one of the majors’ more prolific active home run hitters, gets added to the Yankees’ 25-man roster following the Saturday trade that brought him to the Bronx Bombers from Seattle.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Sunday’s demotion was the product of needing to open a roster spot for Encarnacion, the American League’s home run leader with 21.

The timing of the move was particularly surprising to Frazier because of the remaining subtractions that will happen in the coming days with outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge wrapping up minor league rehab assignments for their injuries. Frazier intimated he figured he’d be sent down once that happened in the coming days, but not quite now.

“Not because of Encarnacion,” Frazier said, “but maybe because of Judge or Stanton.”

Stanton is expected to be activated Tuesday when the Yankees meet division foe Tampa Bay in the second game of an important midseason three-game series. Judge likely will play a few more games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before he becomes an option for the Yankees. Frazier, who was originally called up April 1 in the wake of Stanton’s first injury, has had a big impact on the Yankees’ offense.

Through 53 games, Frazier hit .283 with 22 extra-base hits. His 11 home runs are tied for fourth-most on the big-league roster. He also has been one of the leagues’ best hitters with runners in scoring position, carrying a .375 batting average into such scenarios entering Sunday’s series finale at the Chicago White Sox.

“He’s played a big role on a winning team, and that doesn’t necessarily stop now, but this is where we’re at with the roster situation,” Boone said. “So obviously tough news to deliver, but hopefully he can make the most of it and continue to get better at his craft and know that he’s going to play a role for us again.”

“With a guy like Clint we want him playing all the time,” Boone added. “He’s got a chance to be a great player in this league, and he’s already shown that.”

Fellow Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, a 35-year-old veteran and longtime Yankee who could get caught in the pending roster crunch as Stanton and Judge get healthy, had a message of encouragement for Frazier.

“Sometimes when decisions are made, you don’t always agree with them, but you’ve just got to keep your head down and keep moving forward,” Gardner said. “He’s a guy that has a ton of talent. He’s going to play this game for a long time.”

There has been a belief that with so many powerful position players now being added to the Yankees’ lineup, perhaps Frazier will become an important piece the Yankees to dangle in trade talks. He had been assured in past years that despite the previous rampant speculation about his role with the organization, he wasn’t on the trading block.

But now, with the Yankees in such desperate need for starting pitching, that might not be the case.

“I’ve been traded once, so who knows?” Frazier said. “I can’t control that, I just try to play as good as I can to put myself in a good position.”

As strong as his offense has been, Frazier’s defense has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. The attention was at its highest two weeks ago, when he committed three errors during a loss to the Boston Red Sox that was aired nationally on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”

Following that poor performance in the field, Frazier declined to speak to reporters in the postgame scrum in the clubhouse. He later spoke that night to ESPN, expressing remorse for the way he played in such an important ballgame.

Frazier’s personality also has been on full display this season, as he’s spent the past two months capitalizing on his status as a member of the iconic New York-based franchise. Heightened in large part because of where he was playing and who he was playing for, Frazier’s profile rose throughout the spring as he was recognized for the way he took high-end sneakers and added cleats to the bottoms of them. He drawn praise from world-renown sneaker designers and ire for the way he’s gone about playing in the non-traditional cleats.

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Chicago Cubs agree to 1-year contract with reliever Dan Winkler

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CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs and reliever Dan Winkler agreed Friday to a one-year contract that pays $750,000 in the majors.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 8-2 with two saves and a 3.68 ERA in 117 relief appearances over five seasons with Atlanta. He was 3-1 with a 4.98 ERA in 27 outings for the Braves last year before getting traded to San Francisco for pitcher Mark Melancon on July 31. Winkler spent the rest of the season in the minors.

The Cubs went 84-78 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Winkler gets a $200,000 if he’s in the minors. He can earn $750,000 in performance bonuses for games pitched: $50,000 each for 30 and 35, $75,000 apiece for 40 and 45, $100,000 each for 50 and 55, and $150,000 apiece for 60 and 65.

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Mookie Betts to the Reds (or White Sox) and more winter meetings trades we want to see

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Last year, as the baseball industry headed for the winter meetings in Las Vegas, most of the interesting action in the transaction market had taken place in the form of trades. This time around, the news has centered on an MLB offseason free-agent market that is moving much more swiftly than the glacial pace of the past couple of hot stove seasons.

However, the trade market has lagged a bit. Most deals have sprung from the need to create roster space or to move arbitration-eligible players not deemed worth the investment. The Padres and Brewers pulled off a present-value for present-value deal of sorts, with San Diego swapping LHP Eric Lauer and IF Luis Urias for OF Trent Gresham and RHP Zach Davies, and San Diego was back at it with a deal bringing in outfielder Tommy Pham from the Rays. Solid stuff, but not exactly blockbuster material.

That hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning out names at the usual pace, and perhaps when everyone convenes on the West Coast on Sunday, some of these rumors will turn into actual news. It has been a while since we’ve seen a true winter meetings blockbuster, but if there is anything that can be gleaned from the early offseason activity, it’s that a number of teams are actively trying to improve their short-term outlook.

With that in mind, we’ve plucked a few of the leading names from the rumor mill and asked ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield and Bradford Doolittle to play general manager. These are trades we want to see in the next few days. Well, maybe not want — trading good players is both a risky and a sensitive proposition. But these names are out there, and if their teams plan to move them, these are the deals we deem palatable. We’ll also give you a chance to weigh in on their proposed moves.

Jump to deals for …: Mookie Betts | Francisco Lindor | Kris Bryant | Starling Marte | Josh Hader

The Boston Red Sox should trade Mookie Betts to the …

Betts to the Reds for LHP Nick Lodolo, OF Jesse Winker and RHP Lyon Richardson: Let’s start with this: If you’re going all-in for 2020 — as the Reds clearly are doing with the Trevor Bauer trade in July and the Mike Moustakas signing earlier this week — then you should go all-in. Perhaps that will be the case. As Jeff Passan tweeted after the Moustakas signing, “The Reds have plenty more money to spend this winter and they see the National League Central as ripe for the taking.”

It is. The Brewers have lost 88 home runs from their roster in Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames. They traded away Zach Davies, who led the rotation in ERA and innings, and might trade Josh Hader. The Cubs are apparently actively shopping Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant. The Pirates are the Pirates. Only the Cardinals look as if they’re not taking a step back, and they’re hardly a formidable powerhouse.

So go for it, Cincy. Yes, the Reds have nine outfielders on their 40-man roster. But add them all up and you don’t have one Mookie Betts. You don’t know what you’re going to get from Aristides Aquino after his wild ride from a 14-homer August to a .196 average and 34 strikeouts in September. Winker’s primary calling card is his on-base ability, but he can’t hit lefties. Nick Senzel didn’t exactly tear it up as a high-profile rookie. Enter Mookie. In fact, Mookie would probably be the team’s best outfielder, so you can play him in center, slide Senzel over to left, where he projects as a plus defender, and play Aquino in right, with Josh VanMeter and Phillip Ervin around as passable reserves if Aquino struggles.

Is this enough of a haul for Betts? With just one season and a potential $30 million salary, Betts’ trade value is more limited than it might appear for one of the game’s best all-around players. The Red Sox get Cincy’s first-round pick from 2019 (Lodolo), a staring outfielder (Winker) and an interesting lower-level arm in Richardson, a second-round pick in 2018. If you buy into Lodolo’s upside as the seventh overall pick out of TCU who should move quickly, it’s a worthwhile gambit.— Schoenfield

Chicago White Sox for OF Luis Alexander Basabe, RHP Dane Dunning and RHP Reynaldo Lopez: I feel strongly that this is the offseason for the White Sox to go in heavy to lock down the top couple of spots on their roster. They missed out on Zack Wheeler. Good! Go after Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Is Anthony Rendon a luxury? Who cares? Call him up. Move some future value for one season of one of baseball’s best players? Absolutely.

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Yankees GM rappels building, gets fan’s message on Gerrit Cole

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STAMFORD, Conn. — While Brian Cashman was descending the outside of a building Friday, the New York Yankees general manager came across a message taped to a 10th-floor window from a fan: Please sign Gerrit Cole.

Cashman, whose rappelling adventure has become a holiday tradition, confirmed he met with Cole in California on Tuesday and spoke with another free-agent pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, the following day.

“It was a great opportunity, clearly it was very public, that we met with Gerrit Cole and Strasburg while I was on the West Coast,” Cashman said. “At least, that’s who you all are aware of so far. Who knows who I met with?”

The Yankees have made signing Cole their clear offseason priority and have ownership-level approval to offer him a record-setting deal, sources familiar with their plans told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Thursday.

Cole and Strasburg are the top pitchers on the free-agent market. The Yankees would like to add an ace to a rotation that already includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ.

Along with Cashman, assistant GM Mike Fishman, manager Aaron Boone, new Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake and former Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte made the trip to speak with both pitchers, who are represented by Scott Boras.

The Yankees’ fondness for the 29-year-old Cole, whose fantastic 2019 season with the Houston Astros set him up to smash David Price‘s record $217 million contract for a pitcher, was only reinforced during the meeting, sources told ESPN.

New York and the Los Angeles Angels, a team similarly smitten with Cole and in even greater need of pitching, are preparing for a bidding war that executives expect will reach well beyond $250 million, according to sources. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ interest in Cole is acute as well, though they are also considering bids for Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon, sources told ESPN.

Cashman offered little about possibly signing either pitcher, declining to discuss how much the Yankees might spend.

“I think it was an important part of the process for them,” Cashman said. “It sounds like they have met with many teams, and obviously I can’t predict the future or the timing of their futures; only really they control that.”

Cole was 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA and a big league-high 326 strikeouts this year for the AL champion Astros. He was originally drafted by the Yankees with the 28th overall pick in 2008, but he declined to sign a contract and opted to attend UCLA.

Strasburg was the MVP of the World Series for the Washington Nationals and was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Cashman will return to California for the baseball’s winter meetings, which begin Monday. First, he’ll attend Sunday’s Heights and Lights, where he will dress as an elf and again descend the Landmark Building.

“I’ll be flying back out after this event and in the meantime staying engaged,” said Cashman, who declined to say if another meeting with either pitcher was planned.

“I’m open to do clearly whatever, as always, is important for the Yankees. If there are certain steps that need to be taken, or conversations on the phone, like any club we are fully prepared to do what’s necessary.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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