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Bieber, late addition to All-Star roster, wins MVP

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CLEVELAND — In a 4-3 American League All-Star Game victory with no clear MVP on Tuesday, hometown favorite Shane Bieber, a right-handed starter for the Cleveland Indians, earned the honors after striking out the side in the fifth inning amid a Progressive Field-wide chant of his name.

The 24-year-old Bieber, once a walk-on at UC-Santa Barbara, caught Cubs catcher Willson Contreras looking on a 95 mph fastball, punched out Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte on an 84 mph curveball and froze Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. on an 86 mph slider.

Bieber is the third player in All-Star Game history to win the MVP award in his home ballpark, joining Pedro Martinez at Fenway Park in 1999 and Sandy Alomar Jr. also in Cleveland in 1997.

During the seven-pitch at-bat against Acuña, the crowd of 36,747 chanted, “Let’s go, Bieber!” and he responded with a strikeout that prompted Indians manager Terry Francona to clap his hands excitedly. The victory extended the AL’s All-Star Game winning streak to seven games.

“I really didn’t know what to think,” Bieber said of winning MVP. “Kinda lost all feeling in my body. But it’s an incredible feeling now. Now that it’s kind of sinking in, just to be able to do it in front of the hometown crowd in my first All-Star Game is definitely not something I expected.”

Bieber wasn’t named to the All-Star team until Friday, when he replaced Rangers starter Mike Minor, who wasn’t eligible to play because he pitched Sunday.

Bieber is the first pitcher to win All-Star Game MVP since Mariano Rivera in 2013 and is just the fifth pitcher to do so in the past 40 years, joining Martinez, Roger Clemens (1986) and LaMarr Hoyt (1985). Only Bieber, Rivera and Juan Marichal (1965) have taken home MVP honors without earning a win.

Bieber — no relation to Justin Bieber, for those wondering — beat AL teammates Michael Brantley and Joey Gallo for the honors by preserving a 1-0 lead against the final three hitters in the National League’s stout lineup. Brantley staked the AL to the advantage in the stadium where he spent the first 10 years of his career with a second-inning RBI double off Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw that scored Astros teammate Alex Bregman.

The 32-year-old Brantley, who joined Houston as a free agent this winter, sliced a 91 mph fastball from Kershaw into the left-center-field gap to open the scoring and hand Bieber the one-run lead he held.

“He is a phenomenal pitcher,” Brantley said. “He is gaining experience and getting better and better every time he goes out. He competes at a high level. I am so proud of him. I can’t wait to see him and tell him congratulations again. That was fun to watch.”

The award easily could have gone to Gallo, the Rangers slugger whose solo homer proved the decisive run. The 25-year-old Gallo, in the midst of a breakout season that has helped propel the surprising Rangers into contention in the AL West, walloped a first-pitch fastball from San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith into the right-field stands.

The run gave the AL a 4-1 lead that it held after a shaky eighth inning from Indians closer Brad Hand shrunk the advantage to one run. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth inning to end a game in which the NL punched out 16 times.

With injuries sidelining stalwart starters Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger and a leukemia diagnosis keeping starter Carlos Carrasco out since the end of May, Bieber has proved a vital part of the Indians rotation.

In 112⅓ innings this season, Bieber has struck out 141 and walked just 23 to go with an 8-3 record and a 3.45 ERA.

In the fifth inning, during a “Stand Up To Cancer” moment that honored those who have fought the disease, Bieber stood alongside Indians All-Star teammates Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Hand with Carrasco, a widely respected 32-year-old nicknamed Cookie.

“It was unbelievable,” Bieber said. “Cookie, I’ve only known him for a year, but I can say for certain that he is one of the best teammates and best people I have ever met. Only he could turn what he is doing into a positive light, and he is going to the children’s hospital, and he is spending time with them, and he is kind of reversing it on its heels and turning it into a positive light. … We are here for him, we love him, and we are standing with him.”

Bieber’s rapid ascent since the Indians chose him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft has been aided by a significant rise in fastball velocity. He joined the Indians in May 2018 after just 50 games pitched in the minor leagues and has excelled this year, with four double-digit strikeout games, tied for fifth in the major leagues.

“I am just trying to throw strikes,” Bieber said. “I couldn’t really feel my body that much because, like I said, the electricity and the atmosphere we had going, but also you didn’t want to leave a cookie over the plate because these guys are so good, and they will take advantage of it. Really just tried to fill up the zone as much as I could and go out there and get three outs. That was the main agenda.”

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

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Padres get Tommy Pham, Jake Cronenworth from Rays for Hunter Renfroe

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The San Diego Padres, intent on winning in 2020, have finalized a trade for outfielder Tommy Pham and two-way prospect Jake Cronenworth from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and prized second-base prospect Xavier Edwards.

The Rays also received a player to be named later.

The trade, which the sides officially announced Friday upon the completion of medical reviews, sends Pham, who turns 32 in March, to a Padres team in need of an offensive catalyst who gets on base. The Padres, who had the fifth-lowest on-base percentage in the majors last season, already acquired outfielder Trent Grisham and second baseman Jurickson Profar in trades this winter and are expected to continue dealing to alleviate an outfield glut as the winter meetings approach this week, sources said.

“We tried to address every area of our ball club, and we feel we’re improved at this point,” Padres manager A.J. Preller said.

Tampa Bay, which bowed out to the Houston Astros in a tight five-game division series this season, will get Renfroe and Edwards, an athletic middle infielder with excellent bat-to-ball skills who is a favorite among evaluators.

For the better part of a year, Renfroe, 27, has been part of Padres trade talks, with his sub-.300 career on-base percentage a red flag for teams. But his prodigious power, well-above-average defense, elite throwing arm and four years of club control were strong selling points for the Rays.

After buying low on Pham in a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Rays sold relatively high, as he will earn more than $8 million in arbitration this season and become a free agent after 2021. Still, the Padres, in win-now mode, see Pham as a strong enough upgrade to warrant giving up a high-floor, higher-ceiling prospect such as Edwards.

Preller said the Padres have had their eyes on Pham and Cronenworth for a few seasons. He said he likes Pham’s “fire” and “pitch-to-pitch grind.”

Pham told the Tampa Bay Times via text message that he was “a little sad” to be leaving the Rays.

“I enjoyed my time as a Ray,” Pham said. “My teammates helped me open up and have fun as a professional. I’m gonna miss going to battle with that group of guys.”

Edwards was No. 46 on ESPN insider Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list. Although he hasn’t developed power in his first two minor league seasons, Edwards has top-end speed and will play almost all of the 2020 season at 20 years old. The Rays could play him at shortstop, though a scout who saw Edwards multiple times this season says he believes he could be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman.

To complete the deal, the Padres and Rays both dipped into their farm systems, which are considered the two best in baseball. Cronenworth, who turns 26 in January, is one of the more interesting prospects in baseball, even if he is not as highly regarded as Edwards. He can play second base, shortstop and third, though he spent most of 2019 at shortstop in Triple-A, where he hit .334/.429/.520. Cronenworth also pitched in seven games, six of them as an opener, and finished the year with a 0.00 ERA, though he walked eight in 7⅓ innings.

He could break camp with San Diego as a versatile back-of-the-roster player for a team in need of a turnaround.

After a frustrating 2019 in which they finished 70-92 and were in last place in the National League West, the Padres fired manager Andy Green, hired Jayce Tingler and have taken an aggressive tack to reflect owner Ron Fowler’s mandate to win next season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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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