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Sources — Reds agree to $64M deal with Nick Castellanos

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The Cincinnati Reds have continued their busy offseason, matching their biggest free-agent contract in team history by agreeing to a four-year, $64 million deal with outfielder Nick Castellanos, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Monday.

The deal has an opt-out clause after the first season, sources said.

Castellanos, who undoubtedly made some money for himself after his midseason trade from the Detroit Tigers to the Chicago Cubs, continued to be a doubles machine with 58 between the two teams in 2019.

He has averaged 38 doubles in his six full seasons in the majors.

His power increased as well last season. After hitting just 11 home runs in 403 for Detroit, Castellanos hit 16 with the Cubs in just 212 at-bats. His OPS+ (151) in 2019 was easily the best of his career.

Castellanos’ deal matches the one the Reds gave to infielder Mike Moustakas this offseason. They will be tied as the second-highest-paid players on the roster behind Joey Votto, who makes $25 million each of the next four seasons.

Moustakas hit .254 with 35 homers and 87 RBIs last season and made the All-Star team for the third time.

Left-hander Wade Miley agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Reds in December. The deal includes a club option for 2022 that, if exercised, can bring the total value to $24 million.

Miley, 33, went 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA and 140 strikeouts for the Houston Astros during the regular season, but he tailed off badly down the stretch and — after making just one appearance during the American League Division Series — was left off the rosters for both the AL Championship Series and the World Series.

In early January, Cincinnati signed Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million contract.

Akiyama, 31, has played parts of nine seasons for Seibu of the Japanese Pacific League. The left-handed-hitting Akiyama batted .303 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs in 143 games for Seibu last season.

Drafted in the first round by Detroit in 2010, Castellanos, who turns 28 in March, has mostly played in obscurity. The Tigers made the postseason in 2014 but haven’t sniffed October since. After joining the Cubs, Castellanos was praised for the energy and hunger he brought to a team that was going in the wrong direction.

“He hasn’t won in a few years, so I completely understand that,” former teammate Ian Happ said. “What I see is just the joy of the game. Playing like a little kid. Enjoying a new team. That’s what it looks like.”

Upon joining the Cubs, Castellanos famously said that “every day is like Opening Day.”

His defense hasn’t rated as well as his offense, but he showed no issues in a difficult right field at Wrigley, though he profiles more in left. His big strength on offense is finding the gaps in left and right center.

For his career, Castellanos is a .277 hitter with 120 home runs and 460 RBIs.

The Reds haven’t been to the playoffs since 2013, when they won 90 games and lost to the Pirates in the National League wild-card game. Cincinnati then launched into a rebuild, trading stars for prospects. The team lost at least 94 games annually from 2015 to 2018.

The Reds decided to try to become competitive again last season and acquired Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray, who became an All-Star. Puig, Kemp and Roark were dealt during the season. Cincinnati finally escaped last place, finishing ahead of Pittsburgh with a 75-87 mark, and wasted a lot of solid pitching along the way.

With Castellanos heading to Cincinnati, Josh Donaldson to Minnesota and Marcell Ozuna to Atlanta, the top free agents are now all signed. Puig and utility man Brock Holt are likely the top free agents remaining.

Information from ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu wins AL batting title; Luke Voit finishes with majors-leading 22 home runs

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NEW YORK — The New York Yankees lost six of their last eight regular-season games, which included series losses to the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins, but they still limped into the wild-card round as the fifth seed in the first 16-team expanded playoffs in MLB history.

Among the few bright spots for the Yankees was that leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu went 2-for-3 in Sunday’s 5-0 loss to the Marlins to finish the season with the best average in the majors at .364.

“It’s pretty cool. I don’t think it’s really sank in yet,” LeMahieu said after learning he won the American League batting title. “I wish it was over 162 games, and I wish there were fans in the stands, but it is what it is and I’m definitely proud of it.”

By winning the AL batting title, LeMahieu became only the fourth player in Yankees history to lead the majors in batting average, joining Mickey Mantle (.353 in 1956), Joe DiMaggio (.381 in 1939) and Lou Gehrig (.363 in 1934). It is LeMahieu’s second career batting title; he won one with the Colorado Rockies in 2016 and becomes just the second player in MLB history to win the batting title in both leagues, joining Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty.

Luke Voit went hitless Sunday, but his 22 home runs were the most in this pandemic-shortened 60-game season. LeMahieu and Voit became the first pair of teammates to lead the majors in batting average and home runs since Hank Aaron (.355 BA) and Eddie Mathews (46 HR) for the 1959 Braves.

“They have been the pillars in our lineup, the rocks in our lineup,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Voit and LeMahieu. “Luke just put together an amazing season. I think both guys are worthy of MVP consideration. What DJ has meant at the top of our order now for two years, just his amazing consistency and what he brings with his defensive versatility. … We are not getting on a plane and going to the playoffs without the performance of those two guys.”

LeMahieu complimented Voit: “It’s definitely well-deserved. Not only hit a bunch of homers, but had some huge homers for us and really carried us this year. He’s a complete hitter, he’s not just a home run hitter. He definitely takes big swings, but he has a great approach the other way, gets tough RBI in situations and, obviously, the home runs speak for themselves, so I am really happy for him.”

The loss to the Marlins put the Yankees in position to finish the season as the eighth seed and take a plane to Florida to face AL East rival Tampa Bay Rays, but a Toronto loss to Baltimore guaranteed that New York would start the postseason against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

“We’ve had a week where we haven’t played our best baseball, where we’re struggling a little bit, but I know what we’re capable of, our guys know what we’re capable of, and opportunity knocks right now,” Boone said. “We have an amazing opportunity. We hold the bat; we hold the ball; we hold the pen. We can write the story right now; we don’t need anyone’s help. And that’s exciting, especially when you’re walking in with the group of guys that we have.”

“I think we have the best team in the league still. I don’t know why it was so up-and-down. I’ll chalk it up to 2020. It’s been kind of a roller coaster,” LeMahieu said. “We’re all excited to get in the postseason, kind of turn the page on this last week. I love our team in that clubhouse so I’m just excited to get out there with them in the playoffs. I think it’s gonna be a really fun month.”

It has been an erratic season for the Yankees. Although the club finished 33-27 and in second place in the division, their final losing streak came on the heels of a 10-game winning streak.

Which team will show up against the Indians? Boone admitted that the first round of the playoffs, particularly in what he called a “crazy, different, challenging season,” will be a throw of the dice.

“I trust that we have a team that is capable of going out and winning. But obviously, we are entering a three-game series, and I think the same can be said for all 16 teams that are going to be in it,” Boone said. “[This season] there have been a lot of ups and downs for us, peaks and valleys that we have to avoid moving forward. But we look forward to the challenge of going in and competing for a championship. Anything can happen in these. We know if we’re playing our best baseball we cannot only play with, but we can beat anyone.”

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Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani wants to remain 2-way player in 2021

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LOS ANGELES — Shohei Ohtani wants to remain a two-way player for the Los Angeles Angels, even though he didn’t come close during the shortened season to matching his performance from 2018.

Ohtani went 1-for-4 with a strikeout — and grounded out to first for the final out — in a 5-0 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday that ended the Angels’ season.

The Japanese star batted .190 during the 60-game season. Pitching-wise, he suffered a forearm strain that limited him to parts of three innings over two games before he had to shut it down on the mound.

“The numbers show that I didn’t have a great year and I’m fully aware of that,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “I found a lot of things I need to work on in the offseason. I’m looking forward to getting that underway.”

Manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani is expected to begin his offseason throwing program in the next month.

“I really have a lot of confidence in him,” Maddon said.

Ohtani was set up for a normal season, having completed rehabbing last December from Tommy John surgery. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, wreaking havoc with the sports world and delaying the start of the season until the end of July.

“I’m sure if I was able to spend the regular, normal rehab schedule, the results might have been different,” he said.

With only offense to concentrate on, Ohtani struggled at the plate. He cited being unable to watch in-game video of his at-bats as a contributing factor.

“I want to know where the pitch was and where I took it,” he said. “Ideally, I would have liked to see the replays again. I think it would have helped me.”

Two years ago, Ohtani created a splash while making his major league debut for the Angels. He hit .285 with an on-base percentage of .361. He had 22 home runs, 61 RBIs and 10 stolen bases and was named the American League Rookie of the Year.

By that September, however, he was headed to having Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani returned to the lineup the following May. A month later, he became the first Japanese-born player to hit for the cycle in MLB. That September, his season ended early because he needed patella surgery.

Despite all he has been through, Ohtani remains confident he can regain the form he showed in 2018.

“I just need to get past me being able to throw without any worries or setbacks,” he said. “Once I get past that, I think everything will fall into place.”

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Miami Marlins’ Starling Marte, Jose Urena hurt against New York Yankees

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NEW YORK — Miami outfielder Starling Marte and right-hander Jose Urena left Sundays’ regular-season finale against the New York Yankees after getting hurt in the early innings.

Marte was hit on the front of his helmet by Clarke Schmidt‘s 94 mph fastball in the second inning. The pitch knocked off the helmet. Marte stayed down for a few minutes and was replaced by Lewis Brinson.

Urena, a candidate for Miami’s postseason bullpen, was hit on his pitching hand by a 103.9 mph line drive from AL batting leader DJ LeMahieu with one out in the third. Urena crumpled over in pain and stayed down in front of the mound before exiting the game. He was replaced by Daniel Castano.

After the game, a 5-0 Miami win, the Marlins said Urena suffered a nondisplaced ulna fracture in his right forearm, and Marte had a bruised left ear.

“Kind of your biggest fear on a day like today,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You hate to be playing your guys almost.”

Miami acquired Marte from Arizona on Aug. 31. He is hitting .245 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 28 games with the Marlins.

Urena was among 18 Marlins sidelined with COVID-19 early this season. He is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in five starts since his season debut Sept. 7.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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