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Former Dodgers Pitcher Ralph Branca Dies at 90

Longtime Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca died Wednesday at the age of 90.

Bobby Valentine, a former MLB manager and husband to Branca’s daughter, Mary, announced the news on Twitter: “One of the greatest guys to ever throw a pitch or sing a song is [no] longer with us. Ralph Branca passed this morning. In his 91st year on earth he left us with [the] same dignity and grace that defined his [every day] on earth. He will be truly missed!!!”

Branca is famous for surrendering the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” home run to Bobby Thomson in 1951, which delivered the New York Giants the National League pennant.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and MLB Network was among those who reacted to the news of Branca’s death:

Jay Jaffe of also chimed in, praising Branca for the manner in which he handled a situation that otherwise could have defined him negatively:

Branca pitched for the Dodgers from 1944 through 1953 before enjoying brief stints with the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. He returned to Brooklyn for one final appearance in 1956 before retiring at the age of 30.

The Mount Vernon, New York, native posted a career record of 88-68 with a 3.79 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 829 strikeouts in 1,484 innings.

He made the All-Star team each year from 1947 through 1949. His best season came in 1947, when he went 21-12 with a 2.67 ERA and finished 11th in the MVP voting.


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Mike Trout Wins 2016 AL MVP Award: Voting Results and Comments

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the American League MVP on Thursday, for the second time in three years.

Baseball Writers’ Association of America shared the news and final voting tallies:

Trout discussed his victory, per MLB Network PR: “I was surprised. … I’m speechless, man.”

This marks Trout’s fifth consecutive year as an AL MVP finalist, which is a huge accomplishment that Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times attempted to put into perspective:

Aside from 2014, Trout had three second-place finishes, including last season. While Trout’s power took a dip in 2016, he made strides in essentially all other areas.

The 25-year-old superstar hit .315 with 29 home runs, 100 RBI, 30 stolen bases and an American League-leading 123 runs scored.

Per MLB Stat of the Day, Trout did something that hadn’t been accomplished in the AL in more than two decades:

While Trout received stiff competition from Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, the stats suggest Trout was far and away the best player in the American League in 2016.

According to, Trout led the AL with 10.6 wins above replacement, which beat out Betts’ 9.6 and Altuve’s 7.7.

In addition to his power and speed on the basepaths, Trout played high-quality defense, as evidenced by his defensive runs saved above average of six, per

There are few five-tool players in Major League Baseball, but Trout is chief among them and has been since his rookie season in 2012.

Trout has been an All-Star and MVP finalist in all five of his full MLB seasons to this point, and while the Angels had a disappointing 74-88 campaign in 2016, his performance was transcendent enough to overcome that and net the second MVP award of his career.


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Brian McCann to Astros: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The New York Yankees continued to get younger Thursday by trading veteran catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros in exchange for two pitching prospects.

The Yankees’ PR staff announced the deal on Twitter, noting the Astros were sending back right-handed pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman for McCann.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the Yankees will be sending the Astros $5.5 million in each of the next two years to help cover the $17 million McCann is owed in 2017 and 2018. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed the Astros would be paying McCann $11.5 million each of the next two seasons.

Rosenthal noted there is some expectation that McCann will catch 100-110 games with Evan Gattis covering the remaining games in 2017. 

“We got better today,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch, per Brian McTaggart of 

McCann is among the best offensive backstops of his generation, but he struggled in 2016 to the tune of a .242 batting average with 20 home runs and 58 RBI. That marked the lowest RBI total of his career in a season in which he played at least 130 games.

Although B-Mac hit just .232 in 2015, he set a career high with 26 home runs and tied a personal best with 94 RBI, which led to him winning his sixth career Silver Slugger Awardhis first since making the leap to the American League from the Atlanta Braves.

The 32-year-old Georgia native is a seven-time All-Star selection, and he is a dangerous threat from the left side of the plate when swinging the bat to the best of his ability.

That wasn’t the case in 2016, and with the Yankees finding a long-term answer at catcher in Gary Sanchez, he became expendable.

McCann has two seasons left on his contract and a vested option for $15 million in 2019, according to Spotrac. Trading him now gives the Yanks more flexibility moving forward, and in doing so they dealt from a position of strength.

With Sanchez looking like a perennial All-Star and Austin Romine serving as a quality backup, New York has enough catching depth to get by without McCann for the remainder of 2016 and in the years to come.

The Yankees also continue to add depth to a much-improved farm system after last summer’s deals that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians and Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers.

Abreu is the prize for the Yankees in the deal. Per, he is now ranked as New York’s No. 10 prospect with a fastball that has peaked at 99 mph. The 21-year-old has to harness his control after walking 58 in 101.2 innings last season, but he allowed just 74 hits and had 115 strikeouts between Low-A and High-A.

McCann’s struggles last season—particularly from a power perspective—were somewhat surprising considering the fact Yankee Stadium is tailor-made for lefties with pop.

He took advantage of that in both 2014 and 2015, but 2016 didn’t yield the same results.

The Astros are hopeful he can regain the power stroke that has made him such a valuable commodity over the course of his 12-year MLB career, but gambling on a catcher over the age of 30 comes with some risk.

Catcher is the most physically demanding position in baseball, and there is no guarantee McCann will ever be the same offensive player he once was.

Because of that, the Yankees may have parted ways with him at the perfect time, especially since they have other catchers capable of producing in a big way.

New York hasn’t been a seller often over the past two decades, but after getting a great haul for several assets at last season’s trade deadline, this is another move that could allow it to return to contention in the near future.

The Astros are fortunate to have a deep lineup with Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. They don’t need McCann to return to his superstar form to justify this deal. Staying healthy and producing even average numbers at catcher would be a huge boost for them in 2017.


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Charlie Morton to Astros: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

After missing most of the 2016 season due to injury, veteran starting pitcher Charlie Morton signed a two-year, $14 million free-agent deal with the Houston Astros on Wednesday. 

The Astros announced the signing, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports revealed the terms.

After Morton spent seven years in the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2016 campaign.

He made four starts for the Phillies and went 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but a torn hamstring suffered in April cost him the remainder of the year.

Morton and the Phillies had a mutual option of $9.5 million for 2017, but Philadelphia declined and instead bought him out for $1 million, per the Associated Press (h/t

That made Morton a free agent and a highly attractive option for teams in search of a quality arm at a bargain price.

Morton’s career numbers are modest at 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Pirates and Phillies, but he is just a few seasons removed from some of the best performances of his career.

The 33-year-old righty’s 2013 and 2014 seasons in Pittsburgh yielded the most favorable results of his time in the big leagues, as he went 13-16 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 46 starts over the course of those campaigns.

He dropped off in 2015, finishing 9-9 with a 4.81 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but the up-and-down nature of Morton’s career suggests he could right the ship at any time.

Morton isn’t particularly dynamic and has a career strikeout rate of just 6.3 per nine innings, but he excels at keeping the ball down and in the ballpark with a career ground-ball rate of 55.4 percent, according to

The 2002 third-round pick of the Braves is a good fit for a team with strong defense, so there will be added emphasis on the Astros to support him in that regard.

Morton is far from an ace and is best deployed as a bottom-of-the-rotation arm, but he can be valuable if he proves healthy and is able to eat some innings.

The hamstring injury creates some question marks regarding Morton entering 2017, but it likely brought down his cost as well, which makes him a potential bargain for the upcoming season.

Houston has a strong staff that includes the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, which puts little pressure on Morton and should allow him to add quality depth to the rotation.


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Craig Counsell, Brewers Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

After two seasons at the helm, manager Craig Counsell agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension through 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. 

The team announced the move ahead of what would have been the final year on his deal.

Counsell has led the Brew Crew to a 134-165 record, and they improved by 12 wins from 2015 to 2016 in going 73-89.

The 46-year-old Counsell had no previous managerial or coaching experience when he took the Milwaukee job in 2015, as he was a front office assistant and color analyst for the Brewers in the years following his retirement from playing in 2011.

Counsell played 16 MLB seasons as a utility infielder with the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Brewers.

The South Bend, Indiana, native attended high school in Milwaukee and spent the final five seasons of his playing career with the Brewers.

Counsell took over a Milwaukee team that went 82-80 in 2014, and although the Brewers regressed in his first season, they began to bounce back as a younger team in 2016.

Much of Milwaukee’s pitching staff is under the age of 30, while young hitters such as shortstop Jonathan Villar, outfielder Domingo Santana and utility player Hernan Perez made significant strides last season.

Milwaukee will be hard-pressed to compete for a National League Central title in 2017 with the likes of the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates, but thanks to the progress made in 2016, Counsell afforded himself the opportunity to help the club take another step forward.


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Sonny Gray Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Athletics SP

Following a disappointing 2016 campaign, the Oakland Athletics are reportedly willing to listen to offers for starting pitcher Sonny Gray.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Gray’s Future with Athletics

Friday, Nov. 11

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the A’s aren’t actively shopping Gray but are open to a deal if the right one presents itself.

After finishing third in the 2015 American League Cy Young Award voting, Gray experienced a huge drop-off in 2016.

The 27-year-old righty went just 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 117 innings. He was also limited to 22 starts due to a pair of stints on the disabled list with a strained trapezius and a strained right forearm.

Gray enjoyed a career year in 2015 with a 14-7 record, 2.73 ERA and a personal-best 1.08 WHIP, but he was nowhere close to the same pitcher last season.

The fall from grace was surprising since Gray went 33-20 with an impressive 2.88 ERA in his first three MLB campaigns.

Gray was 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA over his first four starts of the season, but the wheels came off after that. However, if injuries were primarily responsible for that, and he is now healthy, he is in position to bounce back in 2017 and beyond.

Since Gray is arbitration-eligible for the next three years, per Spotrac, there isn’t a ton of incentive for the Athletics to trade him.

The A’s have some major question marks in their starting rotation aside from Gray, although youngsters Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton showed flashes of brilliance last season.

A package of high-quality prospects could entice an Oakland team that is rebuilding, but following Gray’s awful season, it seems unlikely that fair value will be offered in return.


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Mike Napoli: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation on Free-Agent 1B

First baseman Mike Napoli is among the best power hitters available in free agency, and he already has a reported suitor.

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Latest on Napoli’s Free-Agent Interest

Tuesday, Nov. 8 

According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Seattle Mariners are showing interest in the 35-year-old veteran.

Napoli enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of his 11-year career in 2016, as he hit .239 with a personal-best 34 home runs, 101 RBI and 92 runs scored in the heart of the Cleveland Indians’ batting order.

He also had one homer and three RBI during the Tribe’s surprising run to the World Series.

The Indians declined to give Napoli a qualifying offer Monday, per Paul Hoynes of, but Tom Withers of the Associated Press reported last Friday they have interest in potentially re-signing him.

Napoli is a versatile player who was used exclusively at first base and as a designated hitter last season, but he has previous experience in the outfield and at catcher.

He also has 66 career postseason games to his credit and won a championship with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.

The Mariners ranked third in Major League Baseball in home runs last season and sixth in runs scored due largely to the play of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano’s uptick in power, and the arrival of Napoli would make Seattle an even bigger power threat.

The lefty-hitting Dan Vogelbach is the Mariners’ current first baseman, and he tore up minor league pitching, so adding a righty such as Napoli could make for a dangerous platoon.

This contract may be the last significant deal for Napoli since his age suggests he is reaching the twilight of his career, but he proved in 2016 he is still capable of anchoring a lineup.


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Ian Desmond: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation on Free-Agent CF

After a great bounce-back year with the Texas Rangers in 2016, center fielder Ian Desmond is already generating interest on the free-agent market. 

Continue for updates.

Orioles Reportedly Interested in Desmond

Tuesday, Nov. 8

According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Baltimore Orioles are keeping tabs on Desmond with the intention of moving him to left or right field, should they manage to sign him.

Desmond Coming Off Bounce-Back 2016

The Rangers gave Desmond a $17.2 million qualifying offer on Monday, per Stefan Stevenson of the Star-Telegram, but testing the free-agent waters seems likely since his strong 2016 could land him a lucrative, multiyear deal.

The 31-year-old veteran made his second All-Star team in 2016 and ended the campaign hitting .285 with 22 home runs, 86 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a career-high 107 runs scored.

It represented a return to prominence for Desmond after one of his worst seasons in 2015, when he hit a career-low .233 with 19 homers and 62 RBI for the Washington Nationals.

Desmond restored his value last season not only due to his prowess at the plate but also because he showed defensive versatility by successfully transitioning to the outfield after playing shortstop almost exclusively in his seven years with the Nats.

According to Morosi, Desmond intends to use that versatility to his advantage:

With Mark Trumbo likely to hit free agency and cash in significantly after hitting a career-high 47 home runs with the O’s last season, corner outfield is a major position of need.

Adam Jones already has center field locked down, but Desmond could be a great fit in left or right. He doesn’t bring the same type of power to the table that Trumbo does, but he represents a defensive upgrade and could fill in for J.J. Hardy at short when needed.

The market was light for Desmond last year, but that doesn’t figure to be the case this time around. Baltimore makes plenty of sense as a potential suitor and presents Desmond with a ballpark that is favorable for hitters, but the Orioles are likely to be just one of many teams courting Desmond and his all-around skill set.


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Danny Duffy Contract: Latest News, Rumors on Pitcher’s Negotiations with Royals

With starting pitcher Danny Duffy set to hit arbitration, he and the Kansas City Royals have reportedly begun contract talks.

Continue for updates.

Royals, Duffy Reportedly Interested in Extension

Friday, Nov. 4

According to’s Jeffrey Flanagan, the Royals and Duffy have mutual interest, although general manager Dayton Moore declined to comment.

Moore did, however, offer the following statement regarding the organization’s overall stance: “[It] has always been our intention to keep our young talent when possible.”

After starting the 2015 season in the bullpen, Duffy went on to enjoy the best year of his career once he was moved to the starting rotation.

The 27-year-old lefty went 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 188 strikeouts in 179.2 innings overall. That included a 3.56 ERA as a starter.

Duffy has started at least 24 games in each of the past three seasons, and while injuries have limited him at times during his career, 2016 was easily his healthiest year.

After the loss of Johnny Cueto in free agency, Duffy emerged as KC’s ace over the likes of Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Ian Kennedy.

He arguably possesses better stuff than any other pitcher on the Royals staff, and the fact that he is a southpaw makes him highly valuable.

Duffy is likely in line for a significant raise through arbitration from the $4.225 million he made in 2016, per Spotrac, so working out a long-term contract is a move that would be beneficial to both sides.


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Torey Lovullo to Diamondbacks: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

The Arizona Diamondbacks filled their manager vacancy by hiring Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.

The Diamondbacks confirmed the move on Monday, sharing an image of Lovullo signing his contract:

“I want to aim as high as possible,” Lovullo told reporters afterward. “I am very optimistic that we have the capabilities of doing something special.”

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix initially reported the Diamondbacks would hire Lovullo on Nov. 4.

Lovullo had been Boston’s bench coach since 2013 after previously serving two seasons on manager John Farrell’s staff with the Toronto Blue Jays.

He was interim manager for the Red Sox in 2015 for 49 games while Farrell underwent chemotherapy, posting a 28-21 record.

The 51-year-old former MLB infielder played for seven different teams during parts of eight seasons, spending most of his time in the minors.

Aside from his stint as Red Sox interim manager, Lovullo managed at the Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels from 2002 through 2010. He won a World Series title with Boston as a coach in 2013.

Lovullo takes over a D-backs team that finished under .500 in each of the past two years under Chip Hale. They haven’t reached the postseason since 2011 and have just one playoff berth in the past nine years.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports believes Lovullo may prove to be the right man for the job in the desert:

ESPN’s Jim Bowden agrees with that assessment:

Arizona won only 69 games last season despite making a big splash during the offseason, but there is plenty of talent in place.

With Zack Greinke as the ace starter and a lineup that includes the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Jake Lamb, Jean Segura and Yasmany Tomas, Lovullo has a lot to work with.

Lovullo has a winning pedigree as a bench coach, and if he can alter the losing culture that has overtaken the Diamondbacks in recent years, they have a chance to be contenders in 2017 and beyond.


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