Tag: New York Mets

Mets Spring Training 2017 Preview: Predictions, Players to Watch and More

A savior is on its way to Gotham—and we’re not talking about Captain America or the Dark Knight.

Spring Training will soon arrive to save New York sports fans from what has been a frustrating, hair-pulling winter of discontent, filled with underperforming teams and contenders with more holes than the Swiss cheese on a Reuben sandwich from the dearly departed Carnegie Deli.

Pitchers and catchers are set to descend upon Port St. Lucie, Florida, in just a few weeks as the New York Mets officially get the 2017 season underway.

The Mets, who lost the National League Wild Card Game in 2016, will be looking to not only get through camp healthy, but ready to hit the ground running as they embark on a journey that hopefully culminates with the team’s second NL East crown since 2015.

While health will be a focal point of camp, the Mets have some questions that must be answered and a position battle or two to be decided before Opening Day rolls around. We’ll attempt to fill in the blanks on the pages that follow.

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Tim Tebow Not Among Players Invited to Mets’ Major League Camp

The New York Mets sent out invitations Wednesday to their major league spring training camp, but Tim Tebow is not one of the names on the list, according to Marc Carig of Newsday

Carig did add that the Mets could “borrow” Tebow for Grapefruit League games.

A former college football star and NFL quarterback, Tebow signed a minor league deal with the Mets in September and spent the fall in the Gulf Coast and Arizona Fall leagues. 

Tebow’s attempt at the majors was a surprising one, as he hadn’t played organized baseball since high school.

After he put on a showcase in late August for MLB scouts, reviews of his potential spanned from “a complete waste of time” to “better than I expected,” per Josh Peter of USA Today

Even so, his first at-bat in the Gulf Coast League was something out of a storybook, as he belted an opposite-field home run. 

It was all downhill from there, though, as Tebow struggled mightily following his move to the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. In 70 plate appearances, he batted .194/.296/.242, per Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com. Those stats prompted ESPN.com’s Keith Law to label the outfielder “an imposter.”

However, Snyder did point out that Tebow’s game improved down the stretch; he batted .281 with a .425 on-base percentage in his final 11 games.

The 29-year-old’s game is still raw, however, and needs a ton of work. While he has power and decent speed, there isn’t much else that would qualify him for a career in the majors. 

For a Mets team that looks poised to make a serious run in the National League in 2017, Tebow’s body of work was too small and not impressive enough to earn a call to the big league camp. 

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Predicting New York Mets Depth Charts a Month Ahead of Spring Training

“Depth” is a loaded word for the New York Mets.

The Mets won the National League pennant in 2015 on the strength of their stacked, young starting rotation. Last season, the same group was beset by injuries, and it is a question mark going into 2017.

New York is also dealing with a glut of corner outfielders and uncertainty in center field, and it is likely to lose its closer for a significant stretch due to a domestic violence suspension. Injury issues lurk in the infield as well.

All that said, this is a talented roster fully capable of competing for an NL East title and making another deep postseason run.

As we slog through the final month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, let’s run down the Mets’ depth chart, with the obvious caveat that further trades or signings will change the calculus. We’ll also take a look at some players waiting in the wings for when holes inevitably open up.

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New York Mets’ Top Free-Agent, Trade Targets Post New Year

Nobody’s going to criticize the New York Mets for re-signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110 million deal. Despite already having a full complement of outfielders under contract, Cespedes is unquestionably the key piece of the team’s offense.

But with Cespedes back in the fold, this glut of outfielders has limited the Mets’ ability to improve elsewhere—namely in the bullpen.

“It’s like buying a new house without selling your old one,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson remarked in early December, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “Sometimes you get stuck in the transition, and it’s not a good place to be.”

No, it’s not. 

But there’s a market for some of those excess outfielders, namely Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson. In fact, the Mets could potentially unload one of them in exchange for one of the players we’re about to look at—a New Jersey native who would represent a major addition to their relief corps.

As for the rest of the targets on this list, the Mets’ odds of adding them likely depends on just how much payroll room they’re able to create.

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Is Andrew McCutchen the Right Win-Now Splash for Mets’ World Series Chase?

Starting in center field for the New York MetsAndrew McCutchen.

Your reaction to that sentence—assuming you’re a Mets fanlikely depends on your feelings about risk versus reward. Because, boy, does McCutchen offer plenty of both.

McCutchen is a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates as of this writing. His name has churned through the rumor mill this offseason, however, with the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays among his reported suitors. 

After the winter meetings, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington expressed a desire to keep McCutchen in black and yellow.

“Our intent coming in here was to have Andrew McCutchen in our lineup going forward. No one changed that,” Huntington said, per MLB.com’s Adam Berry. “It’s unlikely that someone changes that going forward. We’re not going to close the door, but we’re not going to be making calls.”

There’s wiggle room in that statement. McCutchen may not be on the clearance shelf, but he’s available for the right price.

The Mets have spoken with Pittsburgh about McCutchen at a “preliminary level,” as Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported. 

There’s no indication those talks have advanced past the tire-kicking stage, but it’s worth exploring whether it would be a prudent move for New York.

On the reward side, McCutchen is a 30-year-old former National League MVP and five-time All-Star who accumulated 27.9 WAR between 2012 and 2015, second only to Mike Trout by FanGraphs‘ measure

He’s also not a budget-buster, as he’s due $14 million next season with a $14.5 million team option and $1 million buyout for 2018. 

If he approximates his peak production, that would be a bargain. The key word being “if.”

McCutchen is coming off a disappointing season that saw him post career lows in batting average (.256), on-base percentage (.336) and slugging percentage (.430). 

Even more damningly, his defensive numbers plummeted. He posted minus-28 defensive runs saved and a minus-18.7 UZR, both career worsts.

It’s not an anomalous blip, either. McCutchen‘s defense has been trending downward since 2013 according to the metrics. It’s reasonable to ask if he’s even a center fielder anymore, forget about a good one.

That’s a big deal for the Amazin’s, because they need a center fielder, as Rosenthal outlined:

The Mets’ biggest position need is obvious.

They’ve got Yoenis Cespedes in left field. They’ve got Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto as options in right. But their only true center fielder is Juan Lagares, whose career OPS against right-handed pitching—even after showing some improvement last season—is only .633.

To clear room for McCutchen in the outfield and on the payroll, the Mets could trade Granderson and/or Bruce, who are owed $15 million and $13 million next season, respectively. 

That leaves the question of whether McCutchen can capably patrol center, or at least rake enough to make up for his inconsistent glove work. 

Again, he’s only 30. If he hits like he did as recently as 2015, he’d provide ample value for a Mets team that scored the fifth-fewest runs in baseball last season.

“I can’t wait to get my feet back there on the field, get ready and show that I’m not washed up, I guess,” McCutchen said, per Berry. “I’m only 30. It’s not like I’m 40. And even that is possible, toosee what Papi [David Ortiz] did. Anything is possible in this game.”

Norse god/staff ace Noah Syndergaard is coming off a superlative season. If at least three of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler return healthy and productive, the Mets’ starting pitching will be elite.

Add a top-tier bat, and suddenly another NL pennant seems attainable.

Let’s set aside the defensive concerns. Let’s assume McCutchen will bounce back with the lumber, at least to the tune of the .283/.378/.470 slash line Steamer projects

What would it take for New York to get him?

A “possible deal” between Washington and Pittsburgh for McCutchen involved Lucas Giolito, the top pitching prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, as well as 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning and a third player, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman

That means New York may need to dangle shortstop Amed Rosario, MLB.com’s No. 11 overall prospect, plus a couple of high-upside ancillary pieces, assuming the Pirates’ asking price hasn’t budged.

That type of gut-the-farm machination makes sense if you’re in full-blown win-now mode. 

The Mets aren’t necessarily in that mode, though. Matt Harvey is the first of their core starting pitchers set to hit the market, and that won’t happen until after the 2018 season. The same goes for closer Jeurys Familia. 

They re-upped Cespedes through 2020. There are nice young pieces on the roster, including the 23-year-old Conforto and 27-year-old catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

Mortgaging the future for the hope that McCutchen can play a passable center field, rediscover his MVP stroke and get New York over the championship finish line seems like an overreach born of desperation. 

NJ.com’s Joe Giglio made the case for the Mets going all-in on McCutchen over other theoretically available outfielders such as the Kansas City Royals‘ Lorenzo Cain and the Colorado Rockies‘ Charlie Blackmon

New York, Giglio argued, “should take a risk and move the moon and stars [relatively speaking] for McCutchen.”

It’s intriguing. It has a certain ring. If you think the Mets’ window is about to slam shut, it may even seem necessary.

But, boy, does it also sound like a big-time risk in the making.


All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs and MLB.com.

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Matt Harvey Comments on Recovery from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Surgery

New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey watched his 2016 campaign come to an abrupt end when he was forced to undergo season-ending surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, but the 2015 National League Comeback Player of the Year sounded optimistic regarding his return when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday. 

According to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, the 27-year-old confirmed he’s on the mend and feeling strong on the mound after the surgery “involved removing a rib so that muscles constricting a nerve that bridges the neck and shoulder had space to relax.”

Specifically, Harvey confirmed he’s no longer experiencing numbing sensations in his right throwing hand. 

“My hand was really cold all the time,” he said, per Rubin. “I’ve got some warmth back and no more tingling. The ball is coming out really good right now, especially for December.”

Harvey also expressed optimism regarding his ability to bounce back following a shaky statistical 2016 season precipitated by nerve issues. 

“I’d like to think so. Obviously I don’t have a crystal ball,” Harvey said, per Rubin. “The way things are feeling now, the way the body feels, I’m feeling great.”

In 17 starts last season, Harvey went 4-10 with a career-worst 4.86 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. In fact, it marked the first time in Harvey’s career that he posted an ERA above 3.00. 

Harvey, of course, is no stranger to rebounding following injury woes. 

The 2013 All-Star missed the entirety of the 2014 season after he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, but he rebounded in 2015 by going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 188 strikeouts and 37 walks over the course of 29 starts. 

Based on that precedent and the steady rate at which Harvey has seemingly recovered over the past five months, it won’t be a surprise if he returns to the mound and assumes dominant form once again for a Mets team that will have its eyes on reclaiming the NL East crown. 

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Curtis Granderson Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation Surrounding Mets OF

New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson is generating trade interest as the organization works to clear out an outfield logjam during the offseason.

Continue for updates.

Orioles Reportedly Have Interest in Granderson

Thursday, Dec. 1

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported the Baltimore Orioles “seem to have interest” in Granderson but “not really” Jay Bruce.

Mets Open to Trading Granderson for Right Price

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Marc Carig of Newsday reported Wednesday that Granderson is the asset generating the most discussion among other teams after speculation that Bruce would be the one moved. He noted the Mets are open to dealing either player depending on the return package.

Cespedes Deal Could Spell End of Granderson in New York

New York reached an agreement to re-sign prized free agent Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday. Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that it’s a four-year, $110 million deal that comes with a full no-trade clause and that it will be officially announced once he completes a physical.

While it’s a massive step toward a successful offseason for the 2015 National League champions, it also leaves an overabundance of outfielders for three spots. Along with Cespedes, the Mets also have Granderson, Bruce, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares.

Given the massive contract handed out Tuesday, it’s no surprise the front office would want to move one of the other high-priced options to create some financial wiggle room.

Spotrac noted that Granderson is set to make $15 million in 2017 and that Bruce is pegged at $13 million. Both players will also be playing the final years of their current deals.

Granderson is coming off another solid season in New York. The 35-year-old slugger smacked 30 home runs in 150 games to go along with a .335 on-base percentage and 88 runs scored. He’s no longer the speed threat he was in his prime, but he’s become a reliable power producer.

Maria Guardado of NJ.com passed along comments the veteran made earlier in November about the possibility of getting traded before next season.

“No reason to think about it,” Granderson said. “I just got to go ahead and take it one day at a time. I’ve been in rumors before that never panned out, so unless something absolutely happens, there’s no reason to think about it.”

Heyman reported the Toronto Blue Jays are one possible landing spot if the outfielder does end up getting moved:

The Mets don’t have a ton of areas that they need to improve, but they could still look to upgrade at catcher, where Travis d’Arnaud is the projected starter, and in the bullpen.

Perhaps a proven reliever and a mid-range prospect or two could get the Granderson deal done while helping save the team some money.


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Yoenis Cespedes’ $110M Free-Agent Deal a Win-Win for Him, New York Mets

Since Yoenis Cespedes and the New York Mets seem so right for one another, it’s fitting they would agree to a contract that’s so right for one another.

A reunion between Cespedes and the Mets was the big news coming off the hot stove Tuesday.

The 31-year-old outfielder became a free agent when he opted out of a three-year, $75 million contract in early November, which prompted questions about whether he would find a better deal elsewhere. Instead, he found a better deal at the same place he’s called home since the 2015 trade deadline.

After Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the deal was done, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports spilled the details:

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Cespedes also got full no-trade protection.

And so, the 2016-17 MLB offseason recorded its first major signing. Cespedes‘ deal is worth more than twice the $52 million Josh Reddick got from the Houston Astros in his own four-year contract. It’s appropriate Cespedes was the one to do the deed, as he was widely considered the best free agent available this winter.

The bigger surprise was that the Mets signed Cespedes. They always loomed as the best fit for him, but whether they could make the financials work was a big question from the beginning.

It became an even bigger question when Mike Puma of the New York Post ran out this report last week:

Within the industry, there is a growing sense the star outfielder will command a five-year deal, which would leave the Mets facing a major decision on their immediate future.

As it stands, the Mets are likely committed to signing the 31-year-old if a four-year contract in the $100 million-to-$110 million neighborhood can be hammered out, according to an industry source, but there is less clarity on the matter when an additional year — which could push the value of a deal beyond $130 million — is considered.

A deal in that neighborhood was hardly out of the question. For instance, Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams and Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors projected Cespedes would find a five-year, $125 million contract.

The fact that the Mets brought him back for one fewer year and for significantly less guaranteed money was a big win for them. And at $27.5 million per season, they’ll pay him the rough equivalent of the salary they just fit onto their payroll in 2016.

And just as important, they retained a hugely important part of their lineup.

Cespedes has done nothing but mash for the Mets since they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers in July 2015. He OPS’d .942 with 17 home runs over the last two months of that season and returned to OPS .884 with 31 homers in 2016.

Cespedes‘ production has gone back and forth between propelling the Mets offense to greatness and saving it from utter ruin. Without him in 2015, New York would not have caught fire like it did. Without him in 2016, an even worse fate than finishing tied for 11th in the National League in runs would have been in store.

The reality that this arrangement will continue at a reasonable rate for four more years makes it easier for the Mets to swallow the downsides that are part of living with Cespedes. Those include his occasional defensive lapses and the aches and pains that have limited him to under 140 games in three of his five major league seasons.

Of course, his status as an easily marketable superstar is another bonus that makes him worth the occasional annoyances. Cespedes is media-shy, but his fondness for long dingers and shiny objects gives him a larger-than-life persona that’s perfect for baseball’s biggest media market.

But lest anyone think Cespedes did the Mets a favor by agreeing to a possibly below-market deal, let’s pump the brakes for a second.

Neither the years nor the dollars jump off the page relative to past free-agent contracts, but the average annual value of Cespedes‘ deal is no joke. Here’s Rosenthal putting it in perspective:

So to that extent, Cespedes‘ new contract makes him one of the highest-paid players in baseball history. And in the long run, the relatively short length of it could ensure there’s more where that came from.

Though Cespedes is still an excellent athlete who runs well and throws as mightily as any outfielder, his main attraction is his power. It was trending down for a while there, but he’s since turned into one of the best mashers in baseball. Over the last two seasons, he ranked 12th among qualified hitters in ISO (isolated power) with a mark of .251.

Cespedes has always had the swing path to get to this point, as he’s generally hit more fly balls than ground balls. What he needed to start doing was applying his tremendous raw power more consistently.

His hard-contact percentages reveal he’s done just that:

  • 2012: 33.0%
  • 2013: 31.6%
  • 2014: 31.1%
  • 2015: 35.8%
  • 2016: 39.3%

Cespedes added yet another layer to his slugging transformation in 2016: For the first time in his career, he walked more often than the average hitter.

Corinne Landrey of FanGraphs looked at the precedent for this last week and came away unconvinced that this new habit has guaranteed lasting power. However, it might. Cespedes did improve his plate discipline, after all, and his power is certainly a reason for pitchers to be careful with him.

If he remains a disciplined power hitter over the next four seasons, there should be a market for him in his next dance with free agency—even if his other skills have eroded between the ages of 31 and 35. As much as teams like young, well-rounded players, they’ve shown they’re willing to shower money on older, one-dimensional players so long as that one dimension is a dangerous bat.

To wit, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz and Victor Martinez each got about $15 million per season in a multiyear contract. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista should do the same this winter.

If Cespedes follows in their footsteps, his new contract will be just as easy to appreciate then as it is now. Maybe he could have found a bigger deal, but he settled for the better deal.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Yoenis Cespedes Re-Signs with Mets: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

For the second year in a row, the New York Mets have re-signed Yoenis Cespedes. The team announced the deal on Wednesday:

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal initially reported the deal on Tuesday. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported the contract is worth $110 million over four years. Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported it comes with a full no-trade clause. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported Cespedes wanted a fifth year but New York held firm at four.

Heyman provided a yearly salary breakdown:

The deal is the second-biggest in Mets history after they paid Carlos Beltran $119 million over seven years.

Cespedes is hopeful he will be able to finish his career with the Mets, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com:

“This is the 3rd time we have acquired Yoenis in 17 months and it appears two legal separations has made the marriage stronger,” general manager Sandy Alderson said, per Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Cespedeschoice of automobiles became one of the more enjoyable stories of spring training last year. Starting pitcher Brett Anderson assumed at least one car dealer is having a good day:

Joel Sherman of the New York Post is a fan of the move:

Sports Illustrated‘s Joe Sheehan raised concern with the no-trade clause, though:

Cespedes is coming off another solid season at the plate. He batted .280 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI in 132 games.

Last offseason, the then-30-year-old was coming off his best campaign. He was so good in the second half with the Mets that he entered the National League Most Valuable Player discussion.

Despite his success in the Big Apple, he signed what was effectively a one-year deal—three years, $75 million with an opt-out after 2016. While his performance dipped slightly, Cespedes was bound to command a premium in what is a lackluster free-agent market.

Cespedes was arguably the best hitter available this offseason. Edwin Encarnacion (33) and Jose Bautista (36) are both older, while Justin Turner and Ian Desmond don’t boast the same body of work.

Despite that, signing Cespedes comes with concerns.

Since making the jump to the United States, his numbers have fluctuated somewhat from one year to the next, as FanGraphs shows:

In addition to his hitting dropping slightly from 2015, his defense fell off a cliff in 2016. According to FanGraphs, he had a 15.6 ultimate zone rating a year ago, which dropped to minus-6.7 this year. His defensive runs saved fell from 11 to minus-3.

On a less quantifiable level, Cespedes‘ behavior off the field can leave a little to be desired.

During the season, the Mets had to tell him to refrain from golfing while he was on the disabled list after it created negative media attention, per ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin. The New York Daily NewsJohn Harper wrote Cespedes didn’t celebrate with his teammates after the team secured an NL wild-card spot.

Rubin wrote in October about the Mets’ concern regarding Cespedes‘ motivation were he to sign a long-term deal:

General manager Sandy Alderson generally is averse to longer-term deals, and there is particular concern that Cespedes might not provide maximum effort for the duration of a lengthy contract without the carrot of an opt-out clause.

Baseball executives believe Cespedes favors getting money up front, so perhaps a front-loaded, shorter-term deal could work, despite the Mets’ pessimism.

When a star is delivering results, eccentric behavior is embraced—or at least tolerated. When he’s not meeting expectations, that won’t hold true.

For all of his greatness, Barry Bonds’ surly personality was his undoing as he reached the twilight of his MLB career. Manny Ramirez wore out his welcome with the Boston Red Sox despite being a beloved figure among the fanbase for years prior.

None of that is to say Cespedes will start having a negative impact on the Mets clubhouse.

In January, David Wright spoke highly of Cespedes.

“I will put my name behind the statement that Yo was a good teammate on the field and a great teammate off the field,” he said in an interview with the New York Daily NewsKristie Ackert.

Keeping Cespedes is risky; a return to his less impressive Boston Red Sox days isn’t out of the question.

The Mets had little choice but to make every effort to re-sign Cespedes, though. Losing him would have been a crippling blow to the lineup.

The past year demonstrated that New York can’t afford to assume its young starting rotation will guarantee continued title contention. The front office needs to do everything it can to capitalize on its World Series window, and signing Cespedes sends the message the team is willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal.

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Neil Walker Accepts Mets’ Qualifying Offer: Contract Details, Reaction

Second baseman Neil Walker will return to Citi Field to continue his stint with the New York Mets after accepting the team’s $17.2 million qualifying offer, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Monday.

ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin relayed Sherman’s report, noting Walker’s injury history may have prevented him from landing a multiyear contract.

Walker confirmed the news on Twitter:

With free agency looming, the Pittsburgh Pirateswith whom he spent the first seven years of his MLB careerdealt Walker to a Mets team that lost 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy, who signed with the Washington Nationals prior to the 2016 campaign.

In New York, the 31-year-old put up one of the best seasons of his career, batting .282 with 23 home runs, which tied a career high and ranked third among National League second basemen. 

Nine of those home runs came in April as he quickly endeared himself to Mets fans:

A switch-hitter who provided extra pop in a lineup that needed to add protection for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Walker helped the Mets set a franchise record with 218 home runs in 2016.

On top of that, he shored up the middle of the infield next to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who also signed with the Mets prior to the 2016 season.

However, Walker’s stellar season was cut short by a back injury that required surgery in September.

The Mets will hope that Walker comes back healthy in 2017, as they might need all of the help they can get in the power department, considering Cespedes is a free agent.

Walker’s return ensures the Mets will have one of the best middle infields in the majors as they attempt to contend for their third straight postseason appearance in 2017.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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