Blackhawks

Pujols makes choice... and it's not St. Louis

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Pujols makes choice... and it's not St. Louis

From Comcast SportsNet

DALLAS (AP)Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agreed Thursday to a 254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels, leaving the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals after more than a decade for a new baseball life in southern California.

Pujols contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the 200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguezs 252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rods 275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.

This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited, Angels owner Arte Moreno said.

In addition to the Pujols signing, the Angels agreed to a five-year contract with left-hander C.J. Wilson, a deal worth 77.5 million that raised their spending for the day to 331.5 million.

People familiar with the deals told The Associated Press the terms of each contract, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were not made public.

Pujols had spent all 11 of his major league seasons with the Cardinals, hitting .338 with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs to become a franchise icon second only to Stan Musial. He is fourth in career slugging percentage at .617, trailing only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (.690), Ted Williams (.634) and Lou Gehrig (.632).

Pujols numbers in nearly every major offensive category are on a three-year decline. He had his poorest season in 2011 and at 31 is likely to spend the majority of his career with the Angels at designated hitter rather than first base.

We understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort, new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. Albert has spent many years operating at peak, and if we want to call a decline going from superhuman to just great, I dont think weve seen the last great days of Albert Pujols, obviously, or we wouldnt be sitting here today.

Some have speculated he is older than his listed age. Albert Pujols age to me is not a concern, Dipoto said. Im not a scientist. I cant where he is, but I can tell you he hits like hes 27.

St. Louis also offered the slugger a 10-year deal, but he chose to leave the Gateway City for the freeway life.

We are disappointed, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen.

The Angels, who finished 10 games behind pennant-winning Texas in the AL West, made the move as the financially troubled Los Angeles Dodgers are in the process of being sold by Frank McCourt in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, a deal that could give the regions NL team a new, wealthy owner. The Dodgers could aggressively bid for talent a year from now, giving them a boost in the regional competition for fans attention.

Winning breeds interest, and we are setting ourselves up to start next season with an opportunity to get good, Dipoto said.

Pujols led the Cardinals to a seven-game World Series victory over Wilsons Rangers, his second title with the team in the last six seasons. He also had been pursued by the Miami Marlins, but they dropped out Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with left-hander Mark Buehrle that raised their free agent-spending to 191 million for three players following deals with closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes. The Angels and Marlins committed 522.5 million to just five free agents.

I think baseball needs to have a steroid-testing policy for owners, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economics professor at Smith College.

Pujols agreed in 2004 to a 100 million, seven-year contract, a deal that with a 2011 option and bonuseswound up paying him 112.55 million over eight years.

He left a pretty good impact over there. I dont think fans will soon forget what his contributions were, said former Cardinals manager and star Joe Torre, now an executive with Major League Baseball. I still think the St. Louis fans are going to be more appreciative than angry.

Pujols agent, Dan Lozano, split off last year from the Beverly Hills Sports Council to form his own agency, and Pujols negotiations seemed like an attempt to surpass A-Rods landmark 252 million contract, agreed to at the same hotel 11 years earlier.

Pujols rejected a multiyear extension last offseason that was said to include a small percentage of the franchise. He cut off negotiations on the first day of spring training.

This is a footprint contract, because it follows the footprint laid by other great players, said agent Scott Boras, who negotiated Rodriguezs deals. Putting a hitter like Albert Pujols in a big market, where he can be a DH, I think its a win-win for everybody.

Pujols hit 37 home runs last season, running his 30-homer streak to 11 years, and batted .299 with 99 RBIs. He led the Cardinals improbable late-season surge and became only the third player to hit three home runs in a World Series game following Ruth and Reggie Jackson.

Reaction around the major leagues was swift.

For 2012, two wilds cards and no Albert Pujols. Im happy, said Sandy Alderson, general manager of the Cardinals NL rival New York Mets.

Said former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty, now GM of the NL Central rival Cincinnati Reds: Im a little surprised, I guess. I really thought hed go back to St. Louis. Its certainly good for our division.

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

Stan Bowman has had a busy last couple weeks. He pulled off a pair of trades, landing defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan from the Eastern Conference. He drafted center Kirby Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft that could turn into a franchise-changing player. And now he’s in the middle of negotiations with pending restricted and unrestricted free agents.

With the defensemen group starting to take shape, it appears free agency will be used to fill out the forward group. That could come via trades, also, but it really depends on the market.

So let’s identify five potential UFA targets for the Blackhawks ahead of Monday, when players are officially able to sign contracts:

1. Ryan Dzingel, LW

When Dzingel was with the Ottawa Senators, he was playing top-six minutes and earning power-play time because the Senators weren’t very deep. After getting traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline, he struggled to be a fit there, didn't play much on the power play and was healthy scratched for one game in the playoffs.

But he still has value, although it may not be in an area that the Blackhawks need (penalty kill).

Dzingel, a Wheaton native, set a career high in goals (26), assists (30) and points (56) in 78 games this past season with the Senators and Blue Jackets. He can play in the top-six but might be more effective as a middle-six winger on a good team.

According to Evolving Wild, Dzingel is projected to earn a contract of four years with a $4.25 million cap hit. 

2. Anders Lee, LW

It’s a little surprising that the New York Islanders and their captain haven’t made any progress on a long-term extension. At the same time, it’s pretty clear that Lou Lamoriello is looking to make a big splash this summer in his pursuit of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, and needs financial flexibility to negotiate.

Lee is a perfect complementary top-six left winger who would look great next to Jonathan Toews or opposite Patrick Kane. He’s got size at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, is reliable, scored 40 goals in 2017-18 and has a strong work ethic. Those qualities check a lot of boxes the Blackhawks are looking for.

Where it gets tricky is what his contract may look like. He's projected to receive in the range of a seven-year deal that carries a $6.5 million cap hit. The dollar amount is doable, but the term could scare the Blackhawks away as they prepare to sign Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome to long-term extensions next summer.

3. Gustav Nyquist, LW

The Blackhawks have been interested in Nyquist's services in the past, so they'll certainly look into him as a possibility now that he hits the open market.

Nyquist has scored at least 20 goals in four of his past six seasons, with 28 being his career high. But he's not known to be a goal scorer. He's a pass-first, playmaking-type winger and makes players around him better because of it. Nyquist is a consistent 45-55-point player.

His next contract is projected to be in the six-year, $5.6 million range, which — like Lee — is a fair dollar amount but the term may not be something the Blackhawks are crazy about. Bowman appears to be focused on free-agent forwards who can be signed on shorter-term deals.

4. Joe Pavelski, C/RW

Perhaps the most intriguing player on the free-agent market for the Blackhawks is Pavelski, who’s served as the San Jose Sharks captain but may not fit into their plans going forward because of their cap crunch.

Yes, he will turn 35 in July. And yes, he has a ton of mileage on his body. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down. 

Pavelski is a five-time 30-goal scorer who’s coming off a 38-goal season, can play both center and wing, and is an absolute gamer, a leader on and off the ice who shows up when the lights are shining brightest. He’s also not afraid to go to the dirty areas and is widely considered to be one of the best at deflecting pucks, which comes in handy on the power play.

What makes him an attractive piece is that Pavelski could be a player that makes an immediate impact but wouldn't require a long-term deal. He's projected to earn a three-year contract with a cap hit of $7.4 million. If the Blackhawks can get him at two years, that would be ideal. But like Patrick Marleau a few years ago in Toronto, his camp is probably looking for that third year.

5. Corey Perry, LW

Days after he was bought out by the Ducks, Perry’s name surfaced as a possibility for the Blackhawks. And it makes sense because the Blackhawks aren't looking to hand out long-term contracts.

Perry is 34 years old, a former Hart Trophy winner and 50-goal scorer, and is still a productive player when healthy. But that's the biggest concern. He missed 51 games this season with a knee injury, returned ahead of schedule and never looked the same on the ice.

Per the CBA, Perry can sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal and it appears that's what he'll do. A one-year contract in the $2-3 million with bonuses would be a low risk, high reward move for the Blackhawks.

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Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

The Cubs lost an entirely forgettable game on Tuesday night, dropping the second of their four games against the NL East-leading Braves by a score of 3-2. They left four men on base, only managed four hits, ran into two outs, and made one error in a game that was over well in time for a Clark Street nightcap, or three. 

What was memorable about Tuesday night was the performance of Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect who was making his first major league start. The final line: 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, one run, four walks and four strikeouts. It’s certainly not the prettiest line you’ll see in tomorrow’s box scores, but the 24 year old passed the eye test with flying colors. 

“Everything was good - he was outstanding,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “I just think he hit a well there at the end. We just have to get him more used to that. Listen, he’s been injured in the past, he’s coming back - you’ve got to be real sensitive to the number of pitches and workload you put on him, because you can see how good he’s going to be.”

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Alzolay, whose first pitch of the game was crushed 413 feet into the left field bleachers for a leadoff homer, courtesy of Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. It would prove to be the only hit and run that Alzolay allowed on the night. 

“It’s just one pitch,” he said. “You have to keep working - the game continues. I was just starting the game, so if you lose your mind in that situation than you’re not going to last a lot of innings.

“Even after the home run, he came right back and said, ‘I’m fine’,” Maddon added. “Then he went up and got three really good hitters out. I liked the mound demeanor, we’ve just got to get him a little further along in regards to being stretched out.”

After coming out flat with his secondary pitches during his 4-inning relief appearance on June 20th, Alzolay flashed better command and execution of both his curveball and changeup. Half of his strikeouts came on the curveball - one to get left fielder Austin Riley in the 2nd and one to get Acuña in the 3rd. After throwing 13 changeups in his debut, Alzolay double that number on Tuesday (27). 

“I’m feeling really confident throwing the pitch in any count,” Alzolay said of his changeup. “Tonight I threw it a couple times when I was behind in the count and I got a good result after that, so I’ll just keep on throwing it.

“For us to get confident at something, you have to practice, you have to execute it, and you have to use it in the game,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who plated both of the Cubs’ two runs with a double in the 4th. “For him to be able to throw the changeup for a strike, and strikeout people, it’s really good - especially at his age.”

Maddon couldn’t answer when Alzolay would make his next start. With Kyle Hendricks eyeing a return around the All-Star break, there would seemingly be a few more opportunities ahead of the rookie. Given what he showed on Tuesday night, it’d be hard to argue against it.

"He can be really good in the big leagues," Contreras said. "He still needs to make adjustments like all of us, but with the confidence he has, the ability he has, and the way he prepares before the games, it's going to take him a long way."