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Offseason Lowdown

Lowdown: Betts, Yelich MVPs

by D.J. Short
Updated On: November 16, 2018, 9:45 am ET

Follow @djshort and @Rotoworld_BB on Twitter.

If you wanted drama with Thursday’s MVP announcements, this wasn’t the year for you. As expected, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts ran away with the prize in the American League while Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich was almost unanimous in the National League. They are both first-time winners. Betts received 28 out of 30 first-place votes (Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez received the others) and Yelich was first on 29 out of 30 ballots. Jacob deGrom, who was announced as the NL Cy Young Award winner on Wednesday, received the other first-place vote in the NL.

It has been an eventful few weeks for Betts. In addition to winning the World Series and an MVP Award, he recently took home a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. The only other player to win all four in the same season is Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who did it with the Phillies in 1980. And if that wasn’t enough, Betts’ daughter was also born earlier this month. Everything is coming up Mookie right now.

Betts was the easy frontrunner for the AL prize after posting an MLB-best .346 batting average and new career-highs with 32 homers, 30 stolen bases, and 129 runs scored (tied for first in the majors). Adding in his excellent defense, Betts led all MLB players in bWAR (10.9) this season. Trout, who ranked second with 10.2 bWAR, also finished second in AL MVP balloting. Jose Ramirez, J.D. Martinez and Alex Bregman rounded out the top-five.

The NL MVP race was wide open for a large part of the year, but Yelich separated himself from the crowd with a monster second half. He launched 25 homers with a 1.219 OPS in just 65 games after the All-Star break. Keep in mind that Yelich had never hit more than 21 home runs in a full season before. However, thanks to the power surge, he finished the year with a .326/.402/.598 batting line to go along with 36 home runs, 110 RBI, and 22 steals over 147 games. His 1.000 OPS was tops in the National League. He led the NL in batting average and flirted with a run at the Triple Crown.

With Thursday’s announcement, Yelich became the first player since Josh Donaldson (2015) to win MVP honors after being traded the previous offseason. The 26-year-old was already a very good player with the Marlins, with a 121 OPS+ through his first 643 games in the majors, but he took things to a new level during his first season in Milwaukee. The breakout helped propel the Brewers to a playoff run which ended in Game 7 of the NLCS.

Following Yelich on the ballot were Javier Baez, Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman, and deGrom.

DeGrom Hires New Agent

Speaking of deGrom, he has settled on new representation after his former agent Brodie Van Wagenen was recently hired as the new general manager of the Mets. As first reported by Andy Martino of SNY.tv, the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner will remain with CAA while adding Jeff Berry as his new agent.

DeGrom isn’t due to become a free agent until after the 2020 season. He earned a $7.4 million salary in 2018 and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to receive $12.9 million via arbitration this offseason. He’s already 30 years old and coming off the sixth-lowest ERA in the majors since MLB lowered the mound in 1969, so it makes sense for him to chat with the Mets now rather than take his chances and wait for the open market.

There have been multiple reports about deGrom’s interest in an extension, but it’s unclear how much Van Wagenen will be involved in the process, if at all. During Van Wagenen’s introductory press conference, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said the new GM will have to recuse himself from some conversations regarding a possible extension for their ace right-hander. It’s a unique situation, to be sure, but Martino expects extension talks to pick up by next month.

Quick Hits: Baseball owners have extended the contract of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred through the 2024 season … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Rangers have signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract, pending a physical … With Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias expected to be named as the new GM of the Orioles, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that Houston’s bench coach Joe Espada could be a “serious candidate” for the vacant managerial position in Baltimore … The Mets signed left-hander Ryan O’Rourke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports that the Twins have hired Wes Johnson from the University of Arkansas as their new pitching coach … Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics have interest in a reunion with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki.