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Yan Gomes was briefly a free agent but didn't want to 'restart' with a whole new team

Yan Gomes was briefly a free agent but didn't want to 'restart' with a whole new team

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There was a brief time last offseason when Yan Gomes was a free agent. This was new. He had just won the World Series, everything was fantastic, a $9 million team option existed on his contract, then he was unemployed. Briefly. 

“Right out of the get-go, you start the offseason kind of becoming a free agent,” Gomes told NBC Sports Washington. “There wasn’t like a doubt that I wanted to come back. I made it known to them. We started having conversations. It didn’t start for a few weeks, almost a month. It was my first time being in free agency like that. I was [expletive] stressed out. But, once we started having our conversations it happened really fast. It was literally within three days and they offered and I said, 'Yeah.'”

Gomes could have been insulted by the team declining his option. He could have taken the brief time he was a free agent to really push another team. Instead, he told Washington he wanted to return, had shallow conversations with other teams, then signed as soon as he could. So, why? 

“Comfort level for sure,” Gomes said. “Knowing this team and really loving the guys and everything here. But it became, really, a family decision of almost wanting to stay on the East Coast. We live in Tennessee and the kids are going to school, and I would have thought of going somewhere out West  -- which, you know, after two years we’ll see how that goes -- but we wanted to stay closer, and D.C. being perfect, I didn’t want to do the whole restart, whole new team. I think it really just came down to the comfort level that I had here. The friendships that we built so quickly, I just kind of wanted to stay around.”

Gomes’ first season in Washington went poorly. His offense dipped, his work behind the plate resulted in a career high in passed balls and wild pitches (if the catcher blocks these, the number goes down). His caught-stealing percentage was also below his career average.

However, his offense picked up in September, which coincided with Kurt Suzuki’s elbow injury and more playing time. Gomes made 21 starts and produced an .850 OPS. His OPS for the season was just .704.

Gomes made 358 plate appearances during the regular season. Suzuki made 309. Their pitcher-pairings were clear: Suzuki caught Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Aníbal Sánchez. Gomes caught Patrick Corbin and the rotating cast of fifth starters. In spring training, Suzuki will be over with Corbin more often in case he needs to handle the left-hander during the regular season. Davey Martinez expects their playing-time share to be similar to last year no matter who they are catching.

“I like to think we could do the same thing, but we’ve got to be very careful,” Martinez said. “I know Suzuki looks good and ready to go, but we have to be very conscious of his injuries last year. I know Yan could catch every day. We’ll see how spring training goes. I definitely would like to keep it the same.”

Which is also what Gomes wanted. More of the same, so he's back in West Palm Beach for two more years.

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Reports: MLB owners approve deal on coronavirus-induced measures for 2020 season

Reports: MLB owners approve deal on coronavirus-induced measures for 2020 season

Major League Baseball’s team owners have reportedly voted to approve a labor agreement between the league and its players union that implements a series of measures designed to help baseball weather the coronavirus outbreak.

Several changes were reported Thursday evening before the owners ratified the agreement.

Among them were a transaction freeze, the assurance that players’ service time clocks would be unaffected by any suspension or cancellation of the season, a reduction in the number of rounds in the next two amateur drafts, a potential delay to the international signing period and the adjustment of arbitration rules to avoid penalizing players for lower counting stats during a shortened season.

More details emerged Friday as reporters collected information surrounding the deal.

- According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the 2020 season will not begin until three major thresholds are met: 1) The bans on mass gatherings in states with MLB clubs are lifted, unless MLB decides to host games at neutral sites or without fans instead. 2) There are no travel restrictions. 3) Health experts deem it safe for both teams and fans to attend games.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that signing bonuses for players drafted over the next two years will not increase as was originally outlined in the current collective bargaining agreement. It’s a decision that agent Scott Boras has called “unconscionable.”

- Passan also added that MLB would consider running a combine for amateur players ahead of the next two drafts and that drug-related suspensions will be still served in 2020—but if the season is cancelled, then those suspensions would be waived.

- While not clear if part of the agreement itself, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported that the commissioner’s office has “an understanding with all 30 teams” that their non-player employees would be paid through April 30. A decision has not been made as to what will happen after that.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that it’s unlikely MLB will be able to play a full 162-game season, but that both the league and its players hope to play as many games as possible—with ideas like scheduled double-headers and fewer off days on the table.

No firm date was given as to when MLB hopes to begin its season.

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Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña are earning comparisons to MLB greats. What can we expect in Year Three?

Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña are earning comparisons to MLB greats. What can we expect in Year Three?

Juan Soto ventured into enemy territory last summer when his friend and contemporary Ronald Acuña emerged from the visitor’s dugout at Nationals Park and began to chirp at him.

The pair hit it off when together for the MLB All-Stars in Japan during the 2018 offseason. When they exist as rivals -- at least by the standard of being in the same division -- they still joke, hug and admire. Any comparison of the two will not be centered on vitriol. They’re having too much fun hammering baseballs in their early 20s.

Should the season restart, Soto and Acuña will start their third year in the National League East. It won’t be a full season. We already know that because of the current hiatus, but it may be enough to have another reputable look at next steps for each. And where they already are is comparable with any young duo in the history of the game.

Here are the totals from their first two years in the league:

Acuña: 67 home runs, 130 OPS-plus, 9.9 WAR.

Soto: 56 home runs, 140 OPS-plus, 7.4 WAR.

Acuña is 22 years old. He has a Rookie of the Year Award and fifth-place MVP finish on his ledger.

Soto is 21 years old. He finished second to Acuña in Rookie of the Year voting in 2018. He finished ninth in MVP voting last year.

Their mutual beginnings are so potent, a recent pairing to compare them to is Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

Sounds ambitious. If not flatly hyperbolic. And, when it comes to Trout, it is.

He compiled 19.4 bWAR in his first two full seasons at age 20 and 21. That’s more than Acuña and Soto combined. Trout was intertwined in a who-is-the-best debate with Harper at that point. That discussion is long over.

Harper’s 8.9 bWAR the first two seasons (age 19 and 20, respectively) falls right in line with Acuña and Soto. He was essentially the average of the pair.

Let’s dial back to other young stars.

Mickey Mantle finished with 12.2 bWar across 1952 and 1953, when he was 20 and 21 years old, respectively. Willie Mays pulled together 14.4 bWar in 1951 and 1954 combined. Mays was 20 years old in his first full season. His 21-year-old season was abbreviated, and 22-year-old season non-existent because of military service. Hank Aaron compiled 7.6 bWAR in his first two years when playing in his age-20 and age-21 seasons for the Milwaukee Braves. And, just as a head-shaking aside, it’s always fun to point out Mays was a 24-time All-Star and Aaron a 25-time All-Star. Decent efforts on their part.

So, what came in Year 3 for everyone listed above?

Trout was named MVP after a 7.7 WAR season at age 22. Harper was hurt, then put together his best year, his MVP season in 2015 when 22 years old.

Mantle had a strong 6.9-WAR season when he was 22 years old.

Mays, then 24, went crazy his third full season in the majors: 51 homers, 13 triples, a 1.059 OPS, .659 slugging percentage, 79 walks and 60 strikeouts. Put it another way: Mays had more combined homers and triples than strikeouts in 1955 when he was 24 years old. And yet, he finished fourth -- fourth! -- in 1955 MVP balloting behind Roy Campanella, Duke Snider and Ernie Banks.

Aaron finished with a .923 OPS and 7.2 WAR in year three.

Soto and Acuña will be hard-pressed to reach similar WAR totals in a shortened season. However, they still have another decade for future comparisons and to keep chasing the ghosts of the greats.

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