Dodgers star signs a massive new contract

791726.jpg

Dodgers star signs a massive new contract

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers signed outfielder Andre Ethier to an 85 million, five-year deal through 2017 on Tuesday, keeping him and Matt Kemp together in the middle of the lineup. It's the team's first major move under a new ownership group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson. The new deal includes salaries of 13.5 million for next year, 15.5 million for 2014, 18 million each for 2015 and 2016 and 17.5 million for 2017. The Dodgers have a 17.5 million option for 2018 with a 2.5 million buyout, and Ethier's 2018 salary could become guaranteed based on plate appearances in 2017 or 2016-17 combined. The option vests with 1,100 plate appearances in 2016-17 combined or 550 plate appearances in 2017. If the option does not vest and is declined, a buyout is payable on Jan. 15, 2018. Ethier avoided arbitration last winter, agreeing to a 10.95 million contract for this season. He could have tested free agency at season's end. "I knew there were options at the end of the day, but why look at them when the best option is here?" he said. "A friend of mine said a couple weeks ago, You were meant to play here and you wouldn't play good anywhere else,'" he said. "That kind of rang true and let me think what's the purpose of holding out a few more months?" General manager Ned Colletti and new President and CEO Stan Kasten joined Ethier at a news conference overlooking the field at Dodger Stadium. Manager Don Mattingly, along with All-Star slugger Matt Kemp and pitcher Javy Guerra were there. Ethier's wife, Maggie, the couple's two young sons, who wore their dad's No. 16 jersey, and his parents also attended. "We signed Matt last winter and now we've signed Andre long-term, which to me says basically that you want to get better as an organization looking forward," Mattingly said. "These two guys are our cornerstones, so it makes a commitment to the fans. Right now, Dre's in a good spot and his teammates care about him." Ethier leads the National League with 53 RBIs. The 30-year-old right fielder is a two-time All-Star who is batting .287 with 10 home runs going into Tuesday night's game against the Angels. He's been with the team for six seasons, winning a Silver Slugger award in 2009 and a Gold Glove award last year. "He's part of the core, part of what we're trying to build on," Colletti said. "You got to keep guys like that around. If you believe in your core guys and you develop them, it's tough to replace guys like that." Colletti, who rarely does deals during the season, said he told all of the team's prospective owners that signing Ethier to a long-term deal was a priority if they were to take control of the team. "These owners aren't messing around with making this team and stadium the best it can be," Ethier said. He said Kasten talked to him two weeks ago about the ownership group's plans for the team. "Obviously, that set my mind at ease," Ethier said. "I knew things were going to get better around here no matter what." Last season, Ethier had a 30-game hitting streak and batted .292 with 11 home runs and 62 RBIs before having left knee surgery in September. Colletti said he doesn't expect the deal to affect Ethier's future performance. "He's proven himself over the long haul," he said. "It gives him a sense of knowing how we feel." Colletti flew to Ethier's offseason home in Arizona to meet with him in December, when both sides let each other know he wanted to remain in Los Angeles. The deal couldn't get going until last month because of the ownership transition, but it took just a couple weeks to get one. "In season you can't let it drag or it's a perilous time of year to be doing it," Colletti said. In November, the Dodgers signed Kemp to a 160 million, eight-year deal that equaled the seventh-highest contract in baseball history. That was the team's last major deal under former owner Frank McCourt. It is the richest agreement in club history, topping pitcher Kevin Brown's 105 million, seven-year deal before the 1999 season. Kemp is currently on the disabled list for the second time this season, although the Dodgers have maintained the best record in baseball. Ethier and Kemp anchor the Dodgers' defense, with Ethier in center and Kemp in right. "They've got a quiet competitiveness and great respect for one another," Colletti said. Ethier added, "I can look up and know where Matty's at most of the time. You don't see that often in baseball where two guys can do it defensively as well as being at the same level offensively." Ethier and Kemp's relationship dates back to when they played on the same Arizona Fall League team, although Ethier belonged to the Oakland Athletics and Kemp was with the Dodgers. "It's unbelievable to know I'm going to get the chance to play by his side for the next five years," Ethier said. "Me and Matty know we have to go out there and do our thing. When you start adding other key guys it definitely does allow everyone around you to play better baseball." Ethier said he knew from the start of spring training that good things were in store for the team after the last few years of turbulence under McCourt. "You could definitely tell by the way this group came together this spring," he said. "By far this is the best clubhouse and best group of guys in the seven years I've been here. I want to give them a lot of credit for the start we've had and the start I've had." Ethier also gets use of a luxury suite at the stadium eight times per season for community and charity work in the Los Angeles area.

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."

The start of preseason brings the return of hope for the Fire

The start of preseason brings the return of hope for the Fire

A year ago there was hope surrounding the Fire. Hope that general manager Nelson Rodriguez, entering his first offseason with the club, and new coach Veljko Paunovic could spark a turnaround at the club. Those new faces, coupled with an overhauled roster, meant there was hope that things could be better.

Rodriguez and Paunovic had not yet failed with the Fire so there was still that hope that they had a magic touch.

That eroded as the season unfolded and the team’s shortcomings were quickly apparent. The reworked defense seemed to be improved, but the midfield was typically overwhelmed.

Now, after the Fire finished last in Major League Soccer for the second consecutive year, that innocent hope that a new coach and general manager bring is gone. Fans have seen Rodriguez and Paunovic fail and, even though they inherited a team that was not an easy one to turn around, there will be more skepticism.

This year there is hope again, but instead of coming in the form of new management, it comes in the form of accomplished players. Juninho (a three-time MLS All-Star and three-time MLS Cup winner), Dax McCarty (an MLS Best XI selection in 2015) and Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goalscorer in the Polish Ekstraklasa in 2015-16) on paper make the Fire a better team. Can they mesh into a cohesive team that will actually perform better in matches?

“You’d like to think so,” Rodriguez said on Monday at the team’s media day at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch on the North Side. “It’s an inexact science, or at least for me it is. I know others will be more brash and saying it’s all there and all the pieces are together. Until they’re on the field, until they’re in the hotel rooms, until they’re off the field at team meals you never really know.”

[RELATED: Dax McCarty tweets thank you to Red Bull fans]

Rodriguez did say that this group is “very different” than last year’s.

“You can talk about all these clever ways to change culture, but the best way to have a winning team is to have winners as part of your team,” he said. “With those four guys (including goalkeeper Jorge Bava) at least we’ve added certified winners.”

So with two former MLS All-Stars arriving in central midfield, arguably the team’s biggest weakness last season, and a proven goalscorer, the pieces are there for the Fire to be better. Now it’s up to Paunovic to put the pieces together in a winning way.

“Obviously we have high expectations because we believe we did this job so far in offseason by the acquisitions that we had and the guys that are still to come,” Paunovic said. “It’s going to be a better team, more competitive.”

Even with the additions, the roster isn’t finished yet. Two trialists are in camp with the Fire, right backs Drew Beckie and Boyd Okwuonu. Beckie is a 26-year-old Canadian who played the 2016 season with the Carolina Railhawks in the North American Soccer League. Importantly, Beckie has a green card and would not count against the Fire’s international roster spots.

Okwuonu, 23, was drafted by Real Salt Lake in the second round of last year’s draft but was not retained. He has represented the U.S. at youth levels, including as a part of the Olympic qualifying team last year.

Right back has been an opening on the roster since Rodrigo Ramos’ loan was not renewed and no player has been added to fill that spot yet so those two could be fighting for a contract. Rodriguez said further additions to defense and midfield are still possible.

“Preseason is going to tell us where we have to improve,” Paunovic said. “Of course, theoretically we all know that there are a couple of spots still to reinforce and a couple of spots that we have to improve. For us now during all this time we are open to all the possibilities.”

The roster appears to be better, but even Rodriguez admitted he had hope last year.

“I was confident last year and the results of last year were bitterly disappointing and utterly unexpected by me," he said. "I have to believe our roster is better, whether that roster comes together the way we imagine, time will tell.”