For the first time since 2006, BBWAA (Baseball Writers' Association of America) voters have selected a pair of first basemen as MVP Award winners. It was announced Thursday evening that Jose Abreu won the 2020 MVP for the American League and Freddie Freeman won the 2020 MVP for the National League.
Starting in the AL, Abreu secured 21 out of the 30 first-place votes for his first MVP Award while runner-up Jose Ramirez nabbed eight first-place votes and DJ LeMahieu snagged one first-place vote en route to a third-place finish. Interestingly, Mike Trout finished fifth in the balloting, his lowest showing for a full season in his career.
Abreu was rendered speechless by the announcement from Josh Donaldson on MLB Network, eventually breaking down in tears. The honor was well-deserved, as the 33-year-old slashed .317/.370/.617 with 19 homers over 60 games while helping the White Sox to their first postseason appearance since 2008. He led the AL in hits (76) and led the majors in RBI (60) and slugging percentage (.617). His .987 OPS was the best of his career.
Abreu is the first Cuban-born MVP since Jose Canseco in the 1988. He’s the first MVP coming from the White Sox since Frank Thomas went back-to-back in 1993 and 1994.
It was a bit more clear-cut in the NL, where Freeman secured 28 out of the 30 first-place votes to cruise to his first career MVP. Mookie Betts nabbed the other two first-place votes for his second-place finish. Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto rounded out the top-five in the balloting.
Freeman was sidelined with a nasty case of COVID-19 during summer camp, but he bounced back to put together the best season of his career with a .341/.462/.640 batting line to go along with 13 home runs and 53 RBI over 60 games. He led the NL in both runs scored (51) and doubles (23) as the Braves won their third straight NL East title.
It was only appropriate that Dale Murphy made the announcement on MLB Network, as he won back-to-back MVP Awards with the Braves in 1982-1983. Freeman became the first MVP for the franchise since Chipper Jones took home the honors back in 1999.
Believe it or not, it has actually been a decade (2010 - Joey Votto) since a first baseman won the MVP Award in either league. We haven’t seen first basemen from both leagues win the award in the same year since Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau did it in 2006.
Stroman, Gausman Accept Qualifying Offers
We saw two of the most interesting free agent starters come off the market on Wednesday, as Marcus Stroman accepted his one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer from the Mets while Kevin Gausman did the same with the Giants.
Neither decision came as a huge surprise. Stroman is coming off a year where he didn’t pitch, as he suffered a calf tear in summer camp before eventually opting out due to COVID-19 concerns. Gausman was very good this year (3.62 ERA, 79/16 K/BB ratio in 59 2/3 innings), but he’s been inconsistent at best in his career. They would have been hard-pressed to find a similar AAV (average annual value) in a multi-year contract.
With Stroman and Gausman off the board and Robbie Ray back with the Blue Jays, here are the top remaining free agent starting pitchers, per Matthew Pouliot’s Top 111 list:
Trevor Bauer (No. 1 free agent)
Masahiro Tanaka (No. 6)
Charlie Morton (No. 13)
Jake Odorizzi (No. 17)
James Paxton (No. 18)
Taijuan Walker (No. 24)
Jose Quintana (No. 27)
Drew Smyly (No. 31)
Anthony DeSclafani (No. 33)
J.A. Happ (No. 37)
Corey Kluber (No. 39)
Garrett Richards (No. 40)
**Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano could be posted this offseason and would immediately vault into the top starters on the market
In line for massive multi-year contracts, Bauer, George Springer, DJ LeMahieu, and J.T. Realmuto all declined their respective qualifying offers. Appropriately enough, they were the first four players on Pouliot’s Top 111 list.
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Padres, Clevinger Talking Multi-Year Deal
According to Robert Murray of Fansided, the Padres are “working toward” a two-year contract with right-hander Mike Clevinger. If finalized, the deal would cover the final two years of his arbitration eligibility.
Clevinger earned $4.1 million (the salary was actually prorated due to the COVID-19 shutdown) in his first year of arbitration in 2020. We sometimes see teams try to secure at least one free agent year in these types of extensions, but the unique nature of this year might have changed the calculus a little bit. At the very least, both sides gain some degree of certainty moving forward.
Clevinger posted a 3.18 ERA over his first four starts with the Indians this season before being disciplined and eventually demoted to breaking team protocol for COVID-19. After being acquired by the Padres in a nine-player deal on August 31, the 29-year-old compiled a 2.84 ERA over four starts before going down in late September with a right elbow posterior impingement. He was able to make it back for Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, but he pitched just one inning before being shut down for good. Last we heard, the Padres didn’t think any surgery would be necessary.
If healthy, Clevinger will lead the Padres’ rotation along with Dinelson Lamet, who didn’t pitch in the postseason due to biceps tightness. Zach Davies and Chris Paddack are the other locks as of now, with young arms like Mackenzie Gore, Luis Patino, Adrian Morejon, and Ryan Weathers likely to play significant roles next year. Of course, there’s always the chance the Padres add another arm via free agency as they attempt to chase down the World Series champion Dodgers.
Quick Hits: Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that free agent catcher Yadier Molina has heard from the Yankees and Mets in addition to 3-4 other teams. … According to Joel Sherman, Ken Davidoff, and Dan Martin of the New York Post, the Yankees plan to at least “listen to offers” regarding a possible Gary Sanchez trade. … Bob Nightengale of USA Today hears from rival teams that the Rangers are full expected to trade right-hander Lance Lynn this offseason. … The Angels have hired Braves assistant Perry Minasian as their new general manager, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. … Eduardo Rodriguez (myocarditis) recently began a throwing program and expects to be “100 percent ready” for the start of the 2021 campaign. … Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman has retired from coaching after 15 years in the organization and will take a role in the team’s front office. … The White Sox are hiring Ethan Katz as their next pitching coach, per Dave Williams of Barstool Sports. … The Angels have added INF/OF Kean Wong and RHP Jake Reed as spring training invites. … The Red Sox signed RHP Kevin McCarthy to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.