Baseball notes

Braves sign young stars Freeman, Heyward to multi-year deals

The Associated PressFebruary 4, 2014 

— The Atlanta Braves agreed to eight-year contract with first baseman Freddie Freeman that is worth about $125 million on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, outfielder Jason Heyward and the Braves agreed to a $13.3 million, two-year contract. Heyward and Freeman had filed for salary arbitration last month.

The 24-year-old Freeman was an All-Star last year when he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs. He matched his career high in home runs and set highs in batting average and RBIs. He finished fifth in NL MVP voting. He has topped 20 home runs in three straight seasons.

“Freddie has established himself as one of the best young talents in the game,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “We are excited to sign one of our own homegrown players to a contract that will keep him in a Braves uniform for the next eight seasons.”

Closer Craig Kimbrel is the last Braves’ player left in arbitration.

Heyward, also 24, and Freeman are key members of the Braves’ core of young stars. Kimbrel, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, outfielder Justin Upton, and starting pitchers Julio Teheran and Mike Minor are 26 or younger. Evan Gattis, 27, is replacing Brian McCann as the starting catcher.

Heyward was happy to avoid arbitration.

“In my head it basically says to me, let’s go play some baseball,” he said.

Heyward is coming off an injury-filled season, and Wren said the relative lack of playing time complicated the arbitration process and helped make the two-year contract possible.

Heyward hit .254 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs in a career-low 104 games during his fourth season with the Braves. He had an appendectomy on April 22 and broke his jaw on Aug. 21 when he was hit by a pitch.

Heyward enjoyed his best season in 2012, when he hit .269 and set career highs with 27 homers, 82 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.

Heyward’s injuries did not prevent him from showcasing his versatility. A 2012 Gold Glove winner in right field, Heyward started 20 games in center last year.

Heyward is projected as Atlanta’s leadoff hitter.

Yanks move Robertson to closer

New York Yankees right-handed reliever David Robertson is moving from an eighth-inning setup man to closer following Mariano Rivera’s retirement.

Robertson went 5-1 with a 2.04 ERA in 70 games last year, striking out 77 in 661/3 innings.

McGrady to try pitching

Retired seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady, 34, plans to try pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.

A statement from the team says that it is a “lifelong dream” of McGrady’s to play baseball. It also says that the 6-foot-8 McGrady has “demonstrated skill, determination and diligence during his training program.”

The Skeeters last made national headlines when Roger Clemens pitched two games for them in 2012 at age 50.

Signings

Former Marlin Logan Morrison signed with Seattle. He was acquired in a postseason trade. Morrison had right knee surgery in September 2012 and missed the first two months of the 2013 season. He hit .242 with six homers and 36 RBIs in 85 games last year. ...

Outfielder Sam Fuld signed with Oakland. He was with Tampa Bay last season. ...

Infielder-outfielder Jeff Baker, who hit .279 in 74 games with Texas last season, signed with Miami. ...

Reliever Kyle Farnsworth, 37, signed with the Mets. The right-hander had a 4.70 ERA in 48 games with Tampa Bay last year.

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