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Waiting for Shohei: MLB free-agent market slow as Ohtani mulls big money

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Baseball is waiting for Shohei.

Big-name free agents appear in no hurry to strike deals at the winter meetings, biding time until Shohei Ohtani potentially breaks the record for richest contract set 4 1/2 years ago by Mike Trout.

And Japanese free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto could be holding up the starting pitching market.

“It’s probably a little slower from a conversation standpoint at a winter meetings than it normally would,” New York Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns said Monday. “A possibility is that, yeah, the top of the free-agent market hasn’t moved yet, and often it takes the top of the free-agent market moving for the rest of the dominoes to fall.”

Ohtani, the two-way unicorn who has won two of the last three AL MVP awards for the Los Angeles Angels, is expected to get a deal topping $500 million — even though he won’t pitch again until 2025 following elbow surgery.

Trout’s contract was for $426.5 million over 12 years.

There was no sign at the winter meetings of Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s representative at the Creative Artists Agency, a contrast to the many other agents working the vast lobbies and suites of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center for talks involving their clients.

Behind Ohtani in the hitters free-agent pecking order are Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman, both represented by the sport’s biggest agent, Scott Boras. Among starting pitchers, the market includes Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, also represented by Boras.

Farhan Zaidi, the San Francisco Giants’ president of baseball operations, would like a faster pace to offseason negotiations.

“Been talking to some people today about how there’s some conversation about having a deadline for multi-year deals in the last CBA,” he said. “Your business people who want to sell tickets and capitalize on fan excitement have less time to do that when those deals happen in January than November or December.”

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins, like Balelo, may be offsite. His briefing with Blue Jays writers was shifted on short notice to Zoom, with Atkins citing scheduling conflicts.

While San Diego slugger Juan Soto has been the biggest name mentioned in trade talks, the first deal announced in Nashville was a less prominent swap. The Atlanta Braves acquired outfielder Jarred Kelenic, pitcher Marco Gonzales and infielder Evan White from the Seattle Mariners late Sunday for right-handed pitchers Cole Phillips and Jackson Kowar. Seattle is sending Atlanta $4.5 million on Aug. 1, offsetting part of the $29 million Gonzales and White are guaranteed.

Seattle dealt third baseman Eugenio Suárez to Arizona last month for reliever Carlos Vargas and catcher Seby Zavala.

“If you look at the trade and kind of where our team is at as we try to build it out going forward into 2024 and 2025, you needed some flexibility,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That’s probably what forced the trade as much as anything.”

Milwaukee finalized an $82 million, eight-year contract with 19-year-old outfield prospect Jackson Chourio, the most money guaranteed to a player with no big league experience — excluding Japanese professionals,

“There’s definitely a little bit of pressure on this, but I’m just going to work really hard,” Chourio said through a translator. “This money is not going to change me. If something changes, it definitely will be for the better.”

Milwaukee also agreed to an $8.5 million, one-year contract to retain left-hander Wade Miley, a deal that includes a 2025 mutual option and could be worth $24 million over two seasons.

“He means so much to a team. He’s incredible in the clubhouse. He’s a guy who makes others better,” new Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. “He’s going to make other pitchers better.”


AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.



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Heisman finalists: LSU QB Daniels, Oregon QB Nix, Washington QB Penix Jr., Ohio St WR Harrison Jr.

LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., transfer quarterbacks who have all played at least five college seasons, and Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. were announced as the Heisman Trophy finalists on Monday night.

The Heisman has been given to the nation’s most outstanding college football player since 1935. This year’s winner will be announced Saturday in New York. The top four vote-getters determined by more than 870 voters, which include members of the media and former Heisman winners, are selected as finalists.

With Nix and Penix, the Pac-12 has two Heisman finalists for the first time since 2010 when Stanford’s Andrew Luck was the runner-up to Auburn’s Cam Newton, and Oregon running back LaMichael James finished third in the balloting.

The Pac-12 is in its final season with its current membership before 10 schools depart, including Oregon and Washington to the Big Ten.

A look at each finalist’s road to Manhattan.


Daniels had one of the most prolific seasons in Southeastern Conference history for the 13th-ranked Tigers (9-3), his second at LSU and fifth overall after starting his career at Arizona State. He passed for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns and ran for 1,134 yards and 10 TDs.

Daniels is trying to become the third LSU player to the win the Heisman, first since Joe Burrow in 2019 — another transfer quarterback in his second season in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Daniels is also trying to become the rare Heisman winner in the BCS/CFP era to win the award with a team that wasn’t in contention for a championship late in the season. The last player to win the Heisman on a team with a 9-3 record was Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in 2016.


Harrison has 67 catches for 1,211 yards and 15 touchdowns, and his trip to New York gives No. 7 Ohio State (11-1) Heisman finalists in five of the last six seasons.

Harrison’s overall numbers lag behind some of the other star receivers around the country, but he was the most consistent threat for a Buckeyes offense that was breaking in a new starting quarterback and dealt with injuries to its supporting cast all season.

He would be the fifth receiver to win the Heisman in the award’s 87-year history, but the second in the past four years. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith won in 2020 to become the first receiver to take the trophy in nearly three decades.


While Daniels went from the Pac-12 to the SEC and found stardom, Nix went the opposite way.

After three years at Auburn, the former five-star recruit transferred to Oregon in 2022 and became one of the best players in the country, leading the eighth-ranked Ducks (11-2) to the Pac-12 title game.

Nix has completed 77.2% of his passes, which is slightly behind the major college football record, and has thrown for 4,145 yards and 40 TDs.


Penix is in his sixth college season after four injury-filled years at Indiana. He transferred to Washington in 2022 to play for coach Kalen DeBoer, his former offensive coordinator at Indiana, and has guided the second-ranked Huskies to 23 victories, a Pac-12 title and their second College Football Playoff appearance this year.

This season, Penix has passed for 4,218 yards and 33 touchdowns.

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Dave Roberts expects Mookie Betts to be Dodgers’ regular second baseman in 2024

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gold Glove outfielder Mookie Betts is set to become the regular second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2024, manager Dave Roberts told MLB Network on Monday.

A strong-armed outfielder, Betts played 107 games in right field for the reigning NL West champions this past season and 70 games at second. Roberts confirmed his plan in a text message to the AP on Monday.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that No. 50, Mookie Betts, is going to be our everyday second baseman,” Roberts told MLB Network. “It’s one of those things where he’s a Gold Glover out in right field, but I think that when you’re talking about putting together a roster and someone who can be so offensive at second base, you can get more games out of him if he is playing second base.”

With the Dodgers bringing back Jason Heyward on a one-year deal, they have him as an option in right, the manager said.

Roberts’ scheduled media availability at the winter meetings isn’t until Tuesday afternoon in Nashville, which happens to be Betts’ hometown.

The 31-year-old Betts, who also appeared at shortstop in 16 games, hit a career-best 39 home runs with 107 RBIs — second-most in his 10-year big league career — while batting .307. He has won six Gold Gloves, all in the outfield.



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76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. scoffs at questions about legitimacy of his injury, calls hit-and-run serious

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Kelly Oubre Jr. wanted to set the record straight — yes, a vehicle struck him as he walked near his home and the driver fled. Yes, he suffered a traumatic injury and no — he doesn’t care for anyone who questioned his account of what happened on that Philadelphia street last month.

“This was and is a very traumatic situation for me and my family,” Oubre told reporters Monday at the 76ers’ complex in New Jersey. “So, I just wish that my life wasn’t like ‘The Truman Show’ where everybody kind of watched it and have their own opinion about my life.”

Oubre was off to a strong start in his first season with the 76ers (16.3 points in eight games) when he said he was struck by a vehicle while walking near his home in Philadelphia’s Center City on Nov. 11. The 27-year-old was taken to a hospital in stable condition and was released a few hours later with a broken rib and injuries to his hip and right leg, police said at the time, adding that an investigation was ongoing.

The car, described as silver in color, fled, Oubre told authorities.

Philadelphia police said about two weeks later they had yet to find video evidence of a hit-and-run.

“This is very hard for us to have to deal with and for me to miss being on the court which keeps me sane, and a lot of people were very inconsiderate and insensitive to try to worry about video cameras,” Oubre said while declining to get into specifics. “So yeah, I mean, I’m just really blessed that it wasn’t worse than what it is and I’m able to come back to work and smile and walk and talk and breathe. So yeah, that’s just what I have to say about the conspiracy theorists.

“I love them, too. I sit there on my downtime and look at them, but not with my life. This (expletive) serious.”

Oubre is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday at Washington.

“I’ve spoken to the police about this situation and they have an ongoing investigation,” Oubre said. “I’ve spoken to who I need to speak to about it and people with the way that it is, and I won’t be speaking on any details about that because they’re looking into it.”

The 76ers and police had been in touch regarding the status of the investigation.

Oubre signed with the Sixers on Sept. 26 and had just moved into the neighborhood around the time he was injured.

Oubre said he’s “ready to hoop” and rejoin the 76ers (12-7) as they chase a top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Coach Nick Nurse said he would “probably fire him right back in there” against the Wizards.



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Soccer-CONMEBOL reveals 14 host U.S. cities for 2024 Copa America

(Reuters) – Next year’s Copa America will be held across 14 U.S. cities, culminating with the final at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said on Monday.

The first semi-final will be at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey with the other at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, while quarter-final action will be in Arlington, Houston, Las Vegas and Glendale.

The June 20-July 14 tournament features 32 matches and 16 participating teams – 10 from CONMEBOL and six from CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

CONMEBOL previously announced that the opening match of the tournament will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

The other host cities are Las Vegas, Orlando, Santa Clara, Inglewood, Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas.

The draw for the 2024 Copa America takes place on Thursday.

Argentina beat hosts Brazil at the 2021 Copa America for their first major title in 28 years.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Seahawks-Cowboys Thursday night game sets record for Prime Video and NFL streaming

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys’ 41-35 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night set a record as the most-streamed game in NFL history as well as setting a new mark as the most-watched game on Amazon Prime Video.

The previous standard for both was the Sept. 14 game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles.

According to Nielsen and Amazon, the game averaged 15.26 million on Prime Video and on local broadcast stations in Seattle and Dallas. That surpassed the 15.1 million that watched Vikings-Eagles.

The streaming-only number was 11.1 million on Prime Video, Twitch and NFL+. The old mark was 10.4 million.

Through 11 weeks, “Thursday Night Football” is averaging 12.58 million, a 29% increase over last season.



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Gloria Allred is representing the family of girl involved in Josh Giddey’s case

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gloria Allred is representing the family of the girl with whom Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey is accused of having an improper relationship, the famed attorney confirmed Monday.

Allred has been an advocate for women in cases against powerful men and celebrities for decades. She did not elaborate in an e-mail response, saying: “We have no comment.”

TMZ Sports first reported Allred’s connection with the case.

Last week, the Newport Beach, California, police department said its detectives are conducting an investigation. Before that, the NBA announced it was investigating.

In a since-deleted post, an anonymous social media user last month said a girl who is seen with Giddey in videos and photographs was a high school junior at the time. The social media account has since been deactivated.

Giddey, an Australian, turned 21 in October. He and the Thunder have declined to comment on the situation so far.

Giddey is averaging 12 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for an Oklahoma City team that is off to a 13-6 start, second-best in the Western Conference. He has started all four games since the accusations were made, but played a season-low 17 minutes in Saturday’s win at Dallas.

Giddey was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 draft and was named to the All-Rookie second team during the 2021-22 season. Last season, he averaged 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists. At this year’s World Cup, he averaged a team-high 19.4 points for an Australia team that went 3-2.



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Phillies sign manager Rob Thomson to 1-year extension after 2 straight trips to NLCS

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Call him Philly Rob. Call him Topper.

Whatever the nickname, the Philadelphia Phillies can call Rob Thomson their manager for at least two more seasons.

The Phillies signed Thomson to a one-year contract extension through the 2025 season after he led the team to two straight trips to the NL Championship Series.

He worked most of 2022 as an interim manager. Now, Thomson won’t have to enter 2024 as a lame-duck one.

“It’s good to know that you’ve got that extra year,” Thomson said Monday at baseball’s winter meetings, “but if I didn’t get it, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me.”

The 60-year-old Thomson has a 155-118 record since the veteran bench coach replaced Joe Girardi as Phillies manager on June 3, 2022. Thomson led the Phillies to the 2022 World Series, where they lost in six games to the Houston Astros. The Phillies returned to the NLCS this season but blew series leads of 2-0 and 3-2 with Games 6 and 7 at home against Arizona.

Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos went 5 for 53 (.094) with 11 walks, 22 strikeouts and two RBIs in Philadelphia’s four NLCS losses. Against six Arizona pitchers in Game 7, the four went 1 for 15 with five strikeouts and no RBIs.

Thomson led the Phillies to a 90-72 record in 2023 and their first 90-win season since 2011. This past October he became only the third manager in MLB history to win 18 of his first 25 postseason games, joining Hall of Famers Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel.

Thomson has been with the club since the 2018 season when he was first hired as bench coach under former manager Gabe Kapler.

Thomson had said he planned to retire after the 2022 season until he was promoted to the manager’s job. Thomson said after this season he had no plans to quit and intended to manage as long as the Phillies wanted him.

“One reason I was thinking about retirement was that it was just getting stale for me,” Thomson said. “But ever since I’ve stepped into this role, there’s no staleness — at all. There’s a new problem every day, new things to do every day. I’m upbeat, and I’m just happy. I don’t think there’s any question about my love for this team, this group of people, players and coaches, this organization, the city, I love it all. So this was a no-brainer for me.”

With Harper now a full-time first baseman, and Schwarber and Turner among the sluggers returning, the Phillies seem primed to contend for the World Series. The Phillies had 10-1 odds Monday to win the 2024 World Series, per FanDuel SportsBook.

The Phillies signed ace Aaron Nola to a $172 million, seven-year deal last month.

Phillies President Dave Dombrowski said the Phillies knew they wanted to sign Thomson and just needed to take care of other pressing details — like signing Nola — before approaching Thomson with an extension.

“I’m waiting to win a World Series, then I’m going to approach him,” Thomson said, laughing.

“You know what? I can’t wait,” Dombrowski said.

The Phillies last won the World Series in 2008.

Thomson spent 28 years as a member of the New York Yankees organization (1990-2017), including 10 seasons on the major league coaching staff as bench coach (2008, 2015-17) and third base coach (2009-14).

The Phillies also hired Dustin Lind and Rafael Peña as assistant hitting coaches.


AP freelancer Terry McCormick in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this story.



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Chourio gets $82 million, 8-year deal with Brewers, largest before a player’s big league debut

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Before taking a single swing in the major leagues, Jackson Chourio landed the type of contract players spend years dreaming about.

“I’m definitely going to meet the expectations,” the 19-year-old outfielder said Monday after the Milwaukee Brewers finalized an $82 million, eight-year deal, the most money guaranteed to a player with no big league experience.

“There’s definitely a little bit of pressure on this, but I’m just going to work really hard,” Chourio said through a translator. “This money is not going to change me. If something changes, it definitely will be for the better.”

Milwaukee also agreed to an $8.5 million, one-year contract to retain left-hander Wade Miley, a deal that includes a 2025 mutual option and could be worth $24 million over two seasons. Miley gets a $7 million salary this year and the option is for $12 million with a $1.5 million buyout. He can earn $2.5 million each year in performance bonuses for innings: $250,000 each for 50 and 75, $500,000 for 100 and $750,000 for 125. He has a 10-team limited no-trade provision and would get a one-time $1 million assignment bonus if traded.

Chourio has played only six games above Double-A. His agreement topped the previous high for a player with no big league experience — excluding Japanese professionals — set when outfielder Luis Robert signed a $50 million, six-year contract with the Chicago White Sox on Jan. 2, 2020, ahead of his debut on July 24 of that year

Chourio could start the 2024 season in the major leagues. The deal covers his entire period of arbitration eligibility and what potentially would have been his first two seasons after free agency.

Milwaukee is starting its first season under manager Pat Murphy following the departure of Craig Counsell, who left to manage the Chicago Cubs.

“It’s not just about us. It’s about him as well and securing his future, partnering together with somebody that is really special,” Brewers general manager Matt Arnold said. “And so when you have an agreement like that, it’s a great day for everybody involved.”

Chourio is regarded as among baseball’s top prospects. Although he doesn’t turn 20 until March 11, Chourio has advanced rapidly enough in the Brewers’ farm system that he played six games for Triple-A Nashville late this past season.

He’s the first player in Brewers franchise history to be selected as the organization’s minor league player of the year twice. Chourio, from Maracaibo, Venezuela, signed for a $1.8 million bonus at age 16 in January 2021.

He batted .283 with a .338 on-base percentage, 22 homers, 91 RBIs and 44 steals in 128 combined games with Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Nashville in 2023. He hit .288 with a .342 on-base percentage, 20 homers, 75 RBIs and 16 steals in 99 combined games with Class A Carolina and Wisconsin, and Biloxi in 2022.

His 18-year-old brother Jaison signed with Cleveland for a $1.2 million bonus in January 2022 and hit .321 with one homer, 25 RBIs and 20 stolen bases with the Arizona Complex League Guardians and Class A Lynchburg.



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NHL reaches new golden age of brotherly love with 20 sets of siblings playing this season

Before facing off in a game this season, brothers William and Alexander Nylander posed at center ice. While the snapshot captured a nice family moment, the video was still rolling when William gave Alexander a brotherly shove.

Brady Tkachuk sat in the stands for brother Matthew’s playoff games during Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. But when Brady’s Ottawa Senators faced Matthews’ Panthers this season, all the brotherly love was lost.

Hockey history is full of brothers on the big stage. This includes Maurice and Henri Richard during one of Montreal’s dynasties, Mark and Marty Howe playing with father Gordie in Hartford, plus Henrik and Daniel Sedin more recently in Vancouver. This season alone boasts 20 sets of brothers playing in the NHL, marking a golden age for bloodlines on the ice.

“It’s definitely a sport where it’s a family thing and it takes a lot of support,” said Washington defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who is two years younger than brother James, now with Boston. “Hockey is a game where a lot of it, obviously, depends on skills and stuff like that. But there’s so much where if you’re a smart player and you have an older brother that kind of shows you how to play and what to expect, it’s kind of a huge advantage.”

Many of the brothers who made it to the top league in the world chalk it up to childhood mornings at the rink.

“We were just playing around, but we would compete and we would just raise each other’s level without even knowing we were raising each other’s level,” said Philadelphia defenseman Marc Staal, who has played much of his career with brothers Jordan and Eric, and briefly Jared, also in the NHL. “You want success because you’ve seen your brother have success or you push him to have more success.”

Marc and Eric Staal shared the Panthers’ Cup Final run together as teammates. Marc said having their kids at the rink and in school made it seem like a normal family workweek.

Then there’s being on opposite sides, such as an Ottawa vs. Florida game where the teams had combined for 167 penalty minutes by late November. Matthew and Brady experienced that last week, jawing at each other like opponents with a grudge to settle, although they’ve promised their mother they’d never fight each other.

“That rule will not be broken,” Brady said.

It’s likely best for future Thanksgiving get-togethers. The Staals also appreciate this shared experience now that retirement isn’t far off. Their father Keith, who played 18 NHL seasons, pointed that out. Matthew recalled Brady getting drafted and the words he said five years ago.

“I was like: ‘We’re going to play against each other this year. How great is that?’” Matthew recalled. “And that’s five years ago. It’s crazy how fast it’s gone.”

It’s not out of the realm of possibility a trio of brothers sweeps the Hart Trophy as MVP, Norris as top defenseman and Calder as rookie of the year. Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes looks like the Norris frontrunner a quarter of the way through the season, while New Jersey’s Jack could be in the Hart talk and Luke the Calder conversation.

The Canucks and Devils play Tuesday night in Vancouver.

“That’ll be a lot of fun — the three of us in a game,” said Jack, who set up Luke for an overtime goal on Thursday. “It’s just a credit to our parents and how well they brought us up and how they taught us. It’s a celebration for them.”

Hockey, perhaps more so than other sports, is a bastion of brotherly competition and players benefit from seeing someone in the family go through the same ups and downs. Trevor van Riemsdyk knows he wouldn’t have gotten through Division I hockey and to the NHL without James forging that path. Capitals teammate Dylan Strome went through a similar circumstance learning from older brother Ryan, who was also drafted high but returned to the minors before breaking through in the NHL.

Just as Brady cheered on Matthew and the Panthers, Dylan was waving a rally towel at Madison Square Garden two years ago when Ryan and t he New York Rangers were in the playoffs. As long as they’re not facing off— like they did again Thursday when Anaheim hosted Washington — “Every other night, we’re cheering for each other,” Dylan said.

While being in the league is a common bond, Calgary’s Chris and Seattle’s Brandon Tanev spend plenty of time talking throughout the season and summer. However, it’s rare to play on the same team, like Seth and Caleb Jones did for two years with the Blackhawks. They were sometimes paired together on the ice.

“We never thought of playing together in the NHL,” Seth said. “We got traded to Chicago two weeks apart a couple of summers ago, which was pretty insane. It’s crazy how that worked out.”

It almost became a storybook finish of Eric and Marc Staal raising the Stanley Cup together, reaching the final before losing to Vegas. While a heartbreaking defeat, it made them appreciate going through it together.

“It’s something that we’ll always have and never forget,” Marc said. “We’ve all just kind of been soaking it in, not knowing when it’s going to end.”



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