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Toronto’s Robbie Ray wins AL Cy Young, Brewers’ Corbin Burnes takes NL

Brewers righthander Corbin Burnes won the NL Cy Young Award after leading the majors with a 2.43 ERA.Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Toronto lefthander Robbie Ray bounced back from a dismal season to win the AL Cy Young Award and Milwaukee righty Corbin Burnes returned from a bout of COVID-19 to win the NL’s top pitching prize Wednesday.

In the Year of the Pitcher, Burnes led the majors with a 2.43 ERA and Ray topped the AL at 2.84. Both put up impressive strikeout totals, too, helping build their cases with those studying new-era stats and others looking at more traditional numbers.

Burnes edged Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler for the award, with both receiving 12 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Max Scherzer finished third.


Burnes became the first Brewers pitcher to earn the NL honor — Pete Vuckovich in 1982 and Rollie Fingers in 1981 won the award when Milwaukee was still in the American League.

Ray became the first Toronto pitcher to win since the late Roy Halladay in 2003.

Ray got 29 first-place votes. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole got the other top vote and finished second and Chicago White Sox righty Lance Lynn was third.

Burnes was 11-5 and fanned 234 in 167 innings while becoming an All-Star for the NL Central champion Brewers. His innings count was lower than his competitors, owing to him missing two weeks in early May after testing positive for the coronavirus.

In his first season as a full-time starter, Burnes struck out a record 58 before issuing his first walk. He tied the major league mark by fanning 10 in a row against the Cubs in August.

Voting for the awards was completed before the playoffs began. Burnes threw six shutout innings against Atlanta in the NL Division Series and turned 27 later in October.

Ray topped the majors with 248 strikeouts and led the AL with 193 1/3 innings. He went 13-7 in 32 starts and helped keep Toronto in playoff contention until the final weekend.


Verlander agrees to $25M, 1-year deal with Astros

Justin Verlander has agreed to a $25 million, one-year contract with the Houston Astros that includes a conditional $25 million player option for a second season.

Verlander became a free agent after completing a $94 million, three-year contract with the Astros. He played in just one game in the past two seasons.

Justin Verlander is sticking with the Astros.Barry Chin

He made just one start in 2020, pitching six innings on July 24 in a win over Seattle on opening day before being placed on the injured list with strained right forearm. He attempted a comeback after he was injured, but announced on Sept. 19, 2020 that he needed Tommy John surgery and underwent the procedure on Oct. 1.

He said earlier this year that his rehabilitation was going well and added that he hated that he only played one game in the time that deal covered.

“That gnaws at me,” he said. “But ... this was an unfortunate injury that nobody could have seen coming. But I still do like to earn my keep.”

The 38-year-old right-hander is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2011 AL MVP.

Verlander went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 2019, striking out a career-high 300 and throwing the third no-hitter of his career to win his second career Cy Young Award. He pitched 223 innings, most in the majors, and made six more starts in the postseason as the Astros reached the World Series.


Mets close to hiring Eppler as GM

The Mets are close to completing a deal to hire Billy Eppler as general manager, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

Eppler and the Mets were nearing a four-year contract, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not finalized.

New York was completing a background check on Eppler, fired as general manager of the Angels a little more than a year ago after five unsuccessful seasons. But it appears the Mets have finally found their GM following a ridiculed search that had dragged on for more than six weeks since the 2021 season ended.

Billy Eppler is poised to move from California to New York.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Eppler is expected to be introduced by the team Friday, and he would become the Mets’ fifth head of baseball operations in 13 months. With an uncertain offseason already underway, his return to New York would mark a major step toward restoring stability in the front-office structure under owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson.

The 46-year-old Eppler was GM of the Angels from 2015-20, overseeing five straight losing seasons. The team went 332-376 (.469) under three managers, with a rotating cast of supporting players around Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

MLB owners meet amid labor negotiations with players’ union

New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said he voted for Major League Baseball’s proposal to lower the luxury tax threshold, a plan opposed by the players’ union with the sport on the brink of its first work stoppage on 26 years.

The luxury tax, formally known as the competitive balance tax, had a threshold of $210 million this year. Owners proposed lowering it to $180 million and adding a $100 million payroll floor. The union long has opposed a floor, fearing it would lead to a hard cap.


Speaking Wednesday at Major League Baseball’s regular owners’ meetings, Steinbrenner said the CBT proposal was approved by the labor policy committee.

“There’s seven of us on labor policy,” Steinbrenner said. “Boston, me, several mid-markets, a couple small markets. We’re a very diverse group, and when we came up with the proposal, including CBT and luxury tax that we brought to the union, it was a unanimous, on our committee, a unanimous deal.

“And every owner on the committee, there are certainly things in the proposal that we didn’t like, I mean every owner. But we wanted to put together a proposal that address their concerns and come together as a group.”

MLB’s five-year labor contract expires at 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1, and Steinbrenner said the owners are having discussions with the players’ union “on a continuous basis.”

But negotiations have been taking place since last spring, and there has been no sign of any significant movement toward a deal. If the agreement expires without a new deal in place, Major League Baseball could lock out its players — putting the start of spring training in jeopardy.