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AP sources: Walker, Bellinger, Bell move; Giants add Haniger

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-sports-baseball-san-diego-josh-bell-8b1e956457630d9df993548bb57c3110

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Cole Kuiper saw a report on Twitter: Aaron Judge was nearing a deal with the San Francisco Giants. Cole called his father, Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper, to share the good news.

Then the report was scrubbed, and Cole had to get back to his vacationing dad.

“I called him to tell him Judge is a Giant, but now I can’t get ahold of him to update him on the retraction,” Cole Kuiper posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Ah, baseball’s winter meetings in the social media age.

While much of the majors awaited the resolution of Judge’s free agency, Taijuan Walker, Mitch Haniger, Cody Bellinger, Josh Bell, Tommy Kahnle and Andrew Heaney all found new homes. Negotiations continued for some of the top free agents, including shortstops Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson, along with catcher Willson Contreras and left-hander Carlos Rodón.

“This marketplace is very aggressive, particularly aggressive for elite players,” super agent Scott Boras said.

St. Louis president John Mozeliak and manager Oliver Marmol recently spent time with Contreras and his representatives. The NL Central champions have an opening behind the plate after Yadier Molina retired.

“This is a guy that loves to win, who wakes up thinking about it, goes to sleep thinking about it,” Marmol said of Contreras, who began his big league career with the Cubs. “And we’ve seen quite a bit across the way.”

Walker’s $72 million, four-year contract with Philadelphia was the team’s second major free agent deal at the winter meetings after it reeled in shortstop Trea Turner on Monday with a $300 million, 11-year contract.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the Walker move to the AP on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

The 30-year-old Walker went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts this season for the New York Mets, one of Philadelphia’s NL East rivals. The Phillies made it to the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.

Bell agreed to a $33 million, two-year contract with Cleveland, and Bellinger, another Boras client, reached a $17.5 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. Haniger got a $43.5 million, three-year deal with San Francisco.

Bell played for Washington and San Diego last season, batting .266 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs in 156 games.

Cleveland is coming off a surprising 2022 season, going 92-70 and winning the AL Central for the first time since 2018. The addition of Bell gives the Guardians more power for their lineup after they hit just 127 homers this year — the second-lowest total in the majors.

The switch-hitting Bell also is expected to benefit from restrictions on defensive positioning coming to the game next year.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the Bell contract on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a review of medical records.

Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Nov. 18 after the 27-year-old outfielder hit .210 with 19 homers, 150 strikeouts and a .654 OPS in 144 games.

“Got a track record of a lot of success and dynamic defense,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I remember when he first got in the league — first base, smooth hands, dynamic center fielder, great outfielder. Hadn’t had the success he had early on, but definitely a lot of potential for a great player.”

Bellinger figures to play center for the Cubs, but could see some time at first. He had a $17 million contract this season and likely would have received a slight raise in arbitration.

The 31-year-old Haniger dipped to 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in 57 games for Seattle last season, a year after the former All-Star outfielder had 39 homers and 100 RBIs for the Mariners.

“The interest was mutual, which is kind of what you need to make these deals,” said Farhan Zaidi, the president of baseball operations for San Francisco.

The 33-year-old Kahnle is going back to the New York Yankees on an $11.5 million, two-year contract, and the 31-year-old Heaney agreed to a $25 million, two-year deal with the Texas Rangers.

Kahnle and Heaney each pitched for the Dodgers this year. Kahnle, who played for New York for 2 1/2 seasons beginning in 2017, posted a 2.84 ERA in 13 relief appearances. Heaney went 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 16 games, 14 starts.

A person familiar with the contracts for Kahnle and Heaney confirmed the deals on condition of anonymity because there was no immediate announcement of each move.

The Yankees are one of the teams waiting to hear from Judge, who set an American League record with 62 homers for the Bronx Bombers this season. He also tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missed a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.

San Francisco also is in the mix, and there likely are more teams lurking on the periphery of the market for the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

“I’m probably not going to comment on that today,” Zaidi said. “Obviously, there’s been stuff out there. It’s really noisy.”

New York manager Aaron Boone said he was in the shower when he saw the report about Judge and the Giants.

“A lot of unknown right now. … Yeah, we haven’t heard anything,” Boone said.

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AP Baseball Writers Ben Walker and Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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Follow Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-sports-baseball-san-diego-josh-bell-8b1e956457630d9df993548bb57c3110

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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