United are interested in signing a right-back and a centre-back this summer with Trippier and Varane among the players on a list of targets drawn up by the recruitment department and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Trippier is keen to return to the Premier League after two seasons at Atletico Madrid to be closer to his family but the price being quoted by intermediaries is more than £30 million, which United consider to be too much for a 30-year-old with very little sell-on value.
Solskjaer already has a regular right-back in Aaron Wan-Bissaka — who cost £50m from Crystal Palace in 2019 — and when Alex Telles was signed last summer as competition for Luke Shaw at left-back, the Brazilian cost around £15m from Porto.
Sources have told ESPN that Atletico are not willing to listen to any offers for Trippier as coach Diego Simeone considers him to be a key member of the squad, and doesn’t have enough faith in backup option Sime Vrsaljko.
Varane has been a long-term target for United but interest this summer is being driven by his contract situation at Real Madrid.
The Frenchman has one year left on his existing deal and there is a feeling in Spain that he is keen for a new challenge, although sources have told ESPN he has not informed Madrid he has already decided against agreeing fresh terms.
The situation has been further complicated by Sergio Ramos‘ exit and should Varane also depart, it would leave the Spanish giants having to replace their first-choice centre-half pairing.
United have been made aware that even a year away from becoming a free agent, Madrid still value Varane at more than £70m. Sources have told ESPN that, as things stand, United do not hold an interest in Ramos.
United are willing to spend to strengthen the squad this summer but, according to sources, there are fears at Old Trafford that clubs in Europe are ramping up their prices for Premier League sides because of a view they are among only a few who can afford to pay transfer fees after the devastating financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Information from ESPN’s Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal was also included in this report.
Boone: Yanks had sights on Verdugo, liked ‘edge’
“He’s actually been a guy that we’ve talked about now for, for a while,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday, a day after New York obtained Verdugo for right-handers Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts and Nicholas Judice. “I feel like there’s an edge he plays the game with.”
“I allow myself to dream on a lot of things,” Boone said. “I always start to imagine what it could look like.”
The left-handed-hitting Verdugo, 27, batted .264 with 13 home runs, 54 RBIs and a .745 OPS in his fourth season with the Red Sox. A Gold Glove finalist, he had 12 outfield assists and nine defensive runs saved.
He was benched twice last season by Boston manager Alex Cora: on June 8 for not hustling between first and second on a grounder a night earlier and on Aug. 5 for arriving late to the ballpark.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow, hired in October, said those issues didn’t factor into the trade.
“I didn’t get into that stuff with Alex that much,” Boone said. “But we hear those things from across the way and stuff, so I’m not overly concerned about that.”
A seven-year major league veteran, Verdugo has a .281 career batting average with 57 home runs and 255 RBIs with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Red Sox.
Selected by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft, Verdugo was acquired by Boston with infielder Jeter Downs and catcher/second baseman Connor Wong in the February 2020 trade that sent slugger Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price to the Dodgers.
Verdugo is eligible for arbitration and is likely to get a salary of about $9 million. He can become a free agent after the World Series.
“He’s a guy who takes a lot of pride in posting,” Boone said Cora told him.
With Verdugo’s addition, Aaron Judge could move from right field and become the regular center fielder.
“We’ll see how everything shakes out this winter,” Boone said. “I’ve talked to Aaron about that. So I think Aaron’s open to anything and ready for anything.”
This was just the eighth trade between the Yankees and Red Sox since Major League Baseball split into divisions in 1969. The Yankees obtained outfielder Greg Allen from Boston in May for right-hander Diego Hernández.
The most notable deals involved the Yankees’ 1919 purchase of Babe Ruth, New York getting pitcher Sparky Lyle in 1972 for first baseman Danny Cater and infielder Mario Guerrero, and Boston receiving Elston Howard — the Yankees’ first Black player and the 1963 American League MVP — in 1967 for pitchers Ron Klimkowski and Pete Magrini.
Weissert, a 28-year-old right-hander who attended Fordham, not far from Yankee Stadium, had a 4.05 ERA in 17 relief appearances over five stints with New York last season. He struck out 22 and walked eight in 20 innings. His fastball averaged 94.3 mph.
Fitts, 23, was a sixth-round pick from Auburn in the 2021 amateur draft and was 11-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 27 starts this year at Double-A Somerset. He struck out 163 and walked 43 in 152⅔ innings.
Judice, 22, was an eighth-round pick last summer from Louisiana-Monroe and has not made his minor league debut.
Boone expects “a leaner” Giancarlo Stanton at spring training. The five-time All-Star hit a career-low .191 with 24 home runs and 60 RBIs in 2023.
“Being at this point in his career, I think being a little lighter is going to be something that serves him well and I think it’s something he knows and wants to do,” Boone said.
Sources: Orioles on verge of signing Kimbrel
Baltimore has a need since All-Star closer Felix Bautista is likely out for the 2024 season after Tommy John surgery. He went on the injured list in August.
Kimbrel was one of the preeminent closers of the 2010s, making seven All-Star appearances and accumulating a whopping 332 saves — at least 68 more than anybody else — while pitching for the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox from 2011 to 2018.
The 35-year-old right-hander navigated that eight-year stretch with a 1.97 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and a rate of 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings with a devastating fastball-curveball combo. He has since posted a 3.57 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and a 13.0 strikeout rate with the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.
Kimbrel made two more All-Star teams from 2019 to 2023, including this past season with the Phillies, when he posted a 3.26 ERA, saved 23 games and struck out 94 batters in 69 regular-season innings.
The sheer dominance of his 20s, however, has mostly eluded Kimbrel in his 30s. His lasting image in Philadelphia was blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, paving the way for the Phillies’ shocking elimination against the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Orioles were a major surprise last season, winning an American League-best 101 games. They won the AL East before being swept by the Texas Rangers in the division series. Many preseason projections had them finishing in the basement of the division.
Belmont to be run at Saratoga due to renovation
The Belmont is heading to Saratoga for the first time — but almost certainly not the last.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the 2024 Belmont Stakes will be run at Saratoga Race Course, with the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown shifting upstate from Long Island because of the massive renovation of Belmont Park.
The move has been expected for some time since the New York Racing Association unveiled plans for the $455 million Belmont Park project. Construction is expected to last into 2025, so there is a good chance of the Belmont at Saratoga two years in a row.
“This is likely a two-year endeavor,” NYRA president and CEO David O’Rourke said by phone Wednesday. “We’re going to get it right, and we’re going to improve on it each year.”
Pending the approval of the North American Graded Stakes Committee, the Belmont will be run at a distance of 1¼ miles, shorter than the race’s traditional 1½ miles because of the shape of the dirt track at Saratoga. It was 1⅛ miles in 2020 when the Belmont led off the Triple Crown run out of order because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That Belmont had no fans. A crowd of up to 50,000 is expected this time to witness history.
“The ability to have the Belmont up at Saratoga, a bunch of circumstances would have to come into alignment,” O’Rourke said. “It’s the most historic venue in the country. It’s one of the coolest sporting venues on the planet, and it’s one of the greatest tourist towns in the nation. Everyone’s excited.”
The purse will increase from $1.5 million to $2 million, and the race will be part of a special four-day run at Saratoga a month before the usual summer meet there begins July 11.
“It’s a win for horse racing and for the Capital Region to have the excitement and the ability to host the four-day festival in June at America’s most historic track,” Hochul said in a statement.
Racing in New York is currently happening at Aqueduct in Queens, which was home to the Triple Crown finale from 1963 to 1967, the last time Belmont Park was renovated.
The race is expected to return to Belmont Park in 2026. O’Rourke said expanding the annual Saratoga meet beyond 40 days is “not in any of our current thinking.”
“Something like this is just kind of a unique thing to know that it’s going to happen for a couple years up there,” he said. “We’re really just trying to program our racing calendar through the development. Bringing the Belmont up there was kind of an obvious move in some ways, in terms of potential for the actual event.”
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