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Justin Verlander baffled rebuilding teams won’t sign Machado, Harper

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Justin Verlander baffled rebuilding teams won't sign Machado, Harper

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander isn’t buying the theory that the market for big free agents is limited by rebuilding teams not being in position to sign stars.

Like last year, the marquee free agents this offseason — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — remain unsigned as spring training approaches. The best hitter of last year’s class, J.D. Martinez, didn’t sign until Feb. 20, and the top pitcher, Jake Arrieta, didn’t come to terms until the middle of March. Players and agents are talking about collusion among ownership, while teams are touting fiscal responsibility. Whatever the reason, free agency has changed, and Verlander isn’t the only former MVP saying that the new reality isn’t good for the game.

Buster Posey’s Giants met with Harper recently, but it’s not clear if they are able or willing to offer something in the range of the 10-year, $300 million deal that Harper reportedly turned down from the Nationals. Harper and Machado have met with a number of teams, but the sense of urgency that accompanied the courtships of Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols has been notably absent.

Teams have instead targeted secondary free agents like A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin, Michael Brantley, Yasmani Grandal and Jed Lowrie.

Reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich also weighed in on the Harper/Machado impasse, getting into a back-and-forth with David Samson, his former team president with the Marlins. Samson was fired by Derek Jeter’s ownership group in 2017 — before Yelich was traded to the Brewers — but he did have a history of shipping out stars for prospects. His exchange with Yelich shows the extent to which the debate over free agency has deteriorated.

Martinez was coming off a huge year split between the Tigers and Diamondbacks in 2017, hitting .303 with 45 homers and 104 RBIs. History suggested a long-term, massive contract for the then-29-year-old. The market remained surprisingly quiet, however, and he ended up taking a five-year, $110 million deal from the Red Sox.

Arrieta was two seasons removed from his dominant Cy Young campaign, but he was still seen as a top-of-the-rotation starter heading into free agency. The right-hander reportedly turned down a Cubs offer in the range of what they eventually gave Yu Darvish — six years, $126 million. He settled for a three-year, $75 million contract from the Phillies.

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Ex-Houston coach Major Applewhite to be analyst for Alabama

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Ex-Houston coach Major Applewhite to be analyst for Alabama

Former Houston coach Major Applewhite will join Alabama‘s program as an analyst this season, AL.com reported on Tuesday.

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Purdue student walks 100 miles, raises $20K in honor of superfan Tyler Trent

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Purdue student walks 100 miles, raises $20K in honor of superfan Tyler Trent

Purdue superfan Tyler Trent, who died in early January from a rare form of bone cancer, was honored Tuesday by a fellow Boilermaker who completed a near-100-mile walk from West Lafayette, Indiana, to Bloomington for the team’s game against the rival Indiana Hoosiers, raising more than $20,000 in the process.

Purdue student Aaron Lai announced the walk on Jan. 20 in an effort to raise awareness for Trent’s story and cancer research. Lai never met Trent but says he reminded him of his grandfather, who had lung cancer.

Many first learned about Trent and his connection to the Boilermakers football team when he correctly predicted Purdue’s upset of Ohio State on Oct. 20 during a feature on him on ESPN’s College GameDay.

Lai began his trek before dawn Sunday morning from West Lafayette.

He arrived three days and 99.6 miles later at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, some 40 minutes before Purdue-Indiana tipped off. Tyler’s parents, Tony and Kelly Trent, were there to welcome him.

Kelly Trent took to Twitter to show her gratitude:

“What an amazing young man you are and what an accomplishment. Just WOW! Words are inadequate for our gratefulness for your sacrifice.”

As of Tuesday night, Lai’s Go Fund Me — “A Walk for Tyler Trent” — had raised more than $21,000, easily surpassing its $10,000 goal. Money raised would benefit the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment, and will be matched by the Walter Foundation, according to Lai.

Purdue won Tuesday night’s game on a tip-in with 3.2 seconds left, beating Indiana 48-46.

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Tiafoe crashes out, Del Potro advances at Delray Beach Open

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Tiafoe crashes out, Del Potro advances at Delray Beach Open

(Reuters) – Frances Tiafoe’s title defense wilted but Juan Martin del Potro looked fully recovered from his knee injury to cruise to a 6-3 7-5 win over Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round of the Delray Beach Open on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO – Tennis – Australian Open – Quarter-final – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 22, 2019. Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. in action during the match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal. REUTERS/Aly Song

The third-seeded Tiafoe looked to have the match against qualifier Dan Evans in hand when he served up 6-5 and 30-love in the second set but was instead broken by Evans, whose aggressive net play frustrated Tiafoe in the final two sets as the Briton eventually prevailed 3-6 7-6(1) 7-5.

Late drama arose when Evans served for the match up 5-4 in the third set but nerves appeared to get to him and he was broken amid a flurry of unforced errors.

But Tiafoe was broken in the next game and Evans made sure not to make the same mistake twice, winning his final service game at love to set up a second-round match against tournament wild card Lloyd Harris of South Africa.

World number four del Potro, who missed last month’s Australian Open to nurse the kneecap he fractured at the Shanghai Masters, showed no ill effects in his first match of the year as he blasted 12 aces to see off baseline specialist Nishioka.

The hard-hitting Argentine is looking to pick up where he left off before the injury, when his superb play made him a finalist at the U.S. and China Opens and helped the 30-year-old reach a career-high ranking of world number three.

Del Potro, who won the tournament in Florida in 2011, will next face big-serving American Reilly Opelka after last week’s New York Open champion saw off countryman Tennys Sandgren 6-4 6-0 earlier in the day.

Top American men’s player John Isner used his blistering serve to overwhelm Canadian Peter Polansky 6-3 7-6(4) and advance to the second round.

The second-seeded Isner fired 23 aces to Polansky’s four and won 87 percent of his first serve points as he cruised to victory.

Next up for Isner is a second-round meeting with unseeded Slovak Lukas Lacko on Wednesday.

Adrian Mannarino, Andreas Seppi, Paolo Lorenzi, Jordan Thompson, Steve Johnson, Mackenzie McDonald, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Radu Albot also won their first round matches on Tuesday at the ATP World Tour 250 event, which is played on outdoor hard courts.

Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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