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Sunday September 25th, 2022 4:55PM

LEADING OFF: Trade deadline, Soto sweepstakes, deGrom return

By The Associated Press
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A look at what’s happening around the majors today:

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DEADLINE DAY

The Juan Soto sweepstakes come down to the wire, with baseball's 6 p.m. EDT trade deadline fast approaching.

Soto is the biggest name on the block, with Washington considering bids for the 23-year-old slugger after he turned down a $440 million, 15-year deal to stay with the team. Soto can be a free agent after 2024, and the St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers are considered among the clubs most likely to offer a trade package that could persuade Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to unload his franchise cornerstone.

Willson Contreras, J.D. Martinez and Josh Bell are some other dangerous hitters likely available, while the starting pitcher pool could include Giants lefty Carlos Rodón, Marlins right-hander Pablo López and Red Sox righty Nathan Eovaldi.

The trade market got busy Monday as several teams made big moves, with the Yankees acquiring Athletics starter Frankie Montas, the Padres picking up All-Star closer Josh Hader from the first-place Brewers, and the Astros obtaining slugger Trey Mancini from the Orioles.

WELCOME BACK

New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom finally returns from a string of injuries to make his season debut in Washington. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner has not pitched in the majors since July 7, 2021.

“I’m definitely excited,” deGrom said Sunday. “It’s been a long time. This has been a pretty slow process of coming back, so excited to be out there. Nerves haven’t really set in yet, but I’m sure Tuesday I’ll be pretty nervous and I have a feeling it’s going to feel like my debut.”

The 34-year-old right-hander was sidelined the final three months of last season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow, then was shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula.

Even without deGrom, the Mets have won a season-high seven straight. They've spent nearly the entire season in first place in the NL East and hope his return can help them hold off defending World Series champion Atlanta.

CATCHING ON

Veteran catcher Yadier Molina is expected to rejoin the St. Louis Cardinals for the opener of a three-game series at home against the Chicago Cubs.

The 40-year-old Molina, sidelined since June 16 with knee inflammation, has played only 38 games in his final major league season. He's been on a rehab assignment recently at Triple-A Memphis.

Longtime batterymate Adam Wainwright (7-8, 3.28 ERA) pitches for the Cardinals.

HIS TURN

Trea Turner tries to extend his hitting streak to 20 games when Tyler Anderson (11-1, 2.61 ERA) and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the rival Giants in San Francisco.

Turner homered Monday night in an 8-2 victory as the NL West leaders won for the fifth time in six games to improve to 23-5 since June 30.

San Francisco is 3-9 since the All-Star break. Alex Wood (7-8, 4.11) pitches for the Giants against his former team.

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (left knee inflammation) is scheduled to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento and could join the team as soon as Thursday.

Dodgers rookie James Outman is 5 for 6 with a home run and a double through his first two major league games.

“It’s pretty rare and good to see a young player just not let the emotions get to you and speed the game up,” manager Dave Roberts said.

HERE TO STAY

While teams all around the majors were looking to bring in new talent ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline, the Atlanta Braves locked up one of their own stars for the long haul.

All-Star third baseman Austin Riley and the defending World Series champions agreed Monday to a $212 million, 10-year contract that starts in 2023, the most lucrative deal in team history and a surprise given he had three additional seasons under club control.

The deal with the 25-year-old includes a $20 million club option for 2033 with no buyout, which could make the agreement worth $232 million over 11 seasons.

Riley hit .423 with 11 homers, 25 RBIs and 21 runs in July. His 26 extra-base hits in July were the most by a Braves player in any month, passing Hall of Famer Hank Aaron’s previous record set in July 1961.

The big month left Riley leading the majors with 61 extra-base hits.

Riley is earning $3.95 million this year after losing in arbitration. He would have been eligible for arbitration ahead of the 2023, ’24 and ’25 seasons, then could have become a free agent.

Riley is hitting .301 with 29 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .964 OPS in 101 games this season.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sport

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