Will the Phillies bump Moyer or Happ for Pedro?

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Pedro Martinez is scheduled to make his third and perhaps final minor-league rehab start tonight at Double-A, but as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports the Phillies haven’t revealed what they plan to do once he’s deemed ready to join the rotation.
Jamie Moyer turned in another rough outing last night and now has a 5.55 ERA through 21 starts, so bumping the 46-year-old southpaw would be the obvious move. Of course, manager Charlie Manuel is loyal to the veteran who won 16 games with a 3.71 ERA last season, Moyer makes $6.5 million this year with another $6.5 due in 2010, and Zolecki notes that he’s “not seen as a viable bullpen option.”
Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton obviously aren’t going anywhere, so if Moyer stays in the rotation and Martinez joins him that pushes J.A. Happ to the bullpen. As a 26-year-old rookie it’s not surprising that Happ is seen as the most flexible in terms of not making a stink about his role and he’s had past success as a reliever, but he’s also dramatically out-pitched Moyer by going 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 starts.
Prior to the Lee trade signing Martinez looked like a worthwhile move for the Phillies, but swapping Pedro for Happ while keeping Moyer and his bloated ERA in the rotation hardly looks like an upgrade. Martinez has incentives in his contract based on relief work, but the Phillies are clearly prepping him to start and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that he’s not a bullpen option.
The good news for the Phillies is their five-game lead in a division that doesn’t really look capable of challenging them much down the stretch, so regardless of who fills the last two rotation spots they’re likely playoff bound. Once there Hamels, Lee, and Blanton will be the workhorses anyway as the need for a five-man rotation disappears, so maybe prepping Happ for a postseason bullpen role has some upside too.pedromartinezphillies.jpg

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.