Who needs pitchers, anyway?

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Last night Nick Green became the second Red Sox position player to take the mound this season, tossing two scoreless innings against the White Sox after starter Junichi Tazawa was clobbered for nine runs.
Green hadn’t pitched in over a decade and it showed, as he found the strike zone on just 13 of 35 pitches and walked three of the nine batters he faced. However, his fastball regularly clocked in around 90 miles per hour and he also flashed a slider, somehow managing to record six outs without allowing a hit.
“I had success only because my ball had some movement, but I wasn’t trying for that,” Green said. “I was trying to throw it straight.”
For whatever reason teams have been a lot more willing than usual to use position players as mop-up men this season, with Green joining Josh Wilson, Paul Janish, Jon Van Every, Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, Ross Gload, and Mark Loretta on the mound. Here are their respective pitching numbers:

                   IP    ER     H    BB    SO    HR
Nick Green        2.0     0     0     3     0     0
Josh Wilson       2.0     3     3     1     0     1
Paul Janish       2.0    11     9     2     3     2
Nick Swisher      1.0     0     1     1     1     0
Cody Ross         1.0     0     1     0     0     0
Ross Gload        1.0     0     0     2     0     0
Mark Loretta      0.1     0     0     0     0     0
Jon Van Every     0.2     0     1     1     0     0
TOTAL            10.0    14    15    10     4     3

As you might expect they haven’t done so well, allowing 14 earned runs on 15 hits and 10 walks in 10 innings. On the other hand, if you remove Janish’s two ugly outings the other seven position players have posted a 3.38 ERA while serving up just one homer in eight innings. With eight walks in those eight innings the non-Janish guys could still use some work on their control, but allowing just six hits is pretty impressive.
Even with Janish included the position players have a 12.60 ERA, which is a better mark than the ERAs posted by the following actual pitchers (in theory, at least) who have logged at least five innings: Chris Bootcheck (19.80), R.J. Swindle (16.20), Chris Lambert (14.85), Brian Burress (14.21), Brad Mills (14.09), Bobby Korecky (13.50), Cesar Carrillo (13.06), and Clayton Mortensen (12.86).
Hell, Chien-Ming Wang has a 9.64 ERA in 42 innings and he probably can’t even play shortstop.

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.