Johjima bails out Mariners, if MLBPA has no say

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While already saying all of the right things, the Mariners are undoubtedly thrilled to have Kenji Johjima’s $8 million salary in each of the next two seasons off the books. They’re even reportedly getting out from under the disastrous contract without having to pay a buyout. By playing it as strictly Johjima’s decision, they’re going to be in the clear with baseball. One wonders if the Players Association will let it go so easily.
After all, the MLBPA is more interested in what’s best for the union as a whole than what an individual player may desire. That was made clear after the 2003 season, when the union would not allow Alex Rodriguez to restructure his deal as he desired in order to facilitate a trade to the Red Sox.
In this case, Johjima, the game’s third highest-paid catcher behind Jorge Posada and Joe Mauer, is giving up $16 million without receiving a penny in return. He’ll return to Japan and command a fine salary there, but it won’t rival what he was going to make as a Mariner.
Of course, Johjima will no longer be a part of the MLBPA then. And the $16 million he was due to make figures to be divvied up and given to other members of the MLBPA. The demand for this year’s crop of catchers just got a little greater, and guys like Bengie Molina, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek could benefit as a result.
So will the Players Association step in? Probably not. Should the union? If there’s some evidence that Johjima was told he’d return to the Mariners as a backup and was pressured into opting out, it definitely should. But there won’t be any evidence unless Johjima wants a fight, and odds are that he’ll be perfectly content returning home as one of Japan’s highest-paid players. It’ll be a big win for the Mariners, and a nice treat for Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, who finds himself completely off the hook for one of the team’s biggest mistakes from Bill Bavasi’s tenure.

Danny Espinosa reportedly skipped Nationals Winterfest because of Adam Eaton

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Danny Espinosa #8 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after teammate Chris Heisey #14 (not pictured) hits a two run home run in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.

A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.

Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.

Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.

Nick Cafardo: Red Sox should deal Pomeranz, not Buchholz

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Drew Pomeranz #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 5-4. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.

The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.

Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.

Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.