Should the Phillies start Cole Hamels in Game 7?

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Cole Hamels has clarified his headline-grabbing quotes about wanting the season to be over and last night’s incident with Brett Myers may have just been an attempt at humor, but the left-hander’s 7.58 ERA this postseason still has Phillies fans questioning if he’s the right choice for a potential Game 7 start against CC Sabathia.
Charlie Manuel has already picked Pedro Martinez to start tomorrow, but an alternative would have been to give J.A. Happ the Game 6 nod and save Martinez for Game 7. While the notion of a World Series-deciding Martinez-Sabathia matchup is exciting, the Phillies obviously need to win Game 6 before there can be a Game 7 and holding Pedro back for a start that may never arrive would leave Manuel open to tons of criticism.
In other words, worry first about forcing a Game 7 and then worry about how to win a Game 7. If the Phillies win tomorrow night behind a strong outing from Martinez they can go with either Happ or Hamels in Game 7 while also having basically everyone on the pitching staff available in an all-hands-on-deck situation. That wouldn’t have been true with Happ starting Game 6 and Martinez reserved for Game 7.
Of course, the choice between Hamels or Happ is another issue entirely. Back in spring training the notion of going with Happ over Hamels in a World Series-deciding start would have seemed absolutely absurd, but it’s certainly a legitimate question at this point. During the regular season Happ was 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA compared to Hamels going 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA, and Hamels has allowed 16 runs in 19 postseason innings.
On the other hand Happ hasn’t started since Game 3 of the NLDS way back on October 11, when he gave up three runs while lasting just three innings against the Rockies. Since then he’s been used strictly as a reliever and has pitched sparingly while not being particularly effective, serving up a homer to Nick Swisher in relief of Hamels in Game 3 and allowing four of 11 batters to reach base.
There are certainly reasonable arguments to be made on all sides. However, like Manuel my choice would be Martinez starting Game 6 with everyone available for a possible Game 7 rather than the other way around, and I’d still go with Hamels over Happ with the season on the line against Sabathia. Hamels started the Phillies’ final playoff game last season and he should get a chance to do the same this year.

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.