Michael Weiner: draft slotting is a salary cap and the players are against it

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The Executive Board of the Major League Baseball Players Association
just had a conference call with the media to formally announce Michael
Weiner as the new Executive Director and to field questions from the
media. I guess I’m the media now, so I called in. I even asked a
question and may have actually committed an act of journalism in doing
so.  I feel so dirty. But I’ll get to that in a minute.  The rundown:

  • Players Tony Clark, Curtis Granderson and Jeremy Guthrie were on the
    call and talked first. Only Guthrie identified which team he plays for,
    which I thought was kind of cute. Newsday’s Ken Davidoff is the only
    one who asked a player a question, to Granderson, about the trade
    rumors. Granderson’s response: “I’m still wearin’ the English D!”  If
    I’m Granderson I give no comment and write about it all on my own blog
    over at Yahoo!

  • Weiner had a lot of nice things to say about Marvin Miller and Donald
    Fehr. He used the word “humbled” about 15 times.  Based on everything I
    hear from people who know him, that’s genuine. Weiner is just a nice
    guy who everyone seems to like. The anti-Fehr in that regard.

The bit of news came when I asked him whether the union has discussed
the statements Bud Selig has made in recent months about
internationalizing the draft and about a hard slot on draft picks in
order to scale back signing bonuses.  Until now, many individual
players have said they would be fine with it, exhibiting no small
amount of annoyance that these 18 year olds are making a lot of money.

Weiner indicated that there has been an about-face,* suggested that the union has decided to fight it hard, however, correcting
my use of the term “slotting” in my question to “salary cap” and than
unleashing all of the time-worn union rhetoric about salary caps being
antithetical to individual players being able to negotiate their own
deals on the open market.  In other words, it sounds like the union
will either (a) go to the mat to fight hard slotting; or (b) come off
of their longstanding opposition to caps of any kind.

So that was interesting. Like I said, I’m a newbie at this reporting
stuff, but those of you out there who aren’t may do well to get a
microphone in front of some of those players who complained about
amateur signing bonuses in recent years and let them know that they
need to change their tune.

Beyond that, a lot of talk about some other stuff: HGH testing: the players will be on board when there’s a reliable urine test. Collusion: the union is still thinks something fishy happened in 2007-08, but nothing new to report.  John Henry’s interesting revenue sharing plan from yesterday: the players discussed it today, but no real comments. The current free agent market: Weiner is “a little bit concerned” about the slow place of signings so far, but it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the state of the market.  So beyond the bit about the slotting stuff, nothing terribly new or earth shattering.

That’s enough journalism for me today. Starting now, I go back to blogging. At least you can blast your stereo while you’re doing that.

*in hindsight I think I overstated it a bit. The union as a body has been basically non-committal in its official statements on the matter, so the term “about face” is probably not accurate. The fact that the union is now clearly saying that they are against it, however, is a new development, and one which runs counter to the statements of many individual players who have said that they’d be fine with a slotting system. 

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.