"The NCAA makes its own rules and can do what it wants to do"

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James Paxton is a left-handed pitcher for the University of Kentucky. He was taken with the 37th overall pick by the Blue Jays in the draft last summer. He decided that he’d rather return for his senior year, however, and did so.

Beginning in October, the NCAA started contacting UK about Paxton. It’s still unclear what about, but they wanted to talk with him, and right now most signs point to something to do with the draft. Maybe he talked to an agent. Who knows? UK wouldn’t tell Paxton what it was about. All they’d do was to hint that (a) it was something involving Paxton’s eligibility; (b) that he couldn’t tell his parents or his lawyer about the interview, nor could they participate; and (c) if he didn’t participate, he was going to be suspended. Heck, maybe he’d be suspended even if he did participate.

Yeah, that’s a lawsuit. Right now it just involves UK, but it will likely involve the NCAA itself eventually, because it appears as though that august institution is once again acting as a law unto itself.

How so: Paxton’s lawyer — the one he was consulting with back in October, not the one who filed the lawsuit — says in an affidavit that the UK athletic director told him that “the NCAA made its own rules and could do whatever it wanted,” and that the NCAA investigator “had [Paxton’s] life in his hands.” The picture that is painted by the suit (which you can view here) is that the NCAA was putting the screws to UK, who in turn put the screws to Paxton. In a lot of ways UK was probably caught in the middle, being threatened by the NCAA with forfeited games and sanctions and stuff if they didn’t treat a student athlete like he was a character in a Kafka novel.

Looming over all of this is the now-settled Andrew Oliver lawsuit from earlier this year. You’ll recall that case as the one in which the Oklahoma State pitcher sued the
NCAA — and got a lot of favorable rulings before the NCAA paid him off — claiming that its rules against players consulting with agents and lawyers were, you know, super illegal.

But the most notable thing about that case was not the rule itself — which is technically back on the books, just waiting to be shot down again — but the NCAA’s utter arrogance throughout the case. They had contempt motions filed against them and, even when the rule was enjoined by the trial judge, they kept sending out letters to students threatening them with that very rule.  You know, acting like it made its own rules and could do whatever it wanted.

Know this much: for this lawsuit, Paxton has the same lawyer that Andy Oliver had. His email address has the word “Piranha” in it.  In other words: get ready to get creamed again, NCAA.

The Blue Jays and Jesse Chavez had an arbitration hearing Friday

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jesse Chavez works against the Texas Rangers during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays and right-hander Jesse Chavez had an arbitration hearing on Friday, with a decision expected today.

Chavez, who was acquired from the Athletics this offseason, requested $4 million and was offered $3.6 million by the Blue Jays when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. Toronto is known as a “file-and-trial” team, so they bring these cases to a hearing unless a multi-year deal can be reached. The three-person panel of arbitrators will choose one salary or the other.

Chavez, 32, posted a 4.18 ERA and 136/48 K/BB ratio in 157 innings across 26 starts and four relief appearances last season. He’s expected to compete for the fifth spot in Toronto’s rotation this spring.

Diamondbacks mulling over moving Yasmany Tomas to left field

Arizona Diamondbacks' Yasmany Tomas (24) blows a gum bubble during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Friday, May 22, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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After trading Ender Inciarte to the Braves as part of the Shelby Miller deal, Yasmany Tomas will go into 2016 as a regular in the Diamondbacks’ lineup. Signed to a six-year, $68.5 million contract in December of 2014, Tomas batted .273 with nine home runs and a .707 OPS over 426 plate appearances during his first season in the majors last year while struggling defensively between third base and right field. Third base is out as a possibility at this point, but the Diamondbacks are mulling over another defensive change for him.

According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said Friday that the club has discussed moving Tomas to left field and David Peralta to right.

“We’re definitely talking about it,” Hale said. “(Outfield coach) Dave McKay and I, (General Manager Dave Stewart) and (Chief Baseball Officer) Tony (La Russa), we think it might be best to switch them around.”

When the third base experiment flopped, the Diamondbacks put Tomas in right because they felt he would be the most comfortable there. The metrics weren’t kind to him. He’ll now have a full spring training to work on things if the club decides to make a change. Peralta isn’t the defender that Inciarte was, but he’s better than Tomas, so it’s understandable why the Diamondbacks would change their alignment.

Tomas is likely to be a liability no matter where he plays, but the Diamondbacks won’t mind as much if his bat begins to meet expectations. For a team with designs on the postseason, he’s a big key for this lineup.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.