What are the owners doing down in Arizona?

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As you freeze, the owner of your favorite team is down in Paradise Valley, Arizona meeting with Bud Selig to talk about how to keep the metric system down, leave Atlantis off the maps and rig Oscar night.  Oh, and for the first time at one of these meetings, general managers were invited. Selig said that meeting with the GMs was “historic” and “constructive,” and that “it
was the first time it had happened at this time of year in Major League
Baseball history.”

What time of year is it? Why, it’s right before arbitration figures are exchanged, and Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown suggests that the reason for the meeting may be to get everyone on the same page with respect to how much money to offer in arbitration:

But, with the filing deadline for salary arbitration looming on
Friday, one possible topic amongst the GMs and owners might be how
clubs planned to file figures for those players that do not settle on
contracts ahead of the January 19th date when players and clubs begin
exchanging asking and offering figures.

The idea that GMs would huddle together and exchange information on
where they plan to file would seem to skirt near collusion. But,
according to a former AL and NL executive, it is not a rare practice.

If they’re exchanging information about how much they’re offering people, it sounds less like they’re “skirting near” collusion and more like plain old collusion. Still Brown talks to a former executive who said that this practice is common, though it’s usually done via conference call.  Well, in that case I guess it’s alright then.

Other stuff going on down at the meetings:

  • Rangers’ owner Tom Hicks met with MLB president
    Bob DuPuy to discuss the Rangers’ sale.  The 30-day exclusive window to sell the team to the Chuck
    Greenberg/Nolan Ryan group is set to expire tomorrow. As I reported just before Christmas, there are concerns that the Greenberg group may be having problems getting their financial house in order.  That was denied.  Jon Heyman said yesterday that there have been “a few hiccups in talks,” though he thinks the deal will go down.  I suppose we’ll know sometime tomorrow.
  • A committee studying the future of the Oakland A’s said that it was not
    ready to make a recommendation about where the team should
    relocate.  I suppose there are a lot of moving parts to this, but it’s not like this is as complicated as the Allies carving up the post-War world at Yalta or anything. One wonders if more energy isn’t being spent quietly negotiating with the Giants over the tribute the A’s and Major League Baseball will have to pay in order to resolve the San Jose territory rights issue so that things will go a lot smoother once the committee says “hey, we think the A’s need to move there.”
  • Today Selig will meet with his new special committee designed to look at replay, umpiring, pace of game, the postseason schedule and the like.  I’ve talked to a major league sources, and while no one knows exactly what’s going to come out of it, there is, generally speaking a lot of disagreement on the issues before the committee, and that because of it, the only thing they’d really count on happening is alteration of the playoff schedule.

I presume La Russa’s suggestion of a separate 25-man roster dedicated to relief pitchers will fall on mostly deaf ears.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.