Tony La Russa responds to Jack Clark

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There’s a war of words in St. Louis. You may have already heard that
Jack Clark, who spent three years with the Cardinals, thinks Mark
McGwire should be banned from baseball. He also questioned Tony La Russa’s claim that he didn’t know McGwire was on steroids during his tenure in Oakland and St. Louis:

“[McGwire’s] own manager never knew that [Jose] Canseco and McGwire and
anybody else ever had taken steroids? Trust me, from [a former player], I have a lot of insight into who did
what and when but I’m not even going to talk about it. It really
doesn’t matter.”

La Russa responded to Clark in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday night:

“I would say I always respected the career Jack had and he’s entitled to his opinion. But his comments about me are wrong.”

What better time for the whole gang to meet up at this weekend’s
“Winter Warm-Up” event in St. Louis? The team has confirmed that
McGwire will make his first public appearance as the team’s new hitting coach on Sunday,
where he is expected to sit down with one of the team’s broadcasters for
an interview in front of the fans. Just don’t expect Clark to be very
cordial should they cross paths this weekend.

“I’m not going to say hello. I’m not going to shake his hand. He’s a sad excuse for a
player in the industry of baseball. Just seeing him in uniform makes me
throw up.”

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.