Olney: realign the Rays out of the AL East

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Buster uses the Mauer signing as a jumping off point for thoughts on the
A’s and Rays.  For the A’s: Bud needs to make San Jose happen.  No
argument there. My view is that the commish should offer the Giants some
concessions, deem the move to be OK, and make the Giants sue if they
don’t like it. The Giants may be rattling their sword, but they have a
large and disparate ownership group full of businessmen who didn’t get
rich by spending years in litigation.  If Peter Angelos — a man who did
get rich by spending years in litigation — didn’t sue, the Giants
won’t either.

Buster’s take on the Rays is a bit more problematic:

Selig has the power to affect change on behalf of the Rays, too, through
realignment. He needs to get Tampa Bay out of the AL East, to give the
Rays a consistent opportunity for success. This, in time, will give them
a chance to build their brand and make their case for a new ballpark.

There’s been a lot of realignment chatter lately, but someone has to
play in the AL East, don’t they?  And though I realize that the past
decade or so seems like forever, I remain convinced that the current
Yankees-Red Sox hegemony is a temporary phenomenon. Sure, they’ll always
have financial advantages, but the competitive advantages that flow
from them aren’t always going to be this pronounced.

The Jeter-Rivera-Poada-Pettitte isn’t something you can just buy, and it
isn’t something that appears by happenstance, even among the
smartest-drafting team. If the Yankees merely had the dollars or merely
had the core and didn’t have the other, we’d be in a very different
world than we’ve experienced since 1995. It’s a team that didn’t even
make the playoffs in 2008.  I’m not entirely certain the Red Sox will
make the playoffs this year, but I’ll save that for my big predictions
post next week. Anyway, I’ll grant that life sucks for the poorer sisters of the AL East
now, but I am convinced that it won’t suck forever and that making
realignment decisions based on temporary dominance would be a
shortsighted move.

But if we’re going to realign — and Bud says he thinks about it — let’s just go whole-hog with it and make a system that will never be subject to these little eddies of competitive frustration in the baseball-time continuum: two leagues, no divisions, top four teams in each league make the playoffs. If you don’t like that all the action will be in the race for the 3-4 slot as opposed at the top, build in pronounced home field advantage for the top finishers.

Or let’s just leave it as it is and see what happens over the next few years.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.

Baseball America names Corey Seager as baseball’s top prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager follows through a single that scored Austin Barnes, in front of Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.

This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.

Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.

You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.

Jenrry Mejia: “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

New York Mets' Jenrry Mejia reacts after getting the last out against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 25, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Mets won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
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Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia was permanently suspended on Friday after testing positive for a third time for a performance-enhancing drug. The right-hander is maintaining his innocence, as ESPN’s Adam Rubin notes in quoting Dominican sports journalist Hector Gomez. Mejia said, “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

Mejia has the opportunity to petition commissioner Rob Manfred in one year for reinstatement to Major League Baseball. However, he must sit out at least two years before becoming eligible to pitch in the majors again, which would mean Mejia would be 28 years old.

Over parts of five seasons, Mejia has a career 3.68 ERA with 162 strikeouts and 76 walks over 183 1/3 innings. He was once a top prospect in the Mets’ minor league system and a top-100 overall prospect heading into the 2010 and ’11 seasons.

Bryce Harper on potential $400 million contract: “Don’t sell me short.”

Bryce Harper
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is at least three years away from free agency, but people are already contemplating just how large a contract the phenom will be able to negotiate, especially after taking home the National League Most Valuable Player Award for his performance this past season.

When the likes of David Price and Zack Greinke are signing for over $200 million at the age of 30 or older, it stands to reason that Harper could draw more as a 26-year-old if he can maintain MVP-esque levels of production over the next several seasons. $400 million might not be enough for Harper, though, as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports. He said, “Don’t sell me short,” which is a fantastic response.

During the 2015 season, Harper led the majors with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage while leading the National League with 42 home runs and 118 runs scored. He also knocked in 99 runs for good measure. Harper and Ted Williams are the only hitters in baseball history to put up an adjusted OPS of 195 or better (100 is average) at the age of 22 or younger.