Don Wakamatsu already has hands full managing Milton Bradley

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Milton Bradley has played just seven games for the Mariners, yet manager Don Wakamatsu has already had a pair of sit-downs with the troubled outfielder.
Wakamatsu met with Bradley after he flipped off the crowd in Texas last week and they had a late-night, closed-door session yesterday to talk about his 1-for-22 start to the season. Here’s how Wakamatsu described last night’s chat:

We talked about not fueling the fire, and relying on your teammates to help you out. That’s what we’re focusing on right now. There are going to be people looking for him and I understand that, but lead by example. I think he’s found a comfort level with this ball club, and doesn’t want to let his teammates down. A lot of fans don’t realize he cares sometimes too much about his performance, and what he’s supposed to be bringing to this club.

Either that or he’s just nuts.
Bradley should eventually get on track offensively, because he’s been an above-average hitter in each of the past seven years and bounced back from a similarly slow start with the Cubs last year to hit .271/.385/.412 in his final 113 games. However, his defense has been absolutely brutal in left field so far and that seems unlikely to change at age 32.
And of course the fact that he’s playing for his eighth team in 11 seasons and has had incidents at every previous stop isn’t simply a matter of “caring too much about his performance.” Still, if he hits something close to his .276/.370/.448 career mark and keeps the incidents to a minimum things will be just fine in Seattle. Unfortunately for the Mariners, history suggests that if Bradley’s slow start continues much longer the issues may begin to snow ball.

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.