Mariners blackballing reporter who wrote story about Griffey sleeping during game

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As if Mike Sweeney accusing a reporter of lying and challenging teammates to fight him didn’t add enough drama to the ongoing Ken Griffey Jr. saga, after last night’s game Cliff Lee refused to speak to the media until Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune left the room.
LaRue has covered the Mariners for 28 years and reported earlier this week that Griffey was sleeping in the clubhouse during a game, quoting unnamed players. According to LaRue several Mariners asked him to reveal the identity of his sources Tuesday and, when he refused like any reporter in his situation would, declined to speak to him.
Meanwhile, denials have focused on his not being asleep during a specific inning of a specific game and seem to indicate he has used the clubhouse for naps during other games. And of course Sweeney saying the story is “a makeshift article made up of lies” because “no one stood up” and revealed themselves as LaRue’s source when challenged to “stand up and fight me” is absurd. Who’s crazy enough to actually do that?
The beauty of it all is that Griffey is hitting .200 with a .489 OPS and Sweeney is hitting .176 with a .469 OPS, so their sleep patterns aren’t nearly as damaging to the Mariners as their inept hitting and the two washed-up former stars taking on teammates and media members in the final days of their careers is kind of sad.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.