The Dodgers appeared to intentionally draft an unsignable pick in the first round the other day, quite possibly because they didn’t feel like paying anyone first round bonus money this year. But while they don’t appear to want to spend on ballplayers, the team had no problem spending six figures on some whack-job Rasputin “scientist and healer” figure to “send positive energy over great distances” in an effort to help the Dodgers win games.
It all comes out in a story from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that you have to read in its entirely to believe, but even a glimpse is enough to cause Dodgers fans to slam their heads into a wall.
The upshot: Vladimir Shpunt is a physicist of dubious quality who emigrated from Russia in 1998. He believes that his body channels 10 to 15 percent more “natural energy” that normal people’s bodies, and that that energy can be transmitted through both his hands and over great distances. He basically built a faith healing practice out of it in Russia.
Flash forward to 2004. Jamie McCourt has an eye infection and somehow gets referred to this guy, who she thinks healed her. She refers Frank to him and the relationship is bonded. They think about adding him to the Dodgers training staff but they don’t. They do refer Jayson Werth to him when he injures his wrist but — surprise surprise — it doesn’t help. Werth later says, without being specific, that the Dodgers misdiagnosed and mistreated his injuries. He goes to the Mayo clinic instead. Smart guy.
But the McCourts like the cut of Shpun’s jib and hire him anyway, paying him in excess of six figures to sit in his Boston home, watch Dodgers games on TV and send his positive energy their way. He counseled the McCourts to fire general manager Paul DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy. He also thinks he helped them win the NL West. The McCourts apparently do too, as they kept him on payroll and sent him thank you notes after clinching a playoff spot in 2004. Frank and Jamie each blame the other for hiring the guy, but it was quite obviously a team effort.
It is also merely the latest bit of evidence that the McCourts haven’t a clue what they’re doing and have wasted untold amounts of the Dodgers money on the sort of ridiculous things on which clueless rich people tend to spend their money.
The Dodgers were once thought of as the marquee franchise in all of baseball. The McCourts have turned the club into a laughingstock.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.
The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.