Is the ‘Big Three’ effect overplayed?

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With Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels leading the way, it is easy to label the Philadelphia Phillies favorites to reach – and even win — the World Series.

Our viewpoint is particularly colored by having just watched them make the hard-hitting Cincinnati Reds look as helpless as Craig Sager at a postgame celebration.

But do the Phillies really have that big of an advantage over the other three remaining playoff teams? Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing crunched the numbers and the results are interesting.

Here are the records of the four playoff teams this season when their top three starters were on the mound:
Yankees: 59-25 (.702)
Phillies: 50-28 (.641)
Giants: 61-38 (.616)
Rangers: 44-36 (.550)

And here we have the same four teams, ranked in order of runs scored this season. Think the Yankees’ offense will come into play the rest of the way?:

Yankees: 859
Rangers: 787
Phillies: 772
Giants: 697

Writes Sullivan:

The Phillies have an awesome rotation. It’s the best one left. It is not so much better than anyone else’s that they ought to be the clear, undeniable favorites to take this thing home. As obvious as it sounds: we just can’t predict with any kind of certainty what’s going to happen, and all four of the teams remaining have an excellent chance.

Sure, the Yankees and Phillies are favored to meet in a World Series rematch, but I think these two series are going to be a lot closer than people think.

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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.