Bud Selig defiant

UPDATE: GMs favor an additional wild card, best of three wild card playoff round

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UPDATE: Some hate it. Some like it. But MLB is more likely to expand the playoffs in 2012 as opposed to next season, according to the Associated Press.

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations, explained earlier this afternoon that adding another wild card team would be “a difficult trick to pull off” because it would require reopening the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union. The current deal runs through the end of next season, so don’t freak out yet. It’s at least a year away.

By the way, if the playoffs were expanded for this past season, the Yankees would have played the Red Sox in the American League and the Braves would have played the Padres in the National League.

12:30 PM: The general managers are all meeting in Florida this week and, as we’ve expected, one of the items on the agenda will be making a proposal to Commissioner Selig about expanding the first round of the playoffs with an additional wild card team.  The news nugget here is that the GMs USA Today’s Bob Nightengale spoke to all prefer that the first round of the playoffs, which would be between each league’s two wild card teams, either be a one-and-done elimination game or, at most, a best of three scenario.

I’m on record as being opposed to any expansion of the playoffs, because I think it’s a cynical cash grab that Bud Selig has disingenuously portrayed as “fairness” — Fairness? Where’s replay then? —  and that by increasing the number of teams eligible for the postseason party, you increase the chances that a bad team will get hot for a couple of weeks and more or less make a mockery of the regular season. Oh, and you likely reverse the things baseball has tried to do to cut the length of the playoffs down over the past couple of years. Worst of all, it creates a total crapshoot playoff round that is about as divorced from the normal dynamics of baseball than anything that’s ever been done before, and that sits with me quite poorly. One-and-done? If we’re gonna make a tournament out of this, let’s just invite all 30 teams and unleash the bracketologists.

Assuming, however, that baseball is intent on expanding the playoffs — which they appear to be — I suppose that a best-of-three scenario is the least worst option.  Sure, it still makes a gimmick out of that first round, but at least it places a premium on winning the division as opposed to getting the wild card. Especially if the division series is expanded to seven games.  Ask yourself: does Joe Girardi content himself with the wild card if it means that he has to face Jon Lester and the Red Sox in an elimination game, or does he try to pass up the Rays in order to assure himself of a best-of-seven first round?  I bet the latter.

I still think it’s possible to make winning the division mean more than winning the wild card with only four playoff teams — compress the schedule; fiddle with home field — but if they’re hellbent on a bad idea, at least it will likely come with a half-decent side-benefit.

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks
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Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.

J.R. Graham is in The Best Shape of his Life

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher J.R. Graham celebrates after the final out as the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 12-2 in  a baseball game, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 12-2. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.

That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.

The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.

In the meantime:

“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”

It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.