ESPN to televise 10 spring training games

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ESPN just announced that they will televise 10 spring training games. The schedule breaks down as follows:

March 3:  Detroit vs. Atlanta – 1 p.m. ET
March 14:  N.Y. Yankees vs. Boston – 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
March 16: Boston vs. Atlanta – 1 p.m. ET
March 21:  Boston vs. Philadelphia – 1 p.m. ET
March 22:  N.Y. Yankees vs. Baltimore – 1 p.m. ET
March 23:  N.Y. Mets vs. St. Louis – 1 p.m. ET
March 24:  Chicago White Sox vs. Cubs – 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
March 25:  Atlanta vs. Philadelphia – 1 p.m. ET
March 26:  Chicago Cubs vs. Texas – 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
March 29: Detroit at N.Y. Yankees – 1 p.m. ET

Yes, the World Champion Giants are mysteriously absent here, although they do kick off the Sunday Night Baseball schedule on April 3, if that means anything. The bigger issue for me is that only two Cactus League games will be televised. That’s a bummer. While we’re all crazy-go-nuts baseball fans here, remember that ESPN is trying to appeal to as many viewers as possible with a bunch of games that really have no impact on anything, hence three appearances each by the Red Sox and Yankees. So while that’s not fair to the rest of the country, it’s the reality of the situation. Hey, at least ESPN is trying to make Craig happy.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
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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.