Austin Jackson wants to steal 40 bases in 2011

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Austin Jackson stole 27 bases while finishing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year balloting last season and the 24-year-old center field said recently that his goal for 2011 is to swipe 40 bags.

I think it’s just setting a goal to try to reach it, because I think I’m capable of stealing more bags. I think I need to try harder at it. I have speed and that’s a part of my game, and I definitely think that I could use it more on the base paths. It’s really just stealing a bag, maybe getting in scoring position a little more, try to score some more runs. I think it’s a thing you just have to kind of learn. I think it’s a thing I need.

Jason Beck of MLB.com notes that no Tigers player has stolen 30 bases in a season since Jim Leyland took over as manager in 2006, so getting to 40 on a team that generally doesn’t run a ton could be tough. In fact, in 19 seasons as manager Leyland’s teams have had a 40-steal player just three times: Edgar Renteria in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 1990 and 1991.

Looking beyond the Tigers and Leyland’s teams, a total of six players have swiped 40 or more bases in their age-24 season during the past decade: B.J. Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford, Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo. And prior to going 27-for-33 on the bases as a rookie, Jackson averaged 33 steals per 150 games in the minors.

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.