Free agent compensation rule cost Brewers shot at Mike Trout

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The Milwaukee Brewers could have had Mike Trout, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As you probably knew, Trout, an outfielder in the Los Angeles Angels minor league system, is widely regarded as a rising star. He was all anyone was talking about at the Futures Game in Anaheim last July and has a line of .344/.426/.489 with 69 steals in two minor league seasons. This winter he was rated the best prospect in baseball by both ESPN.com’s Keith Law and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo.

The Angels selected Trout with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2009 draft. What you might not have known is that the No. 25 pick originally belonged to the New York Yankees. That pick was awarded to the Brewers as compensation when the Yankees signed free agent pitcher CC Sabathia, who the Brewers had acquired in a mid-season deal with the Cleveland Indians.

This is where the plot thickens

The Brewers never got to use that draft pick, however.

Later that off-season, the Yankees signed free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had played for the Angels. Because Teixeira was a higher-ranked Class A free agent – the only one rated above Sabathia that winter – the Angels inherited New York’s first-round pick and the Brewers were bumped back to fill the Yankees’ second-round slot, the 73rd pick overall.

“(The compensation rules) hurt us that particular year,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Haudricourt. “The only player we could lose that (first-round) pick on was Teixeira, and the Yankees signed him. We thought that was an unfair part of the system.”

Understandably so. Dropping 48 spots in the draft because the Yankees decided to sign the top two free agents instead of just one is pretty brutal.

The Brewers used the No. 73 pick in that draft to take another high school outfielder, Maxwell Walla of Albuquerque, N.M. While it’s early to say Walla’s .223/.335/.364 line makes him a bust, the difference between he and Trout has to make Brewers fans cringe.

Of course there is no way of knowing if the Brewers would have used the No. 25 pick on Trout. “Whether he would have been the pick, I can’t say for sure, but there’s a good possibility,” Melvin told Haudricourt. “I know Trout was on the board for us.”

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Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.