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Surprise: Tony La Russa won’t back down on the Pujols-union stuff

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Yesterday Tony La Russa said that, though he has no evidence that he MLBPA is pressuring Albert Pujols to hold out for top dollar, he suspected it was the case. More than suspected, actually, he called it a “guaranteed assumption.” Then Mike Weiner of the MLBA said it wasn’t true. And Scott Boras — who knows from guys who are looking for top dollar — said that it never happens that way.

Most people involved in such a he-said, she-said would normally either back down or clam up about it at that point, realizing that there’s nothing to be gained absent some kind of evidence in their favor.  Not Tony La Russa, who told reporters today that “it strains credibility a little bit to say there hasn’t been any contact” between Pujols and the union. Which is a fancy way of saying that Weiner and Boras are lying.

I commend Tony La Russa for so bravely sticking to his guns on this. I mean, it’s not going to be easy to make someone other than the Cardinals the villains if and when Albert Pujols leaves via free agency because they’re not the highest bidder. It’s exactly this kind of tenacious behavior by La Russa, however, that gives them a fighting chance and casting the union — a party that is not at the bargaining table — in the bad guy role.

Red Sox could go to arbitration hearing with Fernando Abad

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Fernando Abad #58 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during the ninth inning at Fenway Park on September 16, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox are expecting to go to an arbitration hearing with left-handed reliever Fernando Abad, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski said there was a “decent chance” a hearing would be necessary after countering Abad’s $2.7 million request with $2 million.

Abad, 31, pitched just 12 2/3 innings for Boston after the club acquired him from Minnesota at the trade deadline last season. The lefty earned a cumulative 3.66 ERA, 4.2 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9 for the two teams in 2016. He received $1.25 million in 2016 and will remain under club control (through arbitration) in 2017. A $2.7 million salary would be a hefty increase for the veteran reliever, who has seen a significant decline since he put up a 1.57 ERA for the Athletics in 2014 and who has not amassed more than 0.6 fWAR in any single season to date.

While the Red Sox aren’t close to settling with Abad, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports that they may be closing in on a settlement with left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz filed at $5.7 million, while the Sox felt more comfortable at $3.6 million. The two are expected to meet somewhere in the middle to avoid an arbitration hearing later this winter.

Report: Braves sign Kurt Suzuki

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 20: Kurt Suzuki #8 of the Minnesota Twins hits against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.

Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.

The team has yet to confirm the deal.