One of the more insulting columns you’ll read this season

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T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times has a shtick. He’s used it over and over again.  It’s this: insult, bait and pester a given Dodgers or Angels player and hope against hope that they’ll spout off in anger so that he can print a juicy quote and follow it up with his “man, what’s his problem?” rebop.  Even better, they say nothing, so he can call the guy standoffish or aloof or whatever.  I think Simers has his charms at times, but this bit is tired and offensive and has been for years.

But at least most of the time he uses it against a big star like Manny Ramirez or Torii Hunter who, while it’s no more fair to them, is at least something their time in the spotlight has conditioned them to handle. What gives with today’s broadside against Marcus Thames, though? Simers starts off by calling him a no-name and a head case. He makes fun of his surname. He calls him a stiff. And that was before he had even spoken with him. This was how Simers introduced himself, referring to Thames’ limited playing time over the years:

“Are you that horrible on defense that teams don’t think it’s worth playing such a home run threat?” I asked by way of introduction.

And it just goes on and on like that, with Simers ripping Thames — who wisely smiled politely but did not respond to the bait — and then ripping Don Mattingly who tried to explain to Simers that, you know, Thames is on the team for his bat and that he’s a platoon player. Simers’ response:

So now we understand the Dodgers have a guy in left who can’t catch, can’t hit right-handed pitchers and can’t answer questions about his obvious shortcomings.

And team P.R. people are worried about allowing bloggers to have press passes because of concerns about decorum? Mercy.

Attention Los Angeles Times sports page: I was concerned that you’d never do anything to bring more embarrassment upon yourself than to feature Bleacher Report boobie slideshows next to the content of your paid writing staff, but at the moment I’m struggling to see how continuing to allow Simers to pull this low-rent garbage is much better.

Report: Qualifying offer to be in the $18 million range

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, teams have been told that the qualifying offer to free agents this offseason will be in the $18 million range, likely $18.1 million. The value is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries.

At $18.1 million, that would be $900,000 more than the previous QO, which was $17.2 million. This will impact soon-to-be free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Yu Darvish, among others. That also assumes that the aforementioned players aren’t traded, which would make them ineligible to receive qualifying offers. We’ve seen, increasingly, that teams aren’t willing to make a QO to an impending free agent and that trend is likely to continue this offseason.

The QO system was modified by the newest collective bargaining agreement. The compensatory pick for a team losing a player who declined a QO used to be a first-round pick. That was a penalty to both teams and players, which is why it was changed. Via MLB’s website pertaining to the QO:

A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick.

Additionally, if a player who rejected a QO signs a guaranteed contract worth at least $50 million and came from a team that receives revenue sharing, that previous team will receive a compensatory pick immediately following the first round in the ensuing draft. If the contract is less than $50 million, that team will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B. If the player’s team is over the luxury tax threshold, that team will receive a compensation pick following the fourth round. If that team neither exceeded the luxury tax nor receives revenue sharing, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B.

Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, but you do the best you can with a flawed system.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.