Looking ahead to Opening Day’s six — what, only six? — games

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Today is the day that everyone learns a little something about their employer. Like, whether he is so unreasonable as to not allow you to blow the day off to watch ballgames. Or, at the very least, if he’s so uptight that he won’t allow you download MLB.tv on the company machine — using the company credit card to pay for it — and watch games as you process those TPS reports. And drink beer.

Hint: if he has a problem with this, update your resume because life is too short.

Or maybe you should just ride it out. There are only six games on this Opening Day. Which I suppose allows for more teams to have the spotlight, but also makes it something less than the glorious orgy that 15 day games would give us. Probably not worth complaining about, I suppose. In the past few years we’ve had only that one night game on Sunday night to kick things off and that felt way weirder than a half dozen day tilts.

Regardless, here is the day’s slate, all times are Eastern time because that’s how we roll in the East Coast-based media:

Tigers at Yankees, 1:05PM, ESPN:  We’ll be live blogging this one here at HBT. At least we hope so. The forecast in the Bronx is calling for rain mixed with snow and temperatures in the low 40s at game time. If this is the junk that came through Ohio yesterday, we may have some problems. I still have snow on my front yard as I type this.  If it does go off, however, we get CC Sabathia vs. Justin Verlander, and that’s pretty friggin’ sweet.

Braves at Nationals, 1:05PM: Derek Lowe vs. Livan Hernandez is somewhat less inspiring a matchup, no?

Brewers at Reds, 2:10PM: There was a time when the Reds always had the first game on Opening Day. That time has passed, sadly. Opening Day is always a hoot in Cincinnati, with parades and stuff. It’s one city where, yes, your boss may very well allow you to blow off work today. At least I hope it’s still that way despite the fact that the scheduling Gods no longer favor it.  To watch in this one: Edinson Volquez. I am concerned about him, frankly. Given the other injuries in the rotation, he is pretty critical to the Reds.

Angels at Royals, 4:10PM: Ladies and gentlemen: Luke Hochevar, Opening Day starter. If I’m a Royals fan I consider heading to Omaha’s Opening Day instead.

Padres at Cardinals, 4:15PM, ESPN: Your second nationally-televised game of the day. The forecast here looks much better: 50 degrees and sunny at game time. Well, it looks better to anyone besides the Padres. Who, if my San Diego-living brother is any judge, will spend all day trying to explain to anyone who will listen that 50 degrees truly is beastly weather.

Giants at Dodgers, 8:00PM, ESPN: A nice one on which to end the day and to take us through the evening. Tim Lincecum vs. Clayton Kershaw is an even better matchup than Verlander vs. Sabathia. Question: why do the World Champs start the season on the road? Seems weak to me.

And because it sounded so nice the last time I said it, let’s say it again: Play ball.

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.