St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates

Albert Pujols: 22 games without a home run

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Something I had not realized was going on until I read Derrick Goold’s column this morning: Albert Pujols has now gone 22 games without a home run.

I’m not going to panic about it because of any current slumping star, I figure Pujols is the most likely to rebound and the most likely to do so quickly. But this does make me wonder a bit about the free agency thing.

I don’t think his performance this year changes the actual value calculus too much. I mean sure, if he ends the season with a sub-.800 OPS it might, but at the end of the year I figure he’ll be back to outstanding, even if he’s a bit below his peak. But I do wonder if a couple of teams who may have considered making life difficult for the Cardinals will be scared off and that, as a result, the giant fiasco of Pujols-the-free-agent many have anticipated isn’t largely averted.

Put differently: I wonder if a quiet year from Pujols manages to thread the needle just perfectly in that it (a) won’t depress his value too much; but (b) will make his ultimate re-signing by St. Louis a relative non-event as everyone in baseball realizes that there isn’t any other team hot for the guy.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.