Reds fall 10-9 to Mets, get swept in four-game series

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Jason Bay hadn’t doubled in 51 games before finally getting one when the Mets beat the Reds on Monday.  He hit two more on Thursday, leading the Mets to a 10-9 victory that completed a four-game sweep in Cincinnati.

The Reds fell five games under .500 at 50-55 with the loss.  They have the 19th-best record of the 30 teams in baseball.  They four games worse than a Mets team that has already shed Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.  Yet, because they’re in the NL Central, the Reds can’t see themselves as sellers just yet.

Because while the Reds are in fourth place in the Central, they’re just 6 1/2 games behind a Brewers team that has lost Rickie Weeks.  The Cardinals, in second, just took a downgrade in center field that could prove terribly costly if Lance Berkman gets hurt again.  The Pirates, in third, are the Pirates, in third.

The Reds do need to shake things up a bit, though.  They already made one move this week, shipping Jonny Gomes to Washington and calling up former first-round pick Yonder Alonso.  They could go further by trading Ramon Hernandez and bringing up top prospect Devon Mesoraco.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do about the rotation besides hope for the best.  The Reds entered spring training with perhaps the deepest rotation picture in baseball: Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney.  Who possibly could have guessed that Dontrelle Willis would be one of their five starters come July?  Bailey entered the day as one of the team’s two starters with a sub-4.00 ERA.  Then he went and gave up nine runs to the Mets.

In any other division, the Reds would likely be dead in the water.  In the NL Central, they pretty much have to attempt to stay in the race.  On paper, they’re still right there with the Brewers and Cardinals, and if they prove incapable of hanging with those teams, then Dusty Baker is going to have plenty to answer for at season’s end.

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.