Stat of the Day: OPS leaders since the All-Star break

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The overall OPS leaderboard is filled with familiar names as Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Prince Fielder, and Miguel Cabrera hold the top five spots, but the OPS leaderboard since the All-Star break has a few more surprises:

Mike Napoli          1.329
Hideki Matsui        1.214
Troy Tulowitzki      1.139
Omar Infante         1.099
Dan Uggla            1.070
Michael Morse        1.057
Jesus Guzman         1.047
Shane Victorino      1.025
Edwin Encarnacion    1.023
Dustin Pedroia       1.022

Mike Napoli has been fantastic all season for the Rangers, hitting .299 with 18 homers and a 1.009 OPS in 71 games while the catcher the Angels always preferred over him, Jeff Mathis, is batting .181.

Hideki Matsui has come alive after a terrible first half, showing that he still has some gas left in the tank at age 37, while Omar Infante’s turnaround is on hold thanks to a broken finger.

To get a feel for just how awful Dan Uggla was early on this season, consider that he’s currently riding a 29-game hitting streak and ranks fifth among all MLB hitters with a 1.070 OPS since the All-Star break, yet is batting just .220 with a .716 OPS overall.

Michael Morse has quietly emerged as one of the best hitters in the National League dating back to beginning of last season, batting .309 with 34 homers and a .904 OPS in 688 plate appearances for the Nationals during that time.

Jesus Guzman might be the most unlikely name on the second-half leaderboard, because he’s a 27-year-old journeyman and career minor leaguer … and he’s doing all that damage while calling Petco Park home.

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.