Rangers and Ian Kinsler didn’t let Yadier Molina stop them from running

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I wondered yesterday whether the Rangers runners would continue to test Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

For most of Game 2 they avoided Molina, attempting zero steals, but that all changed in the ninth inning.

Ian Kinsler was gunned down by Molina in the first inning of Game 1, at which point the Rangers put on the breaks, but last night Kinsler led off the ninth inning with a single, stole second base off Jason Motte despite a great throw from Molina, and came around to score the game-tying run on Josh Hamilton’s sacrifice fly.

Molina is one of the best-throwing catchers of all time, erasing 44 percent of attempted steals for his career, so the Rangers were smart to keep the running to a minimum until they really needed it. For many teams it would make sense to completely shut down their running game against Molina, but the Rangers had the league’s fourth-most steals during the regular season and manager Ron Washington has remained aggressive on the bases throughout the playoffs.

And it also helps that Kinsler is one of the best, most efficient basestealers in the league, swiping 30 bags in 34 attempts during the regular season to improve his career success rate to 86 percent. Of course, if Rafael Furcal somehow gets that tag down a split-second sooner Washington and Kinsler would probably be getting criticized all over the place today.

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.