Wily Mo Pena close to signing deal with Japanese team

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According to Sponichi in Japan, via Yakyubaka.com and CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball, free agent slugger Wily Mo Pena is close to signing a two-year contract with the Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball.

Pena, 29, slugged seven home runs in 120 major league plate appearances this past year between the Diamondbacks and Mariners. He also tallied 25 homers in 76 games at the Triple-A level.

That raw power has always been intriguing to big league front offices, but Pena has never really had a position — he’s a highly unreliable defensive outfielder — and never possessed the kind of plate discipline that would make him worthy of a starting DH gig. His career MLB strikeout rate is 30.3%.

The Sponichi report suggests that he will receive around $5 million in total salary, a lofty price tag for any NPB athlete. Perhaps the Softbank Hawks believe that the batting-practice showman carries star potential.

Report: MLB likely to unilaterally implement pace of play changes

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that talks between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association concerning pace of play changes have stalled, which makes it more likely that commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally implements the changes he seeks. Those changes include a pitch clock and a restriction on catcher mound visits.

Manfred said, “My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players. But if we can’t get an agreement, we are going to have rule changes in 2018, one way or the other.”

The players have made several suggestions aimed at reducing the length of games, such as amending replay review rules, strictly monitoring down time between innings, and bringing back bullpen carts.

It is believed that MLB is proposing a pitch clock of 20 seconds. If a pitcher takes too long between pitches, he will have a ball added to the count. If the hitter takes too long, then he will have a strike added to the count.