You ain’t got to lie, Jerry, you ain’t got to lie

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I interviewed two general managers at the Winter Meetings: Ned Colletti and Ruben Amaro.  It was kinda neat. They’re important people and talking to them made me feel sort of important. It was for TV, and I’m sort of liking this TV stuff.  And of course talking to guys like that — and the assistants who assist them — is a good way to learn neat things that will eventually benefit you guys.  Of course you interview those guys if they are good enough to give you a bit of their time to do it.

But I gotta tell ya: dudes like that aren’t exactly forthcoming.  I knew that would be the case before the interviews and, as the interviews were happening, I was amazed at just how smoothly and cheerfully each of them were able to tell me absolutely nothing.  Especially Amaro. I know he’s a Ninja and everything, but I had no idea that he had mastered the Jedi mind trick too.  I haven’t looked at the tape for a while, but I’m pretty sure he told me that those were not the droids I was looking for. And I nodded happily.

But while the interviews weren’t the most illuminating things ever, Colletti and Amaro were just doing their jobs. Let’s face facts: there is zero upside to them telling me something of real substance. The offseason is about the art of negotiation and the art of negotiation depends on negotiators having superior information to their adversaries. Sure, Amaro could tell me and the TV audience that he wanted nothing more in the world than to sign Dontrelle Willis, but if he had it would have made that negotiation somewhat tougher for him. Why bother?

But I will say this: at least Amaro and Colletti were honest in the information they did provide.  Even if they weren’t forthcoming, there was nothing they said that could be construed as misleading.  As Ben Lindbergh chronicles over at Baseball Prospectus today, the same can’t be said of many general managers:

Inspired by the first item on the list below, I asked the BP staff for other instances in which a GM was less than forthcoming about his plans. Here are a few examples that show why it’s best to exercise some caution before buying into everything your friendly neighborhood baseball executive says …

What follows are seven pretty hilarious instances of general managers — leading off with Jerry “we’re not gonna spend money on guys like Albert Pujols” Dipoto — saying one thing and then doing something completely different.

It’s a great read, and a great reminder to put almost zero stock in anything a guy running a baseball team says.

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.