Cubs’ president Theo Epstein sees opportunity with the additional wild card

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MLB made expanded playoffs official yesterday, a decision which will undoubtedly have a major impact on how general managers will approach things leading up to the trade deadline this year. We are likely to have more buyers than ever before while players on the handful of sellers could come at a premium cost.

New Cubs’ team president Theo Epstein talked about the new dynamic with Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com yesterday:

“We still set out with the same goal of winning the division, but clearly it makes the bar of qualifying for postseason play lower and more attainable for teams that are kind of in that building phase. It’s a good thing.”

The Cubs plan to discuss a contract extension with Matt Garza during spring training, but he could be a major trade chip if the two sides fail to make progress. The 28-year-old is under team control through the 2013 season. However, Epstein is hopeful that the Cubs could be position to be buyers at the deadline.

“Hopefully, we’re in a position at the trade deadline where we’re looking to add that final piece to get us in a better position for postseason play,” Epstein said. “If things don’t go our way, and we’re not, then the landscape is always defined by how many teams are looking to add and how many teams are willing to move a piece.

“Does an additional playoff team change that? Sure, sure it does. It changes that dynamic. But I’m not going to go into it expecting the club to be sellers. I think we’re trying to play our best possible baseball we can to put ourselves in a position to be in contention at the deadline. But if you’re selling at the deadline, by definition it’s been a failed year.”

Head over to CSNChicago.com for more of Mooney’s exclusive interview with Epstein.

Miguel Sano suspended one game for altercation with Tigers

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Twins third baseman Miguel Sano has been suspended one game for his role in Saturday’s altercation with the Tigers, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Sano will appeal his suspension, so he’ll be eligible to play until that is resolved.

On Saturday, Tigers outfielder JaCoby Jones was hit in the face by Twins pitcher Justin Haley. The Tigers’ Matt Boyd threw behind Sano when he came to the plate in the fifth inning, seemingly exacting revenge. Sano took exception, catcher James McCann pushed his glove into Sano’s face, and the benches emptied. Both Boyd and Sano were ejected from the game.

Sano has hit well in the early going, batting .241/.413/.569 with four home runs and 14 RBI with an MLB-best 17 walks in 75 plate appearances. Losing Sano for only one game won’t be the biggest deal for the Twins. Eduardo Escobar would get the start at third base to fill in for Sano if he loses his appeal.

Boyd was fined an undisclosed amount and not suspended, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck.

Matt Barnes suspended four games for throwing at Manny Machado

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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been suspended four games and fined an undisclosed amount for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on Sunday. Barnes was exacting revenge for Machado’s slide which injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Friday, and was ejected immediately after throwing the pitch at Machado.

Barnes is appealing his suspension, so he will be able to participate in games until the issue is resolved. The 26-year-old right-hander has a 3.60 ERA and an 11/6 K/BB ratio in 10 innings so far this season.

The suspension is rather light considering Barnes’ intent. Barnes missed, thankfully, as he hit Machado’s bat rather than his helmet. Had he hit his intended target, though, baseball might’ve been out one superstar third baseman. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wrote today that Major League Baseball needs to beef up its punishment for players attempting to injure other players. And he’s totally right about that. The punishment is neither enough to deter players from attempting to injure their peers, nor is it enough for teams to deter their own players from doing so.