Replay and its unintended consequences

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Over at The Classical, Eric Nusbaum looks at a new instant replay system that has been instituted in pro cricket, and notes how it has changed the way the game is actually being played:

Technology changed the way umpires approached their jobs, which in turn has changed the way players approach theirs. The comparison doesn’t work perfectly, but this is akin to allowing baseball players to appeal balls and strikes to a machine with the intention of creating a more accurate strike zone, and with the unintended result being that pitchers start throwing over the middle more, resulting in more home runs. (Or vice versa: batters become fearful and begin swinging at bad pitches, resulting in more of the weak pop ups to the second baseman that Mets fans have nicknamed “Jason Bays.”)

It’s interesting to think about — all big changes are going to bring unintended consequences — but if anything it bolsters the case for the “fifth umpire” version of replay in baseball as opposed to anything else.

By having the fifth ump in a booth who is part of the on-the-field crew, you limit that us-vs.-them mentality that may cause umpires to do different things than they might otherwise do. And by taking out some sort of appeals process or challenge system, you limit the ability of players and managers to game the system.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.