The Cubs are making preparations for Anthony Rizzo’s arrival

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Anthony Rizzo probably isn’t going to get a chance to go after the Pacific Coast League Triple Crown after all. The Cubs, seemingly preparing for his arrival, have Bryan LaHair in right field and David DeJesus in center field in Monday’s game against the White Sox.

It’s the first outfield start for LaHair this season. Expectations were that the veteran minor leaguer would simply fade away once Rizzo was ready to take over at first base for the Cubs, but  given his .297/.380/.560 line and 12 homers in 182 at-bats to date, that’s clearly not going to happen. Putting Rizzo at first, LaHair in right (where he started nine games after his callup last year) and DeJesus in center would seem to give the Cubs their best possible lineup, though it comes at the price of outfield defense.

The 22-year-old Rizzo is hitting .364/.426/.745 with 23 homers and 59 RBI for Triple-A Iowa. He ranks sixth in the league in hitting, first in homers and second in RBI. While the PCL is certainly an offense-heavy league, Rizzo has an OPS a full 161 points higher than anyone else in the circuit, and Iowa isn’t nearly as hitter friendly in some of the parks. In fact, Rizzo has a 1.239 OPS in road games. He’s also hitting .400 with six homers in 50 at-bats during June.

Assuming all goes well with the new outfield, don’t be surprised to see Rizzo up as soon as Friday. That would give him three games in Arizona before the Cubs return home for six games next week.

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.