Yu Darvish and David Freese win The Final Vote, and now baseball needs to fix the All-Star Game

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The suspense was killing you, I’m sure:

Good for them. Even better for Bryce Harper when, inevitably, a member of the NL squad goes down with an “injury,” requiring MLB’s most marketable young talent in decades to have to go to Kansas City for next week’s game. Purely by coincidence, I’m sure.

And once again, let me note the wonderful, over-the-top disconnect between Major League’s official position regarding the All-Star Game — it determines home field advantage for the World Series and thus, by definition counts for something truly important — and its practical approach to it: the All-Star Game is a marketing, public relations and philanthropic opportunity, and the Final Vote’s greatest utility comes from driving traffic to MLB.com and followers to its Twitter account:

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with baseball using the All-Star Game this way. Indeed, in a day and age in which fans can see any player whenever they want and the distinctions between the National League and American League are approaching non-existent, that may very well be the highest and best purpose for the Game as opposed to some actual semi-serious competition like it was decades ago.

But given this, it is high time baseball take away the one thing that doesn’t fit with all that is today’s All-Star Game: actual baseball consequences.  Take the World Series home field advantage out of the equation. Let the 98% of how Major League Baseball approaches the All-Star Game — fan-friendly fun, promotional event and money maker — rule, and stop making something that matters like home field advantage in the World Series be decided by things that do not matter:

That’s fun and all, but seriously guys, it should have no bearing on the World Series.

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.