Indians manager already thinking ahead to 2013

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After an 11-game losing streak knocked his team out of contention for 2012, Indians manager Manny Acta is looking ahead towards next year.

“It’s no secret, we’re going to need to improve our offense,” Acta told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We’re going to have to find a solution in left field, we’re going to have to find a solution at first base and we’re going to have to find a solution at DH. That’s pretty obvious.

“And the third base situation is not determined either. Lonnie [Chisenhall] has a broken arm. The guys that are here right now are fine and doing what they can, but we expect more.”

They may expect it, but they weren’t willing to pay for it previously, which is how they wound up with bargain-basement players Casey Kotchman, Johnny Damon, Shelley Duncan and Jose Lopez getting a bunch of at-bats this year.

At least the Indians will finally be out from under Travis Hafner’s contract this winter. Hafner is still pretty productive when he plays, but since he can’t even stay healthy as a DH, the Indians might not want him back even at a huge paycut. The Indians will also likely move on from Grady Sizemore now that they have Michael Brantley established in center field.

It should give them a fair amount of money to play with as they address their lineup. Considering that they’re completely set up middle with Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana and they’ll still have Shin-Soo Choo in right for another year, they should have the ability to put together a much improved lineup without having to completely revamp the budget.

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.