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Pirates players are seriously peeved at ownership right now

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The Pirates have lost four in a row and eight out of 11 to fall two games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. And things aren’t that pretty off the field either.

According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pirates players are angry at ownership for scheduling a charity event on the team’s scheduled off-day on Thursday. The twist is that it was scheduled the morning after the team returned from their West Coast trip. Kovacevic hears that the team had a bus waiting on the tarmac after their five-hour flight from San Diego to take the players to the Pirates Charities Sporting Clays Invitational at the Seven Springs Resort owned by team chairman Bob Nutting. Yes, after getting swept by the Padres, they were forced to shoot some clay pigeons.

Players who participated in the June 11 Pirates Charities Golf Classic were excused from the shoot, but that still left 10 players who were told to go, including a few key performers, plus pretty much everyone else who’d been on the plane.

What a blast it must have been.

The bus capped the 90-minute drive at Seven Springs by the crack of dawn, way early for the morning session that began at 10:30 and ended at 1 p.m.

By the time all were bused back to PNC Park, retrieved their cars and drove home, it was about 4 p.m.

The day was as shot as those pigeons.

Of the several players with whom I spoke Thursday at PNC Park before that beat-goes-on 6-5 loss to the Brewers, every last one of them fumed over it, though none would speak on the record.

“It’s a pennant race,” one player said. “Maybe everyone around here will realize that at some point.”

Kovacevic later notes that the 10 players involved were given the choice to participate in the shoot as scheduled or have it pushed back to September 6 when they had a true off-day with no travel. They elected to get it over with on Thursday. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for millionaire athletes and charity is an important part of their duties, but this is just some really awful scheduling, regardless of whether the Pirates are contending or not.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.