Bryce Harper’s first two-homer game paces Nats in victory

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Bryce Harper homered in the fourth and fifth innings to drive in three runs Wednesday in the Nationals’ 8-4 victory over the Marlins.

It was the first two-homer game for the 19-year-old Harper. He has 14 homers and 40 RBI in 412 at-bats this season.

Harper was ejected from the game after grounding into a double play in the ninth. He slammed his helmet down on his way past first base, and umpire C.B. Bucknor threw him out.

“Bryce couldn’t control his emotions again,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I had a little chat with him. He’ll get over it. He’s just a hundred-percenter. He expects great things out of himself, breaks bats, throws his helmet. He’s just got to stop it. We can’t afford to be losing him in a ballgame. He’ll learn. He’s young.”

Harper has struggled through July and August, and he entered tonight’s game with a .195 average in 159 at-bats since the All-Star break before breaking through against fellow youngster Jacob Turner. The 21-year-old Turner, making his second major league start after coming over from the Tigers before the trade deadline, allowed five runs in five innings to take a loss.

Even though Harper hasn’t been hitting and he’s been guilty of occasionally misjudging balls in center field, the Nationals have continued to play him regularly and hit him high in the lineup. He made it pay off tonight, but with the way his OBP has tumbled, it’d probably be better if he were batting seventh instead of second.

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.