Rosenthal: the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Indians and Rays are discussing a potential mega deal

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Ken Rosenthal is reporting that a potential blockbuster is brewing. Specifically, a mutli-team, multi-player trade that could involve Arizona, Cleveland, Texas and Tampa Bay with Justin Upton, James Shields and Asdrubal Cabrera being the biggest names involved.

Rosenthal — while cautioning that a deal is not imminent or even particularly likely at the moment — reports that one iteration of the trade would have Justin Upton heading to Texas, Asdrubal Cabrera to Arizona and the Indians getting “a package of young talent,” which could include the Rangers’ Mike Olt.

On paper this makes sense in that the Rangers — who are still mulling signing Josh Hamilton — want a bat, the Diamondbacks want a shortstop for Upton and the Indians need prospects.  Versions of the trade Rosenthal is hearing that include the Rays have James Shields being shipped out in exchange for a bat. He also says that simple two-team trades could easily spin out of this. It’s all very fluid, it seems.

But even if a monster deal like this doesn’t happen — and Rosenthal cautions that the odds are against it due to its difficulty — the mere fact that such talks are going down is instructive. Indeed, its evidence that the ability of teams to simply go out and sign what they need has been greatly curtailed due to a much more sparse free agent market thanks to teams locking up their core players at younger and younger ages.  The Rangers can’t simply add a reasonably-priced bat. The Diamondbacks can’t simply sign a starting shortstop.  Creativity is required.

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.