Will Middlebrooks hits three homers as Red Sox crush Blue Jays 13-0

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Third baseman Will Middlebrooks hit three homers and doubled Sunday in Boston’s 13-0 rout in Toronto.

The 24-year-old Middlebrooks became the first player to hit three homers in a game this year, and he’s the youngest player to accomplish the feat since the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen on Aug. 1, 2009.  He was the first member of the Red Sox to pull it off since Dustin Pedroia did it on June 24, 2010 against the Rockies.

Given a chance to go for a fourth homer in the eighth, Middlebrooks flew out to the warning track in left field.

The Red Sox hit six homers in all. Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava went back-to-back in the seventh, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli added bombs in the eighth.

Boston got to 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey for eight runs — seven earned — in 4 2/3 innings today. Only two of the homers were hit off Dickey, though. The remaining four came off journeyman Dave Bush, who was just added to the roster this weekend.

The game featured an odd moment in the top of the fifth, when Edwin Encarnacion opted to play behind Jackie Bradley Jr. on first base with the Jays down 8-0. Bradley took off for second, only to see a foul ball return him to first base. Encarnacion immediately resumed holding him on afterwards, and there were no repercussions when Bradley came to the plate in the seventh. One imagines there would have been had Bradley been running in the seventh or eighth inning instead.

But while not holding runners on in blowouts is a somewhat common occurrence, there’s no way a team should be doing it in the first half of an 8-0 game. More than just about any other team in baseball, the Jays are capable of scoring eight runs in five innings. In Boston’s September 2011 collapse, the Jays once scored six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to beat the Red Sox 11-10.

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.