Don’t call it a comeback: Angels win seventh in a row

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Behind five shutout innings from starter Billy Buckner and four shutout innings from the bullpen, the Angels blanked the Royals 7-0 this afternoon. Hank Conger and Josh Hamilton each contributed solo home runs to aid in the offensive effort. The win is the Angels’ seventh in a row, bringing their record up to 22-27. They’re still 9.5 games behind the 31-17 Rangers, who play the Mariners later tonight.

Over those seven games, the Angels have received some much-improved starting pitching, but they really have Mike Trout to thank. He contributed a cycle on May 21 and had multi-hit games in four consecutive games entering today. Trout ended April with a .766 OPS, but it was .963 after last night’s victory.

With Jered Weaver on his way back and the Angels starting to hit their stride, better fortune may await them in the coming months. On May 25 last season, the Indians led the AL Central at 26-19 with a five game lead. The Tigers ended up winning the division; the Indians finished in fourth place, 20 games back. This isn’t to say there’s a remotely likely chance that happens to the Rangers and Angels, but it is just a reminder that the standings at the end of May may not hold through the final four months. In other words: don’t write off the Angels just yet.

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.