Sam Seth Levinson

Competitors squawk, but MLBPA unlikely to punish ACES for Biogenesis clients

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I reported yesterday that, despite the fact that the majority of the players disciplined in the Biogenesis scandal are (or were) represented by the Levinson brothers’ ACES agency, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA was unlikely to take any disciplinary action against the agency. The reason: there is no evidence suggesting that the agency was aware that its players were utilizing Biogenesis. Rather, it was a former consultant, Juan Carlos Nunez, who served as the vector between the clinic and the players. ACES was censured by the MLBPA for its failure to supervise Nunez and Nunez has been fired.

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish writes today, however, that competing agencies are not happy about this, and quotes many of ACES’ competitors calling for it to be disciplined. They are skeptical of the claim that Nunez was some rogue and all claim that, even if the union doesn’t do anything to punish them, they will lose clients through natural attrition and the sense among players that ACES was a bad actor in the Biogenesis affair.

Which, OK, everyone is entitled to an opinion on this. And yes, it looks pretty bad that one agency was so well-represented.  But I’ll observe that these are competitors to ACES talking and there is nothing that brings out sports agents’ teeth like some blood in the water.

Most fans don’t pay attention to the back-and-forth between agents that goes on, but those who do know that every time one agency is in the news for something even remotely negative, other agents come out of the woodwork to pile on. Ask Paul Kinzer about the coverage he got when he got into a public tiff with Francisco Rodriguez. Ask Scott Boras when he had clients still unsigned late into spring training in the past couple of years. There are always stories quoting competing agents when that stuff happens, talking about how the guy in the spotlight really isn’t doing his clients right. With the implicit statement that his clients should and will shop around for new representation. For cryin’ out loud, we now have (quasi) agents recording dis tracks about their perceived competition. It’s a brutal business.

None of which is to say that the ire at ACES isn’t natural and even understandable. They aren’t likely to be penalized by MLBPA over it all, but one can see how it other agents might be bent out of shape.  It is to say, though, that I’d be way more surprised if ACES’ competitors didn’t come after them than to see what they’re saying now. That would be truly unusual.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.