Sam Seth Levinson

MLB is concerned about ACES’ links to Biogenesis, but it can’t do anything about it

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Over the past several days there have been multiple articles in which the ACES agency, run by the Levinson Brothers, has been scrutinized due to the fact that the vast majority of players suspended in the Biogenesis scandal are or were represented by the agency. ACES was censured by the MLBPA last year in the wake of Melky Cabrera’s suspension for its failure to properly supervise its former consultant, Juan Carlos Nunez, who is alleged to have steered players to Biogenesis and who was behind the efforts of Cabrera to deflect blame for his positive test via the formation of a phony website.

On Monday we reported that no additional adverse action would be taken against ACES. Yesterday we noted how multiple agents are dissatisfied with this and have spoken out against the agency.  Today Bob Nightengale reports that Major League Baseball remains interested in the matter:

Major League Baseball, armed with evidence that every player suspended 50 games Monday in its intensive drug probe were linked by the same agency, plans to turn its attention to baseball agents, particularly Juan Carlos Nunez and the ACES agency.

It may be “turning its attention” to ACES, but there is nothing MLB can do about it.  Agents are sanctioned by the MLBPA, not Major League Baseball. The MLBPA has sole jurisdiction over agents and it has already said that there is no evidence that ACES was aware of or condoned Nunez’s behavior. There is no basis for discipline there and MLBPA will not be taking any. To say MLB is concerned about it is akin to saying MLB is concerned about the weather. It can talk about it all it wants, but it can’t do a thing about it.

Going forward, this story should be seen for what it is: agents trying to gain an advantage over ACES via attempts to leverage bad press. Which, as we noted yesterday, is par for the course for agents. All agents, always.  It’s like a sewing circle.

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

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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.