Miguel Cabrera blasts walk-off home run as Tigers defeat the Royals

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It was, as baseball endings go, about as predictable as they come. Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera led off the bottom of the ninth with the game tied 5-5. He was 1-for-4 to that point with an RBI single. Entering the night with a .450 on-base percentage, simply reaching with a single or a walk would have sufficed with Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez waiting in line. But Cabrera, as he has done so often over his career and especially lately, took matters into his own hands. Ahead in the count 3-1, Cabrera blasted Royals reliever Aaron Crow’s 96 MPH fastball over the right field fence for a walk-off home run, his 39th long ball of the season.

It was a back-and-forth game all night long, with the Tigers going up 3-0 after two, then the Royals tying the game at three apiece in the fourth, and then with both teams pecking away at each other throughout the rest of the game for a run at a time. Royals starter Wade Davis could not escape the fourth, while the Tigers bullpen could not hold the fort down after starter Doug Fister exited after six innings.

As Orioles first baseman did not homer tonight, Cabrera now trails him by just five home runs, 44-39. Cabrera leads in RBI at 117-113, and in batting average, .358 to Mike Trout’s .331. Cabrera may still win a second consecutive Triple Crown.

With the win, the Tigers bolster their lead over the third-place Royals in the AL Central to 7.5 games.

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.