When the Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians this offseason they knew it might only be a one-year pickup with free agency right around the corner, but general manager Walt Jocketty told C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer that they’ll “do everything we can” to re-sign him.
Choo has been fantastic this season, playing center field better than most people expected and hitting .285 with 21 homers, 109 walks, and a .426 on-base percentage that ranks second among NL hitters behind only teammate Joey Votto. And at age 31 he’s in line for a huge payday as one of the best players on the open market this winter.
According to Jocketty the Reds have reached out to Choo and agent Scott Boras about a potential long-term deal, but “he’s wanted to wait or maybe Scott wants to wait until the year is over.”
If the Reds fail to re-sign Choo they have the fastest man in baseball, Billy Hamilton, waiting in the wings to replace him in center field, although for all the excitement Hamilton brings to the table as a runner he didn’t hit much at Triple-A this season and certainly won’t come anywhere close to Choo’s outstanding on-base skills. Hamilton had a .304 OBP at Triple-A.
And with the Reds’ projected 2014 payroll already over $100 million Jocketty may have his hands somewhat tied when it comes to keeping Choo.
Rays pitcher Chris Archer doesn’t see himself joining Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest any time soon, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports. Archer said, “From the feedback that I’ve gotten from my teammates, I don’t think it would be the best thing to do for me, at this time. I agree with the message. I believe in equality.”
Archer continued, “I don’t want to offend anybody. No matter how you explain it or justify it, some people just can’t get past the military element of it and it’s not something I want to do, is ruffle my teammates’ feathers on my personal views that have nothing to do with baseball.”
Archer did express admiration for the way Maxwell handled his situation. The right-hander said, “The way he went about it was totally, I think, as respectful as possible, just letting everybody know that this doesn’t have anything to do with the military, first and foremost, noting that he has family members that are in the military. It’s a little bit tougher for baseball players to make that leap, but I think he was the right person to do it.”
Maxwell recently became the first baseball player to kneel as the national anthem was sung, a method of protest popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As Craig explained yesterday, baseball’s hierarchical culture has proven to be a strong deterrent for players to express their unpopular opinions. We can certainly see that in Archer’s justification. Archer was one of 62 African Americans on the Opening Day roster across 30 major league clubs (750 total players, 8.3%).
Last night the Trump Administration announced a new batch of restrictions on people traveling from foreign countries, following up on its previous travel ban on persons from six predominately Muslim countries. The latest restriction could potentially touch on Major League Baseball, however, as it includes Venezuela.
The restriction for Venezuela is far narrower than the others, only blocking visas for government officials on business or tourist travel from Venezuela. There has been considerable uncertainty about the scope and enforcement mechanisms for the previous travel ban, however, and the entire matter is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. With that uncertainty, many around Major League Baseball have asked how and if the league or the union might respond to an order that, while seemingly not facially impacting baseball personnel or their families, could impact them in practice.
To that end, Major League Baseball issued a statement this afternoon, saying “MLB is aware of the travel ban that involves Venezuela and we have contacted the appropriate government officials to confirm that it will not have an effect on our players traveling to the U.S.” It is not clear whether it has, in fact, received such confirmation or if its an ongoing dialog or what.
Again: the ban shouldn’t impact baseball players or their families based on its terms. But based on what we saw with the enforcement of the previous one — and based the unexpected consequences many major leaguers faced when international travel restrictions were tightened following the 9/11 attacks — it’s only prudent for Major League Baseball to make such inquiries and get whatever assurances it can well in advance of next February when players from Venezuela will be coming back to the United States for spring training.