How to handle this overstuffed Hall of Fame ballot

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We have a problem here, one that’s going to keep getting worse in future years. The Hall of Fame electorate is permitted to vote for only 10 players per year, but this ballot contains more than 10 Hall of Famers:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Mark McGwire
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Frank Thomas
Alan Trammell

That’s 13 clear Hall of Famers in my book, without even counting the still interesting cases of Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker.

Maddux is getting in. That we know. Biggio, Glavine and Thomas have shots; I’m guessing that all three will end up in the 70-80 percent range (with 75 being the cutoff for election). Perhaps one of the trio will get in, probably Glavine or Thomas, but I doubt all three will.

If two get in, that still doesn’t alleviate things for next year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield are all joining the ballot then.

So, what’s a voter to do? Or at least a stats-friendly voter? Some will check the names of Maddux and Jack Morris, maybe one or two more, and be done with it. But let’s think instead about the more modern voter who recognizes that most or all of these guys above surpass the Hall of Fame standard.

My thought would be to leave Bonds, Clemens and McGwire off the list. I would have voted for all three last year, and I’d vote for the three again. However, I don’t want to take either over cleaner players. Not that everyone else on my 13-man ballot was necessarily clean. I don’t really believe that.

Subtracting those three gives me a ballot of Bagwell, Biggio, Glavine, Maddux, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Thomas and Trammell.

But, I would be wavering on one subject: I’d hate to see Kent fall off the ballot after one year, something I think has a legitimate chance of happening. An adequate defender with a career .290/.356/.500 line, Kent has 76 more homers than any other second baseman in history (377), and he’s second to Rogers Hornsby with 1,518 RBI. That’s not too shabby, and it deserves a heck of a lot more than a one-and-done.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to remove my support from any of the other guys who need it. Maybe take it from the one guy who doesn’t: Maddux. He’s going in, but it’s not like it’d be unanimous anyway. Let’s squeeze Kent in there in his place.

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.