Source: A-Rod blew his chance to take a deal for a 50 game suspension

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Buster Olney wrote something that turned my head today. That A-Rod had a plea deal possible back in the spring — for a low, low, number of games — and turned it down:

If Rodriguez had agreed to something last spring, before MLB investigators had all the Biogenesis details from Bosch, Rodriguez might’ve been able to barter for a suspension for something close to 50 games, or what a first-time offender gets for a first positive PED test.  If he had taken responsibility then, owned up and made his best possible deal, then A-Rod probably would’ve been back on the field late in the 2013 season, with the whole matter behind him.

I was skeptical of this when I first read it, as I recalled no report, credible or otherwise, suggesting that A-Rod or any of the Biogenesis-connected players had a plea deal on the table in April or May, which is the timeframe Olney mentions. And certainly no plea deal to A-Rod in the neighborhood of 50 games at any time.

But, inspired by Olney’s report, I made some calls. And Buster was right. According to sources familiar with Major League Baseball’s investigation, there was a window of time — while Rodriguez was still represented by attorneys Jay Reisinger and James Sharp and before Major League Baseball flipped Tony Bosch and got him to cooperate — where A-Rod could have made a deal for a substantially shorter suspension than he ultimately received. Possibly as low as 50 games.

It was apparently not to the level of a formal offer — there aren’t documents or emails regarding this stuff — but informal conversations had begun suggesting such a framework. A-Rod and the legal team which came to represent him through the arbitration rejected the overtures, however. Major League Baseball eventually obtained the cooperation of Bosch and the settlement ship essentially sailed.

I say “essentially” because of reports in July and August — just before the 211-game suspension was announced — that A-Rod and the league were talking about a deal. But those were offers well in excess of 100 games and by that point it was worth the gamble to fight. At the same time, it’s worth remembering that, back in the spring, a 50 game suspension may not have seemed like a great deal — it was uncertain how Major League Baseball would prove its case nor was it clear that MLB had an argument or even a desire to seek more than a 50-game suspension against A-Rod in the first place. But, there was a chance for A-Rod to get back on the field after a suspension — indeed, a suspension he would have served while on the disabled list — and have it all behind him last season.

And, hindsight nor not, A-Rod, it seems, had a chance to save his baseball career. That chance came in the spring. But he blew it.

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.