I don’t know if the union did everything it could in defending Alex Rodriguez in his arbitration, but it is apparently doing a piss-poor job of explaining to its players that threatening other union members for exercising their legal rights in appealing discipline from the league is a pretty dumb precedent for a union to set.
That’s what, according to this report from Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo!, MLBPA players reps attempted to do when Alex Rodriguez filed his lawsuit against the MLBPA following the arbitrator’s decision handing him a 162-game suspension. Player reps voted to have him expelled, only to be told it wasn’t legally possible. Then one of them told Passan and Brown that, if A-Rod plays again, he should be hit “and hit hard” He then compared A-Rod unfavorably to Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta because, unlike A-Rod, “they took their medicine.” Moreover:
“[Rodriguez] needs to be scared of coming back and facing people he sued. If he can’t fear the wrath of getting kicked out or not being included, he’s going to be forced out.”
This is crazy. As I noted two weeks ago, suing the MLBPA is a legal prerequisite for having his suspension overturned pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. Rodriguez has an exceedingly small chance of success, of course, but if he or any other player who ever wishes to appeal an adverse arbitration result to federal court has any shot of winning, he has to name the union in the lawsuit.
Is A-Rod being a jerk? Yeah, probably. Do players have a right to hate him? Sure, who doesn’t hate him at this point? But there’s a big difference between hating a guy and actually attempting to blackball a guy from the union and then suggesting he’ll be physically harmed simply because he is exercising his legal rights in a labor fight with management. That’s the kind of thing that, no matter how good it feels to do when someone like A-Rod is involved, seriously undermines a union’s power and legitimacy and hampers its efforts to help less unpopular players who find themselves wanting to exercise their rights in the future.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.