Tony Clark

The MLBPA is looking into the Ben Wetzler case

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Last week it was revealed that the Phillies reported Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler to the NCAA for using an agent in negotiations with the Phillies after being drafted last summer. Wetzler was suspended for 20 percent of his senior year as a result. The Phillies have received considerable backlash from the report, as reporting the use of agents by amateurs is highly irregular among major league teams.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that the MLBPA is looking into the matter. Quotes from union president Tony Clark:

“The interest is the same we would have in the draft in general,” Clark said. “These guys are connected to our institution. We have some input to the rules and the dynamics (of the draft) and that’s why anything related to it we have a concern about it or a commitment to pay attention to it.

“To that extent, we are gathering information as we speak. Yes, we are concerned. Based on what we find out will determine what, if anything, lends itself to further discussion, but we are concerned enough to be inquiring.”

I’m glad someone is inquiring, though it remains to be seen what if anything the union could do about it. Yes, they have input on the draft. But they have also routinely sold out players subject to the draft in exchange for furthering the interests of major leaguers. That’s why there’s slotting now. If the MLBPA truly advocated for draftees, they would have never agreed to that.

The real danger here is teams using threats of reporting players to the NCAA in order to coerce them to sign on unfavorable terms. That’s something Major League Baseball should be looking into, not just the MLBPA.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.

The Dodgers asked the Tigers about Justin Verlander this offseason

DETROIT, MI - MAY 18: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the first inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins on May 18, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.

It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.

The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.

So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.