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At least one major leaguer is not pleased with the Jon Singleton deal

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An eighth round pick with no big league experience probably doesn’t have a ton of money in the bank. So when he signs a deal that guarantees him $10 million and could net him $35 million despite the fact that he is three years from having any sort of negotiating leverage it’s not exactly a sad story.

But Jon Singleton’s story is an interesting one that goes to the heart of team-player power dynamics. As in, Singleton obtained that $10 million worth of security by giving up the chance to snag many times that amount of money if he’s even a slightly above average major leaguer over the next few seasons. And the Astros used their collectively-bargained leverage over him to maximal levels in order to get that deal. In essence, they told him that if he wants to be in the bigs now, he has to sign. He signed.

While all of that went down between two willing parties and was subject to the clear rules of the system, some people aren’t too happy about that. One of those people is Orioles pitcher Bud Norris, who thinks Singleton made a bad deal that could set a bad precedent for other players:

I get that sentiment. If one player takes a deal that saves the team a ton of money and could cost the player a ton if things break right there will be more attempts by teams to get players to take such deals. Over time, that lowers salaries and that’s not a good thing from the players’ and union’s perspective. And even for Singleton himself, if he comes up and puts up even one good half season before signing anything, he stands to make much more even on a deal that buys out his arbitration and one of his free agent years.

But even if I see all that — and even if I’d handle it differently for myself or advise Singleton differently if I were his agent — I’m having a hard time getting on board with Norris and any other players or union folks who have a problem with this.

For one thing, it’s Singleton’s life and $10 million over five years is likely to change it dramatically. If he got his arm lopped off by a dwarf with a battle-axe tomorrow, he’d have a cushion of cash on which to live. We talk about player and contract value in the quasi-abstract all the time and to some extent we become immune to how large these numbers we talk about are. This is Singleton’s life and Singleton’s choice and union politics aside, that has to be respected.

[RELATED: How does Singleton fit into Houston’s lineup?]

But more to the point: the Bud Norrises of the world (i.e. veteran players) are what subjected Singleton to the Astros’ leverage in the first place. It’s not written in stone that players don’t reach arbitration for three years and free agency for six. That was negotiated by the union. A union which, in recent years anyway, has frequently seen fit to bargain away the rights of amateur and minor league players in negotiations at the expense of things that better-serve veteran players. Why are there slotting and bonus caps in the draft now? Why do minor leaguers make almost zero money and live in deplorable conditions? It’s because no one with the power to help them out — be it the teams who control their destiny in the first instance or the players who could use their power to help them out in the second instance — gives much of a crap about them. Maybe if Singleton’s life in Oklahoma City was more comfortable he’d feel more comfortable waiting the Astros’ out and negotiating a better deal for himself. I guess we’ll never know.

Clearly this is a difficult issue — any gamble on one’s own future that could impact others’ futures brings with it some hard choices — but it takes a pretty entitled and narrow-minded person to not see that Singleton’s incentives were predetermined and his choices somewhat limited by virtue of a system that was set up long before het had to make his choice.

Dexter Fowler: “I didn’t say anything wrong.”

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Dexter Fowler #81 poses for a portrait during St Louis Cardinals Photo Day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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New Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler was recently asked by ESPN’s Mark Saxon how President Trump’s efforts to institute a travel ban affected him and his family. Fowler’s wife is from Iran and Fowler said that he had reconsidered traveling with his daughter to Iran to visit her family. His wife’s sister also delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar as a result of Trump’s executive order. “It’s huge,” Fowler said. “Especially anytime you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

Fowler’s statement was pretty bland as far as athletes wading into political waters go. He didn’t criticize Trump or conservatives, nor did he espouse support for liberals or Democrats. It was a simple statement that his life had been adversely impacted by an executive order.

The responses to Fowler’s comment were mostly awful. The @BestFansStLouis Twitter account highlighted this, as did Jeff Passan for Yahoo Sports and Will Leitch for Sports on Earth. Fans suggested that Fowler “shut up and play” because “nobody cares” and that Fowler is “property” of the Cardinals. The responses were so negative that Fowler tweeted about it:

Fowler, however, isn’t backing down. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” Fowler said. “I think it was taken out of context [by other outlets]. I don’t think people read the article. I think people made their own [headlines]. The question was asked out of empathy to my family, and I appreciate that. If anybody is asking about my family, then I’m going to let them know that, ‘Yeah, obviously it affected my family. My wife is Iranian.’ … I think it’s kind of ignorant of people to just come at me like that and not read the article.”

[…]

“I’m always going to care for my family,” Fowler said. “And if a question is asked out of concern, I’m going to answer the question. And I’m going to answer it truthfully. It’s not to hurt anybody. It’s unfortunate that people think of things that way. I believe they’re sensitive. I’m not the sensitive one. I appreciate the ones that understood.”

Manager Mike Matheny has Fowler’s back. He said, “I think he handled it correctly. He was very clear that he was trying to make a statement about his family [and it] ended up becoming a political statement.”

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, also expressed support for Fowler:

“Baseball players are a microcosm of society, and I was a grown man before I was a baseball player,” Clark said. “If I have a view, I should be willing to share it, while understanding what I’m a part of and what my responsibilities are. Any player understands that when they take a particular position, it may not be a popular one.

“There may be pushback. That shouldn’t be a reason not to have an opinion. In this instance, it’s a very personal one to Dex. I respect the commentators that responded. I respect their freedom to respond to it.”

Indeed, Fowler had every right to say what he said and it’s good to see that both his manager and the head of the MLBPA support him fully. It would have been easy and politically safe to allow Fowler to hang out to dry.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.