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Your 2014 Home Run Derby Preview

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Yes, I poo-pooed the Home Run Derby earlier today, but it’s still a thing that’s happening so it’s not like we’re going to ignore it. Indeed, let’s break this thing down. At least to some degree.

The captains, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista have picked their teams, and they break down like this:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Troy Tulowitzki
Giancarlo Stanton
Yasiel Puig
Todd Frazier
Justin Morneau

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Jose Bautista
Josh Donaldson
Adam Jones
Brian Dozier
Yoenis Cespedes

Some big names with big power there. I tend to like the NL Field better, as it has the guy with the most raw power in all of baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, a highly-underrated power guy in Todd Frazier — he has hit several 450-foot+ homers this year — and a former Derby champ in Justin Morneau. Not that the AL field is bad. Cespedes won it last year and no one can doubt Bautista’s power. I just think the NL has to have the edge here.

The format may be the biggest star, however. It’s different this year, designed to keep guys fresher longer. Which has been a problem in the past, as performers who light it up early often run out of gas in the later rounds (think Josh Hamilton in 2008). This year players will be limited to seven outs, instead of 10. Also, the two guys who lead their league in first-round homers will get a second round bye and head straight to the semi-finals, thus rewarding the quick starters with a nice break.

Six players will advance out of the first round (the two league leaders and the four guys at large) and two will advance out of the second round to face the two bye-recipients in the semis. The two finals participants will get seven outs apiece, and, if it comes down to a tiebreaker, they’ll get three swings apiece.

Here is how Vegas breaks it down:

Giancarlo Stanton: 2/1
Yoenis Cespedes: 5/1
Jose Bautista: 5/1
Yasiel Puig: 6/1
Troy Tulowitzki: 13/2
Josh Donaldson: 10/1
Adam Jones: 12/1
Brian Dozier: 12/1
Todd Frazier: 12/1
Justin Morneau: 15/1

Like I said last week, I think Todd Frazier and Justin Morneau are being slept on somewhat. Maybe Brian Dozier too. But, as always, we have no real clue until they start to grip it and rip it tonight.

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays will also try to sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson gets up after being unable to handle an infield single by Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.

Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.

This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

Jose Bautista Blue Jays
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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.