Mariners, Rays discussing David Price, Ben Zobrist trade

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In the interests of maximizing their return, the Rays probably aren’t looking to package David Price and Ben Zobrist in the same deal. The Mariners, though, have enough talent to make it worth their while.

According to FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi, the two teams are discussing the pair of All-Stars. They’ll be expensive, as both are under control through 2015. Price is looking at making $17 million-$20 million in arbitration next year, while Zobrist’s contract includes a bargain $7.5 million option for 2015.

Any Price deal between the Rays and Mariners seems likely to include right-hander Taijuan Walker, who first reached the majors last September and is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five major league starts. The 21-year-old is healthy again now after missing the first two months with shoulder inflammation.

The Rays will also be interested in the Mariners’ crop of young infielders, a group that includes current starting shortstop Brad Miller, shortstop prospect Chris Taylor and former first-round picks Nick Franklin and D.J. Peterson. Catcher Mike Zunino would be another obvious target, but the Mariners would have a difficult time trading him with no fallback available.

For Price alone, a deal bringing back Walker, Franklin and a lesser talent might be sufficient for the Rays. Adding Zobrist to the mix, though, would increase the price substantially. Miller’s inclusion makes some sense for both teams. The Rays would love to bring in a long-term shortstop with their own former top prospect, Hak-Ju Lee, having stalled out. Plus, the Mariners could afford to part with Miller if they get Zobrist. For one thing, Zobrist can still play shortstop adequately. Plus, they’d still have the option of giving Taylor a shot and putting Zobrist in the outfield. Taylor has hit .315/.391/.493 in 270 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma this season.

Alternatively, if the Mariners want to do a deal without giving up a big chunk of this year’s team, Peterson would be a nice piece for the Rays. Nominally a third baseman, Peterson projects as a first baseman in the majors. He’s hit .314/.371/.578 with 34 homers in 547 at-bats since being selected 12th overall out of the University of New Mexico last year. He’s currently in Double-A, and he could be ready to replace James Loney by mid-2015.

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.