Ben Badler of Baseball America has an interesting story about a complaint raised by a trainer/agent in the Dominican Republic. He says the Yankees had an agreement to sign his 16-year-old client, Christopher Torres, in June for $2.1 million. And that, indeed, the agreement to sign him come June was reached late last year. Then June 2 came around, the Yankees didn’t sign him, every other team’s bonus pool money was dried up and now Torres is in limbo.
The Yankees deny this, saying that while there were discussions, no offer was ever made. The team simply changed its mind and moved on. Worth noting, however, the MLB had a recent meeting with the Yankees about all of this. No one is talking about it, but it’s possible that someone somewhere thinks the Yankees violated the norms of the signing period.
But apart to Torres himself, the dispute itself is not as interesting for what happened here specifically, but for what it shows us about how international signings work in the capped bonus era.
Teams and teenagers reach handshake agreements — or maybe just nods across a room — months in advance. When they do, it gets disseminated through baseball, causing other teams to back off. This dance is happening earlier and earlier because of the limited amount of money MLB allows teams to spend on international free agents these days. Everyone needs to plan more and plan in advance. When teams’ plans change, however, the kids are the ones left with few options.
Some say the solution to all of this is an international draft. Others say that going back to a system where teams are not so severely limited on signing bonuses is the answer. I fall in the latter camp. Ask yourself: if the Yankees truly were high enough on this kid to offer him big dollars, might another team want to swoop in if he became available? They can’t, though, because by then they’re already tapped out.
It’s rough out there. The international signing game is full of crazy incentives and unfortunate stories like this.
According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.
The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.
Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.
It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.
I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.
The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.
Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”
Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.