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Bud Selig releases a statement trying to play down controversy about the selection of his successor

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This is an interesting statement, just released from the Commissioner:

“Since discussions began in January about formulating an orderly process for selecting the next Commissioner, I have stated both privately and publicly that my desire was to conduct a thorough, thoughtful and discreet search that includes the input of all 30 Major League Clubs.  The seven-member Succession Committee, which was named on May 15th and has been chaired with distinction by Bill DeWitt, has accomplished this goal while working independently to get to the point we are today.  While Bill has kept me well-informed, the results of this process are a reflection of the Committee’s work alone, and I have not promoted individual candidates.

“As we approach next week’s vote, I will continue to encourage Clubs to voice their opinions within the confines of this process.  Reports of personal animosity between Jerry Reinsdorf and me – or any other alleged disputes between owners regarding the process or the candidates – are unfounded and unproductive.  I respect the ownership of our 30 franchises and have complete faith that the process will produce an individual that all in Baseball will be eager to support.”

It seems kind of telling that he even needs to make that statement. Next week’s selection — if there is one, even — will be most interesting.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.