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Clean up your baserunning rules, MLB

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Obviously, 7.13 — the new, experimental plate-blocking rule — has been a big topic of conversation this year and will continue to be so. The rule has clearly done what it was designed to do — prevent collisions at home plate — while being unclear about everything else. I imagine it will get some clarifications this winter. But it’s not the only thing that needs touching up.

For instance, this happened in the Yankees-Orioles game Wednesday night.

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Stephen Drew was called out for running inside the line on his little dribbler here. Though he wasn’t inside the line. He was on the line running directly to first base.

I’ve always been of the belief that baserunners are given too much leeway in this particular situation; right-handed hitters often get away with running a foot or more inside the line, and no matter how egregious the line taken, there’s usually no call at all unless the ball pegs the runner; if the catcher throws over the head of the first baseman or misses wide, he’s almost always out of luck.

Of course, there’s a good reason for runners to run inside the line even if there is no throw to interfere with; the bag is in fair territory.

There’s an easy fix for this, one I advocated last year before I even knew the product existed; a double-wide first base bag that extends into foul territory. The fielder gets the fair side, the baserunner gets the foul side. Not only does it settle plays like this once and for all, but it should reduce collisions at first base.

Win-win.

Collisions are a big pet-peeve of mine, as many know. That’s why I’m happy about Rule 7.13, even if it needs work. Another rule that needs work: 7.09(e).

(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

That’s the double play rule. It’s the lone rule that covers the baserunner barreling into the second baseman or shortstop on a double play. Notice how it doesn’t say anything about being within an arm’s length of second base. There’s nothing like that. Essentially, the rule, as it’s written, makes it clear that if a baserunner intentionally attempts more than a routine slide into second to try to break up the double play, he’s out and the batter is out.

Personally, I’d be happy if that was the way it was called on the field, too. I don’t like baseball being a contact sport. I don’t like preventable injuries. I realize this puts me in the minority. I don’t expect baserunners breaking up double plays to be declared illegal anytime soon… except it already is illegal. It’s just one of those rules that’s completely ignored. And it’s not the only one. After all, it’s not like 7.13 was simply created out of thin air; it was always illegal for catchers to block home plate without the ball. It just wasn’t one of those rules that was ever applied.

MLB has several rules that could use a once over, few more than the double play rule. My suggestion would be to tear it up and create a new rule that states that the baserunner has to show intent to slide into second base while breaking up the double play. If he’s not at least reaching towards second base while sliding wide or if he’s unable to hold the bag while oversliding second base, then it should be an automatic double play.

For instance, we all remember last week when Nick Ahmed gave the Diamondbacks a victory by deflecting a double play relay with his arm in a game against the Pirates. Regardless of that deflection, it should have been an illegal slide anyway.

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That was pretty willful and obvious, was it not?

So, new commish, whoever you may be, don’t skimp and address only 7.13 this winter. There are other rules, between the lines, that need fixing.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.