Playoff Reset: Orioles, Royals look to wrap it up

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It’s do-or-die time for two of the clubs — the favorites, to many — on the AL side of the postseason bracket. Let’s break down Sunday’s action …

The Game: Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers, American League Division Series Game 3
The Time: 3:30 PM Eastern
The Place: Comerica Park, Detroit
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Bud Norris vs. David Price
The Upshot: It’s cliché, but here is the reason is the Tigers acquired Price. Detroit’s bullpen has been an embarrassment through the first two games of this series, so Price needs to be both good and efficient versus the O’s, taking his start as deep as possible. He’s gone eight innings or longer in five of his 11 outings since leaving the Rays. The Orioles have scored 19 runs already in this best-of-five and will try to break out the big bats again with the champagne on ice.

The Game: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Kansas City Royals, ALDS Game 3
The Time: 7:30 PM Eastearn
The Place: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: C.J. Wilson vs. James Shields
The Upshot: Kansas City’s second postseason home game in 29 years — the first was Tuesday night’s Wild Card thriller — could be a Division Series clincher. What a story. The scrappy, underdog Royals grabbed two extra-inning wins in Anaheim and now “Big Game James” can pitch them into the ALCS. The Angels probably aren’t overjoyed that Wilson has to play the role of savior. He had a rough 4.51 ERA (81 ERA+) and 1.45 WHIP in 175 2/3 innings during the regular season. The Halos will need some offense.

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.