MLB owns a stake in daily fantasy sports

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You may be familiar with the relatively new business segment of daily fantasy sports. Run by companies such as FanDuel* or DraftKings, players of daily fantasy draft a team of actual athletes who then score fantasy points according to set scoring rules specific to the site. As far as that goes, it’s just like regular fantasy sports.

The difference: instead of having your team all season and trading with other players in a league, the daily fantasy sports player plays his team for just one day. Generally, you pay an entry fee or set up an account and collect winnings at the end of the day. In this way it has an awful lot in common with sports gambling but, based on certain rules and definitions contained in federal law, it is not classified as gambling. It’s legal in 45 states as well. While the segment was just invented in 2009, it’s a huge, huge business which is growing rapidly. At present, Over 3 million people play daily fantasy games.

Sports leagues have taken notice. And not, as one may have assumed several years ago, because it has some elements of gambling to it and the leagues view it as a threat. Rather, the leagues have viewed it as a hot business with which to get involved. From the Washington Post:

In 2013, with no fanfare, Major League Baseball purchased a financial stake in DraftKings. Last summer, the NBA announced a partnership with FanDuel that, according to a person familiar with the terms, gave the league an ownership stake greater than 2.5 percent of the company.

Which means when you plunk down your money on a FanDuel fantasy contest, a small portion trickles back to the real league.

The article quotes one sports law expert as saying “Depending on how broad your definition of gambling is the NBA runs a sports book.”

Maybe that’s putting it too strongly — again, federal law views this differently because actual game outcomes are not wagered on, even if individual performances are, however indirectly. But it is an interesting development, particularly for baseball, which has always been way, way, way more wary of gambling than any other sport.

Just another data point to throw into the general conversation about baseball and gambling. A conversation which seems to come up more and more often these days. And one which, it seems, is turning away from the idea of sports leagues keeping gambling away and more towards figuring out how to get in on some of the action.

*Full disclosure: NBC has an ownership interest in FanDuel and FanDuel has, in the past, advertised on HardballTalk and other NBC Sports sites. 

Asdrubal Cabrera requests trade from Mets

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It’s shortstop or bust for Asdrubal Cabrera, who told reporters Friday that he will request a trade from the Mets after getting bumped to second base (via Newsday’s Marc Carig). Cabrera served as the club’s starting shortstop through the first few months of the 2017 season, but lost the role to Jose Reyes while serving a stint on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb. The switch was confirmed prior to the Mets’ series opener against the Giants on Friday, prompting Cabrera to announce his trade request before taking the field.

Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo:

Personally, I’m not really happy with that move,” Cabrera said. “If they have that plan, they should have told me before I came over here. I just told my agent about it. If they have that plan for me, I think it’s time to make a move. What I saw the last couple of weeks, I don’t think they have any plans for me. I told my agent, so we’re going to see what happens in the next couple weeks.

Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson appeared skeptical of Cabrera’s request, telling reporters that he wasn’t sure a trade was “something [Cabrera] really wishes” and saying the team would wait and see how the situation shakes out. That doesn’t mean the veteran infielder will see a return to short anytime soon, however, only that he might have a change of heart after settling into his new role.

This isn’t the first time Cabrera has balked at a position change. The Mets reportedly considered shifting him to third base earlier this season, but ultimately decided to keep him at short and denied his request to pick up his $8.5 million option for 2018, something Alderson said has little to no precedent. Further changes may be on the horizon when 21-year-old infield prospect Amed Rosario gets called up from Triple-A Las Vegas and second baseman Neil Walker returns from the disabled list, though the team has yet to address either situation.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.