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Astros pitcher Cionel Perez: “I feel abused by this system.”

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Back in September, the Astros agreed to a $5.15 million signing bonus with 20-year-old Cuban pitcher Cionel Perez. However, the deal was voided in October due to medical reasons. The two sides reworked the deal down to a $2 million signing bonus. As the Astros will pay a 100 percent luxury tax for going over their 2016-17 international bonus pool, the new deal means the club pays a total of $4 million instead of $10.3 million.

Perez expressed frustration with the situation in a letter sent to Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association. Via Ben Badler of Baseball America, Perez said, “I am happy to begin my professional career but I feel abused by this system.” He added, “I hope that you understand how these rules in my case are extremely unjust and that you make every effort for the necessary adjustments and considerations to be made. Today should be the happiest day of my life, and I cannot help but feel like I’ve just been robbed.”

Perez continued, “I am very happy and I give many thanks to the Astros for giving me the opportunity to sign again, to represent their franchise and most importantly help me achieve my dream. I know I have a great opportunity, and I will do my best to maximize that opportunity in hopes of winning the World Series that they deserve.”

It turns out that, simultaneously, Perez’s initial contract with the Astros is being treated as both real and nonexistent. With regard to the Rule 5 draft, the previous collective bargaining agreement stiuplated that any player who re-signs with a team that voided his contract must be either entered into the Rule 5 draft or put on the 40-man roster. So, in that regard, his first contract is being considered as having existed.

Perez’s initial contract is being considered as nonexistent when it comes to his amateur status. The CBA states that a free agent loses his amateur status under various conditions, one of which is having been previously contracted with a major or minor league team. If Perez’s contract had been considered as having existed, then he would lose his amateur status and be allowed to become a free agent, giving him the potential to earn more money. Perez claims he could earn $10 million from the Orioles if he weren’t considered an amateur.

International players don’t figure to be happy about the new CBA, either, if they decide to come over to the U.S. to play baseball. The new CBA limits international spending at $5-6 million per year per team. No matter which way you look, team owners are always looking to exploit the labor of its player base.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.