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Report: Blue Jays open to offers on Melvin Upton Jr.

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The Blue Jays are reportedly seeking alternatives to 32-year-old outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., according to Buster Olney of ESPN. While their Opening Day roster does not appear to be set in stone just yet, rumor has it that they’re open to offers on the veteran outfielder, and FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman believes the Giants and Rays could be a good fit.

Upton Jr. is coming off of a surprisingly productive season at the plate, during which he batted .238/.291/.402 with 20 home runs and 27 steals for the Padres and Blue Jays in 2016. He saw more playing time and a better production rate in San Diego, but was able to contribute something down the stretch for Toronto and tacked on a pair of hits in 11 postseason PA.

The sudden influx of power and speed that boosted Upton Jr.’s totals in 2016 evaporated in spring training, however. He batted an underwhelming .194/.216/.472 in 14 Grapefruit League games, putting up three home runs and getting caught stealing twice in two attempts. Although he made an interesting candidate for the Blue Jays’ fourth outfield spot, the team will likely go with 29-year-old Ezequiel Carrera or 24-year-old Dalton Pompey in left field, barring any external alternatives.

Of the two potential landing spots mentioned by Heyman, Tampa Bay appears to be in greater need of outfield depth as Opening Day nears. With Colby Rasmus and infielder/outfielder Nick Franklin out of the picture, the Rays are expected to split left field between 23-year-old Mallex Smith and veteran Peter Bourjos. The Giants, on the other hand, appear set with Seth Marrero and Jarrett Parker sharing left field duties, though adding some depth at the position shouldn’t be out of the question just yet.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.