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Texas Rangers release Josh Hamilton after yet another knee injury

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Josh Hamilton, on a minor league deal with the Rangers, left spring training in late February with a bum knee on which he had surgery. Turns out that, during rehab from that surgery, he injured it again. He was already supposed to be out for 2-3 months, and given the setback the Rangers have done the inevitable: the released him.

The latest setback would likely call for the fourth major procedure on his knee since the end of the 2015 season. He’s had many more knee surgeries in his career as it is. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. At this point you have to ask whether all of that cutting and scoping is going to impact not just his athletic career but his quality of life after baseball.

In light of that, this all but certainly ends Hamilton’s baseball career. An improbable career that, at one point, no one ever thought would get going due to is severe substance abuse issues as a minor leaguer in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays system. But after a late start with the Reds, Hamilton went on to be one of the best players in the game for a time, making five All-Star teams and winning the 2010 MVP Award with the Rangers. He signed a huge contract with the Angels before the 2013 season, but only managed one full season with them during which his production fell off sharply.

If this is the end for Hamilton, it was certainly an interesting playing career. Here’s hoping that whatever he does next brings him peace and joy.

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.