Matthew Pouliot

Darin Ruf

It’s not just about Kris Bryant: let’s fix the option rules, too.

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That Kris Bryant will begin the season in the minors for financial purposes is a subject that should rile up fans. The way teams are encouraged to send down prospects so that they can control them for 6.9 years, rather than 6.0, is a problem, one that lacks any sort of obvious fix. Others have tried ways around it. But it’d take a major revamping, as well as a players union willing to make concessions on behalf of players often not currently part of the union.

So, don’t hold your breath.

My purpose today, though, is to address a different sort of roster problem, one that affects more players. And whereas the Kris Bryant-type situations tends to affect players likely to make tens of millions of dollars in their careers, mine affects the fringe players, the ones who probably won’t ever get the big payday.

I speak of option rules, and the need to change the system.

This right now is the time of year that teams are settling their final few roster spots. Frequently, those spots come down less to performance and more to who can be easily sent to Triple-A and who can’t. When it comes to relievers and the bench, teams would rather preserve their organizational depth and keep players without options remaining

(For those unaware, out-of-options players have to go on waivers, and thus can be claimed by any team, before they can be sent to the minors. Players typically have three option years, which kick in once they are added to the 40-man roster (players with fewer than five seasons of professional experience can be awarded a fourth option year). Players can be sent down many separate times in a season, but it still only accounts for the one option year.)

My problem with the option rules is that age plays no part in the process. A 16-year-old kid signed out of the Dominican Republic can be added to the 40-man roster at 20-21 and run out of options at age 23-24. The Mets’ Wilmer Flores is this year’s best example; he’s just 23, but the Mets won’t be able to send him down if he gets off to a lousy start as their shortstop. The Tigers’ Hernan Perez turns 24 on this very day. Detroit would almost surely prefer to send him down to play regularly in the minors, but they know there’s a good chance he’d be claimed on waivers.

On the other hand, a 22-year-old player drafted out of college doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster until he’s 25 or 26. He might not run out of options before age 29. The Phillies’ Darin Ruf is 28. He’s spent time in the majors the last three years, hitting .251/.339/.466. If he were placed on waivers, he’d surely be grabbed by some team looking for a right-handed hitter with power. The Phillies, though, can and probably will continue to jerk him around between Triple-A and the majors, perhaps because they’ll want to carry 24-year-old Cesar Hernandez, who is out of options.

The Pirates’ Jared Hughes is 29, and he had a 1.96 ERA in 64 1/3 innings last year. However, he has an option year left, whereas fellow bullpen options Radhames Liz, Stolmy Pimentel and Arquimedes Caminero don’t. There’s no way the Pirates would choose any of those guys over Hughes given a level playing field, but since it isn’t, there’s the chance Hughes could be optioned out.

It can be even worse for late bloomers. The Blue Jays sent down 31-year-old Steve Delabar on Thursday. Since he’s a former indy leaguer, he still has the option year. Judging from his anger, he’d much rather be on waivers and get claimed by another team. The Reds are counting on 31-year-old Jumbo Diaz as a big part of their pen this year, but if he struggles for a couple of weeks, he can be sent down.

I’d like to see option rules altered to account for age of players. I don’t think a team should be able to send down a 28-year-old another team could use, and I don’t think a team should be forced to keep a 24-year-old who isn’t ready for the majors. There should be a compromise available somewhere, right? The owners would go for it, since they’d just as soon play the best players. It might be a bit tougher sell for the union, since the younger players being held back have more long-term earnings potential than the older fringe players. Still, I would hope the union would rather see players judged on merit than on how many options they have remaining.

My compromise wouldn’t be too drastic. I’d leave the 40-man roster and Rule 5 draft rules intact and simply propose that no player by allowed to run out of options before his age-25 season and that players would automatically go on the out-of-options list at age 28. Whether a player has options at age 25, 26 and 27 would still be governed by he’s used up his three options years or not.

Of course, I’m not holding my breath for this kind of alteration, either. Change comes very slowly, unless it’s a change that translates quickly and obviously into dollars gained. This doesn’t really do that. It just makes things a bit more fair for the non-Kris Bryants in the game.

For your consideration: the Rotoworld Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide

draft guide
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One thing we don’t do nearly enough here at HardballTalk is try to sell you things. That changes today. Well, no, not in general. But for one day, anyway, we’d like to sell you on the Rotoworld Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide.

The Draft Guide is the product of months of work from HBT writers D.J. Short, Drew Silva and yours truly. Bill Baer even joined in the fun with some articles this year. Also featured from Rotoworld are Ryan Boyer and Nathan Grimm.

Included in the draft guide are 1,000 player profiles, 1,500 projections, a top 300 list for mixed leagues and top-280 lists for both AL- and NL-only leagues. There are prospect lists, and articles on strategy. We have a mock draft and a mock mixed auction to peruse. We’re doing a mock keeper draft tonight, and we plan to keep up with the mock drafts until Opening Day. The rankings are customizable, and just about everything is printable. All of the rankings and projections will be updated continuously throughout the spring.

I think that about sums it up. I’m biased, but I think it’s our best effort ever. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on twitter.

David Wells cheats on wife, gets gruesome injury

david wells perfect game
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(Editor’s note: Wells has confirmed that the following series of tweets was intended as a joke.)

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Maybe 239-game winner David Wells won’t be having himself a particularly enjoyable Valentine’s Day after a case of infidelity came back to bite him (literally) on Friday night.

In his own tweets:

That’s the full story, barring further tweets. The only one who’d seem to come out of it looking very good is his wife’s orthodontist.

[ RELATED: Remembering David Wells’ perfect game ]

Report: Marlins to get 2017 All-Star Game

Marlins Park stadium
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Multiple sources told the Miami Herald that MLB will soon announce that the 2017 All-Star Game has been awarded to Marlins Park.

It’ll be the first All-Star Game played in Florida (the Rays have never hosted). The Marlins were originally awarded the 2000 All-Star Game, only to have it taken away from them and given to Atlanta. After opening their new stadium in 2012, they were originally expected to get the 2015 All-Star Game, but that was given to Cincinnati instead.

With San Diego’s Petco Park hosting in 2016, it means that an NL park will have the All-Star Game in three consecutive seasons. While that should be a meaningless distinction, considering that MLB 12 years ago took the incredible step of letting the All-Star Game determine World Series home-field advantage, it seems quite unfair that the NL should get to host three in a row.

The Nationals, who have yet to host since arriving in D.C. in 2008, are also viewed as a strong candidate to get a Midsummer Classic in the near future.

Braves add Jose Veras to their suddenly aged bullpen

Jose Veras
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The 2014 Braves didn’t get a single relief appearance from a pitcher in his 30s. With John Hart at the helm, the 2015 Braves are going in a much different direction with the bullpen.

34-year-old Jose Veras is Hart’s latest pickup for the relief corps, joining Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Josh Outman and Matt Capps. Like Capps, Veras is getting a minor league deal, though he seems like a pretty good bet to claim a spot.

After saving 21 games with a 3.02 ERA in 2013, Veras received a one-year, $4 million deal to close for the Cubs last year. He was an immediate bust, amassing an 8.10 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, but after rejoining the Astros, whom he pitched for during the first two-thirds of 2013, he had a 3.03 ERA and a 37/16 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. Over the last three seasons, he had a 3.64 ERA and a 189/89 K/BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.

As things stand now, Craig Kimbrel, Grilli, Johnson and James Russell would seem to be guaranteed spots in the Atlanta bullpen. Outman and Veras will be clear favorites for two of the three remaining spots. Ideally, Shae Simmons would be there, too, but the youngster needs to prove he’s healthy after missing most of the second half of last season with shoulder troubles. Lefties Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas will also provide competition.