JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Pitcher Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins poses for photos on media day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 24, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #2: Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accident

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On the early morning of September 25,the U.S. Coast Guard found the wreckage of a boat, Kaught Looking. It was overturned on a jetty. Three bodies were found. One of them was Jose Fernandez, star pitcher of the Miami Marlins.

The circumstances of the crash would come to light over the ensuing weeks and months. Speed was a factor. Darkness. As was alcohol and cocaine, each of which were found in Fernandez’s system, though it is unclear if he was driving the boat. Of the other two men on board, both had alcohol in their systems, one had cocaine.

Whatever the circumstances of the crash were, the fallout was devastating. Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In those four seasons — only two of them full or mostly seasons — he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and, fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.

While Fernandez found himself at the center of controversy at times, mostly relating to the whole “play the game the right way” debate, those who once found themselves at odds with him but who later came to know him came to be changed by him as well. Every person who dies in tragic circumstances is spoken of highly after their death, but there was a profundity and a sorrow to the words of those who spoke about Fernandez. He touched and affected people who came into contact with him in a unique and remarkable way.

Fernandez won’t be forgotten, especially in Miami. The Marlins plan to retire his number and build a memorial in his honor. Certainly any of us who saw him pitch will never forget him. As is always the case in such situations, however, a memory is a poor substitute for the man who left us far too young.

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #23: A.J. Preller suspended for hiding medical information

A.J. Preller
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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On July 14, the Padres traded pitcher Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox for a good prospect: pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Pomeranz was worth it, though. He had gone 8-7 for a poor Padres squad while posting an excellent 2.47 ERA and making the All-Star team. After acquiring Pomeranz, however, the Sox discovered that he was taking a medication that was not mentioned in the medical reports the Padres shared with Boston.

Later in the month the Padres traded pitchers Colin Rea, Andrew Cashner and Tayron Guerrero to the Marlins for Carter Capps and Jarred Cosart, along with minor leaguers Luis Castillo and Josh Naylor. The very next day, Rea left his first start with the Marlins in the fourth inning with elbow pain which ended up resulting in Tommy John surgery. The Marlins were livid, believing they were traded damaged goods. The Padres denied it.

Major League Baseball investigated the complaints of the Red Sox and Marlins. The Rea trade was partially undone, with Rea being sent back to San Diego and the Padres returning Castillo to Miami with no finding that the Padres did the Marlins dirty. The Pomeranz trade, however, resulted in Padres General Manager A.J. Preller being suspended for 30 games.

The reason for the suspension: MLB found that the Padres maintained two sets of medical records: one which they reported to the league’s central database upon which teams rely when making transactions, and a second, more detailed set for their own purposes. Preller was basically defrauding his trade partners, withholding information which was critical to any team’s decision making in an effort to give San Diego an unfair advantage.

This was not the first time Preller had been accused of and punished for transaction shenanigans. In 2010, when Preller was an assistant GM with the Rangers, MLB suspended him for three months and fined the Rangers for improper negotiations with pitcher Rafael De Paula, an amateur from the Dominican Republic. Preller’s 2010 suspension was reduced to one month without pay. De Paula, coincidentally, was acquired by the Padres before Preller became their GM and now pitches in their system.

The 2016 suspension cost Preller a bit of money and the club was fined as well. Beyond that, however, the discipline was not very severe. The time month in which he served the suspension– late September to late October — is the least-busy month of any team for transaction purposes. Preller was likewise not fined or disciplined by the club itself. For the previous year he had been embarking on a rebuilding process and, as far as the acquisition of minor league talent goes, it has been successful. Preller served his time, came back and continues on as the Padres’ GM to this day. Ethics are important, but baseball teams are in the business of acquiring the best players, and Preller has been pretty good at that.

The only additional fallout: at the November general manager meetings a proposal was made for a formal standard about what must be disclosed regarding a player’s health. At the time the new rule was reported, Preller himself gave quotes about how on-board he was with all of it and how critically important disclosure is.

There’s no enthusiasm like the enthusiasm of a new convert.

Elvis Araujo to play for Chunichi Dragons in 2017

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 15: Elvis Araujo #59 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the top of the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on May 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Reds defeated the Phillies 9-4. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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The Marlins finalized their two-year, $16 million deal with right-hander Brad Ziegler on Friday, designating left-hander Elvis Araujo for assignment in the process. According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, Araujo will play for the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball in 2017.

The 25-year-old southpaw operated out of the Phillies’ bullpen in 2015 and 2016, posting a 5.60 ERA, 9.5 SO/9 and 5.6 BB/9 in 27 1/3 innings with Philadelphia last season. The Marlins claimed him off waivers in November when they were looking for an additional lefty to complement rookie left-hander Hunter Cervenka‘s efforts in the ‘pen. Now, however, it appears the club has changed their tune. Per Tim Healey of the Sun Sentinel, president of baseball operations Michael Hill isn’t looking for a set number of right- and left-handed relievers when it comes to the composition of his relief corps, telling reporters, “Handedness didn’t come into play as much as finding the highest quality [reliever].”

No contract details were given regarding Araujo’s deal with the Chunichi Dragons, but he is currently the only former major leaguer slated for the 2017 roster following the release of middle infielder Anderson Hernandez, right-hander Juan Jaime and left-hander Leyson Septimo.