Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario in danger of missing season due to visa issues

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Ronald Belisario’s agent, Paul Kinzer, said yesterday that the Dodgers reliever is in danger of missing the entire season, telling Tony Jackson of ESPNLA.com that “he just has a lot of things he needs to get straightened out.”

Belisario’s arrival at Dodgers camp has been delayed by visa issues for the third year in a row. Last year he didn’t show up until a week or so before Opening Day and spent the first three weeks of the season on the restricted list, later leaving the team for a month due to undisclosed personal reasons.

Kinzer indicated that this year’s visa problems in Venezuela stem from whatever caused Belisario to leave the team last year, explaining that he’s “just not very optimistic” about the right-hander pitching for the Dodgers in 2011. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti is anything but surprised by Belisario’s situation:

When the season ended, I knew we could be walking this path again. I had no misconceptions that this was going to be an easy bridge to cross. Knowing what we went through a year ago, including in-season, I can’t say we built our bullpen with him in it. If he gets back and is in shape and can help our big league club win, we’ll examine it. As of right now, we’re not thinking about it. We will go forward as we are.

Belisario struggled in between all the off-field issues last season, posting a 5.04 ERA in 55 innings after thriving as a rookie with a 2.04 ERA in 71 innings. However, he pitched well in the Venezuelan winter league with 14 saves and a 1.00 ERA. Rather than dropping Belisario altogether the Dodgers can simply place him back on the restricted list, which allows them to retain his rights without committing a 40-man roster spot.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.