U.S. tops World 6-4 in All-Star Futures Game

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The U.S. squad received scoreless performances from nine of its 10 pitchers and got a homer from Indians prospect Jason Kipnis in winning the All-Star Futures Game 6-4 on Sunday.

Kipnis homered to start the bottom of the first of Braves phenom Julio Teheran, and the U.S. went on to build a 3-0 lead through five before the World Team touched Cleveland’s Drew Pomeranz for four runs in the sixth.

Keying the World rally were a two-run homer from Dodgers prospect Alfredo Silverio and an RBI triple from the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar.  Pomeranz was unable to finish the sixth, making way for the Twins’ Kyle Gibson after giving up three hits and a walk.

The U.S. came back to win by scoring three times in the eighth.  Grant Green, who took over for Kipnis at second base, drove in a run with his second double in two at-bats and was named the game’s MVP afterwards.

Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart picked up the win after striking out two in a perfect eighth.  The Mets’ Matt Harvey retired the only batter he faced in the ninth for the save.

Bryce Harper, the prospect most were there to see, played the whole game, only to end up 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

The Rays’ Matt Moore, who was picked over Teheran as the game’s top pitching prospect by Baseball America last week, put on the best show of all the premium arms.  He was consistently in the high-90s while throwing a perfect fourth.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.