UPDATE: It’s a done deal now. Two years and $8.75 million, with a $5.75 million option for 2014.
Not having an owner isn’t stopping the Dodgers from spending money this offseason.
Matt Kemp’s eight-year, $160 million contract is all but finalized and now Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that the Dodgers are “on the verge” of signing free agent second baseman Mark Ellis to a two-year contract.
According to Olney the deal is worth around $4.5 million per season, which is a big commitment for a 35-year-old who hit just .248 with a .288 on-base percentage and .346 slugging percentage in 132 games for the A’s and Rockies this season.
Ellis gets $1 million more per season than 38-year-old Jamey Carroll got from Minnesota last week, but Carroll is expected to play shortstop and is coming off the two best seasons of his career.
In his prime Ellis was an elite, underrated defender with a decent bat, but few players remain huge assets defensively beyond their mid-30s and Ellis has just 12 homers in 256 games during the past two seasons after posting double-digit homers every year from 2005-2009.
We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.
As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.
Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.
As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.
While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.
Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.