Braves prepared to go to arbitration hearing with Martin Prado

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As Matthew mentioned earlier, Martin Prado requested $7.05 million and was offered $6.65 million from the Braves when arbitration figures were exchanged today. With such a small gap between the two sides, one would think that it wouldn’t take much work to get a deal done, but Braves general manager Frank Wren told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this afternoon that there will be no more negotiations with Prado because of a club policy.

 “We are a file-to-go club,” he said, meaning to file a salary figure and then go to a hearing. “Once we exchanged numbers at 1 o’clock today, we don’t negotiate any further. That’s an organization policy that we’ve taken on for a number of years. We would prefer these end in a settlement negotiation, but at the same time, if they don’t that’s obviously a right the player has, and we have to take it to a neutral arbitration panel.”

In other words, now that salary figures have been exchanged, the Braves plan to leave it up to an arbitration panel to decide on one salary or the other for 2013. There are a handful of other teams who have a similar policy in place, including the Blue Jays, Rays and Marlins. Such a policy can pressure players into working out a contract rather than deal with the potential awkwardness of a hearing. The Braves haven’t had an arbitration case go to a hearing since 2001 with John Rocker, but it sounds like they are prepared to go there if Prado doesn’t take their offer of $6.65 million.

Prado earned $4.75 million last season while hitting .301/.359/.438 with 10 home runs, 70 RBI and a .796 OPS last season. The 29-year-old can become a free agent following the 2013 season.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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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.