The deadline to accept or reject qualifying offers is 5PM today

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source: Reuters

Today at 5pm is the deadline for the 12 free agent players who were given qualifying offers by their 2014 clubs to either accept them or reject them. Here, again, are the players who were given qualifying offers:

Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays
Nelson Cruz, Orioles
Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
Francisco Liriano, Pirates
Russell Martin, Pirates
Victor Martinez, Tigers
Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers
David Robertson, Yankees
Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Ervin Santana, Braves
Max Scherzer, Tigers
James Shields, Royals

If these guys accept their qualifying offer they will be given a one-year deal with their current club for $15.3 million. If they reject, they are free to sign with any team, however the team that signs them will have to give up a first or a second round draft pick (if the signing team has a top-10 pick in next summer’s draft, they will give up a second rounder). Those picks are often called “compensation picks,” but as our friend Joe Sheehan reminds us today via his fantastic newsletter to which you should subscribe, it’s really a punishment to teams for signing free agents, designed specifically to impede the market for players’ services. Why the union ever agreed to that I have no idea, but it was really stupid of them to do so. Alas.

No player, since the advent of the qualifying offer, has accepted one. That seems likely to change this year, partially because we saw a couple of guys end up taking low-price, one-year deals after they couldn’t find a robust market for their services after rejecting the qualifying offer. Partially because a couple of this year’s qualifying offer recipients would, on the merits, be unlikely to find a better deal regardless.

Michael Cuddyer is an obvious example given his recent injury history and the fact that many teams may perceive him as something of a creature of Coors Field at this point in his career. Ervin Santana and Nelson Cruz were two of the guys who had trouble finding jobs last winter due to their last qualifying offers so you could understand it if they accepted, but most reports suggest they will not. It’s possible, however, that Francisco Liriano accepts. Beyond that, it seems like everyone will reject and test the market.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.