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.

Covid-19 test delays impacting multiple teams

Covid-19 test delays
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Covid-19 test delays — and at least one incident in which testers simply didn’t show up at all — have delayed workouts for at least two teams so far. And at least one team’s general manager is hopping mad about it.

Alex Coffey of The Athletic reported overnight that the Oakland Athletics have yet to have a full squad workout because of COVID-19 test delays. They were supposed to begin such workouts yesterday, but delayed them until today. They have since been delayed again until tonight, and even those may not happen.

Why? Because the initial team tests that are required before allowing the team’s full complement of players and coaches into the facility had not even arrived at MLB’s testing center in Utah as of last night. Indeed, they sat in the San Francisco airport all weekend because no one with MLB or the league’s testing company bothered to account for the Fourth of July holiday and expedite shipping.

Coffey obtained the text message Athletics’ GM David Forst sent to the entire club about the COVID-19 test delays. And, frankly, it’s gobsmacking.

The upshot, as Forst explains in the text, is that the test samples which were collected on Friday and which were due to be in Salt Lake City on Saturday sat at the San Francisco airport because of the July 4 holiday. Which, OK, fine, in which case someone should have changed the shipping instructions for Sunday delivery rather than have it just wait around until Monday like any other package. But no one bothered to do that. Forst, in the text:

On top of screwing up the logistics of this whole thing, neither MLB nor CDT (the company that collects the samples) communicated any of this to us until we pressed them for information, at which point all they could do was apologize, which frankly doesn’t really do much for us. Our best shot is to schedule a workout for [Monday] night with the hope that the samples arrive at the lab on time tomorrow and they are able to turn around your results in a matter of a few hours.

Forst goes on to say that the blame for the COVID-19 test delays “lies with CDT and MLB and I won’t cover for them like I did earlier today.”

The “covering for them” refers to comments Forst made to the media after the initial delay in testing, which he and manager Bob Melvin blew off as a routine delay, with Forst saying “We all know that being flexible and adjusting to the unknowns is going to be part of everything we do this season.” In the text, however, Forst is clearly pissed off:

Despite having our schedule a week ahead of time, they didn’t alert us to the possibility of any complications around July 4th, and once there were issues, they did nothing to communicate that to us or remedy the situation until Nick (Paparesta, the A’s head athletic trainer) and I forced the issue at various times today. If possible, I’m as frustrated and pissed as you are (well, probably not as pissed as Matt is), and I assure you the rest of the staff is as well.” 

“Matt” refers to A’s third baseman Matt Chapman, who expressed his anger at the COVID-19 test delays to Forst. He’s not the only A’s player to be upset about this:

This anger is not merely about delays to workouts which, given how compacted training camp and the season is, matter a great deal and put the A’s at a competitive disadvantage to teams who are already playing simulated games. It also poses health and safety concerns.

Pitchers and catchers have been allowed to report already and without the test results they have no idea if COVID-19 is spreading in the clubhouse or if any of them need to be isolated. Diekman has specific reason to be concerned as his history of ulcerative colitis, which caused him to have part of his colon removed a few years back, puts him in the “at risk” category. The A’s, now, get to sit around most of today waiting for testing results that, per Coffey’s report, likely, at best, arrived at the Utah testing facility after 1AM this morning.

And the MLB Covid-19 test delays, it seems, are not limited to the Oakland Athletics. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that down in Anaheim, the testers who conduct saliva tests for the Los Angeles Angels simply did not show up as scheduled yesterday. Rosenthal says that it led to Angels players conducting their own tests. He said that it was unclear if the tests were shipped to lab in Utah — the AWOL testers are supposed to do that — but he does note that today’s workouts were pushed back from 9 am to noon, most likely to account for the testing screwup.

Rosenthal says “two other, unidentified teams had same issue on Sunday,” which suggests as many as four teams, including the Athletics and Angels, are experiencing COVID-19 test delays.

This, to say the least, is inexcusable. Major League Baseball has based its entire, radical 2020 season structure on extensive health and safety protocols and an extensive COVID-19 testing regime. There is already concern on the part of some that, even with such protocols and testing, playing the 2020 season is too risky, but it’s undeniable that there is zero way for professional sports to be conducted in a pandemic without such protocols or with material COVID-19 test delays.

Mere days into the endeavor, however, we have all of this.