Report: Braves offered four-year contact to Hector Olivera; Cuban infielder seeking six years

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The latest from Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com …

The Braves have offered a four-year deal to star Cuban free agent Hector Olivera, but at least the Padres, Giants and bigger-spending Dodgers are in the mix and multiple teams are thought to be offering five years. The A’s and Marlins also have been connected to Olivera, though it isn’t known how involved those teams are.

Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported late last week that the Dodgers had offered Olivera a $77 million contract, but the 29-year-old second baseman surely would have signed with Los Angeles by this point if that figure was accurate.

Spencer also heard from sources that the Marlins offered $53 million, the Padres offered $52 million, and the Braves came in at $44 million. Those numbers do jibe with some of Heyman’s most recent reporting.

Olivera was a .323/.407/.505 hitter in 10 seasons with Asvispas de Santiago of Cuba’s Serie Nacional. There have been questions raised about the structure of his throwing elbow, but sources close to Olivera have flatly denied that the elbow is an issue at all. This whole situation remains shrouded in mystery.

Olivera’s agent, Greg Genske, says a deal will “likely” be completed by the end of this week.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.