Royals and Yordano Ventura agree to five-year extension

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UPDATE: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the deal is done, pending a physical. It’s for $23 million guaranteed.

10:35 a.m. ET: Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it will be a five-year deal with two club options. It will begin this season, so the Royals would buy out all of Ventura’s arbitration seasons while the options would cover his first two years of free agency. The guarantee is expected to be around $22 million, per Passan.

8:55 a.m. ET: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Royals and right-hander Yordano Ventura are in “deep discussions” on a five-year extension which includes an option for a sixth year. The deal would guarantee him north of $20 million.

Ventura is coming off a 3.20 ERA and 159/69 K/BB ratio over 183 innings as a rookie last season. One of the hardest throwers in the majors, the 23-year-old has already had some health concerns, but it appears that he’s just scratching the surface with his potential. The Royals have a knack for getting team-friendly deals done and this would be quite a coup.

Passan compares this deal to Braves right-hander Julio Teheran, who signed a six-year, $32.4 million extension last February with the same amount of service time. Chris Archer, who signed a six-year, $25 million extension with the Rays last April, is another prominent example. Ventura is under team control through 2019, so if the extension kicks in this year, it would cover all of his arbitration seasons and one year of free agency.

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

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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.