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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #23: A.J. Preller suspended for hiding medical information

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On July 14, the Padres traded pitcher Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox for a good prospect: pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Pomeranz was worth it, though. He had gone 8-7 for a poor Padres squad while posting an excellent 2.47 ERA and making the All-Star team. After acquiring Pomeranz, however, the Sox discovered that he was taking a medication that was not mentioned in the medical reports the Padres shared with Boston.

Later in the month the Padres traded pitchers Colin Rea, Andrew Cashner and Tayron Guerrero to the Marlins for Carter Capps and Jarred Cosart, along with minor leaguers Luis Castillo and Josh Naylor. The very next day, Rea left his first start with the Marlins in the fourth inning with elbow pain which ended up resulting in Tommy John surgery. The Marlins were livid, believing they were traded damaged goods. The Padres denied it.

Major League Baseball investigated the complaints of the Red Sox and Marlins. The Rea trade was partially undone, with Rea being sent back to San Diego and the Padres returning Castillo to Miami with no finding that the Padres did the Marlins dirty. The Pomeranz trade, however, resulted in Padres General Manager A.J. Preller being suspended for 30 games.

The reason for the suspension: MLB found that the Padres maintained two sets of medical records: one which they reported to the league’s central database upon which teams rely when making transactions, and a second, more detailed set for their own purposes. Preller was basically defrauding his trade partners, withholding information which was critical to any team’s decision making in an effort to give San Diego an unfair advantage.

This was not the first time Preller had been accused of and punished for transaction shenanigans. In 2010, when Preller was an assistant GM with the Rangers, MLB suspended him for three months and fined the Rangers for improper negotiations with pitcher Rafael De Paula, an amateur from the Dominican Republic. Preller’s 2010 suspension was reduced to one month without pay. De Paula, coincidentally, was acquired by the Padres before Preller became their GM and now pitches in their system.

The 2016 suspension cost Preller a bit of money and the club was fined as well. Beyond that, however, the discipline was not very severe. The time month in which he served the suspension– late September to late October — is the least-busy month of any team for transaction purposes. Preller was likewise not fined or disciplined by the club itself. For the previous year he had been embarking on a rebuilding process and, as far as the acquisition of minor league talent goes, it has been successful. Preller served his time, came back and continues on as the Padres’ GM to this day. Ethics are important, but baseball teams are in the business of acquiring the best players, and Preller has been pretty good at that.

The only additional fallout: at the November general manager meetings a proposal was made for a formal standard about what must be disclosed regarding a player’s health. At the time the new rule was reported, Preller himself gave quotes about how on-board he was with all of it and how critically important disclosure is.

There’s no enthusiasm like the enthusiasm of a new convert.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: