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MLB to test new extra-innings rules, including starting with a runner at second base

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Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Major League Baseball will test new extra-innings rules in rookie ball this season. One of those rules includes starting extra innings with a runner on second base. That rule is already implemented in the World Baseball Classic, but starting with the 11th inning, as the Chicago Tribune reported.

MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre is in favor of the experimentation. “Let’s just see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time,” Torre said. He continued, “It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”

The proposed change would have some tangible benefits, such as shortening games, reducing the stress of travel after those long games, and limiting abuse of pitchers’ arms.

The minor leagues have been Major League Baseball’s laboratory for rule changes because those alterations don’t need union approval… because there is no union. Both the owners and the players’ union would have to come to an agreement to adopt this proposed extra-innings rule at the major league level, so it seems unlikely that would happen in the very near future.

There were 189 extra-inning games last season out of 2,430 games played, or 7.6 percent. Of those 189 games, 75 lasted 10 innings (40%), 50 lasted 11 innings (26%), 31 lasted 12 innings (16%), 19 lasted 13 innings (10%), and 14 lasted 14 innings or longer (7%). 26 players who are typically position players pitched last season, and only two of those players were brought in during extra innings: Darwin Barney (19th inning on July 1) and Ryan Goins (18th inning also on July 1).

It seems, based on this data, that long extra-innings games — even those involving position players pitching — aren’t really that big of an issue. That being said, reducing the length and amount of extra-inning games in the minors could be very helpful because it will help preserve many young, developing arms and potentially avoid otherwise unnecessary injuries.

Yasiel Puig is still a free agent

Yasiel Puig
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Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.

There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.

The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.