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Diamondbacks sign Ketel Marte to a five-year, $24 million extension

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The Diamondbacks and Ketel Marte have agreed to a five-year, $24 million extension. The deal includes two option years for $22 million total. The extension was first reported by Robert Murray of FanRag Sports.

Marte, 24, was going to be arbitration-eligible for the first time this coming winter as a Super Two player, meaning that he’d have four years of arbitration eligibility. This deal covers all of those years, one year of potential free agency guaranteed and two additional free agent years if the options are picked up, making it a max seven-year, $46 million deal. Marte is a .265/.319/.361 hitter in his first 249 games in the majors, covering two years with the Mariners and one with Arizona.

This deal follows on the heels of the multi-year extension between the Phillies and Scott Kingery. Like that deal, this one pushes the players’ first true crack at free agency off until past his 30th birthday. Such deals represent a real tradeoff, obviously, as they give the player life-changing money now that, if he suffered a career ending injury, he might never get. At the same time, if the players fulfill their potential, they’ll make far less money than they might’ve had they gone through the arbitration process and hit free agency at the first available time. Definitely a tradeoff and signing those deals definitely a decision that most of us would either make or would be strongly inclined to make in the players’ shoes.

It has been reported that agents and union folks are increasingly alarmed by these deals in that they lower the salary ceiling in the long run and will limit the number of lucrative contracts in the future. That arbitration salaries are set through comparisons to other players and that a rising tide of salaries overall lifts all boats, yes, this is a bad thing in that regard.

However, all of that cannot be put on the shoulders of Ketel Marte and Scott Kingery, each of whom have about as little leverage as possible at this point in their careers. The only way they’ll be less inclined to take these deals is if the next Collective Bargaining Agreement brings salary incentives in line with baseball reality. Specifically, the reality that major league clubs are increasingly relying on younger players who are subject to team control. If players lack leverage and earning power until they’re six years out of the minors, not signing such extensions when offered represents a huge risk.

The clubs have figured this out and are taking a modest hit up front in terms of paying pre-arbitration guys more money now than they might’ve made in order to pay them far less than they’d otherwise have to control them in their prime. The union, it would seem, needs to figure out a way to make that a harder and less stark choice for its members.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.