Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals are considering signing Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich. In 2012, when he was 15 years old, Heimlich pleaded guilty to a felony charge of molesting his then-six-year-old niece. Viewed by many scouts as one of the most talented pitchers in college baseball, Heimlich went undrafted in the 2017 and 2018 drafts.
Heimlich has maintained his innocence despite pleading guilty. The victim’s mother said to The New York Times, “There is no way he didn’t do it,” describing her daughter’s details as “very specific.”
That a baseball team would be interested in Heimlich despite his past is not surprising. Teams look past all kinds of wretched off-field behavior as long as they get a player who can help them win. But the Royals’ interest, in particular, is perplexing since the team has gone out of its way to position itself as a moral bellwether. Last year, we learned that the Royals teach their players about the detrimental effects of drugs and alcohol, as well as pornography. GM Dayton Moore said, “[We’re] very transparent about things that happen in our game, not only with drugs and alcohol. We talk about pornography, and the effects of what that does to the minds of players and the distractions, and how that leads to abuse of — domestic abuse — to abuse of women. How it impacts relationships — we talk about a lot of things. And I don’t mind sharing with you.”
The Royals held an anti-porn seminar in March as well:
If you’re going to go around wagging your finger at people for perceived moral shortcomings, you had better walk the straight and narrow yourself. For the Royals to do this and then show interest in Heimlich calls into question their credibility both on a baseball level and on a social level.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.