Anthony Rendon
Getty Images

Nationals, Anthony Rendon settle at $18.8 million

1 Comment

Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon is due a $6.5 million salary bump in 2019 after settling with the club prior to Friday’s arbitration deadline. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the two avoided arbitration on a one-year, $18.8 million deal.

This marked the final year of arbitration eligibility for Rendon. The 28-year-old infielder rounded out his sixth season with the team in 2018, batting .308/.374/.535 with 24 home runs, a career-high 44 doubles, a .909 OPS, and 6.3 fWAR through 597 plate appearances. While he’s currently positioned to enter free agency in advance of the 2020 season, there have been plenty of rumors suggesting that a sizable extension is in the works — perhaps something in the neighborhood of seven years and $163+ million. At the very least, it appears to be an agreement both sides are open to discussing in the nine or so months leading up to the 2019 offseason, though nothing is expected to be even close to finalized until Bryce Harper‘s future is decided.

The Nationals also settled with shortstop Trea Turner ($3.725M), right-hander Joe Ross ($1M), and left-handed reliever Sammy Solis ($850K). They’re likely to go to arbitration with outfielder Michael A. Taylor and right-handed reliever Kyle Barraclough, neither of whom settled with the club this week.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

Getty Images
11 Comments

Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.