AP Photo/Richard Drew

Union: Dead time in free-agent market ‘threat to our game’

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NEW YORK (AP) The head of the baseball players’ association expressed concern over a second straight offseason that has seen Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and many other free agents remain without deals less than a month before spring training.

Union head Tony Clark tells The Associated Press “all the dead time in the last two free-agent markets is a larger threat to our game than any supposed dead time between pitches.”

Wanting to increase the pace of games and concerned about a drop in offense, management has made proposals to the union that include a pitch clock and rules changes. The players’ association says it will respond, and unlike last year the union appears open to discuss the issues.

Against this backdrop, just 58 of the 164 players who exercised the right to become free agents following the World Series had announced deals through Thursday afternoon. That is up from 45 of 166 on the same date last offseason, but this year’s free-agent class contains far more accomplished players. Those still available included Harper, Machado, pitcher Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel.

Major League Baseball declined to respond to Clark, spokesman Pat Courtney said.

Phillies sign Francisco Liriano and Neil Walker to minor league deals

Francisco Liriano
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Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.

Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.

Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.