Brett Lawrie
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Brewers sign Brett Lawrie

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Free agent infielder Brett Lawrie is returning to the professional baseball circuit on a minor league contract with the Brewers, per an Instagram announcement on Saturday. While the signing has yet to be formally announced, Robert Murray of The Athletic says the deal comes with a club option for 2020 and includes a potential $1 million salary if he makes the big-league roster, which could then reach a ceiling of $7 million with performance bonuses and escalators.

Lawrie broke the news of his own signing in a lengthy post on social media:

The 29-year-old second/third baseman has not set foot in the majors since 2016. After enjoying some of the best years of his career in Toronto, he played back-to-back gigs with the Athletics and White Sox in 2015-16 and spent his last MLB season batting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs, seven stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .723 OPS through 384 PA in Chicago. While he garnered some interest from teams after getting released by the White Sox in the spring of 2017, lingering lower-body discomfort complicated his attempts to secure another contract and effectively kept him off the field and out of a job.

It’s not yet clear whether the Brewers envision Lawrie in a starting role for the 2019 season, though any thought of him displacing Travis Shaw at the hot corner seems ludicrous at this point. Barring any spring training disasters, however, he might still find himself in a backup role to Cory Spangenberg and Hernán Pérez at the keystone.

Mad Dog Licks Boots

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Earlier this week Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reported that the MLBPA and the league are heading back to the table more than two years before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires following the 2021 season.

This had been hinted at for some time, as the union has shown clear displeasure at the current state of business, particularly with the free agent market. The league, one might assume, is happy with the current state of affairs, but it also has an interest in heading off potential strife or even the hint of a labor stoppage in the future. Moreover, there are priorities which have emerged on MLB’s part since the last CBA was signed that they’d love to advance — pace of play, etc. — so they have some incentive to talk as well. So, while it’s totally newsworthy that the sides are talking, it’s also quite understandable and not particularly controversial.

It’s also quite understandable that, given that this is a negotiation between parties in an adversarial position, there will be public comments from the principles which involve advocacy or even posturing on occasion. That’s part of the deal of any negotiation that holds public interest. So, when Tony Clark, for example, says something like “the system doesn’t work,” and “either we’re going to have a conversation now, or we’re going to have a louder conversation later,” which is what he told Kepner, it’s not really a controversial thing. Indeed, it’s expected.

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo thinks it’s pretty controversial, however. The MLB Network host and talk radio legend took to the airwaves yesterday blasting Clark for not being more deferential to Rob Manfred who “was nice enough to extend him an olive branch.”  Russo likewise asked, rhetorically, what “Rob” must’ve thought when reading Clark’s quotes “over his cup of coffee, and bran muffin, on Madison Avenue, after his workout and all those things . . . his morning coffee, milk and two sugars by the way — Sweet and Low.”

He’s the Mad Dog, but he certainly licks boots here:

 

It’s amusing enough that Russo believes that Clark, Manfred’s counterpart and adversary, is supposed to be deferential and thankful for the mighty Manfred. It’s even more amusing, however, that he takes the tack of arguing that MLB has no real interest in negotiating now and is somehow merely throwing the union a bone or offering an olive branch. In saying this Russo, whether he realizes it or not, is accusing Manfred of bad faith, optics-only talks with the union. I don’t feel like Manfred thinks he’s doing that. And I don’t think Clark would be talking to him if he felt he was being patronized to either. Indeed, the dance of the last several months around all of this was, in part, to ensure that that was not the case.

I don’t know what Manfred thought about Clark’s comments on Tuesday, but I do wonder how he feels about being accused by an MLB Network employee of playing games like this. It might be enough for him to spit out his bran muffin and coffee. Cream and two sugars and all.