Manny Machado
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Report: White Sox offered Machado eight-year, $250 million deal

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Free agent Manny Machado doesn’t appear any closer to accepting a major league deal these days, but we may be starting to get a better idea of the offers that are on the table — at least when it comes to the White Sox. Héctor Gómez of Z Digital reports that the club proposed an eight-year, $250 million offer to Machado, a full $75 million above the previously (and erroneously) reported seven-year, $175 million deal that was said to be in play. Naturally, neither Machado’s agent nor the White Sox have confirmed the report.

There’s no clear indication that Machado has been leaning toward any particular team of late, though the White Sox, Phillies, and Padres are thought to be among his primary suitors. On Friday, analyst and former general manager Jim Duquette suggested that the Yankees had also extended a seven- to eight-year, $220 million deal to the 26-year-old infielder. He added that “a lot of teams” were in the same range, making the Yankees’ offer somewhat underwhelming, but later walked back all of his statements as pure speculation. While stands to reason that any organization truly invested in bringing the All-Star on board would be mulling over a contract of similar length and price, no one seems to be closing in on the 10-year, $300+ million figure Machado’s camp is reportedly seeking, either.

As for the lack of movement in the free agent market, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal spoke to several reasons behind the long wait for Machado and fellow free agent Bryce Harper to find a landing spot this winter. He maintained that both players are anticipating future offers north of $300 million, which creates something of a conundrum for teams who, like the White Sox, are unwilling to jump into a fruitless bidding war. Rosenthal also pointed out that while the Padres have been the most transparent in their pursuit of Machado so far, that kind of strategy may work against them if the Phillies or White Sox (or an as-yet undisclosed mystery team) decide to up the ante in the weeks to come.

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.