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Tony Clark fires back at Rob Manfred

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Yesterday Commissioner Rob Manfred offered comments criticizing players and agents for the slow free agent market, suggesting that, for example, Bryce Harper‘s reported expectation of a $400 million deal were an “impediment” to his signing. He otherwise blew off the notion that there was something wrong with the current labor market and said he assumed things would work themselves out once spring training games get started.

Today Tony Clark of the Players’ Union fired back at Manfred. His statement:

Commissioner Manfred’s latest comments and his attempts to shift blame and distract from the main issues are unconstructive and misleading at best. Players’ eyes don’t deceive them, nor do fans.

As Players report to spring training and see respected veterans and valued teammates on the sidelines, they are rightfully frustrated by a two-year attack on free agency. Players commit to compete every pitch of every at-bat, and every inning of every game. Yet we’re operating in an environment in which an increasing number of clubs appear to be making little effort to improve their rosters, compete for a championship or justify the price of a ticket.

Players have made a sincere attempt to engage with clubs on their proposals to improve pace of play and enhance the game’s appeal to fans. At the same time, we have presented wide-ranging ideas that value substance over seconds and ensure the best Players are on the field every day. We believe these substantive changes are imperative now — not in 2022 or 2025, but in 2019.

We look forward to continuing to engage with MLB on changes that address substantive issues — to the benefit of fans, Players, the 30 clubs and the game of baseball as a whole.”

Expect the road between now and the end of the 2020 season to be a bumpy one. And fasten your seat belts for the 2020-21 offseason.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.