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Blake Snell, Rays agree to five-year, $50 million extension

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Another day, another extension given to a pre-arbitration star.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Tampa Bay Rays and Blake Snell have agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract extension. The deal runs through Snell’s age-30 season and does not include any options. It covers this season, all three of his arbitration seasons and the first year in which he would have, potentially, been a free agent.

Snell, the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the American League, recently had his contract renewed for $573,700, which is barely above the league minimum. He did not take too kindly to that at the time. He will, obviously, will be paid much more now. At the same time, a pitcher of Snell’s caliber would be worth far, far more than $10 million a year for his age 26-30 seasons either on the open market or even by going through arbitration and then hitting the open market, assuming he remained healthy. He can only be had for that discounted amount thanks to the complete lack of leverage on his side. It’s a tradeoff, obviously — money know for the chance of money later, with some risk thrown into the equation — but it’s a tradeoff born of the relative power between the player and the club.

Such has also been the case with multiple other pre-arbitration players this offseason, with Eloy Jimenez and Alex Bregman most prominent among them. As we’ve noted several times lately, until a player gets to arbitration, he has no leverage. Through arbitration, he has limited leverage. The pre-arb and arb period lasts for 6-7 years. Teams, meanwhile, have placed greater and greater emphasis on building their teams around players in that window, thereby maximizing their leverage.

Which is why, however nice a payday $50 million is, Snell will make considerably less money than he could have if he had not taken the deal. His choice to be sure, but one strongly influenced by a Collective Bargaining Agreement which favors the clubs and their current patterns of player usage.

Straight-away center field will be 385 feet at London Stadium

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Marley Rivera of ESPN has a story about some of the on-field and in-game entertainment, as well as some aspects of the field conditions, for this weekend’s London Series.

The fun stuff: a mascot race, not unlike the Sausage Race at Miller Park or the President’s race at Nationals Park. The mascots for London: Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster. I suppose that’s OK but, frankly, I’d go with Roger Bannister, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Guy Fawkes. Of course no one asks me these things.

There will also be a “Beat the Streak”-style race which had better use the theme to “Chariots of Fire” or else what the heck are we even doing here.

They’ve also taught ushers and various volunteers who will be on-site to sing “Take me out to the ballgame,” which is a pretty good idea given how important that is to baseball. As a cultural exchange, I think some major league team should start using “Vindaloo” by Fat Les during the seventh inning stretch here. It’s a banger. It also seems to capture England a bit more accurately than, say, “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

That’s all good fun I suppose. But here’s some stuff that actually affects the game:

The end result will have some interesting dimensions. The field will be 330 feet down each foul line, and it will have a distance of 385 feet to center field, which will feature a 16-foot wall. Cook also said it would have an expanded, “Oakland-like” foul territory, referencing the Athletics’ Oakland Coliseum expanse.

Those dimensions are unavoidable given that the square peg that is a baseball field is being shoved into the round hole that is a soccer stadium. As Murray Cook, MLB’s senior field coordinator tells Rivera, that sort of thing, while perhaps less than ideal, is at least in keeping with baseball’s strong tradition of irregular field conditions. It will, however, be one of the shortest dead center distances in baseball history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Protective netting was also an important issue addressed when building the ballpark, with Cook stressing that his team has implemented netting that “is the largest you’ll ever see in any major league ballpark.”

[Craig makes a mental note to bookmark this for the next time MLB says it won’t mandate extended netting in the U.S. because doing so is too difficult]