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Report: MLBPA investigating comment made by Alex Anthopoulos

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The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement on Wednesday, saying it is launching an investigation after Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos made a comment in a conference call earlier this week which described coordination between clubs approaching free agency. Anthopoulos said, “Every day you get more information. And we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs — obviously the Astros and (Nationals) being in the World Series, they were tied up — but we had a chance to get a sense of what the other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades.”

Executive director Tony Clark said in response, “The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system. The clear description of Club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.”

The collective bargaining agreement states, “Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.”

There has been tension between ownership and the union for the last couple of years as the balance of power seems to have swung heavily in favor of ownership. The union has been unhappy with the recent slowness of free agency and the qualifying offer system, for example. This statement is just the latest as the two sides battle for power.

The comment Anthopoulos made is certainly sketchy, and certainly worth looking into, but it is not clear evidence of collusion. The phrase, “we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs,” is vague. What does it mean? Is it simply contacting other clubs to see which players might be available via trade? Or is it specifically asking them about specific free agents and dollar amounts of offers?

That being said, we can certainly add it onto the pile of questionable things that could potentially point to collusion. Back in February, lefty Francisco Liriano was unsigned when all of a sudden he received nine minor league contract offers, including seven on the same day for “pretty much the same money,” The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel reported.

The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reported earlier that month that Mark Reynolds went through a similar experience, receiving no offers then getting four minor league contract offers on the same day. It was, according to Stark, a free agent tale “I’ve heard a lot.”

Reliever Brad Brach said he was told by teams that they were using algorithms to judge players. He, too, received minor league contract offers around the same time, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported. Brach ended up having to wait until March to sign a major league deal with the Cubs.

Let’s also not forget that the owners were found to have colluded in the 1980’s as the MLBPA filed three grievances. There have been many rumblings of collusion since then, but nothing substantive. It is a notoriously difficult offense to prove. Additionally, the Braves’ front office was embroiled in a scandal not all that long ago as former GM John Coppolella broke rules concerning the signing of international players. Coppolella resigned from his position, then a month later was banned for life from Major League Baseball following an investigation.

Again, what Anthopoulos said isn’t evidence of collusion. It is, however, suspicious and the union is doing its due diligence looking into the matter. That’s all that can really be said at the moment.

Update (10:48 PM ET): Anthopoulos has released a statement:

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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