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Two of 10 players accept $17.8 million qualifying offers

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First baseman José Abreu and starter Jake Odorizzi have accepted their $17.8 million qualifying offers from the White Sox and Twins, respectively, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. Reliever Will Smith signed a three-year contract with the Braves ahead of Thursday’s 5 PM ET deadline to accept or reject the qualifying offer.

The remaining seven players — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Josh Donaldson, and Marcell Ozuna — have rejected their qualifying offers, per Passan. They are officially free agents and will have draft pick compensation attached to them, a potential deterrent for some interested teams.

The QO is unlikely to materially affect the fates of Cole, Rendon, and Strasburg, but it could limit the markets for the other four players. Reliever Craig Kimbrel and starter Dallas Keuchel both had draft pick compensation attached to them after the 2018 season and didn’t end up signing until June. It seems unlikely that Wheeler, Bumgarner, Donaldson, and Ozuna would have to wait until June next year to sign but it may take a while for their markets to develop.

Ex-Angels employee charged in overdose death of Tyler Skaggs

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay was communications director for the Angels.

Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.

Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.

“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose – coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career – should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.

If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.