Manfred hints Red Sox sign-stealing discipline is imminent

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At the owners meetings yesterday Rob Manfred talked about the ongoing drama surrounding baseball’s sign-stealing scandal. Specifically, he talked about the imminent punishment for the Boston Red Sox and what Major League Baseball intends to do with respect to sign-stealing in the future.

First, with the Red Sox: Manfred said that he expects to level punishment “before camps open,” which is next week. So brace yourself for a Jeff Passan tweet followed by a press release that someone gave Jeff Passan before it was sent out sometime soon.

As for that punishment, Manfred said that, as was the case with Houston, Red Sox players have been given immunity in exchange for information. It’s simply a practical thing, Manfred correctly noted. The league office would not get cooperation from players if they were at risk of punishment. Manfred made the analogy to law enforcement cutting deals with smaller crooks in order to get the bigger ones. In this instance, per his memo to all 30 teams a couple of years ago, and per the reality that managers and general managers have the power to stop such schemes in ways that individual players don’t, it’s the GM and manager who are going to get popped.

Not that such a state of affairs will exist going forward. There have been increasing noises that, in the future, players will be subject to punishment if technology-aided sign-stealing occurs again. Again, it makes sense: fair punishment in any context involves an element of would-be perpetrators knowing ahead of time what it prohibited and what consequences exist for transgressions. In light of that, I would be shocked if Manfred’s statements in the wake of the Red Sox punishment do not include at least some signal that these retrospective cases led to player immunity for practical reasons, players will be in the crosshairs in future cases.

Finally, Manfred spoke about how to better prevent such schemes going forward. Refreshingly, he didn’t make reference to convoluted means of pitchers and catchers communicating via wristwatches or buzzers or other means of technological signaling. Rather, he correctly noted that the issue with the Astros and the Red Sox was access to real time video and talked about limiting players’ access to such things, Manfred:

“I think you should assume that before the season starts, we will have new guidelines with respect to the use of video equipment . . . I think we have too much video available in real time right now.”

This suggests that new rules may come out that would limit who is allowed in the video room used for instant replay purposes.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.