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Athletics’ Mike Fiers acknowledges receiving death threats

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Former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers has acknowledged he’s received death threats after he exposed Houston’s 2017 sign-stealing scheme.

“Whatever, I don’t care. I’ve dealt with a lot of death threats before. It’s just another thing on my plate,” he told The San Francisco Chronicle.

Fiers revealed to The Athletic in November that the Astros were stealing signs illegally, using cameras during their 2017 World Series championship season. Fiers was a member of that team. He joined the Detroit Tigers as a free agent after that season and was later traded to the Oakland Athletics.

“If I’m worried about any retaliation, I’m not going to be ready for the season,” he told the paper.

On Tuesday, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said, “We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he’s playing, whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else.”

Fiers told The Athletic on Wednesday that “I can defend myself,” and that he doesn’t need extra security from Major League Baseball during the 2020 season. But he told The Chronicle that he is concerned about the safety of his family.

The Athletics spoke to MLB vice president and deputy council Bryan Seely about threats made against Fiers in January, according to the newspaper.

“I said from the beginning, ‘I’m not away from this. I was part of that team, I was one of those guys,'” Fiers said. “Suspensions, fines – I’m willing to take as much punishment as they do. If they ask me to (return the ring), it’s not the end of the world.”

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MLB, MLBPA agree on stipulations for return of 2020 season

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Major League Baseball owners have approved a plan to address salary and service-time issues amid the indefinite delay to the start of the regular season, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

The owners completed an agreement reached between MLB and the players’ union Thursday night, which came after nearly two weeks of morning-to-night negotiations that involved players, owners, agents, executives, union officials and commissioner’s office staff.

As part of the agreement, obtained by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the players and MLB primarily agreed that the 2020 season will not start until each of the following conditions were met:

  • There are no bans on mass gatherings that would limit the ability to play in front of fans. However, the commissioner could still consider the “use of appropriate substitute neutral sites where economically feasible”;

  • There are no travel restrictions throughout the United States and Canada;

  • Medical experts determine that there would be no health risks for players, staff or fans, with the commissioners and union still able to revisit the idea of playing in empty stadiums.

While there was no formal framework in the agreement, owners and players both want to play as many games as possible. The flexibility of both sides was seen in the willingness to extend the regular season into October, play neutral-site playoff games in November and add doubleheaders to the schedule.

Players pushed to receive a full year of service time, which counts days toward free agency, arbitration and pension, even in the event of a canceled season. When MLB agreed to grant that, the path to a deal coming together was forged, sources said.

The union agreed not to sue the league for full salaries in the event that the 2020 season never takes place, and MLB will advance players $170 million over the next two months, sources said. The MLBPA will divvy up the lump sum among four classes of players, with the majority of it going to those with guaranteed major league contracts. If games are played, the advance will count against final salaries, which will be prorated.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has the discretion to shorten the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds, and it will be moved from June to sometime in July, sources said.

Manfred also can delay the 2020 international signing period, which was supposed to run from July 2, 2020, through June 15, 2021, to at latest Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 15, 2021. MLB also has the right to shorten the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds and push back the next international signing period as well — though international free agency might well be gone by then, as the league plans to pursue an international draft at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs out in December 2021.

Sources said players drafted in 2020 will get only $100,000 of their bonus this year. The remaining amount will be split into payments made in July 2021 and July 2022.

Also, teams will be unable to trade draft picks or international slot money, sources said.

Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman, among others, are guaranteed to be free agents come November regardless of the season’s status. If the year is canceled, Betts might never play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded for him this offseason.

A transaction freeze will go into effect when owners make the deal official that bars teams from signing free agents, trading players and making roster moves.

A rejiggered setting for arbitration, the system that awards players with three, four and five years of service time with higher salaries. While arbitration is a numbers- and precedent-based system typically, the sides will change that to acknowledge the shorter schedule.

Any players punished with a drug suspension will serve the penalty in 2020, even if there is no season, sources said.

While both sides believed they made concessions, they settled around an obvious point: No sports league wants to be seen as bickering about billions of dollars amid an international health and financial crisis. In addition to the agreed-upon financial particulars, the parties engaged in significant discussions about the most vital issue now and in the future: how to proceed amid the outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

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Rays hope all the pieces fit

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Spring is here and Eric Karabell misses baseball, so he is going to write about all 30 MLB teams over the next few months, covering myriad player values and his general thoughts for what he hopes will ultimately be a fruitful 2020 season.

Let’s continue our look into the 2020 season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Top fantasy storyline: In 2018, left-hander Blake Snell won 21 games with a 1.89 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Last season, right-hander Tyler Glasnow posted a 1.78 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP over 12 starts. Wow, what a duo! They should both be top-10 fantasy starters! Well … Snell’s compromised left elbow necessitated a cortisone shot in March, and he would have missed the start of the season had it begun on time. Glasnow missed much of 2019 with forearm tightness, which is often a precursor to major elbow surgery. Sure, these fellows could be great, but do not assume a shortened season aids them.

Oh, and one more thing: When will Wander wander into the major leagues?

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Noah Syndergaard has Tommy John surgery, expected back in 2021

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New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Thursday, a source tells ESPN.

The Mets announced Tuesday that Syndergaard would need the surgery. He is expected to return some time during the 2021 season.

Syndergaard, 27, who is one of the hardest-throwing starting pitchers in baseball history and has among the best arsenals of pitches in the game, was expected to anchor the Mets’ rotation alongside ace Jacob deGrom.

Syndergaard threw a career-high 197 ⅔ innings last season, and while his ERA was a career-worst 4.28, the combination of good health and stuff foretold good things. However he has had a tough time staying healthy.

Injuries wiped out most of Syndergaard’s 2017 season and shortened his 2018. This season he planned to join deGrom and Marcus Stroman atop the Mets’ rotation, with Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha filling out the last spots.

Syndergaard, acquired by the Mets in 2012 when they traded Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto, was an instant phenom. His fastball consistently hit 100 mph, he ripped off sliders as fast as 93 mph, and he struck out 166 batters in 150 innings as a 22-year-old rookie in 2015. His best year came in 2016, when he was an All-Star and posted a 2.60 ERA in 183 ⅔ innings.

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