MLB Notes: Braves lose 13 international players in sanctions

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MLB Notes: Braves lose 13 international players in sanctions

ATLANTA -- Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred hit the Atlanta Braves with heavy sanctions, including the loss of 13 players, on Tuesday for rules violations committed by the team in the international player market.

Manfred also placed former Braves general manager John Coppolella on the permanently ineligible list. Former Braves Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, is suspended from performing services for any team for one year.

Manfred said an investigation conducted by Major League Baseball determined the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017 by moving bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016 (see full story).

Yankees: Judge has left shoulder surgery
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees say slugger Aaron Judge had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and is expected to be ready for spring training.

The operation was performed Monday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. The Yankees say the procedure involved a loose-body removal and cartilage cleanup.

The 25-year-old Judge hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBIs in 155 games this season, helping New York make it to the AL Championship Series, where they lost to the eventual World Series champion Astros. He was a unanimous selection for AL Rookie of the Year and finished second to Houston infielder Jose Altuve in the AL MVP race.

MLB: Morgan urges voters to keep steroid users out of HOF
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep "known steroid users" out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball's steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall's board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

"Steroid users don't belong here," Morgan wrote. "What they did shouldn't be accepted. Times shouldn't change for the worse."

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions (see full story).

Cubs: Venable leaves front office to be base coach
CHICAGO -- Will Venable is leaving the Chicago Cubs front office to be their first base coach.

The former major league outfielder was hired last summer as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

The 35-year-old Venable replaces Brandon Hyde, who has been promoted to bench coach for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs also announced Tuesday that they had hired Jim Benedict as a special assistant to baseball operations. Benedict spent the previous two seasons as the vice president for pitching development for the Miami Marlins.

Jorge Alfaro over Wilson Ramos? Carlos Santana over Justin Bour? Gabe Kapler has his reasons

Jorge Alfaro over Wilson Ramos? Carlos Santana over Justin Bour? Gabe Kapler has his reasons

WASHINGTON — Lots of folks asking questions about Gabe Kapler’s starting lineup Tuesday night.

The Phillies manager played Carlos Santana at first base over Justin Bour.

And he started Jorge Alfaro behind the plate over newcomer Wilson Ramos.

OK, some explanations from Kapler.

First, a week-old one on the Santana-Bour question:

“Santana's going to play every day,” Kapler said after Bour joined the club in a trade from Miami last week. “Santana's going to play regularly.

“Bour is going to be a weapon off the bench for us. Santana's going to play every day.”


And now for Kapler’s decision to start Alfaro over Ramos on Tuesday night against the Nationals.

“There are a number of things involved here,” Kapler said before the game.

“First, Alfaro has a history of success against [Tanner] Roark.

“Second, Ramos is coming off a long stint on the DL and we have ridden him pretty hard the last couple of days. Two consecutive days off is going to give him a chance to repair his body.

“Third, we have a bit of a slippery, rainy day today and when it comes to Ramos, we’re really concerned with how we’re going to manage his health through the end of the season and into October and so all of those reasons are why we thought it made sense to have Alfaro in there.

“And, I guess, finally, I think [starting pitcher Vince Velasquez] and Alfaro have a pretty good rapport.”

Ramos missed six weeks with a hamstring strain before the Phillies activated him last week. He has seven hits, including four doubles and a triple, in 17 at-bats with the club. It is reasonable to wonder why he wasn’t in the lineup. And Kapler’s answer was reasonable, as well.

Alfaro is hitting .251 with a .700 OPS and 120 strikeouts in 295 at-bats, but, as Kapler pointed out, he does have some success against Roark. He was 5 for 7 with a double and a homer against the Washington starter. Ramos was 0 for 3 against Roark. The two are former teammates with Washington.

Bour was just 6 for 31 (.194) against Roark, but half of his hits were homers. He had nine strikeouts.

Santana was 2 for 7 with a triple against Roark.

Santana, in the first year of a three-year, $60 million contract, is one of the most polarizing players on the club. His supporters, which include the front office and Kapler, love the way he works counts and gets on base. It fits the style of play management is dedicated to. Santana's on-base percentage is .351 (third best on the club) and his 69 RBIs are second most on the club.

Santana’s detractors see his .218 batting average and want more.

Or Bour.

As with the Alfaro-Ramos decision, it is completely reasonable to question Kapler’s decision to go with Santana over Bour.

But Kapler makes out the lineup. And he’s given his reasons.

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With 9 games left vs. Nationals, Phillies are big fans of Tuesday's trades

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With 9 games left vs. Nationals, Phillies are big fans of Tuesday's trades

The Nationals, who have lost seven of 10 games and are 62-63 despite several hot bats, made things easier on the Phillies this week.

Prior to Tuesday's series opener in D.C., the Nats agreed to trade Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and Matt Adams to the Cardinals.

Both players had been claimed on waivers over the weekend. Bryce Harper was reportedly claimed, too, but the Nationals were unable to work out a trade before waivers expired. This means that Harper will be a National for the rest of the season before becoming a free agent.

Murphy is a perennial Phillie-killer so the Phillies have to be loving this. Yes, they'll face the Cubs just next week, but one series is better than three. The Phillies have nine games left with the Nationals beginning tonight.

Murphy had microfracture surgery last winter but is back to the Daniel Murphy we know. Over his last 34 games, he's hit .364 with a .960 OPS. Good riddance.

Why didn't the Phillies claim Murphy?

As a refresher, in August, the waiver order is an inverse of the standings. When Murphy was placed on waivers, the Phillies had the NL's third-best record and were 13th in the order. The Cubs had the NL's best record and were 15th.

Thus, the Phillies had a chance to claim Murphy but did not. You'd have to think they would have if they didn't just acquire Justin Bour, another left-handed hitter with defensive limitations.

Murphy is a great hitter but he's always been a below-average defensive player. He can only play first and second base at this point. The Phillies are crowded at both spots. Murphy would be an offensive upgrade over Cesar Hernandez, but Gabe Kapler loves him some Cesar Hernandez atop the lineup.

What about Harper?

The Dodgers were reportedly the team to claim Harper. They were several spots ahead of the Phillies in the waiver order. The Phillies almost certainly would have claimed Harper if he made it to them because he's an upgrade over basically every outfielder in baseball.

It doesn't change anything heading into the offseason. The Phillies will make aggressive runs at both Harper and Manny Machado. The Dodgers, though, will be a top competitor for both star free agents. 

L.A. seems much more likely to make a run at Harper because he fills more of a need, fits in more with their offensive philosophy, and the Dodgers have Corey Seager returning next season to play shortstop.

What changes this week?

Anytime you can face Wilmer Difo instead of Murphy, you're happy. The Phillies also won't have to deal with Adams' big left-handed bat off the bench, though Ryan Zimmerman is still a hot and dangerous first baseman.

Despite the Nationals' recent losing ways and Tuesday's trades, this will still be a challenging series.

Tanner Roark, who pitches the series opener, is 5-0 with a 1.77 ERA and .246 opponents' OBP in his last five starts. Then the Phils have to deal with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. 

The key in this series getting to Washington's terrible, injury-riddled bullpen.

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