Speaking to the press at the All-Star game, union chief Tony Clark addressed the question whether the Astros computer hacking scandal may have impacted the club’s free agent efforts last winter, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. It doesn’t sound as if Clark has any particular concern in that regard, though he emphasized that he would wait to pass judgment until the investigation is completed. “We have bits and pieces and some understanding,” he said, “but at this point in time, from what we understand, that concern [of market manipulation] isn’t there. Doesn’t mean it may not be there when all is said and done, based on the information we get, but right now it’s not there.”
- Commissioner Rob Manfred also spoke with reporters, of course, and mentioned that he was open to the concept of expanding the league’s number of teams, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes. “Maybe one of the reasons I got this job is, I’m bullish on this game,” Manfred said. “I think we are a growth business, broadly defined. And over an extended period of time, growth businesses look to get bigger. So yeah, I’m open to the idea that there will be a point in time where expansion may be possible.”
- Of course, any idea of expansion is likely a fair ways off, and there are more pressing franchise issues in the near-term — particularly, the stadium concerns of the Rays and Athletics. Manfred said that the league remains optimistic that neither team will need to move, but did indicate that his office was planning to look into new cities as alternatives. Per Manfred, MLB will “examine [new markets’] viability, think about what we can do to make them more viable, so that we have business alternatives that are available to us.”
- The draft is always exciting, but it can be hard to contextualize the players chosen. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper took a preliminary stab at placing recently-picked players alongside existing prospects, in a reader Q&A. All said, he only sees about a half dozen players from this year’s class warranting consideration among the top-fifty prospects league-wide, with top picks like Brendan Rodgers, Dansby Swanson, Dillon Tate, and Alex Bregman likely falling “in that 20-35 range.”
- We are, of course, coming down to the wire on draft signings. Players must agree to terms by Friday afternoon. The first overall selection, Swanson, has yet to sign, although most reports indicate that a deal is likely. But Twins competitive balance selection Kyle Cody is a question mark, with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweeting that he’ll have to decide whether to accept a lower offer than he probably hoped for. Indeed, ESPN.com’s Keith Law adds on Twitter that he believes Cody will head back to college along with Dodgers comp pick Kyle Funkhouser (among other draftees). And the Brewers appear out of the race to land 29th-round flier Donny Everett, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that the talented righty will honor his commitment to Vanderbilt (as expected).