It begins today. Well, sort of. Pitchers and catchers reporting is more of a symbolic move -- the first full squad workout will be Sunday afternoon -- but thirty-four pitchers and seven catchers should ascend on Port Charlotte today.
As always, all workouts are free for the public to attend. The facilities in Port Charlotte are beautiful, so if you're in the area with nothing to do I'd suggest checking it out, if only for a short while. Some other major dates you should be aware of:
February 16th is FanFest. Festivities begin at 10am and there's going to be a Q&A and panel discussion with Peter Gammons. If you're not going for the autographs, that may be as good a reason as any.
February 23rd is the Grapefruit League opener, a split squad game against the Pirates.
Per the new CBA, all teams were limited to $2.9 million bonus pool for the 2012-2013 international signing period...and of course it was the small market Rays who were the first team to be penalized for going over that amount. Ben Badler of Baseball America has a fantastic breakdown of the Rays activity in the international market and outlines how exactly they're going to be punished for their free spending ways.
The strongest penalty in the CBA is that any team that exceeds its international bonus pool by 15 percent or more will pay a 100 percent tax on the overage and won't be able to sign a player for more than $250,000 during the 2013-14 signing period. Since July 2, the Rays already have spent more than $3.7 million (not counting players signed for $50,000 or less, since there are exemptions for those players), which is 28 percent beyond their international pool.
As a result, the Rays won't be able to sign anyone next year for more than $250,000 and probably won't make any major international splashes until July 2 either because of the tax. Going well beyond the bonus pool is a curious move, but the Rays did pull in a considerable amount of talent, including arguably the two best 16-year-old pitchers on the market. Given that their 90-win season last year will give them one of the lower bonus pools for the 2013-14 signing period, which many scouts believe is shaping up to be a down year for international talent, perhaps it will be a worthwhile gambit.
Way to try and make an even playing field and limit the big market teams from cornering the market, MLB. Please do read the rest of Ben's piece, it's chocked full of information and well worth your time.
-FanGraphs lists the 10 worst transactions of the off-season. The Royals trade of Wil Myers to the Rays is #2.
-ESPN.com gives us it's off-season report card for the Rays. The overall grade: A-. I'll take that.
-Another day, another person speaking ill of Trevor Bauer.
-Francisco Liriano broke his arm while attempting to scare his children on Christmas Day. No, seriously.