Daily Distractions: Dodgers, others still waiting on first domino to fall in free-agent pitching market.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to come to the United States until a new posting system is agreed to by MLB and NPB. (Associated Press photo)

Tim Hudson is off the board.

So is Jason Vargas.

So when will the Dodgers jump into the free-agent fray and sign a starting pitcher?

A few days ago, I was doing an interview with a Japanese television station that was interested in gauging the level of interest and awareness about Masahiro Tanaka in the United States. Frequently, the question of how good Tanaka might perform in the U.S. was raised; as the presumed cream of the free-agent crop, I guessed that the bar is being set pretty high.

And because he is considered the cream of the crop, Tanaka has the potential to hold up the market until MLB and NPB can agree to a new posting system. In my interview I theorized that a new posting system might cause a domino effect on the entire free-agent pitching market, with Tanaka becoming the first domino to fall.

That appears to be the case now, at least for the Dodgers and several other teams that have been linked to Tanaka. The Giants and Royals must have decided internally that they weren’t going to enter the bidding war, so they moved on with Hudson and Vargas, respectively. Confirmation was buried in this story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press which mentions, among other things, that the Minnesota Twins have shown “initial interest” in signing Chris Capuano:

Bidding on Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has yet to open as Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball continue to haggle over a new posting system.

A Twins official recently called Tanaka “a key domino, from the financial to the ability.”

“For sure,” the official added, “he is a major linchpin in the pitching market.”

So while the Dodgers kick the tires on some of the second-tier free agent pitchers — Dan Haren has been reported, and there are certainly others — those pitchers might be nothing more than Plans B, C, D, E, and so on.

Some bullet points for a Lebanese Independence Day:
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Dodgers president Stan Kasten, others, react to death of Michael Weiner.

Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, died Thursday after a prolonged battle with brain cancer. He was 51.

According to a statement released by the MLBPA, Weiner passed away quietly at home in New Jersey surrounded by his loving wife, Diane, and three daughters.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Michael Weiner, with whom I had the pleasure of working for many years,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said in a statement. “I had so much respect for him and admired his leadership of the players and Players Association. He was truly a great individual, a brilliant lawyer and a thoroughly decent person. All of baseball, labor and management, has suffered a great loss. Michael was always viewed as the path to a reasonable resolution. He will be missed. The Dodgers and I send our deepest condolences to Michael’s family.”

Many from around the baseball world expressed their condolences.

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Times for Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks games in Sydney, Australia revealed.

Sydney baseball logo

I don’t know if this is news, but … since the game times for the Dodgers’ 2014 season-openers in Sydney against the Arizona Diamondbacks are still listed as “TBD” on both teams’ websites, some of you might have missed that the times are listed here on mlbsydney2014.com, which appears to be an official website.

First pitch for the season opener on March 22 is listed as 7:15 p.m. local time, which is 10:15 p.m. the night before if you’re watching from Los Angeles. First pitch of Game 2 is listed as 1:15 p.m. Sydney time, or 4:15 p.m. March 22 in L.A.

All things considered, that’s not too bad — better than waking up at 4 a.m. to watch live World Cup matches, if you’ve ever experienced that joy.

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Daily Distractions: Mike Matheny gets a three-year contract extension: What that means for Don Mattingly.

Don Mattingly

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (right) signed a three-year contract extension Wednesday. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (left) would like one of his own. (Associated Press photo)

It wasn’t the biggest transaction Wednesday, but certainly Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was paying close attention when the Cardinals signed manager Mike Matheny to a 3-year contract extension through the 2017 season.

Mattingly’s contract with the Dodgers is set to expire after next season. The two sides began talking nearly a month ago, since shortly after a season-ending press conference in which Mattingly actively lobbied for a contract extension.

Here is Matheny’s managerial record, via baseball-reference.com. Here is Mattingly’s.

Those numbers are similar. But there’s more to the comparison than just wins and losses and playoff appearances, and the actual negotiations won’t be so crude as sizing up the numbers and picking a number of dollars and years.

Still, negotiations between a manager and a team don’t quite work the same way as negotiations between a player and a team. There’s no “waiting for the market to settle,” as is currently the case in the heat of free agency. Matheny’s negotiations with the Cardinals reportedly lasted a week.

One major difference is that teams can’t quickly access the salary information of a manager on a whim. This isn’t a problem when negotiating with players, whose contract information is made available through the MLB Players’ Association. Sometimes a manager’s agent will make his client’s contract information available to the media; other times, the manager’s representative will have to dig up that information on his own. Still other managers don’t have an agent at all and negotiate for themselves (though this is not the case with Mattingly).

Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this about Matheny:

Financial terms of his deal were not announced. Matheny made $750,000 before bonuses this past season. His new deal moves him up with managers of similar success and experience.

Two people with experience negotiating contracts between managers and teams told me that three-year contracts, like the one Matheny just signed, are common. One-year contracts aren’t popular for the reasons Mattingly cited. Two-year contracts aren’t very popular without an option for a third year, since a manger is merely signing up to be a lame duck the following season. So the three-year deal is a popular one.

There are some exceptions. Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa managed year-to-year in the final years of their contracts with the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively, because they were comfortable dictating their futures as their careers wound down.

Because there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and managers, teams are free to creatively throw bonuses and perks into contracts. Houses and cars aren’t uncommon. Sometimes the bonuses significantly elevate the actual dollar value of a contract. But these details are rarely made public and can be difficult for rival negotiators to unearth.

So will Matheny’s new deal have an affect on Mattingly’s negotiations? Maybe. But it’s not a simple cause/effect proposition that allows for educated predictions.

The length and dollar value of one contract doesn’t quite “set the market” for a similar manager like it would for a player or pitcher. It’s each man(ager) for himself.

Some bullet points for a World Hello Day:

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