Jeff Passan

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Jeff Passan is an award-winning columnist who has covered baseball since 2004. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October.

  • Sources: Yordano Ventura in deep discussions with Royals on 5-year extension

    Fireballing starter Yordano Ventura and the Kansas City Royals are deep into discussions on a five-year contract extension with a club option for a sixth season that would guarantee him more than $20 million, sources with knowledge of the talks told Yahoo Sports.

    Ventura, 23, thrived in his first full season last year, flummoxing hitters with a fastball that regularly reached 100 mph and peaking with seven shutout innings in Game 6 of the World Series.

    Yordano Ventura threw 183 innings as a rookie last season. (Getty)Yordano Ventura threw 183 innings as a rookie last season. (Getty)Should they lock up Ventura, the Royals would be betting on his health despite a slight 6-foot frame and the incredible sort of fastball velocity that often portends arm issues. Twice last year Ventura experienced injury scares, first with discomfort on the outside of his elbow – the ulnar collateral ligament resides on the inside – and again in the postseason with soreness in his right shoulder.

    Neither stopped Ventura from posting 183 regular-season innings of 3.20 ERA ball and following with 25 1/3 more postseason innings at the same

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  • Josh Hamilton will not be suspended for drug relapse

    Josh Hamilton will not be suspended after an arbitrator ruled a binge around Super Bowl weekend that resulted in a positive test did not violate his drug-treatment program.

    Josh Hamilton played 89 games for the Angels last season. (AP)Josh Hamilton played 89 games for the Angels last season. (AP)

    After Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association deadlocked on whether to suspend Hamilton for self-reporting cocaine use to the league, an independent arbitrator considered the case of the Los Angeles Angels outfielder and agreed with the union’s argument that one-time use did not merit a suspension.

    Hamilton’s case hinged on what constituted a violation of the program. Under baseball's Joint Drug Agreement, an admission of drug use or a refusal to take a test constitutes a positive result. The failure to comply with the drug-treatment program – which Hamilton has been in for nearly a decade following long battles with cocaine and alcohol – was not undone by Hamilton’s episode, the arbitrator ruled.

    [Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball: Sign up and join a league today!]

    The league issued a statement Friday

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  • Baseball's greatest challenge? Convincing people it's still cool

    BRADENTON, Fla. – Here is where it starts: In a vacant parking lot next to an elementary school on spring break, spare, quiet, empty. A bus loaded with video-game consoles idled next to a makeshift set where a grill burned and a candy cart sat undisturbed. Cameras rolled, and the sun beat down, and Andrew McCutchen smiled his million-dollar smile, hoping days like this turn out to mean something more than just another TV commercial that disappears in the ether.

    There is nothing Andrew McCutchen can't do. So why isn't he a bigger star? (AP)There is nothing Andrew McCutchen can't do. So why isn't he a bigger star? (AP) As the season is set to begin Sunday, this is the frontline of Major League Baseball’s greatest challenge: selling itself. Which sounds rather counterintuitive, considering baseball as a business never has been better. Nearly $10 billion a year in revenue. Ten-figure television contracts. Franchise values doubling and tripling. As good as it is today, concern at the highest levels of the sport percolate that it’s voodoo math, unsustainable should the demographics of the sport continue to align with the three words no company

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  • Sources: Juan Lagares agrees to 4-year, $23 million extension with Mets

    Mets center fielder Juan Lagares is best known for his defense. (AP)Mets center fielder Juan Lagares is best known for his defense. (AP)Outfielder Juan Lagares agreed to a four-year, $23 million extension with the New York Mets that includes a club option to buy out one season of free agency, major league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    The 26-year-old Lagares is best known for his brilliant defense in center field, and the Mets are hopeful his bat catches up. In his two major league seasons, Lagares has hit .262/.302/.368.

    The contract, which will be official after a Thursday physical, starts in 2016, at which point Lagares likely would have been eligible for arbitration as a Super 2. The first year calls for a $2.5 million salary, followed by years at $4.5 million, $6.5 million and $9 million, sources said, and the option is for $9.5 million, with a $500,000 buyout.

    Because arbitration tends to reward players on offensive value over defensive brilliance, Lagares fetching $20 million-plus guaranteed is a win. And the Mets, betting his value will be even greater as baseball’s Statcast player-tracking system is launched in

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  • Red Sox's latest star-in-the-making has talent to go pro in another sport: bowling

    FORT MYERS, Fla. – At the beginning of every game, when the batter’s box remains freshly manicured, Mookie Betts grabs his bat by the barrel. With the knob end, he traces into the dirt a cross and two letters: EC. It’s his ode to his family, his friend and the sport at which he might be even better than baseball, which is saying something, because evaluators across baseball agree Betts is really, really good at baseball.

    Mookie Betts has speed, hitting ability and power, as well as nuanced skill. (USAT)Mookie Betts has speed, hitting ability and power, as well as nuanced skill. (USAT)They throw around loaded words like “star” and don’t flinch. This is not the hype machine that churns into overdrive when a Boston Red Sox prospect arrives. It is the recognition that great baseball players come in all sizes, and Betts packing just 160 pounds onto his 5-foot-9 frame makes him no less worthy of the sobriquets generally reserved for Kris Bryant and other such leviathans.

    Betts is a short-supply commodity: the skilled toolshed. Which is to say not only does he pack the raw, natural tools of speed and hitting ability and surprising power, he complements

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  • Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association expect to discuss the idea of a draft combine in upcoming collective-bargaining negotiations, hoping access to amateur players’ medical information will help avoid the complicated situation that unfolded with the No. 1 pick in 2014, major league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    The tortuous case of Brady Aiken – chosen by the Houston Astros first overall, unsigned after a dispute over his ulnar collateral ligament and ultimately another Tommy John casualty after surgery Wednesday – spurred both Major League Baseball and the players’ association to consider the benefits and detriments of a potential system.

    Brady Aiken (MLB.com)Brady Aiken (MLB.com)Exactly how it would look stirs wide debate and will be a heated point in negotiations, which are expected to begin in earnest toward the end of this year with eyes on a new CBA before the current one expires on December 1, 2016. One source outlined a scenario in which a pre-determined number of elite players – perhaps the best 150 as

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  • The big gamble: How MLB's Pete Rose decision could reshape its thinking on betting

    Gambling is omnipresent in sports these days, the god that silently drives so much of its interest. It’s no longer the harmless NCAA office pool or the three-team teaser on a boys’ weekend in Vegas. It’s the NBA commissioner touting its legalization in The New York Times and the governor of New Jersey pushing for the same in his state and daily fantasy leagues raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from venture-capital speculators and the subculture that lives for the sort of gossip that percolated late Tuesday night.

    A Twitter account posted screenshots that were allegedly direct messages from Miami Marlins starter Jarred Cosart with allusions to gambling. Cosart’s account was then nuked. Another account purported to be from Cosart sprung up, said his original one was hacked, then disappeared itself. Major League Baseball said it was investigating.

    MLB is investigating an alleged link to Jarred Cosart and gambling. (AP)MLB is investigating an alleged link to Jarred Cosart and gambling. (AP) The entire thing is an ugly mess, not just because of how the 24-year-old Cosart seemingly panicked and drew more attention to himself

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  • Why getting a nearly 30-year-old with a possible arm injury makes sense for Dodgers

    Five months into the Andrew Friedman regime, it’s becoming clearer and clearer how his Los Angeles Dodgers are going to operate. They covet roster flexibility. They prioritize growing high-end talent internally. They’re in the midst of assembling a think tank of behind-the-scenes people to investigate every little area in which they can improve. And when it won’t have a deleterious effect on the aforementioned areas, they will flex their Venice-quality financial muscle.

    Hector Olivera with the Cuban team in 2009. (AP)Hector Olivera with the Cuban team in 2009. (AP)The former three make the latter so very scary to the other 29 teams in baseball, which have seen the New York Yankees spend, spend, spend their way to middling results because they hemmed themselves in with an aging and inflexible core, biffed on the farm and never built the analytics warehouse a team with such financial resources warrants. It’s why Tuesday, even as the Dodgers gave more years and dollars to Cuban infielder Hector Olivera than any other team was willing, it was difficult to fault them with profligacy.

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  • It's World Series or bust for the Mariners

    PEORIA, Ariz. – Over three weeks this offseason, Felix Hernandez hopscotched around Europe, from Istanbul to Cappadocia to Prague to Salzburg. Amid the sights and shopping, he couldn’t stop thinking about Seattle and what was happening with the franchise to which he wedded himself when it looked so desperate and forlorn.

    Nelson Cruz is expected to provide some power for the Mariners. (AP)Nelson Cruz is expected to provide some power for the Mariners. (AP)Every few days, Hernandez would text Robinson Cano and ask if it was happening. It was Nelson Cruz, the major league home run leader, signing with the Mariners, like Cano had done the previous offseason. While in Prague, Hernandez got the message he’d been waiting for: Cruz was coming to Seattle, and between his arrival and the leftover core from last season’s team that missed October by one game, the Mariners, postseason-free since their 116-win juggernaut of 2001, won’t be satisfied with anything less.

    “Close is not good enough anymore,” Hernandez said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and win the whole thing. We’ve got the pieces now.”

    Seattle is the chic pick in a

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  • Why major league-ready Kris Bryant should start the season in the minors

    MESA, Ariz. – At this juncture of spring training, when everybody in uniform wants the interminable days to end and the real games to begin, when the beat writers have exhausted their trove of story ideas, when the fans latch on to anything new or novel as a beacon shining toward opening day, a debate like the one over Kris Bryant’s immediate future gets pumped full of bluster and narrative that simply doesn’t match reality.

    In a world of gray issues, this is the rare black-and-white dispute, one with a truth as evident as it is disheartening. Of course the Chicago Cubs should start Bryant at Triple-A Iowa to start the season, even if he is their best option at third base right now. Do not blame Theo Epstein for it. Do not blame Cubs ownership for it. Blame the system to which players and owners agreed that incentivizes this sort of behavior.

    Third baseman Kris Bryant is the top power prospect in baseball. (USAT)Third baseman Kris Bryant is the top power prospect in baseball. (USAT)The rhetoric has been ratcheted up in recent days, fueled by Bryant’s spring training-leading six home runs in 23 at-bats – one more than the

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