MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon has a story on the Reds’ efforts to get Aroldis Chapman, dating back to his appearances in the World Baseball Classic. They scouted him pretty heavily, stayed out of the hot stove reports, had a private workout for him no one reported, made an offer, went back and forth with the Hendricks brothers “8000 times” and then held their breath, hoping that the Yankees or Red Sox wouldn’t swoop in.
Two things of particular interest in the article. First, more evidence that, when you’re dealing with amateur free agents, the small markets have advantages that the big teams don’t. Chapman agent Hendricks:
“‘If I had a great first baseman from Cuba, do you think I’d call the
St. Louis Cardinals first?’ We wanted opportunity. We would like to put
him in a system where he’d have an opportunity to emerge sooner.”
Who says there needs to be an international draft in order to level the playing field? Amateurs may very well seek out small market or losing teams for reasons that veteran free agents — who often want to win and win now — won’t.
The second thing: Walt Jocketty used the fact that Dusty Baker speaks Spanish as a selling point for Chapman. Holy Mark Prior, Batman! That means that the Reds may very well plan on keeping him after his contract expires this year!
Good luck with that Aroldis.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.