While honoring MLK, also remember Robinson

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JackieRobinson_v.standard[1].jpgAs everyone takes the time to honor Martin Luther King today, let’s also take a moment to remember Jackie Robinson, was breaking down racial barriers before King sparked the Civil Rights movement.

Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945. Two years later, he would break the Major League’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, go on to build a 10-year Hall of Fame career and inspire countless others to follow in his footsteps.

But his impact went beyond baseball. Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City tries to put it all into perspective in an interview with MLB.com.

At its core, it was a Civil Rights story because the Negro Leagues would give us Jackie Robinson, who was obviously one of America’s greatest heroes,” Kendrick said. “What the museum does is somewhat boldly make the assertion that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier wasn’t just an important part of the Civil Rights movement, but [it] actually signaled the beginning of what we believe to be the modern Civil Rights movement in this country.”

Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey in 1945 and soon made history in the Majors.

“We’re talking 1947, and this was before Brown v. Board of Education and before Rosa Park’s refusal to move to the back of the bus and, as we relate to Dr. King, he was only a sophomore at Morehouse when Robinson signed his contract to play with Brooklyn in 1945,” Kendrick said.

We won’t give a complete recap of Robinson’s history, though this isn’t a bad place to start if you’re not familiar with his story.

He didn’t just break baseball’s color barrier, he did it with dignity and class, and Martin Luther King carried himself in a similar manner while sparking the Civil Rights movement. Both men have stood as a golden standard for others to follow. (Just ask Hall of Famer Dave Winfield)

So when pondering the impact of King, don’t forget Jackie Robinson, whose impact carried far beyond sports.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:

Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.

The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.

Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.