The Cubs sign Cuban defector Serrano

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RHP Juan Serrano defected from Cuba last year, and today the Cubs signed himBruce Levine of ESPN reports that it’s a $250,000 deal, which makes it a minor league thing unless teams are giving out half-season contracts now.  The team has yet to confirm, as physicals need to be passed and all of that stuff.

Serrano isn’t a terribly electrifying prospect.  He’ supposedly has high-80s/low-90s velocity and a decent breaking ball. This assessment, from Cuban baseball watcher Peter Bjarkman, is pretty withering:

stark truth (known by all close followers of Cuban baseball) is that
Juan Yasser Serrano was a rather mediocre Cuban Leaguer whose 2007-2008
record was a below average 2-7 won-lost mark, further diminished by an
elevated 6.46 ERA and a hefty .312 opponents’ batting average against
his deliveries. And this, while hurling for one of the league’s very
best teams, Villa Clara. Serrano’s three-year lifetime mark entering
the current campaign was 14-16, with a 4.40 ERA for a club that
captured division titles in all three seasons he labored there.

Bjarkman says to ignore all of the hype spewed by Serrano’s agent, Jaime Torres, saying that Torres is known for spreading “outrageous falsehoods” about his clients. I have no idea — maybe people say bad things about Bjarkman too — but those stats were complied in a league where pitchers tend to get huge strike zones, so if they’re accurate Serrano really is no great shakes.

For what it’s worth, Levine says the Cubs will start him out at A or AA.  If we ever see him in the majors, I assume it will be in middle relief. 

Royals clinch home field advantage, best record in the American League

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With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.

95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.

In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.

Yankees to host AL Wild Card Game after Astros lose to D’Backs

Jacoby Ellsbury, Tony Pena
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Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.

The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.

The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.

The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.