Puerto Rico used to send scads of ballplayers into the majors. But starting in 1990 its players became subject to the major league draft, which many argue killed the incentives for teams to aggressively scout the island and for local baseball authorities to support training, the building of new facilities and the like.
This Associated Press story, however, notes that there is a revival afoot:
In the past year, Major League Baseball reported the second-highest number of signings from Puerto Rico since 2000. The U.S. territory also has seen the opening of new baseball academies and an expansion of its winter league teams … MLB plans to start tournaments and after-school programs across the island to further stimulate interest in the sport, said Kim Ng, the organization’s senior vice president for baseball operations.
Ng credits the Carlos Correa being the first pick in the draft this past year as evidence that things are looking up and credits his high draft position with reinvigorating the game in Puerto Rico.
Is it a fluke or is this the product of MLB’s investment in baseball on the island? Or something else? I dunno. But it’s good to see what was once a baseball hotbed starting to produce MLB-quality talent again.
Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.
That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.
Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.