Astros trade closer Jose Veras to Tigers

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Jose Veras had never been a closer when he signed with Houston this offseason, but the Astros gave him a chance in the ninth-inning role at age 32 and now they’ve traded him to a team in the market for a closer.

Houston sends Veras to Detroit for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later, getting value out of a $2 million free agent signing and the willingness to put a pitcher in a role he’s never filled before.

It’s unclear if Veras will remain in the closer role for the Tigers, who’ve been looking for ninth-inning help all season and turned to the trade market after the Jose Valverde reunion predictably went horribly. Joaquin Benoit has been doing the job of late and has a superior track record to Veras, who’d never saved more than two games in a season before converting 19 saves with a 2.93 ERA and 44/14 K/BB ratio in 43 innings for the Astros.

Vasquez is a 19-year-old left fielder hitting .281 with five homers and a .723 OPS in 96 games at low Single-A. He signed out of Venezuela for a huge $1.2 million bonus and Baseball America ranked him as the Tigers’ sixth-best prospect coming into the season.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.

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Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.