Report: Top Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu defects


A pair of agents told El Nuevo Herald that first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu has defected from Cuba and is somewhere in the Caribbean, with separate reports placing him in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

If the news is true, Abreu would rate as biggest Cuban free agent ever. Arguably the country’s best hitter, Abreu is just entering his prime at 26 and he tied for the league lead in homers last year, hitting 19 in 264 at-bats. He finished the season batting .345 with a 39/54 K/BB ratio. In the World Baseball Classic, he went 9-for-25 with three homers and nine RBI.

Particularly in light of the success of Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig in the majors, Abreu will likely set off quite the bidding war if he’s made a free agent. Given that the Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers and Angels already have huge commitments at first base, the Red Sox and Rangers would seem to be in the best position to land him, with the Mets, Blue Jays, White Sox and Mariners rating as longer shots.

Personally, I think Abreu would immediately emerge as an All-Star candidate at first base. A contract exceeding $70 million-$80 million would hardly come as a surprise.

Johan Camargo will start season on disabled list

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Braves third baseman Johan Camargo will begin the regular season on the disabled list with a strained side and back, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Camargo suffered the injury last week in a Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays and hasn’t played since.

With Camargo out, Rio Ruiz will likely play third base in his place, as well Charlie Culberson and Danny Santana. O’Brien notes that had Camargo not been injured, the Braves likely would’ve left Ruiz off the roster in favor of an extra outfielder or third catcher.

Camargo had a solid rookie season for the Braves in 2017, batting .299/.331/.452 across 82 games. Ruiz did not fare as well, batting .193/.283/.307 in 53 games.