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MLB, MLBPA reach agreement on winter ball participation

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From our friend Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports:

Major league players will be allowed to compete in winter leagues this season after Major League Baseball and the players’ association reached an agreement on restrictions that will limit pitchers’ participation but loosen limitations on position players, sources with knowledge of the deal told Yahoo Sports.

That’s not such big news here in the United States, but it’s cause for great celebration in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Mexico — where the four biggest winter baseball leagues operate. There was some concern that players on Major League Baseball’s 40-man rosters would be barred from participating in those winter leagues this year because of tense back-and-forth negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA that just concluded this past Friday.

Major League Baseball was aiming to limit the use of young and injury-prone starting pitchers and the union was pushing for as much freedom as possible for its players. Those winter league teams do pay salaries.

Passan has the breakdown of the new winter league rules that were officially ratified on Saturday:

Starting this year, Double-A starting pitchers – those on the 40-man roster with a majority of their time spent at Double-A – cannot participate in winter ball if they threw 140 or more innings. The previous threshold was 155. Similarly, Double-A relievers cannot have appeared in more than 45 games, while in years past it was 55.

Pitchers also are ineligible if their workload in games or innings grew 25 percent over the prior season. The caveats: They must’ve reached 60 percent of the games-or-innings threshold the previous season, and players switching from the rotation to the bullpen or vice versa don’t count.

Instead of a 502-plate appearance threshold for major league position players, those with up to 552 now can play winter ball. Moreover, the past procedure of declaring a “physical incapacity” – teams simply had to provide documentation – now has strict rules. Unless a player finishes the season on the disabled list or spent 60 days on the DL (including 15 over the final 60 days of the season), a team cannot declare him physically incapable. The exception is pitchers who have undergone major surgery in the previous 18 months.

Off-field improvements for players include the requirement of MLB-certified trainers, higher-quality equipment and increased standards for fields, clubhouses and bathrooms, with a compliance program to address issues.

The Venezuelan Winter League and the Mexican Pacific League began play late last week and the most popular of the four — the Dominican Winter League — is scheduled to get underway this coming Friday.

The Padres have homered in 25 consecutive games, tying an NL record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 16:  Adam Rosales #9 of the San Diego Padres hits an RBI single during the tenth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at PETCO Park on July 16, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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A third-inning two-run home run by Adam Rosales off of R.A. Dickey put the Padres up 2-0, but it also helped the Padres tie a National League record. The Padres have homered in 25 consecutive games, matching the 1998 Braves, the 1994 Tigers, and the 1941 Yankees. The major league record is 27, set by the 2002 Rangers.

The Padres hit three in total on Wednesday in an 8-4 victory against the Blue Jays. One of those dingers was an eighth-inning solo shot by rookie Alex Dickerson, who has now homered in four consecutive games himself. The one he hit on Monday is worth watching, as it got into the upper deck at the Rogers Centre.

As the Padres recently traded Melvin Upton, Jr. to the Jays, Dickerson is likely going to see regular playing time. That’s especially true if he keeps hitting like this.

Braves trade Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez to the Rangers

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 20: Lucas Harrell #63 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 20, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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The Braves have traded pitchers Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez to the Rangers, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. The Rangers are sending 21-year-old infielder Travis Demeritte to the Braves, per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan.

Harrell, 31, has made five starts for the Braves this season, posting a 3.38 ERA with a 21/12 K/BB ratio in 29 1/3 innings. The rest of his season has been spent at the minor leagues, including Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo with the Tigers, as well as Triple-A Gwinnett with the Braves.

Alvarez, 27, has an even 3.00 ERA with a 28/5 K/BB ratio in 15 innings of relief for the Braves. He throws from the left side so he’ll give a particular boost to the Rangers’ bullpen when needed.

Demeritte was taken in the first round — 30th overall — by the Rangers in the 2013 draft and was considered the Rangers’ 20th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. This year, with Single-A High Desert, he has hit .272/.352/.583 with 25 home runs and 59 RBI in 378 plate appearances. He has played second base almost exclusively, but has also logged time at shortstop and third base in his minor league career.

Harrell will be arbitration eligible for the first time after the season. Alvarez has accrued only 61 days of service time.