Jose Abreu skepticism sounds like Yasiel Puig skepticism

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Jose Abreu’s reported $68 million deal with the White Sox isn’t even official yet and there are already lots of prominent media members questioning whether Chicago over-committed to an “untested” player with some question marks attached.

I have no idea. I’ve seen Abreu play a couple times on television, I’ve read the same write-ups everyone else has, and I’ve looked at his incredible numbers in Cuba. But that’s about it. However, it’s worth noting that a year ago plenty of people were mocking the Dodgers for signing another Cuban defector, Yasiel Puig, for $42 million.

For instance, here’s what Ben Badler of Baseball America–who’s my pick for the best writer covering international prospects–wrote about the Puig deal in June of 2012:

The Dodgers appear to have made a statement with an expensive Cuban signing, but the message they sent across baseball has mostly elicited the same response: What are the Dodgers thinking? …

The question around baseball is how the Dodgers could justify awarding such a lavish contract to a player who scouts considered more of a solid than a spectacular prospect. … One executive called the deal “crazy.” Several others were floored by the reported contract terms. “I don’t know,” said one international director, echoing several of his colleagues. “I don’t know what’s going on in Dodger land. They must have seen something.”

Those who have seen Puig seem lukewarm on his talent. … He is an interesting prospect with raw talent, but for several teams, he wouldn’t have even been a first-round pick if he were in the draft.

A year later signing Puig to a long-term deal that pays $6 million per season looks like an incredible bargain. Abreu isn’t Puig, obviously, and perhaps he’ll prove to be a huge bust, but there’s also a nearly guaranteed heaping of heavy skepticism that comes attached to basically any big-money international signing. Last offseason Edwin Jackson got $52 million, Nick Swisher got $56 million, and B.J. Upton got $75 million, so $68 million isn’t exactly superstar money in free agency.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.