Life in the Venezuelan winter league

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Here’s a good AP story about life in the Venezuelan winter league. On the one hand there are security risks, logistical hassles and anti-American sentiment to contend with. On the other hand: roaring crowds and big money compared to minor league salaries:

For players accustomed to the small crowds of minor league stadiums back home, the frequently sold out Estadio Universitario in Caracas can be daunting. Abundant servings of rum and whiskey and a nerve-rattling cacophony of drums pump up the 25,000 screaming fans who hang on every pitch.

“It’s Friday night football every game, all the game,” said Jamie Romak, a 28-year-old outfielder for La Guaira who played for the St. Louis Cardinal’s AAA team in Memphis, Tennessee.

Risk and reward. Made most compelling by the fact that, like Romak and other minor leaguers mentioned in the article, success in Venezuela could be the difference between making a living playing baseball or having to quit and go find something else to do with their lives.

Report: Red Sox, J.D. Martinez close to a deal

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Red Sox and outfielder J.D. Martinez are close to a deal. He takes care to note that the deal is not done yet and the details are not known yet.

Martinez, 30, entered the offseason as the top free agent hitter. Last season, between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, he hit a lusty .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 489 plate appearances. He missed the first 33 games of the season with a sprained right foot; one wonders what his numbers might’ve been like if he hadn’t been injured.

The Red Sox were the team most strongly linked to Martinez throughout the offseason, despite the relatively slow-moving market. Martinez said he wants to play in the outfield and the Red Sox are currently spoken for at all three positions with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez is also penciled in at DH. Should the Martinez deal become official, the Red Sox may try to trade Bradley and move Benintendi to center field. If Martinez is willing to concede his outfield wishes, the Red Sox could slot him in at DH and move Ramirez to first base.

The AL East is shaping up to be a familiar two-horse race between the Red Sox and Yankees. The addition of Martinez, in a way, answers the Yankees’ addition of Giancarlo Stanton.