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Baseball needs 32 teams

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Jesse Spector of Sporting News makes that argument today and it’s hard to disagree with him. Go check out his full story on it, but the upshot is that both regular season scheduling and the playoffs would be easier, more attractive and more fun if we had two 16-team leagues instead of two 15-team leagues.

Spector mentions Montreal and Las Vegas as his top expansion candidates. I certainly agree with Montreal. It has supported a team in the past and its failure to continue to support the Expos had A LOT more to do with how the Expos were managed than with how able the city is to support a team.

I’m less optimistic about Las Vegas. As I’ve argued here before, I think the demographics and economics of Vegas are all wrong, even if the idea seems sexy. Baseball is not event-driven like boxing or a relatively rare event like football, which would only require a stadium to be filled eight times a year. There are 81 home games and attendance and television ratings are built on locals buying in to the product day-in, day-out. That’s not really the Las Vegas profile. In Vegas, a disproportionate number of locals work nights. While there are a lot of moneyed tourists coming through, they’re coming to gamble and party, not sit at a ballpark. And even if they were so inclined, you can bet that the casinos would try extra hard to keep them away from doing things that take them off hotel property for three prime time hours each night. To avoid that baseball would have to basically partner with a casino, and that would be pretty difficult for a sport with baseball’s history with gambling.

Really, the best expansion candidates are places where baseball would not allow expansion due to territorial concerns. I’m talking about growing suburbs and exurbs like the Inland Empire in L.A., the New Jersey or Connecticut burbs around New York, Chicagoland and places like that. In the middle of the century newly growing cities made sense for baseball expansion and relocation. These days population growth is occurring around existing cities.

Anyway, the where isn’t as important as the what. And the what is that 32 teams make a whole heck of a lot of sense.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.