We used to say “defects” from Cuba in these sorts of stories. I’m not sure if that terminology is still accurate given the changes in the political landscape and the new approach to players playing overseas on the part of the Cuban government. But suffice it to say, a player from Cuba has left Cuba and is planning on playing here.
The player: Luis Robert, who Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports has left his native country. Robert is 19 and is currently a center fielder with a lot of speed and raw power. Badler says he could end up a corner guy. Either way, he’s one of the top five players in Cuba by Badler’s estimate. He’ll certainly draw a lot of interest once Major League Baseball formally declares him a free agent.
The interest could vary, however, depending on the date on which Robert is cleared by MLB. The new collective bargaining agreement’s hard bonus cap on international free agents goes into effect on June 15. If he is cleared before then, anyone can sign him, including teams which have already hit the cap to which they’ll be subject for the 2016-17 signing period. If he’s cleared after then, teams which have hit the cap — the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres and Reds — will not be able to sign him.
Call me cynical, but I would bet the mortgage on MLB clearing him after June 15.
Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:
The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.
The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.
I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.
In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.