Ken Rosenthal reports that the Astros have checked in on free agent Hanley Ramirez
I know they’re the 2017 World Series champs and everything, but I have to think that (a) the Astros aren’t yet willing to spend big for a free agent like this; and (b) Ramirez may be looking for more of a win-now situation. Also worth noting that Houston has a lot of prospects who would be blocked if Ramirez was on the team.
Of course, no one really though Robinson Cano would go to the Mariners until he did last year, so who knows?
Ken Rosenthal reports that the Padres posted the top bid for Korean left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim.
Unlike with Japan, the posting for Korean players is still of the blind-posting, top bidder wins variety as opposed to a situation where the player can negotiate with teams. That means, if Kim’s Korean team doesn’t pull him back, he’ll belong to the Padres. The bid was $2 million and the team was seeking $10 million, so there’s no certainty Kim will play in the U.S.
As for his pitching: the 26-year-old posted a 3.33 ERA and 139/81 K/BB ratio over 167 and two-thirds innings in the KBO in 2014. He is though of as a back-end starter in the U.S.
I still tend to think that baseball’s return to Montreal is a pipe dream. That no amount of nostalgia for the Expos (which, if that was so great, why didn’t it support a team back in the day?) and no amount of criticism of the market in, say, Tampa Bay (which, if that is so bad, why are the Rays’ TV ratings so good?) can overcome the basics on the ground.
Those basics: no team is currently for sale or particularly vocal about moving, there are no obvious people with the billion or two required to get the Expos version 2.0 off the ground. And that there is no public appetite to build a ballpark.
None of that is likely to change quickly, but Jeff Blair notes today that at least part of it could be changing, however slowly and slightly. Specifically, the identification of some some money and some interest in a baseball team in Montreal:
That’s why a report on Friday in the Montreal French-language daily La Presse, providing the names of businesses and individuals quietly funding a year-long study into the feasibility of a major-league team in the city, is so interesting . . . The La Presse story identified Stephen Bronfman, son of former Montreal Expos owner Charles Bronfman and executive president of the Bronfman family’s Montreal-based holding firm, Claridge, Inc., Bell Media, Dollarama chief executive officer Larry Rossy and Mitch Garber, head of Caesars Acquisition Company, an online gambling and interactive gaming company worth $1.38 billion.
Interesting. By no means definitive or even necessarily meaningful, but more meaningful than an exhibition game or two and the sale of some Expos gear driven by nostalgic 40 somethings or hipsters.
Here’s a story about the sentencing of the ringleader of a human smuggling operation which brought people from Cuba, through Mexico and into the United States. Including ballplayers like the Rangers’ Leonys Martin:
The Lazo organization smuggled Cubans by boat to Mexico for $10,000 each, more for the baseball players, according to court documents. They would then usually travel to the U.S. border crossing at Laredo, Texas, and ask to be permitted to stay in the U.S. . . . Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Davidson said migrants who couldn’t pay were held for ransom by armed guards, often threatened and sometimes beaten.
A key part of this is that U.S. policy — both the country’s and Major League Baseball’s — help create the circumstances for these kinds of crimes and excesses. The United States’ “wet foot/dry foot” rule which has us deporting Cuban refugees if intercepted at sea but not if they try to enter the U.S. on land encourages people to come through Mexico if they can. Major League Baseball’s policy subjecting Cubans who come directly to the United States from Cuba but allowing them to be free agents if they land in another country first likewise incentivizes this circuitous route.
In both cases, that empowers the middle men who, in this case, happened to be Mexican drug cartels.
Jon Heyman reports that the White Sox have free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval on their radar.
I can think of stranger destinations for him, but I have a hard time seeing Sandoval want to go to a rebuilding, 73-win team. Especially given that he has said he’d probably prefer to stay in San Francisco. Money talks, of course, and if the White Sox — whose rebuilding effort has been pretty interesting, even if it’s been pretty quiet — decide that they are one big expensive bat away from contention, they could conceivably back up the truck for Sandoval.
For now, though, I’d file this under “interesting, but unlikely.”