Craig Calcaterra

Michael Conforto, Barbaro Arruebarruena
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The “Cuban Baseball Crisis”

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One day we’ll talk about Cuban baseball without reference to Cold War cliches. Today is not that day, but we’ll let that go right now. In the meantime, this article from The Economist — “The Cuban Baseball Crisis” — is most excellent and worth your time on this slow news day.

Part of it is stuff you’ve read before if you’re interested in the topic: the state of Cuban baseball as relations between the United States and Cuba thaw. There is, as there has always been, great interest in American baseball in Cuba and there has been an increasing flow of Cuban players to the United States, possibly imperiling baseball in Cuba, even as it creates opportunity and spikes interest in baseball overall.

But there are two things here which make this article well worth your time beyond its deft handling of those familiar topics. First, a neat little detour into Cuban baseball history with some nuggets that I’ve never heard before, such as the role of Cuban baseball in the Spanish-American War. Fun times.

The second: Major League Baseball’s peculiar and somewhat contradictory stance on Cuban baseball players coming to the United States. On the one hand, U.S. baseball has been at the vanguard of introducing capitalism back into Cuba and the promise of U.S. riches has driven this whole dynamic on the baseball side. And, in a larger sense, baseball has and will likely continue to play a huge ambassadorial role as overall relations thaw between the countries. Baseball, quite literally, will be a standard-bearer for the United States’ re-engagement with Cuba.

On the other hand, baseball has a keen interest in making sure there isn’t unfettered free agency of Cuban baseball players, just as as it has sought to limit the agency of amateur players in the U.S. and looks for ways to do so in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. An international draft? Bonus pools? Anything Major League Baseball can do to keep those salaries and bonuses down it will do, because despite being at the vanguard of capitalism in some respects, baseball is VERY keen on socialism of a sort and restricted markets when it suits team ownership.

Fascinating stuff.

The Dodgers are talking to the Indians and Rays about acquiring a starter

Carlos Carrasco
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On the day that the guy they thought they were signing — Hisahshi Iwakuma — signed with the Mariners, the Dodgers are working the phones in an effort to get another starting pitcher.

Jon Morosi of Fox reports that the Dodgers are “engaged in ongoing trade talks” with both the Indians and the Rays. Morosi says that the Dodgers are looking to acquire either Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar from the Tribe or Jake Ordorizzi from the Rays.

There are a lot of teams who would be interested in one of the Indians’ starters but it has been unclear if Cleveland was willing to deal any of them. If they do, the price will likely be considerable considering that both under team control for the next five years. Carrasco on an insanely team-friendly long-term deal. Ordorizzi hasn’t been mentioned in many rumors so far this winter.

If the Dodgers don’t pick up a starter? Hey, aces back in the 1970s pitched, like, 45 games a year. Kershaw could pull that off, right?

Dan Otero traded to Cleveland

Dan Otero A's
Associated Press
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The Phillies traded reliever Dan Otero to the Cleveland Indians for cash. That’s always gotta feel good when you’re the player in that deal. Of course it’s not like the Phillies were that invested in him given that they just acquired him via waivers in early November.

Otero, 30, has a career 12-6 record with one save and a 3.46 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 108/29 in 158 relief outings. All but 12 of his games came with the Oakland A’s, for whom he’s pitched since 2013. His rookie year was spent with the Giants.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Indians designated outfielder Jerry Sands for assignment. He once was thought of as a prospect in the Dodgers organization. Which probably said more about the state of the Dodgers minor league system a few years back than it said about Sands. Still: he has a great name. If the baseball doesn’t work out he could become a Las Vegas nightclub performer in the 1960s, somehow.