Matthew Pouliot

Jose Abreu

Report: Top Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu defects

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A pair of agents told El Nuevo Herald that first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu has defected from Cuba and is somewhere in the Caribbean, with separate reports placing him in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

If the news is true, Abreu would rate as biggest Cuban free agent ever. Arguably the country’s best hitter, Abreu is just entering his prime at 26 and he tied for the league lead in homers last year, hitting 19 in 264 at-bats. He finished the season batting .345 with a 39/54 K/BB ratio. In the World Baseball Classic, he went 9-for-25 with three homers and nine RBI.

Particularly in light of the success of Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig in the majors, Abreu will likely set off quite the bidding war if he’s made a free agent. Given that the Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers and Angels already have huge commitments at first base, the Red Sox and Rangers would seem to be in the best position to land him, with the Mets, Blue Jays, White Sox and Mariners rating as longer shots.

Personally, I think Abreu would immediately emerge as an All-Star candidate at first base. A contract exceeding $70 million-$80 million would hardly come as a surprise.

Red Sox bring back Will Middlebrooks to play third base

Will Middlebrooks
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Those hoping the Red Sox would give top prospect Xander Bogaerts a shot should prepare to be disappointed. The team is instead recalling Will Middlebrooks to play third base, with Brandon Snyder going on the disabled list.

Middlebrooks had regained his stroke for Triple-A Pawtucket over the last week, hitting .333/.361/.545 with two homers in his last eight games. That followed a month of July in which he hit .238/.292/.390 in 105 at-bats. He hit .192/.228/.389 with nine homers and 25 RBI in 203 at-bats before being sent down in June.

Bogaerts was outhitting Middlebrooks in Triple-A, posting an .845 OPS to Middlebrooks’ .790 mark. Still, it seems as though the Red Sox prefer having him focus on shortstop for now. He had started at third base in just one of his last eight games for Pawtucket.

The Red Sox had been getting by with a Brock Holt-Snyder platoon at third base since trading Jose Iglesias, but that was nothing more than a stopgap situation until Middlebrooks or Bogaerts proved ready. If Middlebrooks struggles over the next couple of weeks, then maybe Bogaerts will get a look in September. However, if Middlebrooks hits, it’ll be his job the rest of the way.

Two weeks later, Christian Yelich loses three-hit debut

Christian Yelich
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A scoring change from the July 26 Marlins-Rockies game came down on Friday, costing Christian Yelich his third hit from his major league debut.

Yelich’s third single of the game was a hard grounder at a drawn-in D.J. LeMahieu playing second base. The ball handcuffed LaMehieu and bounced over his shoulder, though LeMahieu was able to pick it back up and turn it into a close play at first base. On Friday, it was changed to an error on LeMahieu instead of single.

Now, it’s hardly unique for error decisions to be overturned on appeal a couple of weeks after the fact, but this is still a pretty odd one. It was definitely a tough play for LeMahieu, and I’m guessing the majority of official scorers would have given Yelich a hit on it. But it’s really surprising anyone felt the need to appeal in the first place, given that the play didn’t lead to any additional earned/unearned runs. Jose Fernandez did score on the grounder, but the error isn’t going to assume he would have been thrown out at home and change that run to unearned. Giancarlo Stanton followed it by lining into a double play, so no additional runs scored. Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin sees his ERA remain unchanged by the decision.

So, yes, it a minor event and not really worth griping about. But I don’t see why MLB felt the need to overturn this one.

Here is the Yelich highlight clip from the game. The hit/error in question starts at the 30-second mark.