Rays sign 16-year-old lefty from Czech Republic

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It remains to be seen whether the Rays are interested in giving B.J. Upton a long-term contract, but Tampa Bay did sign Stepan Havlicek over the weekend.
Who is that, you ask? Well, he’s a 16-year-old left-hander who pitched for the Czech Republic’s junior national team and now he’s the first European player ever signed by the Rays. Here’s a report on Havlicek from the scout who found him, John Gilmore:

Stepan has a loose, quick arm with good follow through. His fastball has run and his curveball depth. For a young player, he has great control and goes right after hitters.

Havlicek is listed by the Rays as 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, and he’s expected to begin his pro career this summer in the MLB-run Australia Academy. So for all you keeper-league fantasy owners out there, get him on your cheat sheets for 2015
If things go well for Havlicek he’ll become just the sixth Czech-born player in MLB history and the first since the 1960s, but believe it or not things will need to go really well for him to become the country’s best player. Elmer Valo went to high school in Pennsylvania and played most of his 20-year career for the Philadelphia A’s, but he was born in Ribnik, Czechoslovakia in 1921 and went on to collect 1,420 hits with a juicy .398 on-base percentage as a big leaguer from 1940-1961.

Ian Kinsler signs a two-year deal with the Padres

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Ken Rosenthal reports that Ian Kinsler is signing with the San Diego Padres on a two-year, $8 million deal.

A surprising multi-year deal for Kinsler, who will turn 37 next season, but it’s a pretty low financial outlay for the Padres. An understandably low one following a year in which Kinsler hit just .240/.301/.380 with 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases for the Angels and Red Sox. He can still pick it at the keystone, however, taking home Gold Glove honors there last season. He’ll turn 37 next June.

Kinsler will likely bump Luis Urias from second to short until top prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. is called up to San Diego, at which point one presumes Urias will then, in turn, bump Kinsler off of second base into a bench role, at least if Urias performs. Given that Kinsler will not make much money on this deal, it’s not something the Padres are likely to sweat.