The Cubs sign Cuban defector Serrano

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RHP Juan Serrano defected from Cuba last year, and today the Cubs signed himBruce Levine of ESPN reports that it’s a $250,000 deal, which makes it a minor league thing unless teams are giving out half-season contracts now.  The team has yet to confirm, as physicals need to be passed and all of that stuff.

Serrano isn’t a terribly electrifying prospect.  He’ supposedly has high-80s/low-90s velocity and a decent breaking ball. This assessment, from Cuban baseball watcher Peter Bjarkman, is pretty withering:

The
stark truth (known by all close followers of Cuban baseball) is that
Juan Yasser Serrano was a rather mediocre Cuban Leaguer whose 2007-2008
record was a below average 2-7 won-lost mark, further diminished by an
elevated 6.46 ERA and a hefty .312 opponents’ batting average against
his deliveries. And this, while hurling for one of the league’s very
best teams, Villa Clara. Serrano’s three-year lifetime mark entering
the current campaign was 14-16, with a 4.40 ERA for a club that
captured division titles in all three seasons he labored there.

Bjarkman says to ignore all of the hype spewed by Serrano’s agent, Jaime Torres, saying that Torres is known for spreading “outrageous falsehoods” about his clients. I have no idea — maybe people say bad things about Bjarkman too — but those stats were complied in a league where pitchers tend to get huge strike zones, so if they’re accurate Serrano really is no great shakes.

For what it’s worth, Levine says the Cubs will start him out at A or AA.  If we ever see him in the majors, I assume it will be in middle relief. 

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.