Hundreds protest extending the draft to the Dominican Republic

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Thumbnail image for dominican republic flag.jpgNick Collias MLB Trade Rumors has a must-read story up this morning about a protest which took place outside the hotel in which MLB Dominican baseball czar, Sandy Alderson, was staying last week. The purpose: opposing the implementation of an amateur draft in the Dominican Republic, which is high on Bud Selig’s list for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

As I’ve written in the past, the biggest concern of a draft in the Dominican Republic is that it will harm baseball there the way it has in Puerto Rico since it was brought into the draft in 1990. Puerto Ricans complain that the draft killed the player development model there. The declining number of Puerto Rican ballplayers in the U.S. bears that out, at least in part. The protesters believe that an international draft will gut baseball in the D.R. and that it will push would-be ballplayers into lives of crime, social displacement and disorder.

ESPN’s Jorge Arangure has disputed the notion that a draft will harm baseball in the Dominican Republic like it has in the Puerto Rico, writing last month that the financial incentives in play in the former are much stronger than in the latter.  It’s an interesting point, and one those who oppose the draft have yet to counter.

Given the agendas of everyone involved — both those in favor and opposed to a draft have both financial and non-financial motives — the social and business implications of a draft in the Dominican Republic are hard to suss out. One goal everyone can agree on, it seems, would be not to leave the D.R. worse off than it was before.

To that end, here’s an idea that would (a) address the protestors’ concerns regarding social dislocation; (b) remedy the often exploitative history of baseball in the Dominican Republic; and (c) help everyone out financially, at least in the long run: In exchange for everyone agreeing on the draft, Major League Baseball can enact a policy in which they agree to provide a basic education to every young man who is drafted and/or signed. 

Why should baseball do this? because as of now over 90% of the guys they sign devote their teens to baseball, don’t make it to even the minor leagues, and are left out on the street by the time they hit their 20s.  If a draft comes into play these guys will continue on as even less well-paid chattles than they are now, and providing an education for them will help lessen the socioeconomic blow.  In exchange, baseball could demand and expect greater help from the government in addressing its own problems, such as age fraud, steroids and the other nastiness inherent in the system. Win-win, as they say.

That’s not my idea, by the way, it’s the idea of a young lawyer named Adam Wasch who proposed it in a law review article last year.  It’s a good read as far as law review articles go, and will teach you an awful lot about what goes down in the Dominican Republic, baseball-wise.  The major takeaway for me:  Neither the current system of unfettered free agency nor a system in which MLB merely drafts who it wants and walks away is ideal.

There exists a special albeit complicated relationship between the country and the corporation in this case. If the players involved are going to tweak it, why not tweak it in a way that addresses everyone’s concerns, not just one party’s?

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.