Manny Ramirez slated to report for winter ball on Monday

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With one week to go before training camp, it looks like Manny Ramirez is actually going to follow through with those plans to play in the Dominican Republic this winter.  He’s set to arrive this weekend and join Aguilas Cibaenas on Monday.

Ramirez retired from MLB in April after learning that he’d be suspended for 100 games for a second violation of the league’s steroids policy.  ESPN Deportes reported later that month that he was planning to play in the D.R. this winter, and Aguilas team president Winston Llenas confirmed the news (hat tip: USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner).  Apparently, his recent arrest on battery charges for hitting his wife won’t stop him from leaving the US.

Ramirez would almost certainly still have to serve that 100-game ban if he tried to return to MLB at some point.  However, he wouldn’t be the first player to hang around playing winter ball for years after retiring from MLB.  Fernando Valenzuela was done in the majors in 1997, but he pitched in Mexico up until 2006.  Vinny Castilla played two seasons in Mexico after retiring from MLB following 2006.

Report: Major League Baseball bans transactions with Mexican League teams

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.

Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.

Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.

There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.