UPDATE: Paul Maholm agrees to contract with Cubs

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UPDATE: Paul Maholm just indicated on his Twitter account that he has agreed to terms with the Cubs:

“Looking forward to seeing the fans at Cubs convention this weekend and getting to know all the guys. It’s gonna be fun.”

1:42 PM: Just days after trading Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad the Cubs are also “close” to adding Paul Maholm to the rotation, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Maholm was first linked to the Cubs a month ago and has been a popular name to speculate about as teams try to fill out their rotations with low-cost veterans.

He never developed as hoped for the Pirates, who cut Maholm loose rather than exercise his $9.75 million option, but he’s still just 29 years old and has generally been a solid mid-rotation starter despite a sub par strikeout rate.

Maholm makes up for the lack of missed bats by inducing lots of ground balls, allowing just 18 homers per 200 innings during his career. Of course, Maholm hasn’t actually thrown 200 innings since 2008 and missed the end of last season with shoulder problems, but for a modest one-year deal he’d be a worthwhile pickup.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.