How the draft killed baseball in Puerto Rico

13 Comments

Baseball had been king in Puerto Rico for the better part of a century. But now the Puerto Rico Winter League is all but dead.  There were only 20 players from Puerto Rico on major league rosters last Opening Day. What happened? According to the sources for this New York Times article it was the imposition of the draft to Puerto Rico in 1990:

No one here disputes the diminished stature of baseball in Puerto Rico, and most agree on the culprit: the decision by Major League Baseball, in 1990, to include Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, in its First-Year Player Draft. This means Puerto Rican players must wait until they turn 18 to enter the major leagues, and then they are going up against players from the United States and Canada in the draft. Also, perhaps more important, major league teams have less incentive to cultivate talent in Puerto Rico since those players may end up with another team through the draft.

Major League Baseball — specifically Sandy Alderson, who is quoted in the article — notes that Puerto Rico’s socioeconomic situation has a lot to do with it too.  It’s not as poor a place as Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, so there is less of an incentive for hungry young kids to play their way off the island. At the same time, it’s not so well off that it can support an amateur talent development structure like you see in the baseball hotbeds of the United States like in California, Texas and Florida.

Of course, it’s not like Puerto Rico’s economy suddenly burst out and minimized the importance of baseball in 1990. And 1990 seems to be a pretty clear demarcation between the time when the island was bursting with young baseball players and now, when it is clearly not.

Madison Bumgarner is reportedly asking for a nine-figure deal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that free agent pitcher Madison Bumgarner is asking for a nine-figure deal.

Your first impression of that may be “what? how?” A lot of that, however, is probably bound up in your understandable feeling that Bumgarner is too old to get that kind of scratch. But then you remember that, oh wait, he’s somehow still only 30 years-old. Indeed, he’s only ten months older than Zack Wheeler, who just nabbed a five-year, $118 million deal from Philly.

Bumgarner, obviously, has much more mileage on the odometer than Wheeler does, and he’s not the ace he was a few years ago, but he’s coming off a fine year, having put up a solid 3.90 ERA and 203/43 K/BB ratio over 207.2 innings in 2019. He would be a fine addition to the top — or at last near the top — of a contender’s rotation.

The White Sox, Twins, Cardinals, Reds, Braves, Padres, and Yankees have all been mentioned among possible landing spots. Figure his market to heat up a good bit once Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg sign and some of those contenders start looking for fallback options.