Report: Astros agree to deal with No. 1 pick Mark Appel

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UPDATE: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Appel “just needs to put pen to paper,” so it appears that just some formalities stand in the way of a deal. Brian McTaggart of MLB.com also senses that a deal is close and writes that the Astros “wouldn’t have drafted Appel if they didn’t feel they could get a deal done quickly.”

2:36 PM: OK, maybe it’s not done yet. Contrary to Heyman’s report, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow tells Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle that “nothing’s changed” in negotiations with Appel. He expects talks to pick up next week.

2:28 PM: We heard yesterday that the Astros were nearing an agreement with No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, but the deal is now done.

Exact terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes that it will “probably” be between $6 million-$6.5 million. Either way, that figures falls well short of the $7.79 million recommended slot value for the No. 1 pick. It’s a nice deal for the Astros, who can now use that savings to apply to their other draft picks.

Of course, the Astros passed on the chance to draft Appel last year, as he eventually fell to the Pirates at No. 8 overall. The Scott Boras client then turned down $3.8 million to return to Stanford for his senior season. The gamble paid off, as he worked his way back to the top of the draft board. While it’s a bit surprising to see a resolution this quickly, he didn’t have the alternative of returning to school this time around. It’s also worth noting that he’s a Houston native, so playing hardball with his hometown team may not have been high on his list of priorities.

Appel, 21, is armed with a mid-90s fastball to go along with a slider and a changeup. He’s expected to move quickly, and could make an impact with the Astros at some point in 2014.

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.