So, the Astros are taking their prospects on trips now

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According to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggert, the Astros recently brought eight players and six staff members down to the Dominican Republic for a 10-day getaway:

The group spent the 10 days touring the country, with the players working out at the Astros’ Dominican Academy in the mornings, then interacting with the various communities and villages they visited in the afternoons. It was a learning experience, not only for the players from the States, but the Dominican-based players as well.

“There were a lot of things to it,” assistant director of player development Allen Rowin said. “We were trying to get the U.S. players to understand where their Latin brethren are coming from, to see firsthand where the guys come from in the Dominican, to see the complex and understand what they’re doing, and also for them to kind of have a feel for what the Latin guys go through when they come to the States.

The players on the trip were all draft picks from the last three years, including 2012 first overall pick Carlos Correa and a 2013 pick in Brett Booth.

All in all, it seems like a very good experience for the kids and maybe something more teams should do. It also, however, sounds like an extra benefit that prospects should not be entitled to given the strict draft cap rules now employed by Major League Baseball. Now, I highly doubt the Astros were using a trip to the Dominican Republic as a carrot to get Booth to sign with them a few months back. I’m assuming the Astros cleared the trip with MLB as well.

But this is one of the problems with salary caps in general: anything outside the norm that teams do for players needs to be monitored closely to make sure there are no unfair advantages. Just as NBA teams next summer won’t be able to promise LeBron James luxury boxes and such perks, MLB teams have to be limited in what they can do for prospects, given the rules in place.

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has kissed Rob Manfred’s ring

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Let’s take a trip back to early last February. The hot stove season was as cold as ice. Despite spring training being less than two weeks away, scores of players remained unsigned and rumblings emerged that, perhaps, collusion was to blame.

The players were frustrated and there were reports that they were approaching the union to ask what, if anything, they could do about it. Some suggested some sort of wildcat strike or work slowdown or whatever. None of that seemed feasible or legal, but guys were getting desperate. And not just players. One agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA, took to Twitter to suggest something novel along these lines: a potential spring training boycott:

There is a rising tide among players for radical change. A fight is brewing. And it may begin with one, maybe two and, perhaps, 1,200 willing to follow. A boycott of Spring Training may be a starting point if behavior doesn’t change.

There was a lot more to that — Van Wagenen issued a whole statement attached to his tweet taking the owners to task and clearly implying that he believed the owners were acting less-than-scrupulously — but I can’t remember what it said and I can’t check because, at some point between then and now, Van Wagenen deleted it.

Probably because he is now the general manager of the New York Mets, putting him on the side of management, not players. Probably because he now, ultimately, answers to Rob Manfred. The same Rob Manfred, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports, met with Van Wagenen at the just-concluded owners meetings down in Atlanta.

Based on Davidoff’s report — which deals specifically with Van Wagenen’s February tweet — it sounds like they have come to an . . . understanding about it all. Manfred:

“Brodie called me right after he accepted the job,” Manfred said during a news conference. “We had a really good conversation. I think that he understands the concerns that a comment like that raises amongst our group. But I have every confidence that he’s going to conduct himself in a way that will make him a really productive member of the baseball family.”

“Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter… ‘s wedding… on the day of your daughter’s wedding. And I hope their first child be a masculine child. I pledge my ever-ending loyalty,” Van Wagenen did not add but may as well have.