We used to say “defects” from Cuba in these sorts of stories. I’m not sure if that terminology is still accurate given the changes in the political landscape and the new approach to players playing overseas on the part of the Cuban government. But suffice it to say, a player from Cuba has left Cuba and is planning on playing here.
The player: Luis Robert, who Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports has left his native country. Robert is 19 and is currently a center fielder with a lot of speed and raw power. Badler says he could end up a corner guy. Either way, he’s one of the top five players in Cuba by Badler’s estimate. He’ll certainly draw a lot of interest once Major League Baseball formally declares him a free agent.
The interest could vary, however, depending on the date on which Robert is cleared by MLB. The new collective bargaining agreement’s hard bonus cap on international free agents goes into effect on June 15. If he is cleared before then, anyone can sign him, including teams which have already hit the cap to which they’ll be subject for the 2016-17 signing period. If he’s cleared after then, teams which have hit the cap — the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres and Reds — will not be able to sign him.
Call me cynical, but I would bet the mortgage on MLB clearing him after June 15.
Roger Clemens will be an analyst for ESPN when the defending World Series champion Houston Astros host the Chicago White Sox on opening day.
Clemens made four appearances on last year’s KayRod Cast with Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. He will be stepping in on March 30 for David Cone, who will be doing the New York Yankees opener against the San Francisco Giants on YES Network.
“Roger has been sort of a friend of ours for the last year, so to speak, he’s in. He’s been engaged, knowledgeable and really present,” said ESPN Vice President of Production Phil Orlins. “You know, whatever past may be, he’s still tremendously engaged and he really brought that every time he was with us.”
Clemens was a seven-time Cy Young winner but his career after baseball has been tainted by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use. He is a Houston native and pitched for the Astros for three seasons.
Orlins said that with the rules changes and pitch clock, it is important to have a pitcher in the booth with Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez.
“We don’t feel like we have to have the dynamic of Eduardo with a pitcher, but we certainly think that works. Throw in the added factor of rule changes and it is better to have a batter-pitcher perspective,” Orlins said.
Orlins did not say if this would open the door for future opportunities for Clemens as an ESPN analyst.