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Francisco Cervelli leads ballplayers in joining Venezuelan protests

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Venezuela has nearly ground to a halt over the past several weeks as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have taken to the streets to demand his removal from power. They have good reason to protest too, as Maduro and his party have mounted a virtual coup, working to bypass the results of elections which gave his opponents a legislative majority and to fend off a referendum aimed at ousting Maduro himself from office.

All of this comes as the country finds itself in an economic crisis which has led to severe food and medicine shortages. Violent crime has spiraled out of control and blackouts have become a daily occurrence. The protests themselves have turned violent as well, with hundreds injured and thousands have been arrested. Maduro stands defiant, employing the military to hold on to power and crack down on his opponents.

While most of us don’t tend to think all that much about what happens in Venezuela, there are over 70 major league baseball players from the country and many more minor leaguers. They all have family and friends down there, many of them suffering and in danger. Yet they still have to find a way to go about their business every day, playing a game, while their country burns.

Many of them are not simply trying to put it out of their mind. As Stephen Nesbitt of the Post-Gazette reports, many are lending their support and joining in protests of Maduro and the deteriorating situation in Venezuela from afar. Leading the charge: Pittsburgh Pirate and Venezuela native Francisco Cervelli:

Before the Pirates played the Milwaukee Brewers on May 5, Cervelli spoke with Hernan Perez during batting practice. They started to hatch a plan. They got together after the game and began contacting some of the 70 other Venezuelans currently on active rosters. They called. They texted. They asked players to send videos voicing their support of the protesters.

Three days later, Cervelli posted a video on his Instagram page, which has more than 181,000 followers, that featured messages from 13 players from three teams. The caption, translated, read, “THAT’S ENOUGH! THE CRIES OF MILLIONS OF VOICES FOR VENEZUELA.”

Nesbitt talks to Cervelli and shares his words and those of other Venezuelan players who are not content to remain quiet and stick to baseball while their homeland is in crisis.

The article is definitely worth your time and their efforts are definitely worth our admiration.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.