The Cardinals picked up free agent reliever Jason Motte on a minor-league deal, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday. The contract comes with an invitation to camp, but won’t be official until Motte passes his physical on Monday.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for the 35-year-old right-hander, who started his major league career with the Cardinals back in 2008 and last pitched for them in 2014. He bounced around the National League during the last few years, settling on a one-year gig with the Braves in 2017 and turning in a 3.54 ERA and career-worst 4.4 BB/9 and 6.0 SO/9 in 40 2/3 innings. While Motte hasn’t suffered any major setbacks since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, he isn’t exactly the sub-3.00 ERA, 40+ saves closer of years past, nor is he expected to return to peak form with the Cardinals in 2018.
That may not matter much, however, as the Cardinals begin camp with few defined roles in the bullpen. Per Joe Trezza of MLB.com, veteran reliever Luke Gregerson is likely the team’s first choice for closer, though manager Mike Matheny admitted that he’s open to switching things up if left-hander Tyler Lyons or right-handers Bud Norris, Conner Greene, Dominic Leone or Sam Tuivailala makes a better impression this spring. Presumably, that group will expand to include Motte as well.
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.