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Cardinals sign Jason Motte to minor-league deal

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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.

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.