Free agent reliever Matt Belisle picked up a minor-league contract with the Indians, the team announced Sunday. Per ESPN’s Buster Olney, Belisle will receive $1.5 million if he makes the big league roster and can earn an additional $1.75 million in bonuses.
Belisle, 37, is coming off of a one-year gig with the Twins, during which he fired a 4.03 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 and 8.1 SO/9 through 60 1/3 innings. Following Brandon Kintzler‘s midseason trade to the Nationals, the veteran righty got a taste of the closer’s role during the second half of the season and finished 20 games with a career-high nine saves.
The Indians are projected to start the season with a bullpen comprised of closer Cody Allen, right-handers Dan Otero, Zach McAllister and Nick Goody and left-handers Andrew Miller and Tyler Olson. According to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Belisle is expected to compete with fellow veteran right-hander and non-roster invitee Carlos Torres for the remaining spot. The 35-year-old Torres signed a minors deal with the club last week and carried a 4.21 ERA, 4.1 B/9 and 6.9 SO/9 in 72 2/3 innings for the Brewers in 2017.
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.