Report: Cubs acquire Cole Hamels from Rangers

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Update #3 (11:17 PM ET): Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Rangers will receive minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy and a player to be named later from the Cubs.

Lacy, 23, was selected by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2017 draft. The right-hander spent most of his season with Single-A South Bend before being promoted to high-A Myrtle Beach. Combined over 12 starts and six relief appearances at both levels, Lacy has a 2.45 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 24 walks in 80 2/3 innings.

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Update #2 (8:45 PM ET): The two sides have agreed on a deal, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

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Update (8:12 PM ET): Patrick Mooney of The Athletic reports that the Cubs and Rangers are moving towards a trade involving Hamels. He notes the trade would involve salary relief for the Rangers and the Cubs would give up “lowever-level minor league prospects.”

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Cubs appear to be the front-runner to acquire starter Cole Hamels from the Rangers. The Braves and Phillies are believed to have interest, and the Nationals reportedly had interest earlier this week.

Hamels, 34, has had an abysmal month. In four July starts, he has allowed 25 runs (21 earned) in 17 innings, which has caused his ERA to balloon from 4.05 to 4.72. However, Hamels has much better numbers on the road (2.93 ERA) than at home (6.41 ERA). Interested teams are likely focusing on those numbers, as well as Hamels’ track record.

Hamels is owed the remainder of his $22.5 million salary for the 2018 season and has a $20 million club option for the 2019 campaign with a $6 million buyout. His contract also includes a limited no-trade clause. He cannot block trades to the Cubs, Braves, Phillies, Astros, Mets, Mariners, Cardinals, Rays, and Nationals.

The Cubs could use an upgrade in the rotation. Tyler Chatwood has flopped after the Cubs signed him in the offseason, owning a 4.84 ERA with a remarkably poor 78/79 K/BB ratio. Yu Darvish, another offseason signing, struggled to a 4.95 ERA in eight starts before landing on the disabled list.

Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

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Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.