Alex Wilson
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Indians to sign Alex Wilson to minor league deal

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The Indians kept busy on Friday, adding to a slew of recent minor league signings with outfielder Matt Joyce and right-handed reliever Alex Wilson. Per Jeff Passan of ESPN, Wilson will receive an invitation to spring training and stands to make $1.25 million if he cracks the MLB roster, with an additional $750,000 tied to incentives. The deal has not been formally announced by the team.

The 32-year-old righty rounded out a four-year stretch with the Tigers in 2018, pitching to a respectable 3.36 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, and 6.3 SO/9 over 61 2/3 innings in relief. The season wasn’t without its hiccups — most notably, a month-long stint on the injured list triggered by a plantar fascia rupture in his left foot — but Wilson made a swift and full recovery and proved as durable and productive as ever down the stretch. Following another third-place finish for the Tigers, however, he was non-tendered and failed to garner any serious interest over the first several months of free agency.

With Wilson on board, the Indians will have plenty of bullpen depth as they head into camp this spring. Along with the likes of veteran signees Justin Grimm and James Hoyt, they re-signed left-hander Oliver Perez to a major league deal last month and picked up right-hander Nick Wittgren in exchange for Marlins minor league righty Jordan Milbrath earlier this week.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.