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MLB, MLBPA enters into player transfer agreement with Mexican Baseball League


Major League Baseball announced today that it, the MLBPA and the 30 teams have ratified a two-year player transfer agreement with the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB). It’s similar to the agreements MLB has recently entered with professional leagues in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and FCB Cuba.

Under the new agreement all Mexican League players who are under contract will become eligible to sign with any Major League club the off-season after the player qualifies as a “Foreign Professional” under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement (i.e., when the player is at least 25 years old and has six or more years of professional baseball experience abroad). Mexican League players who are released before that time can sign in the U.S. as well. Major League teams that sign a player from a Mexican club will owe that club a one-time release fee of 15% of the total guaranteed value of the MLB contract or 35% of the signing bonus if it’s a minor league deal.

Rob Manfred’s comment on the deal:

“Major League Baseball is pleased to further solidify its longstanding relationship with the LMB with this agreement. Mexico is an important market for our game, as demonstrated by our three series in Monterrey in the months ahead. We look forward to the opportunities to develop more Major League players and baseball fans in the country.”

Tony Clark:

“Mexican players past and present have looked forward to a time when there would be a fair and transparent path to pursue their dreams of playing Major League Baseball. This agreement provides for that.”

The bit about “fair and transparent” is not a minor point here, as there is a sordid history between LMB and Major League Baseball when it comes to players switching leagues.

In the past, LMB teams have charged exorbitant fees to allow players to leave Mexico, often as high as 75%. By way of example, Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias signed with the Diablos Rojos of LMB when he was 15. He later signed a deal with the Dodgers that had a $1 million signing bonus attached, and almost all of it went to the Rojos in order to get them to allow him to join the Dodgers. It’s not an uncommon story. Indeed, there have been charges that Mexican teams sign 15-year-old players for the specific purpose of later flipping them to the big leagues for a hefty sum. There have also been charges of fraud corruption separate and apart from the, frankly, corrupt tactics inherent in such high rates.

It got so bad that last year Major League Baseball cut all ties with LMB, banning teams from signing players from the confederation. This deal, obviously, suggests that the sides worked out their differences.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.