Mike Brito, scout of Mexican talent for Dodgers, dies at 87

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LOS ANGELES — Mike Brito, the top scout in Mexico for the Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly 45 years who discovered such talents as Fernando Valenzuela, current Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias and Yasiel Puig, died Thursday. He was 87.

The team announced his death to the crowd and held a moment of silence before hosting the Chicago Cubs. Photos of Brito and his discoveries were shown on the stadium’s videoboards. He died at a Los Angeles hospital. No cause of death was provided.

For years, the mustachioed Brito was instantly recognizable behind home plate dressed in a stylish suit and a Panama hat with a cigar clenched in his teeth holding a radar gun. More recently, he used a cane in concession to his age as he observed the current Dodgers from the press box.

Brito had a connection to the club’s most recent World Series championship, won after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. In the deciding Game 6 against Tampa Bay, Victor Gonzalez was the winner and Urias earned the save. Both Mexican-born pitchers were signed by Brito, who remained part of the team’s scouting staff until his death.

Before gaining rare international notoriety for someone in the scouting profession, Brito played in the Washington Senators’ minor league system from 1955-61. He reached the Triple-A level and played professionally in Mexico from 1961-66.

Born in Cuba, Brito moved to Los Angeles in 1968. Through his work as a scout in the Mexican League he became associated with the Dodgers and then-general manager Al Campanis, who hired Brito full-time in 1978. The first played he signed was pitcher Bobby Castillo.

In 1979, Brito convinced Campanis to sign Valenzuela, who became the most successful Mexican-born pitcher in major league history. He was won rookie of the year and the NL Cy Young Award while leading the Dodgers to a World Series title in 1981.

“My heart is very heavy,” said Valenzuela, who works as a broadcaster for the team. “Mike was a great man and instrumental in my success as a baseball player on and off the field. No one loved the Dodger organization more than Mike and we will all miss him very much.”

In all, Brito helped to sign over 30 players who went on to play in the big leagues, including pitchers Antonio Osuna, Dennys Reyes and Ismael Valdez, and infielder Juan Castro.

Brito was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named international scout of the year at Major League Baseball’s 2014 winter meetings. Last year, he received the Tony Gwynn Award from Baseball America for his contributions to the game.

Brito played a scout in the 1991 movie “Talent For The Game.”

He is survived by his wife, Rosario, and daughters Diana and Minerva.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.