Manfred Cracks Down on Mexican League
Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports reports that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred advised MLB clubs last Tuesday that as a result of extensive fraud and corruption, MLB clubs are banned from doing business with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (Mexican League) clubs until further notice.
This may have something to do with Mexican RHP Florencio Serrano Jr -- one of the top International Free-Agents (IFA) signed by the Cubs in the 2017-18 International Signing Period (ISP) -- being released by the Cubs on Monday (it's possible that Serrano's contract was voided by order of the MLB Commissioner). Also, three other Mexican IFAs signed by the Cubs in the 2017-18 ISP (LHP Alejandro Carrillo, RHP Manuel Espinoza, and INF Juan Mora) were on the Restricted List until just yesterday, so there may have been an on-going investigation in progress by MLB that delayed the reinstatement of those players and perhaps was the impetus for Serrano being released.
Baseball America rated SS Luis Verdugo and RHP Florencio Serrano Jr (both from Mexico) as the top two IFA prospects signed by the Cubs in the 2017-18 ISP. Serrano's situation was unusual because he was born in the U. S. (Texas) but moved to Mexico to attend HS, which meant he was able to circumvent the MLB First-Year Player Draft and be eligible to sign as an IFA in July 2017 (a year before his U. S. HS class would have graduated). Even though the MLB Commissioner's Office knew what Serrano did, there was no restriction placed on signing him as an IFA last July, but I don't know what might have transpired in the meantime that led to his being released.
The article specifically mentions los Toros de Tijuana and los Leones de Yucatan as two of the three Mexican League clubs that are the primary offenders, and perhaps not coincidentally, Tijuana and Yucatan happen to be the two Mexican League clubs from whom the Cubs have acquired numerous (more than two dozen) players over the past three years. The Cubs employed a "Mexico Scouting Coordinator" (Sergio Hernandez) who negotiated with the Mexican players and the Mexican League clubs (mainly Yucatan and Tijuana) who controlled the contractual rights to the players that has allowed the Cubs to acquire a number of notable prospects from Mexico like RHSP Jose Albertos, SS Isaac Paredes (traded to Detroit last July in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila deal), 2B Carlos Sepulveda, RHSP Javier Assad, RHSP Jesus Camargo, LHSP Faustino Carrera, OF Carlos Pacheco, SS Luis Verdugo, 2B Reivaj Garcia, and RHP Florencio Serrano Jr. (NOTE: Sergio Hernandez is no longer listed as the Cubs Mexico Scouting Coordinator -- the position has apparently either been eliminated or is vacant).
But the relationship goes beyond just having a scout in Mexico. The Cubs loaned veteran Mexican League RHRP Mario Meza back to Yucatan the past two seasons after acquiring him from los Leones in December 2016 (although he attended Cubs Minor League Camp in Mesa in both 2017 and 2018, Meza has never actually pitched for a Cubs minor league affiliate). Likewise, RHP Hector Alonso Garcia was loaned back to Yucatan and OF Ruben Reyes was loaned back to Tijuana last season (the Mexican League clubs from whom the Cubs acquired the players) to help ease a minor league roster jam for the Cubs, although Reyes is playing at Eugene and Garcia is pitching for AZL Cubs #1 this season. And Tijuana has Spring Training in Tucson, and (except for this season) the Cubs played them every year during Minor League Camp, sometimes acquiring a player from the Toros after the conclusion of the game (as happened with OF Jose Alonso Gaitan in March 2017). So the relationship between the Cubs and the two Mexican League teams runs (or did run) fairly deep.
I strongly suspect that one or more MLB clubs filed a complaint with the MLB Commissioner regarding the Cubs using (or -- in the eyes of other less-resourceful MLB organizations -- abusing) the Mexican League "loophole" (where only 25% of the signing bonus counts against a club's ISBP as long as the Mexican League club that controls the rights to the player receives the other 75%) to sign numerous high-end prospects from Mexico despite being in the "penalty box" (no signing bonus in excess of $300K allowed in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 ISPs) after exceeding their ISBP in the 2015-16 ISP.
The Mexican League is an "affiliated" minor league (meaning it is part of Minor League Baseball, and has been for sixty years), although the clubs are independent of MLB organizations. (There is no other league like that in affiliated Minor League Baseball). However, MLB organizations are (or at least have been) permitted to "loan" players to Mexican League clubs during the minor league season, and that sometimes is a convenient way to get innings for Mexican pitchers (like Mario Meza) or reps for Mexican position-players who are mired in a deep MLB minor league system while allowing the MLB organization to continue to contractually control the player.
The Mexican League is designated as a "AAA" league, but is in reality more-equivalent to full-season "A" ball (like South Bend or maybe Myrtle Beach) or to an advanced independent league like the Atlantic League. The AAA designation goes back 50 years to when Mexican League players were subject to selection in the Rule 5 Draft. But because the Mexican League had "AAA" status, MLB clubs could select Mexican League players only in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft (higher draft price and right to re-claim), but the designation was not changed even after Mexican League players were exempted from selection in the Rule 5 Draft (which happened many years ago).
I suppose there could be further on this, just like with the Atlanta Braves last off-season. Hopefully not.
crunch 9 hours 43 min ago (view)
* except for playing 1st base
crunch 2 days 6 hours ago (view)
a lot of people were all-in on it being a 2022 thing, but given how MLB has held the DH over the player's heads like it's some kind of extremely valuable chip worth more than the players seem to think it's worth...who knows...
Cubster 2 days 7 hours ago (view)
any estimates on the chances of the DH in the NL anytime soon?
crunch 2 days 7 hours ago (view)
k.schwarber is hella good at post-season baseball.
crunch 2 days 9 hours ago (view)
e.castillo and t.payne off the 40man in 100% totally expected moves.
both are/were catcher organizational depth.
crunch 2 days 10 hours ago (view)
for those keeping track of the heating-up Mets head of baseball operations search, theo has already ruled himself out.
mets want(ed) some heavy hitters (including b.beane and d.stearns), but none of them are on board...well, MIL took stearns off the board before he could chime in because he has a year left on his contract.
Arizona Phil 2 days 15 hours ago (view)
Something to keep in mind about clearing MLB 40-man roster slots for players eligible for selection in this year's Rule 5 Draft is that you can't non-tender players to create 40-man roster space for Rule 5 Draft eligibles. That's because players can only be non-tendered on 12/2, and the pre-Rule 5 Draft roster filing deadline is 11/19 (almost two weeks - PRIOR TO -the contract tender date). NOTE: Normally the roster filing deadline is 11/20, but it's moved up to 11/19 this year because 11/20 falls on a Saturday in 2021
Arizona Phil 2 days 15 hours ago (view)
BRADSBEARD: Just one game, some BP, infield practice, and baserunning drills. So not much to glean from that so far.
crunch 3 days 7 hours ago (view)
minor league baseball has to provide housing for minor leaguers starting 2022 (paid for by MLB parent clubs). this is HUGE news and will make it possible for guys to stick around longer without having to quit the game just to earn a basic living. for minor league players working in expensive housing markets this is a life saver.
activist players from the OAK and LAA minor league teams as well as minor league player labor advocacy organizations were a huge part of making this happen. good work.
bradsbeard 3 days 10 hours ago (view)
Did you have any occasion to observe Pedro Ramirez? Not sure if he got into any games or not (now that I think of it, you wrote up at least one game he played in).
Arizona Phil 3 days 16 hours ago (view)
azbobbop: Certainly LHSPs Drew Gray and Luke Little have emerged as legit significant high-end SP prospects. RHSP Luis Devers has probably displaced Koen Moreno as the top "pitchability" SP prospect in the lower levels of the Cubs system. Tyler Schlaffer (another "pitchability" guy) also had an impressive Instructs, although Devers is a better SP prospect because he has a solid three-pitch mix and knows how to use it, while Schlaffer has just the 92-94 FB & CV (although both are solid offerngs) and isn't as polished as Devers is.
Hagsag 3 days 22 hours ago (view)
This is the first time I have heard about the four month program in November.
azbobbop 4 days 4 hours ago (view)
Phil, now that instructional scare finished, which players impressed you the most and who are disappointments.
tim815 4 days 8 hours ago (view)
Cool. Should help his trade value if the bat plays.
Arizona Phil 4 days 10 hours ago (view)
TIM: Peter Matt looks very comfortable at 3B. He is a classic "four-corner" guy (1B-3B-LF-RF).