Cuban Baseball Newsbeat
Monday, February 10, 2014
“IT IS WELL past noon in the mansion they call the American Dream House, and the owner has yet to wake up. Half a dozen friends and relatives sit under an imported Italian chandelier in the living room, watching the hours pass on a silver-plated clock, waiting for Aroldis Chapman to come downstairs. House rules dictate that nobody disturbs him; it is Chapman’s $30 million contract that paid for this house, and it is his singular left arm that brought his family from a coastal province in Cuba to the manicured suburbs of Florida’s gold coast, wher
“We are usually just sitting here, trying to pass the hours,” says Maria Caridad, his mother, speaking in Spanish as the clock closes in on 1 p.m. She mops the kitchen floor even though a crew of six housecleaners performed the same chore a few days earlier. She turns on some salsa music and cooks pigs’ feet on the kitchen stove, leaning over the pot to inhale the familiar smell. “This reminds me of Cuba,” she says. “Of home.”
Across the living room, her husband and Aroldis’ father, Juan Alberto, turns the TV to Channel 374, the only Spanish-language station available on their deluxe cable package. One of Chapman’s assistants has been teaching Juan Alberto some English, hoping to ease the 74-year-old’s transition to the United States, but the lessons fail to solve a bigger problem. “I’m too old to learn, and there’s no one here I need to talk to anyway,” he says, so he settles into the recliner for his third Cuban soap opera of the day.
Every new immigrant in this household has developed an antidote to boredom, and for Aroldis, it is sleep. Midday gives way to early afternoon. Early afternoon turns toward dusk. His parents move outside to sit by the swimming pool, where they study the ornate drapes of his second-story bedroom for any sign of movement. Some days during the offseason, the Reds’ 25-year-old closer stays in his room until sunset, sleeping, watching movies or just throwing a racquetball against his bedroom wall.
Finally, a few minutes before 4 p.m., the curtains lift and Chapman descends the spiral staircase to the pool deck. He wears sandals, sunglasses and a tank top obscured by heavy gold chains. He lights a Marlboro Red cigarette and flops down onto an all-weather mattress near the pool.
“Why so late like this?” Maria Caridad asks. “Why all this sleeping?”
“There’s nothing else to do,” he says.”
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Another one of Cuba’s best players has left the island, the latest in a wave of defections that isn’t expected to slow down.
Rusney Castillo, a 26-year-old center fielder who had been one of the top players in Cuba, has left the country to pursue a contract with a major league team, Baseball America has learned.
Castillo has played five seasons for Ciego de Avila in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, so he will be able to sign as a free agent exempt from the international signing bonus pools.
That process could still take several months, since Castillo will have to establish residency in another country, have Major League Baseball declare him a free agent and the U.S. government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) clear him to sign. Once that process is complete, Castillo should draw interest as a free agent who could either go straight to the majors or get a tuneup in Triple-A before moving up.
Castillo is short but has a strong, athletic frame at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. His best tool is his speed, as he’s an above-average runner and one of the better base stealers in Cuba. More of a doubles hitter than a big home run threat, Castillo puts a charge into the ball with a line-drive righthanded swing, though he can get long to the ball at times and some scouts think he’s prone to chasing pitches off the plate. Primarily a center fielder in Cuba, Castillo has also played some second and third base, so his versatility could be a draw for some teams. He’s an aggressive, high-energy player, though some teams see him as a fourth outfielder.
When Yoenis Cespedes was in Cuba, Cespedes was the star center fielder on the Cuban national team, with Leonys Martin the up-and-comer. With Cespedes and Martin gone, Castillo stepped in as Cuba’s national team center fielder at the World Cup in October 2011 in Panama. Castillo was a standout at the tournament, hitting .512/.524/.854 in 10 games, going 21-for-41 with two home runs, two triples, four doubles, one walk and two strikeouts. He made the tournament’s all-star team after leading the World Cup in batting average and slugging while ranking fourth in on-base percentage.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
This ain’t no rick roll.
Like many Cuban baseball stars, outfielder Leonys Martin dreamed of leaving the communist island for the bright lights and big money of Major League Baseball.
Martin accomplished his goal in 2011 when he signed with the Texas Rangers, but not before what court documents and the U.S. Justice Department describe as a harrowing ordeal in which he was held for ransom in Mexico while his family members were kept under surveillance in South Florida.
Three people have been indicted in Miami on federal charges of hostage-taking and extortion conspiracy—counts that carry potential life prison sentences if they are convicted—and Martin himself is suing his alleged kidnappers for the return of more than $1.3 million he has already paid them.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Great breakdown from Tim Dierkes.
Predicting Abreu’s contract is particularly difficult without knowing the player’s goals. Cespedes made a point of limiting his term to four years, to allow a quick path back to free agency. Puig maximized his total dollars by taking a seven-year deal, a contract few saw coming in advance. Napoli has his share of drawbacks, yet I’ve projected a three-year, $42MM contract. Given that Abreu is more than five years younger, won’t cost a draft pick, and may have more power, an average annual value of $10MM or less may be a bargain. $60MM over six years appears to be Abreu’s ceiling. Ultimately I find the oft-cited six-year, $54MM prediction to be the best bet.
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
In February 2012, Cespedes signed a four-year, $36-million deal with the Athletics. Last winter, the Dodgers signed Puig to a seven-year, $42-million contract. Abreu is expected to garner a similar deal.
However, Cespedes and Puig, both outfielders, supply stout defense and speed. They can impact games in more ways. They were also younger at the time of their agreements — Cespedes was 25 and Puig was 21.
Abreu is considered a one-dimensional talent — he has drawn comparisons to Edgar Martinez and Ryan Howard — and will be 27 on Opening Day next season.
Those are factors the Mets, and other clubs, will consider as they bid for the slugger. The Mets, who have significant money coming off the books, must decide whether Abreu would be a worthwhile investment.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Cuba announced Friday that island athletes will be allowed to sign contracts to compete in foreign leagues, a shift from decades of policy that held professional sports to be anathema to socialist ideals.
The measure promises to greatly increase the amount of money baseball players and others are able to earn, and seems geared toward stemming a continuing wave of defections by athletes who are lured abroad by the possibility of lucrative contracts, sapping talent from national squads.
Posted: September 27, 2013 at 08:43 AM | 21 comment(s)
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The next big Cuban import?
One scout who is admittedly lukewarm on Abreu thinks he could develop into an MVP-type player if he becomes more diligent with his work habits and conditioning.
“If he is simply what he is right now, he will probably develop into a middle-of-the-road first baseman with ‘80’ raw power, who guesses and kills mistakes and inferior pitching but struggles against top-quality guys,” the scout said. “That’s not a bad floor, actually, and that’s the reason why he’ll get paid anyway. But he may disappoint the expectations of ‘best hitter on the planet’ that some have already placed on him.”
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