Tag Archives: Cuba

The future is bright

Where the Hech is our Cuban? He’s in Cancun, but not for long.

While the Blue Jays are refusing to confirm or deny anything, Morgan Campbell is reporting that Adeiny Hechavarria has finally received a U.S. visa and will report to Dunedin by week’s end. Campbell also clears up a little confusion about what El Perro‘s name actually is:

Along with confirming Hechavarria’s visa status, Hernandez [Hechavarria’s agent] also confirmed the spelling (commonly misspelled as “Adeinis” or “Adeinys”) and the pronunciation (ah-THEY-nee eh-CHA-ba-ree-ah) of his client’s name.

The highly-touted prospect is reportedly inked to a four-year deal. Everyone seems to think he’ll start at Double-A — after getting caught up in Dunedin, anyway — and that he can be ready for Major League ball in a year or two.

It may be wishful thinking, but if this guy pans out to be even an above-replacement shortstop, I’ll be happy. The team’s doing all the right things — bringing in Cuban prospects, locking up Lind long-term to a very team-friendly deal, putting a major emphasis on scouting and committing to do what it takes to put together a World Series-winning team.

It may not be a good time to be a Jays fan — Brian Tallet is starting tonight — but it’s a great time to be a Jays fan.

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The Dog

If I was put into a situation in which I was in charge of a Major League team and I was assigned the task of rebuilding said squad, my first priority would be to flood the Caribbean islands that matter with scouts and sign up as many good players as I can. This is partly because I think it’s a much quicker route to building a team than relying totally on the draft and trades and partly because I have this preconception that, in addition to be being good players, Caribbeans are also ridiculously entertaining while making their good plays. (Apparently I’m not alone in this view.)

So that’s why I was pretty freaking excited when I heard that the Jays have signed — and yeah, I know it’s not official yet — Adeiny Hechavarria.

I had never heard the name before before, but that doesn’t matter. Dude’s got all the hallmarks of being a potentially great Caribbean player:

  • Played internationally for Cuba? Check.
  • Ages listed as somewhere between 19 and 21? Check.
  • Excellent nickname? Double check.

Yes, according to the Orange County Register’s Angels Blog, Hechavarria is also known as El Perro. My Spanish teacher tells me that means The Dog. Maybe it’s because I’m a dog guy, but I love that nickname. El Perro. Beautiful.

Or maybe I love the nickname because it means I won’t have to memorize all the different spellings of his name. According to that same Angels Blog, “you might occasionally see listed as Echevarria, or Hechavarria, or Hechevarria, or Adeiny Hechavarría Barrera.” That’s a bit much. El Perro it is.

Team El Perro up with Adam (Sleepy) Lind, Marc (Scrabble) Rzepczynski and V-Dub (yeah, I went there) and you’ve got the solid core of the all-nickname team. That’s important because, hey, if you’re not going to compete, you can at least be fun to talk about.

And for the link and the video that is on every single Blue Jays blog in the world right now

At the 4:58 mark of the above video, El Perro makes a pretty sweet defensive play. If you want more, a rough scouting report can be found here along with more video — including one of El Perro smacking a triple. I love that one because his helmet flies off before he rounds first and I’m a sucker for that kind of crap.

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Aroldis Chapman update: This time it’s really over.

Early last week, the Blue Jays somewhat surprisingly admitted to having some interest in Aroldis Chapman. A few days later, Toronto had reportedly made a $23-million offer to the Cuban defector and were, along with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California U.S.A., considering to be the front runners for his services.

Then, earlier today, the Cincinnati Reds came out of nowhere (or nowhere that I was paying attention to) and signed the fireballing lefty to a 5-year, $30-million contract.

While this should be a disappointment to Jays fans, we can take solace in the fact that management was even considering spending this much cash on a largely unproven talent. That can only mean good things for the team’s (re)building.

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Aroldis Chapman update: It’s not over!

Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I ain’t really been in any kind of shape to do up a decent post for a couple weeks now. Turning off your brain and turning on your drink to unacceptable levels may not sound good normally, but over the holidays it’s a wonderful thing.

But the holidays are over, and now I’m back. And I see the Jays have some good things in store.

On New Year’s Day, The Star ran an interview Cathal Kelly did with a psychic. Kelly was looking for predictions for the upcoming year in sports and, being the good man that he seems to be, asked said psychic about the Blue Jays. Surprisingly, the lady psychic (who had the balls to say the men’s hockey team will not win gold in Vancouver) was not negative about the Jays, saying:

“Whether or not they accomplish anything, there will be renewed interest. It’s going to be a feel-good story … and people are going to be pretty forgiving.”

Now, I have no faith whatsoever in any of the hocus pocus peddled by psychics, but I can’t help but get a little excited by what this one said about the Jays. I know it’s because it’s what I want to believe, but I don’t care. This team has the potential to be an exciting one to watch.

Hill! Lind! Snider! Ruiz! Wells! (Yes, Wells.) Chapman!

Yes, Aroldis Chapman! Or, more accurately, maybe Chapman. But, even with it only being a maybe, this is a pretty exciting development for me. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you know that I’ve been pretty fascinated with this Chapman character. And I’m glad to see that after initially squashing ideas of being involved with the flame-throwing lefty, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos had his people arrange a private workout with the Cuban defector.

Of course, the chances that the Jays sign this guy are pretty slim, but it is encouraging to know that the team is not scared off by the player’s price tag, which is expected to be in  the $20-25 million range. That’s a lot of money, but if it’s going toward talent like this — talent that could be dominant in 2-3 years — then it’s a good investment and it’s a good sign that this building process is not meant to be a long, drawn out one.

Whether he signs Chapman or not, just showing an interest in Chapman is a pretty great Christmas present from the Jays to their fans.

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Aroldis Chapman update: It’s over

Aroldis Chapman

100 m.p.h.-fastball-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman will not be playing for the Toronto Blue Jays any time soon.

As roundtable participant Cole pointed out in the comment section of the previous post, Aroldis Chapman will not be coming to Toronto unless it’s in the uniform of a visiting team.

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos explained the lack of interest in the pitcher thusly:

“We don’t have enough background and scouting looks to make a proper offer,” Anthopoulos wrote in an e-mail. “Going forward, these will be the types of things we will be more proactive with. I think the way the Red Sox pursued [Daisuke Matsuzaka] is a great model. They were doing homework on him for years.”

Which to me suggests two very positive things:

1. He’s not going to spend theoretical money just because he has it.

2. The scouts are going to be hitting up places from which players are considered free agents!

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Aroldis Chapman update: Jays interested?

Aroldis ChapmanIt seems like a bit of a stretch that he’ll end up here in Toronto, but MLBtraderumors is reporting that the Blue Jays are involved in the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes.

With every sign pointing toward Chapman getting a contract in the $40-$60 million range, the Jays’ involvement, if true, bodes well for an increased team payroll in the years to come. The problem though is that, as the above link indicates, Toronto is far from the only team involved in the bidding for the young Cuban’s services. The more teams involved, the higher the price goes and the higher the price goes, the more likely it is that Chapman will end up with the Yankees.

But what if there’s more to Chapman than chasing dollar signs?

What if he wants to be the best pitcher he can be?

What if his agent really does have his best interests in mind?

Why would Chapman want to come to Toronto?

By most accounts, Chapman is an incomplete pitcher. He’s got a fastball that can touch 102 m.p.h., but not much else. If Chapman is serious about wanting to be the “best pitcher in the world,” maybe he should come to Toronto and learn from the man who is the best pitcher in the world right now — Roy Halladay. And the fact that Brad Arnsberg can seemingly work miracles with pitchers of much less talent than Chapman shouldn’t hurt either.

I know it’s a stretch, but wouldn’t it be great to see this guy in a Jays’ uniform?

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An idea (not researched) part 3: Maybe I should drop the (not researched)

It's all your fault, Bowie Kuhn.

It's all your fault, Bowie Kuhn.

With the highest profile Cuban defector in some time making news again — Aroldis Chapman has apparently become a resident of Andorra and is asking MLB to grant him free agency — I thought it might be time to revisit the issue of Cuban defectors and your Toronto Blue Jays.

If you haven’t been following this blog, I can’t say I blame you. But here’s what you’ve missed so far: First, I wondered why the Jays didn’t take advantage of Canada’s friendlier relations with Cuba and pillage the Cuban baseball system to Toronto’s benefit. Then I went and asked former Jays assistant GM Bart Given about it.

I figured that would be the end of that, but then one day an email turned up in my inbox that gave me (almost) all the answers I was looking for. Joe Kehoskie, player agent and legendary aide to defecting Cubans, somehow stumbled upon this blog and decided to help me out. Here’s his explanation as to why the Jays can’t get an advantage on the other squadrons:

It happened so long ago that Bart Given apparently is unaware of it (which is likely true of most MLB execs under the age of 60), but when it comes to Cuba and Cuban players, all MLB teams are governed by the so-called Kuhn Directive, which was issued by former MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1977 precisely to preempt the scenario you outlined in your articles.

The Kuhn Directive essentially extended the U.S. embargo of Cuba to all MLB teams, rather than only those in the U.S., in order to prevent Toronto and Montreal from gaining an unfair advantage over their U.S.-based counterparts. I’ve never actually seen the document, but apparently the Kuhn Directive forbids all MLB teams from scouting in Cuba, or otherwise attempting to procure Cuban players who are still residents of Cuba, for as long as the U.S. embargo of Cuba remains in effect.

This answered my questions, but also created a new one: How exactly does the Kuhn Directive read?

Google’s not very helpful in this regard so, I’ve been trying my luck on the phone with the MLB commissioner’s office. I don’t expect much to come of it, but if I hear anything, I’ll continue this series.

One last thing — I asked Joe if Toronto might have any advantages when it comes to signing Cubans who’ve defected. His answer was not what I was hoping for:

If anything, I’d say the Blue Jays are at a slight disadvantage when it comes to signing Cubans — at least those who are ready for the majors — simply because of the additional layer of government red tape that would be involved in those players needing to cross the border 1-2 dozen times per year. But all in all, that’s a relatively minor issue, and I can’t imagine any Cuban player or agent would spurn the Blue Jays if everything else lined up well.

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An idea (not researched) part 2: Now with research!

Cuban flag

Just over a month ago, Aroldis Chapman defected from Cuba. That led me to wonder what, if any, advantage the Jays might have over American teams when it comes to negotiating with Cubans. I mean, Cubans can travel to Canada, but they can’t travel to the States.

In the comment section of the previous post, the wise LJ of The Te of Inglett suggested I put my question to former Jays assistant general manager and now head honcho of the great Inside the Majors, Bart Given. And I did. And he responded. And here’s what he had to say:

Being a Canadian team would really only benefits the Jays scouting the players in Cuba – assuming the scout was actually Canadian.  Americans can actually get to Cuba now – and can also see the Cubans in international competition – so it’s hardly an advantage to be a Canadian scout anymore.

A Cuban needs to defect in order to leave Cuba – then set-up residence outside Canada, USA and Puerto Rico to avoid the draft and become a free agent.  Once a FA – he obviously signs to the highest bidder regardless of location.

There has been some discussion in the past about the Jays establishing a presence in Cuba prior to “the Fall of Castro” in order to hit the ground running when it opens up.  I don’t think anything like this has taken place

Make sense?

Makes sense to me, except the part where the Jays don’t have a Cuban office set up yet. The success of the Jays in the early days was based largely on the team’s work in the Caribbean, scouting and signing some incredible talent from the islands. If, as everyone seems to think, relations between Cuba and the U.S. are going to thaw — and steps are being taken — doesn’t it make sense to know the island inside and out? Sure, Americans may be able to get to Cuba, but not with the ease of a Canadian. And yes, Cubans can be scouted when they play internationally, but surely there’s a lot of talent to be mined beyond the Cuban national team.

Of course, if a team was going to start Cubans, it might want to keep the operations quiet to avoid problems from the Cuban government, so one might say “maybe the Jays are down there already!” but really, could you imagine J.P. keeping something like that quiet?

p.s. If you’re wondering what Aroldis Chapman is up to, ESPN’s got a great story on his defection,  setting up camp in Spain and signing with an agent who doesn’t have a single Major League client.

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An idea (not researched)

100 m.p.h.-fastball-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman

100 m.p.h.-fastball-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman

It’s no secret that Cubans are some of the best baseball players in the world. They live the sport. If the U.S. government didn’t hate Fidel Castro, Cubans would probably rule MLB.

Considering the talent and the political intrigue involved, it’s no surprise it’s big news when a player like Aroldis Chapman defects. (A lefty who touches 100 m.p.h.!)

My thought: The Cuban and Canadian governments get along pretty well. People can travel between countries without hassle and Cubans can move to Canada without, I’m told, any more effort than people who move from other countries. If all of this is true, shouldn’t it give the Jays an extreme advantage?

Does MLB have rules against the Jays courting Cuban players, or are the Jays just not tapping the gold mine that they have by far the easiest access to?

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