Friday, December 11, 2015

OLMECAS DEAL KARIM GARCIA TO SALTILLO

Former major league outfielder Karim Garcia has been traded to the Mexican League's Saltillo Saraperos by the Tabasco Olmecas.  A 40-year-old Obregon native, Garcia spent all or part of ten seasons in MLB playing for seven teams between 1995 and 2004, batting .279 with 66 homers for his career.  His best season was in 2002, when he hit .292 and whacked 16 roundtrippers in 53 games for Cleveland and the New York Yankees.  Garcia batted .286 for the Yanks in their 2003 World Series loss to the Florida Marlins.
After his MLB playing days ended, Garcia toiled for Japan's Orix Blue Wave and the Mexican League's Monterrey Sultanes before embarking on a four-year run in Korea from 2008 and 2011.  He hit .264 with 103 homers for the Lotte Giants and Hanwha Eagles, including a .283/30/111 campaign for Lotte in 2008.  Garcia has played the last four years in the LMB for Monterrey, Quintana Roo and Tabasco, batting .230 with 4 homers as a part-timer with the Tigres and Olmecas in 2015.

To bring the former KBO All-Star to Saltillo, the Saraperos parted with veteran first baseman and DH Refugio Cervantes.  After breaking into the Liga as a teen with Nuevo Laredo in 1997, the 37-year-old Cervantes has appeared in 19 seasons in the LMB, batting .295 with 195 homers and 749 RBIs for six teams.  He's had three stints in Saltillo, including an eight-year stretch between 2006 and 2013.  In 91 games with the Saraperos last summer, he posted a .258/10/42 slash line.

ESCALANTE TO STEP DOWN AS LIGA LEADER

Mexican League president Plinio Escalante has announced his retirement following the 2016 LMB season. Escalante made his statement at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.  A Yucatan native and Leones owner in the 1980's with an accounting background, Escalante became Liga president in 2007 after the post had been held by four different men since Pedro Treto Cisneros' 1999 retirement.  

The position of Mexican League president had been relatively stable after Antonio Ramirez Mura took the job in 1962.  Ramirez went on to serve 20 years at the big desk before stepping down following the 1981 season, a year after dealing with a crippling players strike that included a spinoff league of striking LMBers playing their own schedule the rest of the 1980 season in Liga cities and ballparks.  Cisneros Treto emerged in 1982 as president and held the office another 18 years before leaving in 1999, opening the revolving door that stopped when Escalante stepped up in 2007.  His final season will be his tenth.

According to Puro Beisbol's David Braverman, Escalante is already rumored to have three Liga teams offering a job after he exits the LMB office.

SORIA BACK WITH ROYALS, SIGNS 3-YEAR DEAL

After a three-year exile, relief pitcher Joakim Soria has rejoined the team for whom he was a two-time All-Star.  The 31-year-old righty from Monclova has inked a three-year, $25 million contact with the world champion Kansas City Royals, who have a fourth-year option.

Soria was taken by the Royals from the San Diego organization with the second pick of the Rule V draft while he was standing the Mexican Pacific League on its head in 2006-07 with the Obregon Yaquis, for whom he went 9-1 (leading the loop in wins) with a 2.41 ERA in 13 starts, including a December 9 perfect game against Hermosillo.  KC immediately moved him to the bullpen, where Soria went on to post save 160 games in 298 appearances for the Royals between 2007 and 2011, registering a 2.40 ERA and being selected for the 2008 and 2010 All-Star Games.

The road has been rockier after Soria missed the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery.  In three seasons since, he's pitched for Texas, Detroit and Pittsburgh, going 6-5 with 42 saves and a 3.00 ERA.  He pitched one scoreless inning with three strikeouts for the Pirates in this year's National League wild card playoff encounter against the Chicago Cubs.  Closer Greg Holland was not offered a contract for 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery himself in October.  Wade Davis is expected to inherit Holland's former role with Soria envisioned as a setup man for the Royals.

Shortly before the signing, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore praised Soria: "He's very dedicated, has great control with effective pitches and has a tremendous presence in the clubhouse."