Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Flurry of activity as Tuesday LMB trade deadline passes

Yucatan catcher Sebastian Valle
Tuesday marked the final day that Mexican League teams can make trades or sign free agents to their active rosters with one month remaining in the regular season, and fans of such transactions were not disappointed.  Dozens of players were either traded, brought in or cut loose throughout the LMB, and rather than go through the entire eye-glazing list, let's take a look at some of the key transactions made before the July 11 deadline passed.

The deal that drew the hottest reaction was the trade of the rights to catcher Sebastian Valle from Tabasco to Yucatan in exchange for pitcher Juan Delgadillo, infielder Kristian Delgado and two more players prior to the 2018 season.  The 26-year-old Valle played for Mexicali in last winter's Caribbean Series, putting the Aguilas into the semis by belting a walkoff homer in a 5-1 win over Venezuela's Zulia Aguilas in a battle of Eagles before catching for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in Guadalajara.  The former Phillies prospect was signed as a minor league free agent by Seattle in the offseason but has spent almost the entire season on the disabled list, making one July 6 plate appearance in a rehab assignment with the Mariners' Arizona Rookie League team before his release two days later.

A Los Mochis native who has never played in the Mexican League, Valle has hit .253 with 74 homers over 822 games in his minor league career.  His LMB rights have been held by the Olmecas, who've had their own problems even without paying what will likely be a good salary for a catcher of Valle's status in Mexico, so the Olmecas jumped at the chance to add a veteran pitcher like Delgadillo (a son of Villahermosa in his 13th LMB season with 77-66 career record, including a 5-1 mark this year) and the versatile Delgado, who plays three positions and has hit .239 this year for both Tabasco and Union Laguna, where he played eight games on loan.

"Foul!," cried Monterrey Sultanes part-owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz, who came out of his season-long hibernation to complain to LMB president Plinio Escalante and president-in-waiting Javier Salinas that the Sultanes had a deal worked out with Tabasco to obtain Valle's right.  The LMB responded quickly, replying that there is no record of such an arrangement in the Liga's Mexico City offices and that the Olmecas' swap with Yucatan would hold.  Not that the Sultanes ended up standing still, signing All-Star third baseman Daniel Mayora (who was released by the financially imploding Durango Generales on Monday) and inking free agent first baseman-catcher Jesus Montero, a onetime top Yankees prospect who was released by the Orioles organization in late June after three injury-plagued months at AAA Norfolk.  Mayora, of course, fell one game short of tying the Mexican League record of 36 consecutive games with a hit and is among the LMB batting leaders with a .367 average.  Montero, who hit .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBIs for Seattle in 2012, will give the Sultanes a powerful bat and suspect glove.

Monclova was also busy up to the deadline.  The Acereros signed former major leaguers Carlos Quentin and James Loney as free agents while placing second baseman Tim Torres on the reserve list.  Quentin, who briefly played in the Puebla outfield last summer, appeared in two MLB All-Star Games and hit 154 homers in 834 games over nine big league campaigns (including a .288/36/100 season for the White Sox in 2008) .  Loney has eleven years of experience as an MLB first baseman, seven with the Dodgers, after finishing sixth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2006.  He has a career average of .284 with 108 homers.  Torres spent nine years as minor leaguer in four organizations, playing in the 2010 Southern League All-Star Game, before making his LMB debut with Oaxaca in 2015.  A versatile Oral Roberts product who can play seven positions, Torres hit .348 in 32 games for Tabasco and Monclova before being placed on reserve.

Other player moves included the signing of free agents OF Eliseo Aldazaba (Mexico City), OF Jeremias Pineda (Veracruz), IB-3B Alex Valdez (Saltillo) and 3B Eudor Garcia (Tijuana).  The most notable of that foursome may be Valdez, who hit 30 homers and drove in 100 last year for Monterrey and added 12 more longballs for the Sultanes this summer.  He represented Carmen at the LMB All-Star Game in both 2014 and 2015 and brings five-year Liga totals of .296/112/424 to the Saraperos lineup.  Unlike the power Valdez will add to the Saltillo batting order, Pineda is all about speed.  The Gulf Coast League's MVP in 20112, the 26-year-old Dominican was an All-Star for Veracruz in 2015, where he hit .285 with a Liga-leading 60 steals.  He's since spent time in the Marlins system before his release from AA Jacksonville on July 3.  Aldazaba belted 41 homers with 138 RBIs for Campeche over the 2014 and 2015 campaigns and will give the Diablos a reliable vet in the outfield.

The most intriguing pickup may be Garcia in Tijuana.  The 23-year-old El Paso native spent four years in the Mets system after being picked in the fourth round of the 2014 draft before being let go in late June.  While Garcia has been slowed by injuries, he's shown a good bat with gap power.  His signing will allow Toros manager Pedro Mere the chance to rest retiring veteran infielders Jorge Cantu and Oscar Robles by shifting Alex Liddi to first base and inserting Garcia at third.  In the postseason, that will matter.

One more notable roster move was the placement on the 60-day disabled list of catcher Iker Franco by the Quintana Roo Tigres.  A five-time All-Star for the Cancun team who was MVP of the 2011 LMB Championship Series, the 36-year-old Franco had hit just .157 in 17 games for the Tigres before he was shelved for the season Tuesday.  Franco played sparingly in 2015 and 2016 and is nearing the end of a solid, workmanlike career as a tough customer behind the plate and opportunistic batter.  His 14-year Liga totals include a .269 average with 112 homers and 531 ribbies.