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Saturday, April 6, 2020
MEXICAN LEAGUE PLAYERS UNPAID DURING VIRUS SHUTDOWN
Professional baseball has shut down almost everywhere around the world due to the Wuhan Virus, with only Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League still planning to open their season on time when the CPBL commences their regular season on April 11 playing in empty stadiums. While major and minor league players in the USA are being paid during their indefinite stoppage of play, most of their counterparts south of the border have not been as fortunate.
According to the El Fildeo website, players on 14 of the Mexican League's 16 franchises have gone unpaid since training camps were ordered shut down and the LMB season delayed until at least May 11, with members of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros reportedly being given 20,000 pesos (US$800) apiece by billionaire Alfredo Harp Helu, who owns both teams.
The situation has not only created financial hardships for Mexican League players, but also team owners and the league office. The regular season was originally scheduled to open Monday, April 6 in Monclova, where the Acereros were to host rival Monterrey, with a full slate of eight games slated for the next day. Instead, the cash-strapped circuit will miss a minimum of five weeks' worth of badly-needed ballpark revenues.
Some owners of other Liga teams were said to be considering measures similar to Harp's in helping their players, but the nationwide economic freeze due to the Wuhan Virus has affected most of their non-baseball businesses as well and in many cases, the money just isn't there. Supposedly some players were offered loans from their teams to be returned via paycheck deductions after the season finally opens, but that option was said to have been met with resistance by the players, many of whom have been calling for a union.
The Puro Beisbol website reports that people with ties to the LMB have written letters to Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador seeking financial support for its teams, including former Quintana Roo state adviser Niza Puerto (who has served a similar role with the Tigres baseball team). There is no word whether AMLO, a noted baseball supporter, has responded, but Puerto was said to also be seeking a meeting with PROBEIS head Edgar Gonzalez to work on a solution.
Although the LMB has set May 11 for opening play, the date is not set in stone given an order from the nation's Secretary of Health for a quarantine lasting until April 30 and the possibility exists that the season may be delayed further. LMB president Horacio de la Vega has stated that he'd be willing to extend a revised schedule into mid-October in order to play the planned 102-game regular season with full playoffs, but an even later start would seemingly make that all but impossible.
Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales has said that while his loop has set their own season opener for October 14, the LMP is waiting to see what the Mexican League does first before making it official.
THREE MULTIPLAYER DEALS SWUNG IN MEX PAC
While on-field action has ground to a halt in the Mexican League due to the Wuhan Virus, the front offices of the Mexican Pacific League have taken up the slack. Over a four-day period last week, three multiplayer trades were swung involving four teams and a total of 13 players, ten of them pitchers.
The first deal was on last Tuesday, when the Obregon Yaquis sent the rights to third baseman Christian Villanueva and left-handed pitcher Alex Delgado to the Jalisco Charros for a trio of right-handed pitchers: Octavio Acosta, Felipe Gonzalez and Jesus Camargo. Villanueva is no stranger to LMP fans, having spent six winters in Yaquis togs including a banner 2015-16 season in which he hit .322 with nine homers in 64 games. He spent last summer in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, batting .223 with eight roundtrippers over 73 contests for the Central League team after belting 20 homers with San Diego as an LMB rookie in 2018. Delgado went 6-4 for the Yaquis last winter after posting an 8-4 record with Oaxaca in Mexican League in 2019, earning his first All-Star berth in the process. Though only 25, Delgado has pitched in the LMB for all or part of eight seasons (going 11-1 for Mexico City in 2016).
In return, Acosta gives the Yaquis a pitcher who was 6-1 with a 4.16 ERA for Jalisco last winter. He was the Mexican League Pitcher of the Year in 2017 after turning in a 14-1 mark (2.99 ERA) for Mexico City that year. A former Yankees prospect, Gonzalez was 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA in eight starts for the Charros in 2019-20. Gonzalez went 3-0 and had a 3.22 ERA in 52 relief appearances last summer for Monterrey and, like Delgado, was a first-time All-Star Gamer. While only pitching twice for Jalisco two years ago, Camargo has been a Cubs farmhand since 2015 and gone 13-7 for that organization over four seasons, mostly as a starter, with a career 3.01 ERA over 221.1 innings.
One day later, Mazatlan and Monterrey swapped four pitchers as the Venados shipped Arturo Barradas and Jesus Alcantar to the Sultanes for Felipe Arredondo and Oscar Arzaga.. The most recognizable may be lefty Barradas, a 14-year veteran who was 1-1 in 42 relief outings for the Venados in 2019-20. Barradas appeared in the 2015 LMB All-Star Game while pitching for Quintana Roo and the 2016 Caribbean Series with Mazatlan. Alcantar has gone 2-7 with a 7.02 ERA since 2017 with Durango but the Los Mochis native has never pitched in the Mex Pac.
A longtime veteran hurler like Barradas, Arredondo was an Angels prospect for four years before embarking on his 13-year LMB career in 2008 with Quintana Roo and is likewise a middleman who was 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 14 outings on loan for Jalisco last witner. The 21-year-old Arzaga signed with the Dodgers in 2016 and went 3-2 for their Arizona Rookie League affiliate that summer, but has been plagued by injuries and never pitched again before being released last May.
The week's final LMP trade was made last Friday when Jalisco dealt shortstop Alberto Carreon and pitcher Luis De Luna to Monterrey for outfielder Sergio Perez and hurler Jose Oyervides, who has previously pitched for the Charros. A two-time All-Star Game performer for Puebla, the versatile Carreon has a career .300 batting average over eleven seasons with the Pericos and can also play second and third bases as well as both corner outfield positions. He hit .254 for the Charros last season. De Luna has made 19 relief appearances for the Charros over two seasons with no record but had a good 2.74 ERA for the Guadalajara team. He's also pitched sporadically for Saltillo, with 40 outings since 2017 for the Saraperos.
In return the Charros get a veteran in Perez, who was a Puebla teammate of Carreon's for five years as a reserve outfielder before being sent to Aguascalientes by way of Monclova last December. A career .307 batter in the LMB, Perez adds little power (25 homers in 11 years) but can get on base and keep a rally going. He hit .260 for Monterrey last season, his first LMP campaign in six years. The 38-year-old Oyervides is a Texan who signed with the Angels in 2002 and has gone on to be one of the Mexican League's most effective pitchers, making five All-Star appearances between 2010 and 2017 and earning Comeback of the Year honors with Dos Laredos in 2018, leading to the question of what he was coming back FROM the year after pitching in an All-Star Game? At any rate, he has a 90-63 career record over 11 LMB seasons and was 1-3 with a 4.12 ERA for the Sultanes last winter after going 9-9 with his hometown Tecolotes in 2019.
PADRES SEND ESTEBAN "EL PONY" QUIROZ TO TAMPA BAY
After spending seven years working his way into stardom in the Mexican League before signing with Boston, diminutive second baseman Esteban Quiroz will be playing for his third major league organization in as many years after the man called "El Pony" was sent by San Diego to Tampa Bay to complete a five-player swap between the two clubs. The Padres traded rightfielder Hunter Renfroe and middle infielder Xavier Edwards to Tampa Bay on December 6 in exchange for outfielder Tommy Pham and infielder Jake Cronenworth, who also opened six games as a pitcher for AAA Durham last summer and gave up no earned runs. Quiroz was added to the swap as the proverbial "player to be named later" on March 26.
The 5'7" Quiroz, an Obregon product who turned 28 in February, made his Mexican League debut with Quintana Roo as a teen in 2011. He was overmatched at first, hitting .120 with one RBI in 24 games for the Tigres, but showed his versatility by playing all three outfield slots as well as second base. Quiroz improved to .255 with four homers in 2012, playing every position but pitcher and catcher over 85 contests, but he would struggle at the plate the next two seasons while being shuttled around defensively (when he got to play at all). Although Quiroz had been a member of two LMB championship teams under manager Roberto Vizcarra, he faced an uncertain future at age 22.
Quiroz finally hit stride in 2015 for the Cancun team. Although he only spent eight games at second as Vizcarra played him at six positions that year, he hit .315 and knocked out seven homers over 96 games as the Tigres won their third title in five years as "El Pony" filled a role similar to Gil McDougald's with the Yankees dynasty of the 1950's. Quiroz also took part in the Home Run Derby in that summer's LMB All-Star Game an reached the finals before losing to Tigres teammate Alex Liddi (who runs 6'4" and 225 pounds). He then had a banner 2015-16 winter for his hometown Obregon Yaquis, batting .317 and winning the Mexican Pacific League's Rookie of the Year award, then hitting an even .400 while scoring seven runs in six errorless games at second as a reinforcement for Mazatlan's Caribbean Series champs.
Following a solid 2016 campaign for Quintana Roo (with career highs of a .335 average, 15 homers and 63 RBIs), Quiroz was traded to rival Yucatan. After being named Mexico's MVP in the 2017 World Baseball Classic (hitting .400 for the Grandes Verde), he rewarded the Leones with a .293 average, 11 homers and his first LMB All-Star game as a player. MLB scouts had noticed Quiroz during the WBC and Boston signed him at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The Red Sox invited him to their Florida training camp the following spring, assigning him to their AA Portland affiliate in the Eastern League to begin another odyssey.
After getting off to a great start with the Sea Dogs, beginning the season with a nine-game hitting streak and batting .302 with four homers and 11 RBIs over his first 15 games, Quiroz was shelved with a sports hernia. He rehabbed with an eight-game stint for the Bosox' Gulf Cost League affiliate before returning to Portland on August 24 and finished what ended up being a "lost" season with a .299 average, seven homers and 24 RBIs in 24 games. After the campaign, he was traded to San Diego for pitcher Colten Brewer.
The Padres brought Quiroz to their major league camp as a non-roster invitee last spring and subsequently assigned him to El Paso of the AAA Pacific Coast League. Despite two stints on the 7-day disabled list, "El Pony" had a solid season for the Chihuahuas, batting .271 with 19 homers while turning double plays with fellow Sonoran Luis Urias, who spent time in San Diego before the Padres dealt him to Milwaukee last November. Popular among fans in the border city, Quiroz hit .351 with 11 four-baggers over 47 home games, including a May 6 contest against Salt Lake during which he went 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs at Southwest University Park.
After he hit .188 as a Padres non-roster invitee at this season's aborted spring training, though, Quiroz was sent packing to the Rays and assigned to Montgomery of the AA Southern League, where (once the sesaon starts) he'll be starting over. Again.
Entering his tenth season of pro ball, Esteban Quiroz has seemingly faced a litany of challenges all along the way. However, only someone who hasn't read the above seven paragraphs will doubt that he's up to facing this one.