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Cubs, reliever Brandon Morrow agree to minor league deal

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CHICAGO — The Cubs are bringing back oft-injured reliever Brandon Morrow on a minor league deal, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Morrow, 35, last pitched in the majors on the final day before the 2018 All-Star break. He has been plagued with elbow issues ever since.

Morrow signed a two-year, $21 million contract with Chicago before the 2018 season after pitching in all seven games of the World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers the previous October.

Morrow was 22-of-24 in save opportunities before going on the injured list. He spent the entirety of last season at the Cubs’ spring facility, attempting to get healthy, but eventually had nerve decompression surgery on Sept. 1. He’s “full go” for spring training, according to the source.

Morrow is a 12-year veteran with a career 3.96 ERA as a starter and then reliever. But he has had nine disabled/injured list stints over the course of his career. His deal pays him $1 million, plus bonuses, if he makes it back to the majors.

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Similar to NFL officials, MLB umpires could get mic’d up

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NEW YORK — Big league players, managers and fans might be hearing a lot more from umpires this season.

Much like NFL referees have done for years, umpires could be mic’d up and announce whether reviewed calls are upheld or overturned, sources told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. They may also explain rules, if necessary.

Major League Baseball and the umpires are actively discussing the possibility. If the technical aspects can be worked out and the umps are comfortable with the concept, they could be mic’d up sometime this year. Both sides say there’s lots of work to do, making it uncertain whether this could be in place by Opening Day on March 26.

“I feel like getting more information on replay reviews would be great. Being able to hear what they see/say about the play will provide a better explanation of the call, which will be very beneficial for both sides,” Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Stephen Vogt said.

The NFL and NHL have their referees announce the results of replay reviews. In the NBA, the arena public address announcers relay decisions.

Baseball fans have become familiar with seeing crew chiefs such as Joe West, Ted Barrett and Tom Hallion take off the headsets and signal the ruling from the replay center in New York — either indicating a player is out or safe, or perhaps pointing to where a runner should go.

Under the innovation, an umpire might tell everyone at the park whether a challenged call is confirmed, stands or is reversed. It is not known whether there would be any additional explanation of a ruling beyond the basics.

“It will be helpful to the fans, which is good,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Sometimes they’re left in the dark as with what is being challenged.”

In the NFL and NHL, the referee is apart from the players when he speaks. MLB likely will want to be sure umps turn off their microphones for any disputes that might result.

“Well, sounds like players might be picked up on the umps’ mic,” longtime outfielder Rajai Davis texted to the Associated Press. “It wouldn’t affect me personally, but it will other guys.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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How Starling Marte trade turns D-backs into threat to Dodgers’ NL West reign

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It was the one trade everyone has predicted all offseason and it finally happened on Monday: The Pittsburgh Pirates traded outfielder Starling Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for two prospects. The Diamondbacks needed an outfielder, and with the Pirates stuck in the mire of Nowhere Land it was for them to trade a 31-year-old outfielder while he still had two years of team contractual control remaining.

What are the Diamondbacks getting? Other than a subpar 2017, when Marte was suspended 80 games for a positive PED test, he has been a consistent performer at the plate, with an OPS+ ranging between 113 and 120 every other season since 2015. He did set career highs in 2019 in home runs (23) and slugging percentage (.503) thanks to the lively baseball.

Marte is a two-time Gold Glover, with those awards coming in 2015 and 2016 when he primarily played left field. He played center field the past two seasons and he posted the worst defensive metrics of his career in 2019 with minus-9 defensive runs saved. The Statcast numbers, however, are a little more kind to his glove work, crediting him with two outs above average and a high jump rating. Given his speed remains near-elite, Marte reasonably projects as at least an average defender in center field, sandwiched between David Peralta and Kole Calhoun.

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Pirates trade Starling Marte to Diamondbacks for two prospects

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Outfielder Starling Marte was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday for two prospects and $250,000 in international signing bonus pool money.

Marte, 31, has spent his entire eight-year career with the Pirates. He has a career .287 batting average with 108 homers, 420 RBIs and 239 steals. He had career highs last season with 23 homers and 82 RBIs.

Marte won Gold Gloves in 2015 and ’16.

He reached the All-Star game in 2016 but also served an 80-game suspension in 2017 after testing positive for steroids.

The Pirates are in the midst of a rebuild after revamping their leadership structure following a last-place finish in the NL Central in 2019. The ascension of outfielder Bryan Reynolds during a breakout rookie season in 2019 and Gregory Polanco’s expected recovery from shoulder issues that limited him to 42 games last season gave Pittsburgh all the flexibility it needed to move Marte

The players going to Pittsburgh are right-handed pitcher Brennan Malone, the 33rd pick in the 2019 draft and shortstop Liover Peguero, a toolsy 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic who excelled in short-season ball.

“We’re excited about adding two young players of this caliber and the opportunity we’ll have to help them continue to grow.” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said in a prepared statement. “In addition, we now have a greater ability to acquire impact-type talent in this year’s international free agent market.”

Malone, a hard-throwing right-hander, was considered one of the top prospects in the Arizona system. He went a combined 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in seven appearances in Class A. Peguero hit a combined .326 (74 for 227) with 11 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 38 RBIs in 60 games in the low minors last season.

Arizona was dealing from a farm system that is one of the deepest and best in baseball, along with San Diego’s and Tampa Bay’s.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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