All Star Catcher Joins Coqui

Updated: October 1, 2017

The phones haven’t stopped ringing in the box office at PRTC Stadium. After San Juan announced it had secured Jesus Negrete in free agency the fan base exploded in a way even the Coqui front office hadn’t anticipated. Projected sales have jumped from 45,000 per game to 55,000. Baseball economists rate the team at an 89 fan interest, a big jump from the 74 it plummeted to at the end of the regular season

That drop came after, in the space of three days in December, General Manager Mike Best let the team’s most consistent hitter Richie Norman walk to free agency and traded two fan favorites, Orlando Reyes and Hollywood Hernandez. The groan from the fan base, after coming just two games from the division title, could be heard across the island.

Best hadn’t been seen in public since. It didn’t help that the offseason was full of rumors that failed to materialize. Negrete himself was one of them, just prior to free agency. As was Gilbert Murray, who wound up in Shin Seiki. In free agency, the Coqui were linked to Arturo Jimenez, James Heard and Dave Nash but came up short on all.

Even when the team signed slugging DH Alexander O’Neal and hurler Domingo Rodriguez, there were still no Best sighting. As one talk radio host noted, the two almost seemed as consolation prizes in comparison to Heard and Jimenez. While O’Neal fills a big hole in the middle of the order, there are some concerns about him being a fit in PRTC Stadium and the team really wanted Heard’s home run process having finished 5th in the league in OBP but 11th in home runs last year.

Yesterday, at his first press conference since November, Best confirmed he had indeed discussed Negrete with Aurora but that, until a few days ago, had not contacted the catcher in free agency. An inside source explained the team was more focused on finding a cleanup hitter which they did not consider Negrete to be and, after losing out on Heard, the team was content to keep its multiple picks in the first and second round. When asked what changed, Best said Negrete’s agent called with the much lower figure of $41 million over five years than the $30 million per season he was linked to early in free agency. That figure and compensation apparently scared away all takers.

“Obviously Jesus wants to be here,” Best said. “And we couldn’t refuse. When this team moved to San Juan, it truly marked a turning point for the community after the 2017 devastation and we owe it to the fans to put a winner on the field.”

He added, “We felt comfortable going into the season with our same two guys at catcher – and defensively they are Negrete’s equal – but what really sealed it for us is that Jesus is 29 and Darwin Boyer is 32. That made losing the draft pick more palatable.”

When asked if there was any truth to the rumor he signed Negrete on his birthday, the GM brushed the question aside, “Only in a parallel universe,” he said.

The GM also was asked about Rodriguez who is not a flashy name but a guy who will eat some innings as a mid-rotation starter, particularly with a better infield behind him.

“It’s no secret I like the groundballers with our defense and Rodriguez fits that bill. But Keiji likes the flamethrowers and Domingo can get up to 100 miles per hour so he gave the thumbs up on it as well,” he explained.

Although Best ducked a question about what kind of year-to-year plan the team is on, the source inside the team indicated he believes the Coqui are short on young talent and may have some lean years ahead as it builds through the draft. However, due to lesser competition in the division, they believe they can make a run now with free agents and aren’t afraid to potentially fall in a couple years as they think it will happen anyway. Although the top three minor league squads are winning big on the field, scouting experts don’t see many difference makers individually rising to the majors.