The Astros plan on being buyers for some reason

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Following yesterday’s news that the White Sox were scouting Roy Oswalt — and that he was having none of it — comes two hope-springs-eternal stories from Houston.

First comes all sorts of optimistic rumblings from the Astros over at MLB.com:

As the Astros head into June on the heels of an 11-15 May, the
scuffling team conjures up memories of 2004, when Houston sat 20 1/2
games back on August 22. Or perhaps this year’s slow start is more
equatable to the 2005 squad, which went 19-32 out of the gate. Both of
those Astros teams dug themselves out of the hole — posting respective
runs of 36-10 and 74-33 — to punch a playoff ticket in the seasons’
final days. And while this year’s beleaguered squad has been beset with
injury and has underperformed, the Astros aren’t counting on their
history of second-half surges to guarantee October baseball.

Second, ESPN’s Bruce Levine quotes an anonymous insider who claims that that Astros’ owner Drayton McClane would rather add than subtract:

According to one of the top executives and most respected men in
baseball, the Astros are not in the mode to trade any of their players,
most notably Roy Oswalt. “The Astros owner, Drayton McLane, has always
been steadfast on his direction of the Astros,” the executive told me.
“Mr. McLane will be more prone to adding to his team rather than
trading his present players away.”

I’m of two minds here. I’m 85% that the Astros actually adding players
to make a run is lunacy. They’re eight games out and in last place
already, and that’s with Miguel Tejada playing way over his head, and
Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez and Hunter Pence playing about as well as
they can expect to play. Lance Berkman could certainly do better than
he is, but even if he picks it up, those gains will likely be offset by
the losses when those other guys fall back to Earth. Same goes for the
pitching. Roy Oswalt is better than he has shown thus far, but Wandy
Rodriguez is probably not a 2.26 ERA pitcher. The rest of the rotation
is pretty much what one would expect them to be. The upshot is that
there isn’t any real upside to this team in 2009, and short of adding
several top players — which Houston couldn’t do even if it wanted to
given the poor state of its farm system — there can’t be any serious
expectation of competitiveness this year, can there?

The other 15% of my mind thinks like this: Lee, Berkman, Oswalt,
Tejada and Rodriguez are either old or getting there quickly. There is
nothing to replace them on the farm. In light of that, once the Astros
give up on the current core and actually try and rebuild, the fallow
period is going to be an extended one. So, if McClane doesn’t mind
wasting a bunch of money, why not trade whatever dreck can be scrounged
up for guys with big, unwieldy contracts and see if they can’t catch
lightning in a bottle? Odds of success if such a path were taken: very,
very low, though probably not technically zero. And unless you’re an
Astros fan, it would be really, really fun to watch, wouldn’t it?

The spectacle, I mean, not the actual baseball.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.