Thoughts on McLouth to the Braves

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Braves acquire outfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates for RHP Charlie Morton, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and LHP Jeff Locke.

– First impression – I’m very surprised to see the Pirates parting with
McLouth just 3 ½ months after signing him to a three-year, $15.75
million contract, especially with no legitimate top-30 prospects coming
in return.

– Second impression – This is a pretty good haul for a guy the
Pirates thought was a fourth outfielder a couple of years ago. Still,
it’s pretty depressing that the one position prospect they got is a
lesser version of Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates’ priorities should have
been a power hitter for the outfield corners or first base and a
legitimate shortstop/second baseman of the future. Hernandez might turn
into a capable leadoff hitter, but he could just as easily be a bottom
of the order guy. He’s not going to develop any power. The 21-year-old
was hitting .316/.361/.387 with 10 steals in 18 attempts for Double-A
Mississippi.

Morton is a step up on the pitchers the Pirates got from the Yankees
in the Xavier Nady deal, but he may work out best as a setup man. He
was 7-2 with a 2.51 ERA, 52 H and 55/16 K/BB in 64 2/3 IP for Triple-A
Gwinnett. Locke offers more upside, though his command has taken a step
backwards this year. He was 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA, 47 H and 43/26 K/BB in
45 2/3 IP for Single-A Myrtle Beach. I expect him to make it as a No. 3
starter anyway.

McLouth is a big-time upgrade for the Braves, but that’s in no small
part because the alternatives had been terrible. He’s not a Gold Glove
center fielder, no matter what NL managers think. Still, he’s a great
stopgap there for now and he can move to left or right field next year
when Jordan Schafer is ready to establish himself. Better for the
Braves if he were a right-handed hitter. However, that they were able
to get him without parting with Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie
Freeman, Schafer or Kris Medlen makes this a fine trade for them. They
still have a real chance of going to the postseason this year, and this
move should be good for at least two wins.

– I’m very interested in seeing how Andrew McCutchen performs as
McLouth’s replacement. McCutchen has beened view as a top prospect
since being drafted 11th overall in 2005, and he’s continually put up
solid numbers while being young for his leagues. However, it’s
typically been the case that he’s dominated lefties and been just
mediocre against righties. This year, he was at .361/.400/.672 against
southpaws in Triple-A and .279/.344/.414 against righties. The overall
line of .303/.361/.493 with quite impressive for a 22-year-old in the
International League, but the way he got there leaves me skeptical that
he’s ready to help as a regular right now.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.