Willie Mays could've been a Yankee

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Between 1951 and 1973, the Yankees won 12 pennants and seven World Championships. Between 1951 and 1973, Willie Mays established himself as the greatest centerfielder in the history of baseball, and depending on how you measure it, one of the top three or four players of all time (I got Ruth and Wagner 1-2, and I’d be hard pressed to put anyone else above Mays). Imagine, then, what could have happened if the Yankees had listened to their scouts and signed him in 1949 and 1950 when they had the chance. Seems they could have had Ernie Banks too.

I’m not a huge alternate history buff, but the implications of Willie Mays on the 1950s and 1960s New York Yankees boggle the mind. You have to figure that he moves Mantle off of centerfield and to a corner. Does Mantle hold up better health-wise playing right field? Heck, maybe the Yankees try to make Mantle work at shortstop where he started out, he flames out on defense and is allowed to get signed by the St. Louis Browns or something. Does Mays gain the same reputation for his speed and defense playing in a smaller centerfield in the non-running American League? Does Giants owner Horace Stoneham get the same kind of offer he received from San Francisco to move the team west, or is he stuck with his original plan to move the Giants to Minnesota? The shoes that drop (or don’t) after that business is dealt with are innumerable, but this Braves fan likes the idea of there being no Minnesota Twins in 1991.

I’m sure there are 1,000 other implications of such a move. If you have any particularly mind-blowing ones, by all means, offer them up in the comments.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:

Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.

The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.

Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.