$3 million down the drain for Astros

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Apparently satisfied with finishing in fifth place, the Astros have opted to pick up Brian Moehler’s $3 million option rather than exercise a $250,000 buyout.
It was actually a mutual option — the kind that never seems to get exercised — but Moehler was quick to jump all over the kindhearted gesture. Certainly, no one else was going to be quick to pay him $3 million after a season in which he went 8-12 with a 5.47 ERA and averaged only 5 1/3 innings per start.
Because he averaged so few innings per start, he missed qualifying for the ERA title and finishing with what would have been the NL’s worst ERA over Livan Hernandez.
Moehler had more runs allowed than strikeouts this season. He had more than twice as many hits allowed as strikeouts. He even got worse as the year went on, finishing 1-6 with a 6.12 ERA during August and September. In those two months, he allowed 73 hits, walked 21 and struck out 28 in 57 1/3 innings.
There’s just so little upside here. Moehler turns 38 this winter. He hasn’t had an ERA under 4.50 as a starter since 1998. He hasn’t qualified for the ERA title since 2000. He’s spent his entire career pitching for clubs that were average or worse, largely because he’s always been average or worse.
But this is Ed Wade for you. There’s a modest chance Moehler will be worth the $3 million he makes next year, but it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll be worth more and quite possible that he’ll find himself off the roster by June 1. When the Astros spend next year whining about how they can’t afford to take on more payroll, remember this completely unnecessary move. There’s little doubt the Astros could have had Moehler back for $1 million had they just exercised a little patience.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.