Astros bring back Michaels, sign Chacin

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MLB.com’s Alyson Footer reports that the Astros have re-signed Jason Michaels to a one-year, $800,000 contract and added left-hander Gustavo Chacin on a minor league deal.
After a brutal start, Michaels performed well in extremely limited action for the Astros last season, hitting .311/.400/.557 in 61 at-bats after the break to finished with a 752 OPS. Although he spent all season on the active roster, he made just 18 starts and received a total of 135 at-bats. He did his best work when he was in the lineup, as he hit only .225 with four RBI in 53 at-bats a pitch-hitter.
His return, in combination with the decision not to non-tender Jeff Keppinger, makes it appear as though the Astros will have a particularly punchless bench again. Geoff Blum is the star of the group. As things stand now, Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles will form the catching duo, while the fifth bench spot could go to Jason Bourgeois. The Astros may yet add a veteran backup center fielder and bump Bourgeois to Triple-A.
Chacin, who has dealt with a multitude of arm problems since going 13-9 with a 3.72 ERA as a 24-year-old for the Blue Jays in 2005, finished 8-4 with a 3.21 ERA for the Phillies’ Triple-A club last season. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2007. He picked a good team to sign with, given that the Astros currently have Brian Moehler and Felipe Paulino at the bottom of the rotation.

Johnny Cueto expected to opt-out of his deal after the season

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Johnny Cueto signed a six-year $130 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. In his first season he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, helping lead the Giants to the playoffs. This season has been rocky for Cueto — he’s got a a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts and has battled blisters — but they’ve been far rockier for the Giants overall, as they sit in last place in the NL West and have the second worst record in baseball.

Many suspect that the Giants will either rebuild or, at the very least, restructure some in response to this nightmare year. If so, they’re likely going to be doing it with Cueto, who Jon Heyman reports is going to opt-out of his deal:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer . . . Cueto has $84 million to go over four years. It would probably take an injury or major slump for Cueto not to opt out. But it makes sense that he will.

Heyman says the Giants are not inclined to give him an extension, so expect to see Cueto on the free agent market three days after the World Series ends, which is the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out rights.

The Dodgers are concerned about Julio Urias’ shoulder

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Things are going great for the Dodgers lately. They’ve won seven consecutive games and 13 of their last 14. They lead the National League in wins and are in first place in, arguably, the best division in baseball.

But there are a lot of moving parts on a baseball team, and even when some things are going great, other things can go not-so-great. Like this:

Urias has been diagnosed with shoulder inflammation and shut down indefinitely. An MRI last week showed no structural damage, but his shoulder is still bothering him. He has not pitched in the bigs since late May, when he allowed seven runs in less than three innings against the Miami Marlins. He was sent down after that and went 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA, six walks and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched in three starts with Oklahoma City before being shelved.