Cliff Lee was stunned by the trade

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cliff lee and roy halladay.JPGCliff Lee thought he’d spend the rest of his baseball playing life in Philadelphia, saying “[a]t first I didn’t believe it. I thought we were working
out an extension with the Phillies. I thought I would spend the rest of
my career there.”  Ruben Amaro had other ideas, obviously, and it sounds like he was scared off by Lee’s demands with respect to an extension:

“We made what we thought was a pretty substantial offer. We had some
preliminary discussions, but other than that . . . it was amicable. Like
I said before, I just didn’t feel comfortable that we were going to be
able to get to the finish line. And so we ended up moving toward the
Halladay situation.”

If Lee’s desire to stay in Philly was a deep one, you have to wonder if his agent didn’t come on a little too strong in the opening rounds of negotiation. I mean, I think if the Phils are only going to go with one of the two aces they chose the right one — Halladay is simply better than Lee — but in light of how quickly the team pulled the plug on Lee, it’s not hard to picture a situation in which Lee’s representation made it really easy by leading with an overly-stiff offer.

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.