Source: Former Rangers bidder in on the Astros bid

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CORRECTION: While one of the parties to the bid was, indeed, unsuccessful in the first round of the bidding, I was mistaken in assuming that it had to be either Crane of Gilbert. The first round of bidding was actually a letter-bid submission round from last September, which included as many as six interested parties.  The Crane-Gilbert-Greenberg round, while referred to as the preliminary round in most media reports, was really the second round.  Upshot: the guy who lost out on the Rangers but is now in on the Astros doesn’t have to be either Gilbert or Crane. Could be any of six folks, actually.

7:45 A.M.: As was reported last night, Drayton McLane has signed a working letter of intent to enter into negotiations to sell the Astros. The group of prospective buyers is reported to be a mix of local and out-of-town investors.  This morning’s Houston Chronicle identifies part of that group: former United States Olympic Committee chief and former president of the International Baseball Federation, Harvey Schiller. The other is an unidentified New York investment banker.

As for other parties to the bid?  A source tells me that one of the is one of the bidders who didn’t make the second round of the Texas Rangers sale. As has been widely reported, Houston businessman Jim Crane was in that group. The same Crane who was reported to have “had a handshake deal” to buy the Astros in the past.  Given that Schiller and the investment banker are New Yorkers, it’s possible that Crane represents the “local interests” mentioned in last night’s report.  The other Rangers bidder was former agent Dennis Gilbert.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Crane is involved with the Schiller-investment banker people, simply due to the fact that he almost bought the team in the past. For now, however, the process is reported to be in the earliest stages, and McClane may decide that he doesn’t want to sell.

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.