The Cubs sign Cuban defector Serrano

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RHP Juan Serrano defected from Cuba last year, and today the Cubs signed himBruce Levine of ESPN reports that it’s a $250,000 deal, which makes it a minor league thing unless teams are giving out half-season contracts now.  The team has yet to confirm, as physicals need to be passed and all of that stuff.

Serrano isn’t a terribly electrifying prospect.  He’ supposedly has high-80s/low-90s velocity and a decent breaking ball. This assessment, from Cuban baseball watcher Peter Bjarkman, is pretty withering:

The
stark truth (known by all close followers of Cuban baseball) is that
Juan Yasser Serrano was a rather mediocre Cuban Leaguer whose 2007-2008
record was a below average 2-7 won-lost mark, further diminished by an
elevated 6.46 ERA and a hefty .312 opponents’ batting average against
his deliveries. And this, while hurling for one of the league’s very
best teams, Villa Clara. Serrano’s three-year lifetime mark entering
the current campaign was 14-16, with a 4.40 ERA for a club that
captured division titles in all three seasons he labored there.

Bjarkman says to ignore all of the hype spewed by Serrano’s agent, Jaime Torres, saying that Torres is known for spreading “outrageous falsehoods” about his clients. I have no idea — maybe people say bad things about Bjarkman too — but those stats were complied in a league where pitchers tend to get huge strike zones, so if they’re accurate Serrano really is no great shakes.

For what it’s worth, Levine says the Cubs will start him out at A or AA.  If we ever see him in the majors, I assume it will be in middle relief. 

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.