Olney: Phillies discussed Howard-Pujols swap

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howard pujols.JPGHere’s the craziest thing you’ll read all week (and it’s only Sunday):  According to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, the Phillies at one point kicked around the idea of offering Ryan Howard to the Cardinals for slugger Albert Pujols. 

Inside Olney’s oddly-formed story we get a flat-out denial of any such talks from Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro Jr., so it’s safe to say discussions are not ongoing (and may have never actually started).  Even if the Phillies threw around the thought internally, it’s not exactly a fair swap and we highly doubt Cardinals GM John Mozeliak would even hear the idea through.  Howard is an excellent player, but he’s a couple of months older than Pujols and not nearly as valuable. 

Pujols, who turned 30 in January, has a .334/.427/.628 career batting line and is widely regarded as one of the top defensive first basemen in the National League.  Howard, 30 in November, has a .279/.376/.586 career batting line and isn’t nearly as solid in the field.

Sure, Pujols is headed for free agency and is likely to command one of the richest contracts in sports history, but you pay for what you get.  Albert’s stat lines over his first nine major league seasons rank among the finest marks in the game’s 120-plus years of existence.  Thanks for the fun, Buster.  Is it April yet?

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.