Lance Berkman tells Astros he'll be ready to come off the disabled list Tuesday

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Lance Berkman went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double in a rehab game today at Triple-A and MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that the switch-hitter called Astros manager Brad Mills afterward to say he’ll be ready to return from the disabled list Tuesday.
Berkman, who hasn’t played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on March 13, said he told Mills “you can run me out there for about 10 or 15 games and see what happens.” However, the All-Star first baseman also told McTaggart that his surgically repaired knee isn’t totally healed.
“I wouldn’t say it’s completely behind me, but I would say it’s good enough to get out there and play,” Berkman said. “I hadn’t played a game in five weeks, so obviously not just my knee, but every part of me is kind of sore, just because I hadn’t been in game action. I anticipate being in the lineup on Tuesday and not coming out of it until the end of the year.”
After beginning the season with eight straight losses Houston has won three out of four games, but at 3-9 overall with an MLB-worst 2.33 runs per game offensively the Astros desperately need Berkman’s bat back in the lineup. He’s hit .299/.412/.555 with an average of 33 homers, 110 RBIs, and 100 walks per 150 games, posting a slugging percentage above .500 in each of his 10 full seasons.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.