Are the Rangers targeting Cliff Lee?

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It’s often hard to tell what the question was that led to a given answer in an interview, but this story in today’s Dallas Morning News suggests that the Rangers are targeting Cliff Lee.

I say “suggests” because it’s rare that any GM will say “yeah, we’re interested in such-and-such a guy,” and in fact Jon Daniels does not say in the linked article that he’s going after Cliff Lee.  What he does say — prompted, I’m guessing, by a general question — is that he wouldn’t be averse to trading within the division.  Of course I’m also guessing that the comment came in a general conversation about wanting to get a starter so, yeah, you can put 2 and 2 together and have it equal Cliff Lee, but it could also just be academic musing on Daniels’ part.

Should the Rangers go after Lee? Seems like gamble to me. Despite what the story says, I don’t think the price of admission for Lee will be lower than that for Roy Oswalt. At least not for the Rangers. Sure, Oswalt is under contract for an extra year, but (a) Lee is cheaper and thus more valuable; and (b) the Mariners value prospects a bit more highly than the Astros have in recent years and would likely make noise — possibly disingenuous noise, but still — about needing a premium to send Lee to a division rival.

The upshot: Texas would probably be paying a much higher price in terms of talent to the Mariners than they would the Astros. And for the deal to really be worth it for Texas, the Rangers would have to think about keeping Lee around after he’s a free agent, which gets you back into the money issues that everyone is saying will hold up an Oswalt deal.

So Texas’ choice is this: better prospects and some serious pressure to spend a lot of money after this season for Lee, or a b-grade prospect or two and the certainty of spending a lot of money for Oswalt right now.

I think it’s a lot closer a call than many think.

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.