Orlando Hernandez leaves Double-A team amid possible rift with Nationals

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Orlando Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals last month and had pitched very well since moving his comeback up to Double-A, posting a 1.86 ERA, .147 opponents’ batting average, and 12/5 K/BB ratio in 9.2 innings as a reliever.
He was presumably in line for a potential September call-up to join his brother Livan Hernandez in Washington, but yesterday El Duque “abruptly” left the Double-A team because, as Nationals director of player development Doug Harris explained:

He realized the opportunity he was seeking may not present itself here, and he felt it was time to go in another direction.

However, according to Geoff Morrow of the Harrisburg Patriot News “sources said Hernandez left in part because the Nationals hadn’t yet given him a major league shot despite his helping the organization sign highly touted Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya earlier this summer.”
Harris called that “a bad rumor” but then did lend a bit of credence to the notion by saying:

I have no idea about his direct influence [with signing Maya]. I don’t think he hand-delivered him to us. Yunesky Maya’s agent is also Livan Hernandez’s agent. I think [Orlando Hernandez] was comforting for Yunesky, but he didn’t walk him to us.

Who knows what went on behind closed doors, but it certainly wouldn’t seem like a huge stretch if the Nationals signed Hernandez in the hopes he could help them bring in Maya and at least hinted strongly that he’d be in line for a call-up in the process. Or maybe not, who knows. Either way, Hernandez signed a minor-league deal, pitched well for a month at two different levels, and then quit right when a call-up would have been most likely.

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.