Darren Oliver's $3.25 million option for 2011 vested last night

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Darren Oliver tossed a scoreless inning last night in his 59th appearance of the season, which is the number needed for the Rangers’ 2011 team option on the 39-year-old reliever to vest at $3.25 million.
Texas will be glad to have Oliver back at that price, as he’s quietly gone from being a mediocre and then seemingly washed-up starter to one of the better left-handed relievers in baseball for the past five seasons. Oliver has a 2.50 ERA and 63/14 K/BB ratio in 57.2 innings this season, producing the second-highest strikeout rate ever for a 39-year-old with at least 50 innings:

Randy Johnson       2003     9.87
Darren Oliver       2010     9.83
Nolan Ryan          1986     9.81
Mariano Rivera      2009     9.77
Roger Clemens       2002     9.60

That’s quite a list. Four of the greatest pitchers of all time and Darren Oliver, who in his five seasons prior to moving to the bullpen full time in 2006 went 33-39 with a 5.83 ERA in 573 innings spent primarily as a starter. Since becoming a full-time reliever he’s thrown 348 innings with a 3.08 ERA and is doing the best work of his career in his 17th season.

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)
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.