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Jonathan Papelbon likely to ask for $11.5 million in arbitration

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Jonathan Papelbon “is poised to ask for $11.5 million” in his final year of arbitration, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

That would be a raise of slightly over $2 million from his 2010 salary, which Papelbon earned while having the worst season of his career. He blew nine of 46 save opportunities while posting career-worst marks in ERA (3.90), losses (7), walks (28), and homers (7).

Cafardo notes that the Red Sox almost always avoid actually going through the arbitration process with players, instead agreeing to a contract before the hearing can take place, but speculates that “they might fight this one out.”

However, while it makes sense that someone shouldn’t get a $2.15 million raise to $11.5 million following a career-worst season the arbitration process works in such a way that a raise was all but guaranteed unless Papelbon got hurt or was downright terrible. In other words, “fight this one out” could just as easily backfire for the Red Sox and result in their having to pay him $11.5 million instead of a slightly lesser figure reached via pre-hearing compromise.

Of course, there’s nothing actually forcing the Red Sox to keep Papelbon. They could simply non-tender him if they don’t like the potential $11.5 million price tag or trade him to a team more willing to pay that much for a 30-year-old closer showing various signs of decline.

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.