Rockies acquire reliever Matt Lindstrom from Astros

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UPDATE: The swap is now complete, according to Astros social media director Alyson Footer.  Houston will receive minor league pitchers Jonnathan Aristil and Wes Musick in return from the Rox.

Aristil, a 24-year-old right-hander, had a 5.90 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over 71.2 minor league innings in 2010.  Musick, a 23-year-old lefty, posted a 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 122.1 innings at Single-A.

5:18 PM: That was quick.

About an hour ago Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweeted that “the Astros are working hard on a possible trade of Matt Lindstrom today” and now Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the 31-year-old reliever has been traded to the Rockies.

Colorado has been in the market for right-handed bullpen help all offseason and dealing for Lindstrom allows the Rockies to fill that role without committing to a multi-year contract. Lindstrom is under team control for two more seasons as an arbitration eligible player and figures to earn around $3 million in 2011.

Harding notes that the Rockies first tried to acquire Lindstrom in the November trade that sent Clint Barmes to the Astros for Felipe Paulino, so they clearly like him a lot despite a rough second half that saw him post a 7.50 ERA and lose closer duties to Brandon Lyon. Lindstrom has averaged 96.3 miles per hour with his fastball over the past three seasons, which ranks third baseball, but all that velocity has never equaled great results and he has a 4.00 career ERA.

Huston Street remains the Rockies’ closer, but should he struggle with injuries again Lindstrom gives them a backup option alongside fellow setup men Rafael Betancourt and Franklin Morales.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.