Tampa Bay Rays v Texas Rangers, Game 4

Yankees agree to deal with Rafael Soriano

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Brian Cashman sure slow-played this one.

Despite insisting last week that the Yankees would not surrender their first round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft in order to sign a remaining Type A free agent, the Bombers agreed to terms on Thursday night with reliever Rafael Soriano.  Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the deal will be worth a whopping $35 million over three years.

Soriano said earlier this month that he would only be willing to accept a non-closer position with one team — the Yankees — because of his respect and admiration for longtime reliever Mariano Rivera.  And now he’ll get the opportunity to serve as an eighth-inning bridge to Mo for at least the next two seasons.  If Rivera decides to retire after his current two-year, $30 million contract runs out, the 31-year-old Soriano can assume closing duties for a year and ratchet up his free agent value heading into the winter of 2014.

Soriano posted a gorgeous 1.73 ERA and 0.80 WHIP over 64 appearances as the Rays’ closer last season, racking up an American League best 45 saves in 48 chances.  He has fanned a ridiculous 159 batters in his past 138 innings and has walked only 41.

All in all, he is one of the best relief pitchers in the game.

It is a crazy contract, there’s no denying that.  The money is too big and the Cashman-led Yankees are usually a bit wiser about handing out major amounts of cash and years to relievers not named Mo Rivera.  But the Yankees can afford to be a bit reckless with their cash because of their many lucrative revenue streams and there is little doubt that the move means an overall improvement for the club.

Opponents are going to have a really tough time plotting late-game comebacks against New York in 2011.

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.