Mets sign utility man Willie Harris to a minor league contract

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After three seasons in Washington the Nationals weren’t interested in bringing back Willie Harris and he apparently didn’t get any major-league offers thanks to a .183 batting average last year, so the 33-year-old utility man has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets.

Prior to falling apart last season Harris was a very useful spare part for the Nationals and Braves from 2007-2009, posting a nice .352 on-base percentage in 1,208 plate appearances while stealing 41 bases and playing everywhere but catcher and first base defensively.

Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com calls Harris “a decided favorite to make the team” despite being on the minor-league deal, but he’ll have to compete for a bench spot in spring training with guys like Chin-lung Hu, Luis Hernandez, Justin Turner, and Russ Adams.

Washington is expected to pursue Jerry Hairston Jr. as their utility man replacement for Harris.

Giants closer Mark Melancon is heading to the disabled list once again

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The Giants have placed closer Mark Melancon on the 10-day disabled list with a right pronator strain.

This is the same injury that sent him to the disabled list last month. He came back from that quickly, but it can’t be great that this is happening again. You have to assume he’ll miss more time given the recurrence of trouble. He’s going to get an MRI too. Sam Dyson is expected to serve as the Giants’ closer while Melancon is sidelined.

Melancon has a 4.35 ERA and 11 saves in 22 appearances this year. He signed a four-year, $62 million deal with San Francisco last December.

The Cubs visited the White House. Again.

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Last January, the World Champion Chicago Cubs visited the White House. It was a bit unorthodox, as World Series winners typically wait until the following summer and make the trip during a road series in Washington or Baltimore.

They did it, however, because when the Cubs won the Series, then-President Obama asked the Cubs to visit before he left office. He’s a White Sox fan but a Chicago guy and said he was rooting for the Cubs. So the Cubs visited.

Today they’re back again. It’s been characterized as an “informal” visit. No suits and ties or big official photo-ops in front of the White House. It was even unclear until this afternoon if they’d even meet with President Trump. The visit was inspired in part by Maddon’s longtime friend, U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta, and partially by the Ricketts family’s ties to the Trump administration. The Ricketts are significant Republican donors and one of the Cubs’ co-owners, Todd Ricketts, is Trump’s deputy commerce secretary.

So to the White House the Cubs went. At least some of them. Many decided not to go for a number of reasons, ranging from “no-comment” to game preparation considerations (the visit just happened, much later in the day than usual White House visits). At least one vocal Trump supporter, Jake Arrieta, did not go. Another, John Lackey, did go, but declined to give any comment on it, expressing concern that his quote would be used for political purposes. I’ve yet to see anyone say they weren’t going specifically because they do not support Trump, though I presume some felt that way. The man isn’t exactly popular at the moment.

Nevertheless, the political overtones of all of this are hard to ignore. The Cubs already had their official White House visit, so a second one has to mean something, right? Teams don’t just get invited to the White House whenever they happen to be passing through town. Some of this is probably about the Trump administration smarting a bit over Obama swooping in for that visit in January. Some of it is probably about the Ricketts family either wanting to send the team for a non-Obama visit, to do a favor for Trump or some combination of those things.

Joe Maddon was defensive about it all yesterday, saying it wasn’t political. Trump obviously didn’t hear him as he used the time when the Cubs were standing next to him for photos to take questions about the health care legislation and slag on Obamacare:

Maybe Maddon and the Cubs wanted to keep out of politics, but politics makes no such agreement with anyone.