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The Astros may be sold soon

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Back in November, Astros owner Drayton McLane said that he was going to sell the Astros. On Friday he told MLB.com that he has made “substantial inroads” toward selling the team, with one of the three possible suitors being a familiar name: Houston businessman Jim Crane.

You may recall that Crane — along with Mark Cuban — came very close to snatching the Rangers away from Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan last summer.  As such, the first question that springs to mind in hearing Crane’s name mentioned is whether Cuban is also involved.  There have been no reports to that effect since this report surfaced on Friday, however. And it is worth noting that Crane has not required Cuban’s capital to get involved in bidding on sports teams before. Indeed, Crane came very close to buying the Astros when McLane was shopping the team following the 2008 season, but that deal fell through for nebulous reasons.

No one is sure who the other two ownership candidates McLane mentioned are. But Crane is local and that sort of thing usually sits well the types who can help or hinder deals like this. Given that his name has spilled out — and given that in-depth profiles are already being written about him in the local press — you kinda have to figure that he’s the front runner, no?

And yes, I know that this isn’t the current Astros logo, but I like it much, much better. Crane or whoever next owns the Astros can’t bring it back as such — they no longer play in the dome after all — but the orange and blue should come back, as should the caps with the “H” in the middle of the star. Because those things are Right and True.

Dodgers sign Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million deal

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Rich Hill #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.

Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.

Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.

UPDATE: Giants agree to a deal with Mark Melancon

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Mark Melancon #43 of the Washington Nationals reacts after the final out as the Nationals defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 in game three of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.

12:15 PMKen Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.

Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.

The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.

What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.

Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.