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Twins pay steep price to avoid sending Rule 5 pick Scott Diamond back to Braves

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Rule 5 pick Scott Diamond wasn’t going to make the Twins, but rather than having to offer him back to the Braves as per the draft’s requirements the two sides have worked out a trade.

Minnesota will be able to keep Diamond and can now send him to the minors as if he weren’t acquired in the Rule 5 draft, but the price was a remarkably steep one, as the Braves receive 2009 second-round pick Billy Bullock in exchange.

I ranked Bullock as the 10th-best prospect in the Twins’ farm system, whereas I had Diamond ranked 36th on the same list, so this deal is a head-scratcher. Bullock was the 70th overall pick just two years ago and is a reliever with a mid-90s fastball who’s racked up 150 strikeouts in 108 innings.

He has control issues, but projects as a potential late-inning reliever. To trade him for someone with mid-rotation starter upside who was left off the 40-man roster and available to any team in the Rule 5 draft is odd enough, but to make that trade when the Twins could have simply kept Diamond around for nothing as a long reliever or mop-up man is doubly confusing.

Helluva move by the Braves though, picking up a high-upside reliever prospect for a guy they didn’t even protect from the Rule 5 draft three months ago.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.

Report: Tyson Ross not expected to pitch in April

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park September 29, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:

We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.

Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.