Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies

Angels place Howie Kendrick on DL, sign Russell Branyan

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Howie Kendrick tested his injured hamstring by running and fielding grounders earlier this week, but he hasn’t played since May 19 and today the Angels finally placed him on the disabled list.

To fill Kendrick’s roster spot the Angels have signed free agent Russell Branyan, who was released by the Diamondbacks last week after being passed on the depth chart by Juan Miranda.

Branyan tends not to stay in one place for very long because teams get frustrated with his huge strikeout totals, but the guy can hit and with Kendry Morales out for the season and the .322-hitting Kendrick now sidelined too the Angels can certainly use some more power in the lineup.

Branyan has an .816 OPS with 35 homers per 500 at-bats for his career and can be particularly productive if spotted primarily versus right-handed pitching. He could form a platoon with the right-handed-hitting Mark Trumbo at first base or spend most of his time at designated hitter, with Bobby Abreu shifting to left field instead of the Reggie Willits-Alexi Amarista platoon.

And if manager Mike Scioscia really wants to get crazy Branyan has over 2,400 career innings at third base and another 1,500 innings in an outfield corner, so he brings some useful versatility along with a bat that produced 25 homers in 376 at-bats last year and 31 homers in 431 at-bats in 2009.

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)
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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.