Drayton McLane, Jim Crane

Astros’ potential move to American League playing a role in Jim Crane’s approval status

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We’ve heard multiple theories as to why exactly Houston businessman Jim Crane has not been approved as the new owner of the Astros.

Forbes magazine called him “controversial,” he had an ugly divorce back in 2000, his businesses have been taken to court 130 times over the past 15 years. Maury Brown of The Biz of Baseball has more.

But what’s the real issue? Why hasn’t the sale gone through? And will it ever go through?

According to Mark Berman, sports director for FOX 26 in Houston, baseball commissioner Bud Selig has asked Crane to move the Astros to the American League when (or if) he is named the owner of the team. Crane has not yet committed to doing that, and his hesitance may be holding up MLB’s approval of the $680 million sale agreement that was worked out nearly four months ago with former owner Drayton McLane.

Selig is hoping to even up baseball’s leagues at 15 teams apiece so that a system that allows four Wild Card spots can be put in place. The Astros would be sent to the American League West to create a “Texas rivalry” with the Rangers, and to shake up baseball’s two uneven divisions (the NL Central currently has six teams and the AL West has four). It’s a serious money-generating move, and it could be put into place this offseason.

If Crane doesn’t get on board, Selig and baseball’s 29 current owners might continue to make things difficult.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.

Tigers to give Omar Infante some work in center field this spring

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Omar Infante #4 of the Detroit Tigers follows through on an RBI single scoring Prince Fielder #28 during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field  on September 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
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Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.

Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.

The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”