Pedro Ciriaco

In which Yamaico Navarro netted the Red Sox their two best shortstops

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Bear with me for a minute, please.

Pedro Ciriaco  impressed once again Sunday, stealing two bases immediately after entering the game as a pinch-runner and then doubling in a run as part of Boston’s 5-1 win over Minnesota. He’s hitting .415/.442/.659 with seven steals in eight attempts this spring. His one homer was a walkoff job against the Marlins on March 12.

If you haven’t heard of Ciriaco, you’re hardly alone. There wasn’t much reason to know him until a couple of weeks ago, but now he seems poised to claim a spot on Boston’s bench. Ciriaco was signed to a minor league deal by the Red Sox on January 3, three weeks after he was non-tendered by the Pirates.

This is where Yamaico Navarro comes in.

The Red Sox surrendered Navarro to land Mike Aviles from the Royals at the trade deadline last year. Aviles is now Boston’s starting shortstop. The Royals, though, quickly soured on Navarro and decided he was the most expendable player on their 40-man roster when they needed to clear a spot in December. As a result, he was traded to the Pirates for two prospects who probably won’t ever make the majors, thus making Ciriaco expendable in Pittsburgh.

Of course, Ciriaco isn’t nearly this good. In fact, he was brutal in Triple-A last year, hitting .231/.243/.300 in 277 at-bats, and he’s managed a .700 OPS just once in seven minor league seasons. He is a clear step up from Aviles with the glove, though, and he could be pretty useful as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement.

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily expect either Aviles or Ciriaco to be Red Sox in 2013 and beyond, but it is pretty interesting to see Boston filling two of its 2012 roster spots with a couple of pieces they only have thanks to a guy the Royals took one look at and quickly dismissed.

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)
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.