Aroldis Chapman

Stopped before he starts: Aroldis Chapman is staying in the Reds’ bullpen

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Aroldis Chapman spent all offseason and the first month of spring training preparing for a potential move to the rotation, but with Opening Day right around the corner the Reds have decided to keep the flame-throwing left-hander in the bullpen.

Ryan Madson undergoing season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery likely played a part in the decision, as did the Reds having plenty of rotation depth beyond Chapman, but manager Dusty Baker also told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that “Bill Bray isn’t ready to be late-inning lefty right now.”

That seems debatable at best considering Bray has a 3.40 ERA and 74/27 K/BB ratio in 77 innings during the past two seasons, with the raw stuff to match, and has held opponents to a .201 batting average during that time. If healthy Bray could certainly serve as the primary lefty setup man in front of lefty closer Sean Marshall.

Of course, that doesn’t mean keeping Chapman in the bullpen is the wrong move. In theory giving a young pitcher every opportunity to show that he can handle a 200-inning starting role before relegating him to a 65-inning bullpen role makes all kinds of sense, but Chapman’s control problems provide plenty of reason to be skeptical that he could thrive as a starter. Still, the waffling on his role after rushing him to the majors isn’t helping Chapman’s development any.

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.