Astros sign No. 41 pick Lance McCullers for double slot value at $2.5 million

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Part of the Astros’ strategy in drafting Carlos Correa with the No. 1 overall pick was their ability to sign him to a below-slot bonus and use the savings to snag a tough-to-sign player later.

That player turned out to be high school right-hander Lance McCullers, who was considered a top-20 prospect based on talent alone but fell to the No. 41 pick due to signability issues.

Houston’s strategy worked, as they inked Correa for $4.8 million compared to the $7.2 million slot for the top pick and have now used the savings to sign McCullers for twice the slot amount for the No. 41 pick.

Jim Callis of Baseball America reports that McCullers agreed to a $2.5 million deal, compared to the slot amount of $1.25 million. Obviously the debate over whether the Astros made the right call with Correa will rage on for years to come, but in passing on Byron Buxton and Mark Appel they were able to add McCullers as a second high-upside pick.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.