Carlos Lee

Thoughts on the Carlos Lee-to-Miami deal

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– It was obvious the Marlins had to upgrade. Gaby Sanchez looked like a borderline All-Star at this time last year, but he hit just .225/.320/.359 after the break, and even that would be a big improvement on his 2012 line of .194/.240/.283. He posted OPSs of .576 in April, .484 in May and .496 in June. It’s not Marlins Park, either: he’s hit .163/.212/.245 on the road this year. I wouldn’t write him off entirely for 2013 and beyond, but his 2012 looks like a lost cause.

– So, in steps Carlos Lee. I like the fit. Lee isn’t a big home run guy anyway, so Marlins Park won’t scare him off. His .286/.336/.412 line this year is modest enough, but he has more extra-base hits (21) than strikeouts (17). He’s a league-average first baseman, and that’s a big upgrade for Miami right now.

– The price was surprising, but that’s because the Marlins, unlike the Dodgers, wanted the Astros to pick up all Lee’s remaining salary. They’ll pay only about $200,000 of the approx. $9 million he’s still owed. It’s not my money, so I think the Astros did better here than they would have getting right-hander Garrett Gould from the Dodgers.

– In Matt Dominguez, the Astros get a potential third baseman of the future. I’ve never been very high on the former first-round pick, but he truly is an excellent defender, and if he can just shake the injury bug, he might prove adequate enough offensively to make it as a regular. He’s still just 22 years old. I’m not a Chris Johnson fan, and I don’t think he’ll prove to be any sort of long-term answer for Houston. Besides, he’s a poor defensive third baseman, so even if he does prove me wrong offensively, he’ll make more sense at first or DH for Houston anyway.

– Left-hander Rob Rasmussen was the other prospect in the deal. The 2010 second-round pick is 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA and a 75/36 K/BB ratio in 87 2/3 innings as a repeater at high-A Jupiter this season. Baseball America rated him as the Marlins’ No. 7 prospect headed into the season (Dominguez was No. 4), but realistically, he’s probably a reliever at best.

– Besides getting a couple of youngsters, the other benefit here for Houston is they’ll get to see whether Brett Wallace should be included in their future plans. If they had the chance, they’d certainly take back the trade that brought him from Toronto for center fielder Anthony Gose two years ago. Wallace did excellent work filling in for an injured Lee earlier this season, going 12-for-36 with two homers in 11 games. Still, that only pushed his career OPS up to .701 through 516 major league at-bats. He still has the nice line-drive stroke that made him a prospect, but he possesses limited power and little defensive value. The Astros should give him every chance to succeed in the second half and then look to move on this winter if he doesn’t progress.

– Given that the Marlins didn’t take on any salary here, they should still have the ability to go get another piece this month, whether it’s a center fielder or a late-inning reliever. The problem is that the cupboard is pretty bare: the Marlins have two excellent prospects in outfielder Christian Yelich and right-hander Jose Fernandez, but there probably aren’t more than two or three minor league systems with less depth to them.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.