Astros close to signing No. 1 pick Mark Appel

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Last year, after falling from projected No. 1 pick to No. 8 pick Mark Appel and agent Scott Boras played hardball with the Pirates, turning down $3.8 million to go back to school for his senior season.

This year Appel went No. 1 overall to the Astros–who passed on him in 2012–and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the two sides are already close to a deal.

As a senior Appel can take his sweet time negotiating because the normal deadline doesn’t apply, but according to Passan “one club source expects Appel to be signed by the middle of next week.”

No word yet on the money, but the slot amount for the No. 1 pick is $7.8 million or more than double what the Pirates offered Appel last year. Returning to Stanford for his senior season carried a ton of risk for Appel, but it’s tough to argue that it didn’t work out exactly as he (and Boras) planned.

After experiencing his first draft as the Astros’ pro scouting director former Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein talked to Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller about life behind the scenes and how the decision to draft Appel came down to the wire. Interesting stuff, so check it out.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.

The Braves are banning outside food. And they’re probably lying about why they’re doing it.

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Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t realize: there are a lot of ballparks that allow you to bring in outside food.

Not all of them, but a lot do. They don’t publicize it, obviously, because they want you to buy their expensive food, but if you go to the concessions policy page on most team’s websites, you can get the scoop. It often lists “soft-sided coolers” under “permitted items,” which is code for “yes, you can bring your own food in.” Some may specifically limit THAT to sealed plastic water bottles, but for the most part, if you can bring soft-sided coolers into the park, that means it’s OK to bring in grandma’s potato salad and a few sandwiches. They may check your coolers, of course, to make sure you’re not bringing in alcohol or whatever.

The Atlanta Braves have always allowed food into the ballpark. But thats going to change in shiny new Sun Trust Park. The AJC reports that the Braves have announced a new policy via which ticket holders will not be allowed to bring in outside food. Exceptions will be made for infant food and for special dietary restriction items.

Which, OK, it’s their park and their rules. If they want to cut out the PB&J for junior and force you to buy him a $9 “kids pack” — or if they want you to forego grandma’s potato salad to buy that pork chop sandwich we mentioned yesterday — that’s their choice. Everything else about the Braves new stadium has been about extracting money from fans, so why not the concessions policy too?

My beef with this is less about the policy. It’s about their stated reason for it:

The changes are a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league, said the Braves spokesperson.

This, as the French say, is horses**t.

We know it is because not all teams are prohibiting outside food. If there are tighter security measures across the board, other teams are implementing them without the food restriction. Even the Yankees, who take security theater to extreme heights as it is, are still allowing fans to bring in their own food.

The Braves, I strongly suspect, are using these measures as an excuse to cut down on competition for their concessions. Which, like I said, go for it. Just be honest about what you’re doing and stop blaming “tightened security” for your cash grab.