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.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.

Report: Phillies making Maikel Franco available in trade discussions

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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Phillies are making third baseman Maikel Franco “more than available” in trade discussions.

Franco, 24, is having an abysmal season after showing promise in 2015 and ’16. Through 289 plate appearances, he’s hitting .221/.280/.365 with nine home runs and 37 RBI. His hitting has tanked and his already below-average defense hasn’t shown any improvement.

It’s a bit surprising that the Phillies would be so eager to move Franco with his value about as low as it can go. Franco is also under control of the rebuilding Phillies through the 2021 season, so the team doesn’t have to rush into moving him. He will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season.

Furthermore, the Phillies don’t have an immediate replacement for Franco at third base. Andres Blanco would likely get everyday starts at the hot corner in the short-term, but as far as prospects go, there are no third baseman banging down the door. If the Phillies were to trade Franco, it would likely have to be in return for a young, talented third baseman who will be under team control for several more years.