Mark Appel AP

Astros sign No. 1 pick Mark Appel

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Making official what was reported earlier this week, the Astros announced that they’ve come to an agreement with No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel.

Appel, who turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates last year as the No. 8 pick, is expected to receive around $6.35 million. That means returning for his senior season at Stanford turned out very well for Appel, but it also means the Astros would save around $1.45 million compared to the recommended slot bonus for the No. 1 pick, which they can then use to sign other picks.

As a senior Appel went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 130/23 K/BB ratio in 106 innings, holding opponents to a .203 batting average and just two homers in 395 at-bats. Appel is from Houston and Astros owner Jim Crane talked about the right-hander returning home, adding that “hopefully it won’t be too long until he’s ready for the big leagues.”

Last year the Astros passed on Appel with the No. 1 pick to take high school shortstop Carlos Correa, who’s currently hitting .304 with an .830 OPS in 55 games at low Single-A as an 18-year-old.

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.