Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros

Report: Astros sign Jose Altuve to contract extension

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The Astros have successfully locked up a potential long-term building block, as Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that they have agreed to a contract extension with second baseman Jose Altuve. This marks the first major contract commitment under the leadership of general manager Jeff Luhnow, who was hired in December of 2011.

No word yet on the financial details, but the deal is expected to be announced later today. Altuve wasn’t due to become arbitration-eligible for the first time until after the 2014 season. McTaggart speculates that the extension will at least cover his arbitration years, though it’s possible the Astros also bought out a free agent year or two.

Altuve was promoted to the majors in July of 2011 and owns a .284/.325/.377 batting line through 290 career games. The 23-year-old represented the Astros in the All-Star Game last year.

UPDATE: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that Altuve will receive a five-year deal with an option. This means the Astros bought out his final pre-arbitration season, all three of his arbitration seasons, and at least one year of free agency.

UPDATE II: Heyman is now reporting that it’s a four-year deal (covering his final pre-arbitration season and all three of his arbitration seasons) with two option years. Altuve will receive $12.5 million guaranteed. Even though he doesn’t fall under the category of a star, that’s a very reasonable contract.

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)
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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.