Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays

Astros trade closer Jose Veras to Tigers

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Jose Veras had never been a closer when he signed with Houston this offseason, but the Astros gave him a chance in the ninth-inning role at age 32 and now they’ve traded him to a team in the market for a closer.

Houston sends Veras to Detroit for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later, getting value out of a $2 million free agent signing and the willingness to put a pitcher in a role he’s never filled before.

It’s unclear if Veras will remain in the closer role for the Tigers, who’ve been looking for ninth-inning help all season and turned to the trade market after the Jose Valverde reunion predictably went horribly. Joaquin Benoit has been doing the job of late and has a superior track record to Veras, who’d never saved more than two games in a season before converting 19 saves with a 2.93 ERA and 44/14 K/BB ratio in 43 innings for the Astros.

Vasquez is a 19-year-old left fielder hitting .281 with five homers and a .723 OPS in 96 games at low Single-A. He signed out of Venezuela for a huge $1.2 million bonus and Baseball America ranked him as the Tigers’ sixth-best prospect coming into the season.

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.

Video: John Axford discusses 2017 Oscar picks

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 08:  John Axford #61 of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch during the seventh inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 8, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Sure, it may feel gimmicky to go around asking players to make predictions for the Academy Awards, but when it comes to the Athletics’ John Axford, he knows what he’s talking about. The right-hander has a proven track record of making near-perfect ballot predictions, getting 14 of 15 winners correct in 2013, 18 of 18 in 2014, 17 of 24 in 2015 and 17 of 24 again in 2016.

With a range of award-worthy films to choose from this year, Axford selected the crowd-pleasing (and record-breaking seven Golden Globe winner) La La Land for Best Picture, Manchester By the Sea‘s Casey Affleck for Best Actor and “the sweetheart of Hollywood,” Emma Stone, for Best Actress.

His full ballot was released to Twitter on Saturday, locking in La La Land for eight total Oscars. Going a perfect 24-for-24 might be a near-impossible feat, but if anyone can pull it off, Axford’s the one to do it.