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Jose Abreu skepticism sounds like Yasiel Puig skepticism

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Jose Abreu’s reported $68 million deal with the White Sox isn’t even official yet and there are already lots of prominent media members questioning whether Chicago over-committed to an “untested” player with some question marks attached.

I have no idea. I’ve seen Abreu play a couple times on television, I’ve read the same write-ups everyone else has, and I’ve looked at his incredible numbers in Cuba. But that’s about it. However, it’s worth noting that a year ago plenty of people were mocking the Dodgers for signing another Cuban defector, Yasiel Puig, for $42 million.

For instance, here’s what Ben Badler of Baseball America–who’s my pick for the best writer covering international prospects–wrote about the Puig deal in June of 2012:

The Dodgers appear to have made a statement with an expensive Cuban signing, but the message they sent across baseball has mostly elicited the same response: What are the Dodgers thinking? …

The question around baseball is how the Dodgers could justify awarding such a lavish contract to a player who scouts considered more of a solid than a spectacular prospect. … One executive called the deal “crazy.” Several others were floored by the reported contract terms. “I don’t know,” said one international director, echoing several of his colleagues. “I don’t know what’s going on in Dodger land. They must have seen something.”

Those who have seen Puig seem lukewarm on his talent. … He is an interesting prospect with raw talent, but for several teams, he wouldn’t have even been a first-round pick if he were in the draft.

A year later signing Puig to a long-term deal that pays $6 million per season looks like an incredible bargain. Abreu isn’t Puig, obviously, and perhaps he’ll prove to be a huge bust, but there’s also a nearly guaranteed heaping of heavy skepticism that comes attached to basically any big-money international signing. Last offseason Edwin Jackson got $52 million, Nick Swisher got $56 million, and B.J. Upton got $75 million, so $68 million isn’t exactly superstar money in free agency.

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.