Heyman: The Astros could make a play for Shin-Soo Choo

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We’re not ready to fire up the hot stove quite yet, but CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman passes along this interesting nugget on a potential surprise suitor for impending free agent Shin-Soo Choo:

The Houston Astros, whose lowest-in-baseball payroll of $25 million or thereabouts was a mere fraction of most teams, may consider making a run at star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is believed to be seeking five times that figure on a multiyear deal on the free-agent market, according to sources.

In the most obvious way, a play by the lowly Astros for Choo would be shocking. Their highest-paid player last year, Bud Norris at $3 million, was traded in midyear, and their total payroll was 70 percent lower than the average payroll to start the year. Some figured the payroll as low as $13 million by year’s end, depending on how it’s calculated.

With rumors of agent Scott Boras seeking a $100 million deal for Choo, Heyman likens a potential match to the Nationals blowing everyone out of the water when they signed Jayson Werth in December of 2010. The Astros’ only payroll commitment for next year is Jose Altuve ($1.25 million), so they could afford a big splash if they deem Choo the right fit.

It sounds like an unlikely match on the surface, but Heyman notes that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow values on-base percentage. And because the Astros had the worst record in baseball this season, the club wouldn’t have to surrender their 2014 first-round pick in order to sign Choo. But as these things typically go, it will all come down to who is willing to fork over the most cash. The Astros would have to outbid a handful of teams — and perhaps overpay, like Werth — in order to make it happen.

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.