Hanshin Tigers

Report: Randy Messenger and Matt Murton expected to remain in Japan

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We’ve heard some chatter about right-hander Randy Messenger and outfielder Matt Murton potentially giving the majors another try after enjoying great success in Japan, but the Japan Times reports that both players are likely to return to the Hanshin Tigers for another season.

Messenger, who previously pitched with the Marlins, Giants, and Mariners from 2005-2009, owns a 3.02 ERA over four seasons in Japan while averaging 7.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this week that the 32-year-old had set a November 15th deadline to field offers from MLB teams, but he apparently hasn’t found an offer to his liking. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors previously reported that Hanshin was offering three years and $10 million guaranteed.

Murton, who played with the Cubs, Athletics, and Rockies from 2005-2009, bounced back from a disappointing 2012 to hit .314/.361/.484 with 19 home runs and 85 RBI in 143 games this year. The 32-year-old has led the Central League in hits in three out of his four years since coming over to Japan.

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.