Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt and the Giants avoid arbitration

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Brandon Belt and the Giants avoided arbitration last night by agreeing to a one-year, $2.9 million contract. Belt had filed at $3.6 million and the Giants filed at $2.05 million, so they settled just above the $2.825 midpoint.

The kicker: Belt and the Giants representatives had already flown to Florida for the hearing that was scheduled for today. So I guess that gets him out of a morning workout and allowed him to catch up with whatever he has stored on his Kindle during the flight.

Belt hit .289/.360/.481 for the Giants last year. He turns 26 in April. Most people are comparing him to Freddie Freeman, who the Braves locked up to a nine-figure deal over the winter, and there was some hope among Giants fans that Belt would get a long-term deal. But given that Belt is a year and a half older, has about a season less under his belt and given that the Braves were under more financial pressure to lock up their first baseman than the Giants may be — and thus were under more pressure to back up the Brinks truck for Freeman —  it was pretty unlikely that Belt was going to get anything more than this one-year deal now. If he has another nice season like the one he just had, however, there’s a good chance he gets a long-term deal next year.

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.