Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies

As expected, Cody Asche claims third base job; Phillies reassign Maikel Franco

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The Phillies hoped the competition for the third base job would have been more heated. After going 2-for-4 with a solo homer against the Pirates on Saturday afternoon, Cody Asche — the incumbent at the hot corner — brought his Grapefruit League average up to .175. His competition, 21-year-old top prospect Maikel Franco, wasn’t faring any better with a .184 average and a .409 OPS.

Franco has been demoted, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports. There, Franco will look to build upon his breakout season at Double-A last year, when he hit .320 with 31 home runs. He still has some concerns about his defense, but manager Ryne Sandberg also sees some room for improvement offensively:

“He needs to get some seasoning and work on some things, more on the offensive side,” Sandberg said. “He needs to work on shortening his swing and getting some better line-drive type of contact.”

Asche, meanwhile, will hold the fort down at third base after hitting .235 with five home runs in 179 trips to the plate last season. The Phillies expect Franco to claim the third base job at some point, if not at some point this season, then at this time next year.

Report: Mark Trumbo signs three-year, $37.5 million contract with Orioles

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Update #2 (6:21 PM EST): Make that $37.5 million, per Heyman.

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Update (6:02 PM EST): The deal is for “around” $37 million with deferrals that lower the present-day value, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that free agent 1B/OF Mark Trumbo is close to a deal with the Orioles. He first reported that the two sides were back in touch earlier on Thursday afternoon. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal is expected to be for three years and under $40 million.

Trumbo’s market hasn’t developed as he expected. The slugger turned down the Orioles’ $17.2 million qualifying offer back in November. Then the Orioles reportedly made a four-year contract offer to him in December but pulled it off the table. Most recently, a report indicated that Trumbo lowered his expectations to a three-year deal in the $40-50 million range.

Trumbo, 31, led the majors with 47 homers for the Orioles this past season. He also hit a solid .256/.316/.433 with 108 RBI in 667 plate appearances. With Trumbo back in the fold and some slight offensive upgrades made, the Orioles figure to have a formidable offense in 2017.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.