Aaron Gleeman

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Astros hire Alan Zinter as assistant hitting coach

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Alan Zinter is joining the Astros as assistant hitting coach after serving as the Indians’ minor league hitting coordinator for the past three seasons.

Zinter was a first-round draft pick way back in 1989 and played 19 seasons in the minors while also getting a couple brief stints in the majors for the Astros and Diamondbacks.

He’ll work with Dave Hudgens, who was hired as the Astros’ hitting coach after being fired from the same job by the Mets in the middle of the season.

Angels sign Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin for $8 million

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Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin has signed with the Angels for a bonus of $8 million.

Baldoquin defected from Cuba in February and has been staying in the Dominican Republic. Because he’s only 20 years old with limited professional experience Baldoquin’s signing falls under the international spending limits–as opposed to, say, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, who could sign for any amount–which means the Angels will be tapped out in that regard for the next two years.

He’s likely to begin his America career in the minors, but could emerge as a potential replacement for second baseman Howie Kendrick in 2016.

Cardinals expected to target Andrew Miller

Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox
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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes that he’s “been told a few times” the Cardinals will pursue reliever Andrew Miller in free agency.

Trying to upgrade over the likes of Randy Choate as late-inning southpaw bullpen options makes sense, but Miller is much more than a left-handed specialist and ranks among the elite relievers in baseball. In other words, he’s going to cost a ton.

This season Miller threw 62 innings with a 2.02 ERA and 103/17 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .153 batting average and .456 OPS. And he has the dominant raw stuff to match those great numbers.

Pablo Sandoval rejects qualifying offer from Giants

Pablo Sandoval
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Pablo Sandoval has rejected the qualifying offer from the Giants, turning down a one-year, $15.3 million contract in order to hit the open market as a free agent.

It was an easy decision for Sandoval, who should have no trouble securing a multi-year contract for similar annual money and can still re-sign with the Giants if he wants to do so. San Francisco will receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

Sandoval hit .279 with 16 homers and a .739 OPS in 157 games this season. He hasn’t been able to duplicate his big 2011 production, posting a sub-.800 OPS in three straight years, but Sandoval has been a solidly above-average hitter during that time and is young for a free agent at 28.

Twins “have already expressed interest” in Torii Hunter

Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers
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Last month when Torii Hunter indicated that he’ll likely put off retirement and return for a 19th season I suggested that a return to Minnesota as the Twins’ left fielder might make sense for both sides.

And now Darren Wolfson of 1500-ESPN in Minnesota reports that, sure enough, the Twins “have already expressed interest” in Hunter on the first day they can do so with free agents.

Hunter has made it clear that he’d like to re-sign with the Tigers and, if that doesn’t happen, presumably he’d like to spend his age-39 season playing for a contender. Minnesota does not fit that description, but if contenders don’t show much interest in Hunter the Twins could emerge as a viable destination.

His defense has slipped from Gold Glove-caliber in center field to below average in right field, but Hunter hit .286 with 17 homers and a .765 OPS in 142 games. He was drafted by the Twins in 1993 and played for them until 2007, when he left as a free agent.