Russ Branyan initially wanted at least $20 million

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ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick notes the reason Russell Branyan is now scrambling for work and likely to end up with a modest one-year deal is that he began the offseason looking for a three-year contract worth “somewhere between $20 million and $30 million.”
Adam LaRoche had a similarly inflated initial asking price, but was still able to land a one-year, $5 million deal from the Diamondbacks once his demands came back down to earth. Branyan isn’t going to be as lucky because teams remain scared of his huge strikeout totals and skeptical that he’s an everyday player, so he’s plummeted past the $5 million mark and seems likely to end up with at most $2 million for a part-time role.
Branyan was never going to get a three-year deal or anywhere close to $20 million, but prior to trading for Casey Kotchman the Mariners offered him a one-year deal with the promise of a starting job that will probably dwarf whatever he ends up accepting. The lesson in all of this? Don’t be greedy when you’re a strikeout prone 34-year-old with back problems coming off a career-year and the one team that gave you a chance to thrive offers you a solid one-year deal to return.

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.