J.P. Ricciardi joins the ESPN crew

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Last month it was reported that former Blue Jays’ GM J.P. Ricciardi had signed on with a talent agency, looking to get a TV gig. They did a good job, it seems, as Ricciardi was just hired by ESPN to replace Steve Phillips as their GM-in-residence on “Baseball Tonight.”

I thought ESPN’s baseball coverage hit a low point when they had Phillips pretend to be a real GM and answer Buster Olney’s questions in a phony press conference five years ago.  With Ricciardi on the team, however, they can sink even further if they try. How? They can set him up in a phony press conference and have him lie to the phony reporter!

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.