Lance Berkman says Bud Selig “extorted” new Astros’ owner into moving team to AL

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Lance Berkman used a pretty loaded word earlier today to describe how MLB commissioner Bud Selig convinced new Astros’ owner Jim Crane to move the team to the American League West. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the former Astro said Selig “extorted” Crane into switching leagues as a precondition of ownership.

Berkman hasn’t conveyed his feelings personally to the commissioner, but said he would if given the opportunity.

“If he called me, I would tell him,” Berkman said. “I think that’s exactly what it was. To tell [Crane], ‘We’re going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agreed to switch’? It just happened that the Astros were being sold at an optimal time for that to happen.”

Crane received a price reduction from $680 million to $615 million on the sale by agreeing to the switch, which will put 15 teams in each league beginning in 2013. While he admitted to Crasnick that he probably would have preferred to keep the franchise in the National League, he called it a “good deal for baseball” and a “good deal for our owners.”

“Lance can say what Lance wants to say,” Crane said. “He has great ties to the Astros and was a great player there for years. We certainly understand that he’s opinionated, but I wouldn’t use that strong a term. I think it was just a business deal that got renegotiated.”

Extortion is a probably a little extreme, but there’s little doubt that Crane was strong-armed into switching leagues. But I don’t expect him to complain given the sweet discount he ended up getting. Something tells me Berkman will get that conversation with Selig, though.

Report: Yankees, Reds finalizing trade for Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray
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Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.

According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.

Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.