The Astros may get rid of Tal’s Hill and that train

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Tal’s Hill is that little hill in center field at Minute Maid Park. It probably represents the dumbest flair-for-the-sake-of-flair design element of any ballpark in baseball. And, based on Zach Levine’s report in the Houston Chronicle, it may be gone soon, along with that train above the outfield:

Add the train high above left field to Tal’s Hill on the list of Minute Maid Park quirks potentially on the chopping block.

Owner Jim Crane said Wednesday that the club will weigh removing both features before next year when it moves to the American League and rebrands.

“Those are two things people question me about all the time and those are logical,” Crane said. ”We’re going to do our marketing research. We’re going to study it.”

The train could stay or go, who cares. But if there is market research that supports keeping a freaking hill on the playing field, I submit that such research should be ignored.

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.