Orioles continue to negotiate with No. 4 overall pick Kevin Gausman

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UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has backtracked from their original story. It now says that Gausman is “seriously considering” a return to LSU. Meanwhile, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America passes along this statement from LSU coach Paul Mainieri:

“Kevin is still in negotiations…any reports portraying his return to LSU as definite are premature.”

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun was told by Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich that the two sides are still talking and are “making progress.”

10:01 PM: We heard earlier today that No. 8 overall pick Mark Appel is leaning toward returning to Stanford for his senior season, but apparently the Pirates aren’t the only team having a tough time reaching an agreement with their first-round selection.

Albert Buford of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was told by a source that No. 4 overall pick right-hander Kevin Gausman will return to LSU for another season rather than sign with the Orioles.

Pretty surprising news, if true. Gausman’s quote in the report is far less definitive, though.

“This is turning out to be a tough decision, but as of now my heart is still with LSU,” Gausman said. “There are still things for me to accomplish as a Tiger.  I still want to play in and win the College World Series, and with a lot of guys coming back next year I believe we can do it.”

“I also believe I’ll only continue to improve and become a more complete pitcher working with (LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn) Gausman said. “I have no problem at all going back to LSU. We’ll see what happens.”

Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton and Mike Zunino have already signed with their respective teams, so Gausman is the highest remaining unsigned pick from this year’s draft. Ironically, the Orioles passed over the chance to take Appel by selecting Gausman.

The slot recommendation for the No. 4 overall pick is $4.2 million, so Gausman would be passing up a large chunk of change to return for his junior season. As such, this is likely a matter of Gausman’s reps putting the pressure on with Friday’s 5:00 p.m. ET deadline looming. Of course, because the new CBA limits draft spending, the Orioles can only offer so much without losing next year’s first-round pick.

The Astros continue to refuse to take responsibility for the Taubman Affair

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I’m calling it the “Taubman Affair” because writing “the incident in which a top front office executive — Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman — taunted a reporter for her past opposition to the team acquiring a domestic abuser, after which the team lied, aggressively about it, accusing another reporter of fabricating a story, then admitted that they lied but made no apology for smearing the reporter” is too unwieldy for a headline.

If you need catching up on it, though, you can read this, this or this.

The latest on it all: yesterday, after walking back their angry denial that the incident ever occurred and admitting that, yes, Taubman did in fact gleefully and profanely target a reporter for taunting, the team basically went silent and let Game 1 unfold.

Today General Manager Jeff Luhnow went on a team-friendly radio station (i.e. the station that broadcasts Astros games). In the entire segment he was asked only one question about it: “Your thoughts on the SI article, Jeff.” Luhnow said that he would withhold comment, but apologized to “everybody involved,” including the fans and the players, saying “this situation should have never happened.” You can listen to the entire segment here.

He did not, however, make any specific mention of what “this situation” was. Nor did he acknowledge that, actually, it’s at least two “situations:” (1) the initial behavior of Taubman; and (2) Monday night’s team-sanctioned attack of Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported it. Indeed, at no time in the team’s now multiple comments has anyone acknowledged that, as an organization, the Houston Astros’s first impulse in all of this was to attempt to bully and discredit a reporter for what has now been established as a truthful report to which the Astros have admitted. And they certainly have not voiced any specific regret or offered any form of accountability for it.

Major League Baseball is apparently investigating Taubman’s conduct. But it is not, presumably, investigating the Astros’ disingenuous smear of Apstein. A smear that the Astros likely undertook because they figured they could intimidate Apstein and, what may even be worse, because they assumed that the rest of the press — many of whom were witnesses to Taubman’s act — would go along or remain silent. If they did not think that, of course, releasing the statement they did would’ve been nonsensical. It speaks of an organization that believes it can either bully or manipulate the media into doing its bidding or covering for the teams’ transgressions. That part of this has gone wholly uncommented on by the Astros and apparently will for the foreseeable future. No matter how this shakes out for Taubman, if the Astros do not talk about how and why they decided to baselessly attack Apstein on Monday night, nothing they ever say should be trusted again.

More broadly, everything the Astros are doing now is the same as when they traded for Roberto Osuna in the first place.

In 2018 they wanted to do an unpopular thing — arbitrage a player’s domestic violence suspension into the acquisition of cheap relief help — while wanting to appear as though they were good actors who had a “zero tolerance for domestic violence” policy. To solve that problem they shoveled a lot of malarkey about how “zero tolerance” actually includes a fair amount of tolerance and hoped that everyone would go along. When not everyone did — when fans brought signs of protest to the ballpark or expressed their displeasure with Osuna’s presence on the roster — they confiscated them then hoped it’d all blow over and, eventually, via Taubman’s rant on Saturday night, lashed out at their critics.

Here, again, they want to do something unpopular: retain a boorish and insensitive executive in Taubman without him or the team suffering any consequences for it, be they actual consequences or mere P.R. fallout. Again, it’s kind of hard to pull that off, so to do so they falsely accused a reporter of lying and then circled the wagons when they caught heat for it.

I have no idea how long they plan to keep this up. Maybe they are calculating that people will forget and that forgetting is the same as forgiveness. Maybe they simply don’t care. All I do know is that folks will be teaching the Astros’ response to all of this as a counterexample in crisis management courses for years.