Heyman: The Astros could make a play for Shin-Soo Choo

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We’re not ready to fire up the hot stove quite yet, but CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman passes along this interesting nugget on a potential surprise suitor for impending free agent Shin-Soo Choo:

The Houston Astros, whose lowest-in-baseball payroll of $25 million or thereabouts was a mere fraction of most teams, may consider making a run at star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is believed to be seeking five times that figure on a multiyear deal on the free-agent market, according to sources.

In the most obvious way, a play by the lowly Astros for Choo would be shocking. Their highest-paid player last year, Bud Norris at $3 million, was traded in midyear, and their total payroll was 70 percent lower than the average payroll to start the year. Some figured the payroll as low as $13 million by year’s end, depending on how it’s calculated.

With rumors of agent Scott Boras seeking a $100 million deal for Choo, Heyman likens a potential match to the Nationals blowing everyone out of the water when they signed Jayson Werth in December of 2010. The Astros’ only payroll commitment for next year is Jose Altuve ($1.25 million), so they could afford a big splash if they deem Choo the right fit.

It sounds like an unlikely match on the surface, but Heyman notes that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow values on-base percentage. And because the Astros had the worst record in baseball this season, the club wouldn’t have to surrender their 2014 first-round pick in order to sign Choo. But as these things typically go, it will all come down to who is willing to fork over the most cash. The Astros would have to outbid a handful of teams — and perhaps overpay, like Werth — in order to make it happen.

He gone! Hawk Harrelson called his last game yesterday

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Ken Harrelson has been broadcasting for decades but yesterday was his last one. As of today the Hawk has hung up his mic and entered retirement. He gone!

Harrelson, 77, who played in the majors for nine seasons with the A’s, Red Sox, Indians and Senators and led the AL in RBI in 1968. He was also the White Sox’ general manager for a single season in the mid-80s. That didn’t go well — he famously fired Tony La Russa and Dave Dombrowski and traded away a young Bobby Bonilla, but his career as a broadcaster went swimmingly.

Harrelson served as a Red Sox broadcaster from 1975 through 1981. Despite his reputation as an unrepentant homer for his White Sox — who he called “the good guys,” as opposed to the “bad guys” playing them — he was actually fired as a Red Sox broadcaster for being critical of ownership. He then embarked on his first stint with the White Sox before his move into the front office, worked as a Yankees broadcaster from 1987-88 and worked games for NBC’s Game of the Week in the mid-1980s as well. He then returned to call games for the White Sox in 1990 and the rest is history.

Hawk will still be a team ambassador for Chicago so he not totally gone, but the White Sox broadcast booth is entering a new era.