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.

Mark Lowe wants to attempt a comeback

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Reliever Mark Lowe wants to make a comeback, Jerry Crasnick reports. The 35-year-old veteran is working out in Portland, Oregon and would take an opportunity to pitch overseas as well as a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Lowe signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers back in January, but was cut in the middle of March and didn’t end up signing with another team. He last pitched in the majors in 2016 with the Tigers. Across parts of 11 seasons, Lowe has a career 4.22 ERA with 352 strikeouts and 163 walks in 385 2/3 innings. Lowe spent 2017 at Triple-A for the Mariners and White Sox, compiling a devilish 6.66 ERA in aggregate across 48 2/3 innings.