The Cubs assign Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to the minors, option Javier Baez as well

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We figured this was coming, and here it is: the Chicago Cubs have announced that the have sent Kris Bryant to minor league camp. Shortstop prospect Addison Russell joins him. Also, in a moderate surprise, second baseman Javier Baez, who was on the 40-man roster and had 229 major league plate appearances last season, was optioned to Triple-A.

Bryant’s case has been much discussed. Though he destroyed minor league pitching last year and has hit nine home runs in 44 plate appearances this spring, the Cubs gain a huge financial advantage by keeping him in the minors to start the season, thereby keeping his service time clock from starting to tick. It seems likely that Bryant will, after a couple of weeks, make his major league debut.

Baez is a bit more of a surprise, as many assumed he would be the Cubs starting second baseman to start the season. He has, however, shown horrendous plate discipline so far in his career and has looked particularly lost this spring, striking out 20 times in 16 games and showing no suggestion that he has a plan when he comes up to the plate other than “swing hard and hope I make contact.”

Russell, a highly-regarded prospect who came to Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija trade last summer, has hit well this spring but doesn’t yet have a clear position with the big club given the presence of Starlin Castro. And he has barely played above Double-A yet.

All three of these guys figure in the future of the Chicago Cubs. But that future is not here just yet.

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.