Report: Johnny Cueto could be the Astros’ top trade target

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Dallas Keuchel is set to start the All-Star Game for the American League on Tuesday, but the Astros could sure use some help around him. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Astros are aiming high in their efforts for a rotation upgrade:

The Astros have keen trade interest in Reds starter Johnny Cueto, and it appears he may even be their top target, if as expected Cueto hits trade market soon, people familiar with their thinking say.

Cueto, an impending free agent, owns a 2.73 ERA and 113/22 K/BB ratio in 118 2/3 innings over 17 starts this season. The 29-year-old is owed around $5 million the rest of the way. With the Reds looking like obvious sellers, he’s a logical candidate to be moved by the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.

Heyman notes that there is an uneasy relationship between Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and Reds general manager Walt Jocketty from their time together in St. Louis. However, it’s unlikely that their past would prevent a deal from coming together.

Interestingly, while Cueto is apparently a top priority for the Astros, Heyman writes that Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels doesn’t appear to be on their radar. Previous reports have indicated that Hamels wouldn’t be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to Houston, but he’s also a different situation than Cueto in that he’s making $22.5 million this year with $73.5 million guaranteed from 2016-2018. Picking up his $20 million option for 2019 could potentially sweeten the pot, but it’s understandable why making a deal for Cueto could be more appealing.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.