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.

Giants sign Darin Ruf to minor league contract

Darin Ruf
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The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that the Giants have signed 1B/OF Darin Ruf to a minor league contract.

Ruf, 33, played parts of five seasons in the majors with the Phillies from 2012-16, enjoying occasional offensive success. He spent the last three seasons in the KBO League in South Korea with the Samsung Lions, reigniting his career. Ruf hit an aggregate .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs and 350 RBI over 1,756 plate appearances.

Ruf joins an ever-increasing list of players whose major league careers fizzled out, then found new life overseas — Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas are a couple of examples. Ruf will hope to prove himself as a big leaguer once more in spring training with the Giants.