*The decision to sign with Houston was an easy one for Carlos Beltran, who said the Astros were the most aggressive in courting him:
It wasn't difficult for me to make the decision to come here. I have so many good memories of the three months that I spent in Houston. And when I look at the team, for me, what really does it is the team. The opportunity of winning, the opportunity of hopefully you get to the playoffs and win a championship, that's what it's all about. When I look at the lineup, the whole team, I really like our chances.
Brian McTaggart, who notes that Beltran and A.J. Hinch were teammates in Kansas City in 2001-2002, says Beltran will play LF at least twice a week and the rest of the time at DH. Luhnow:
We felt he'd be a great fit here, his offense would balance out our lineup and outfield and would be a positive for us.
*Tony Sipp was bad, real bad, in 2016 - the first year of a 3yr/$18m deal that saw his WHIP jump from 1.03 to 1.61 from 2015 to 2016. And since the Astros only have Reymin Guduan and Kevin Chapman available as other left-handed bullpen options, they claimed lefty reliever Ashur Tolliver off waivers from Anaheim yesterday.
Tolliver, a 5th Round pick in 2009, has only thrown 4.2IP in the majors. But he has recorded 278 strikeouts in 284IP in the minors. He throws about 94mph with a splitter and - according to the Chron report - has been developing a breaking ball. He has two minor-league options left so, while he's on the 40-Man roster, he could go to Fresno to work on that breaking pitch.
*Jayson Stark reports that the Astros are dangling Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers in an effort to create roster and payroll flexibility.
*The Astros are not in on free agent Ivan Nova, Buster Olney tweets, as his price is too high.
*Brian McTaggart says that Evan Gattis is not being shopped.
*Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Carlos Beltran will all play in the World Baseball Classic this Spring. Nori Aoki is expected to play for Japan while Alex Bregman (Israel) and Marwin (Venezuela) are on their country's respective provisional rosters. George Springer could play for the United States or make Puerto Rico the preferred international choice of the Houston Astros.
*Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times says that the Rays are asking for "five or six players" in return for Chris Archer, and is doubtful he gets traded this offseason. The Pirates are making a run at Jake Odorizzi.
*Would you like Sonny Gray in Houston? The Braves made a run at him and, while Oakland did not ask for Dansby Swanson, their asking price was too high for Atlanta.
*Luis Valbuena wants a multi-year deal and his initial asking price scared off the Yankees.
*The White Sox said the Nationals were "very aggressive" in their push to land Chris Sale.
*Bryce Harper wants 10yrs/$400m and will likely single-handedly hamstring a franchise.
*Minor League Baseball has established a Political Action Committee to fight a lawsuit over higher pay. This is fun.
*Bud Selig wishes he could have done more about steroids in baseball, but placed much of the blame on the MLBPA.