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Storylines: Carlos Beltran set to join Houston Astros

The Astros continue to make moves early in the hot stove season unofficially agreeing to a one year deal with Carlos Beltran. That and all the rest of the news and notes from around baseball on Saturday in today's Storylines...

Top Storylines:

- The Houston Astros are continuing to power up in the offseason.  After acquiring veterans Brian McCann and Josh Reddick, the Astros have plowed ahead with their busy offseason by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $16MM deal with veteran slugger Carlos Beltran per Buster Olney of ESPN.  His deal contains a full no-trade clause.  It is a huge coup for the Astros to bring in the switch-hitter after beating out the likes of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees for his services.  Despite nearing the age of 40, Beltran was one of the top power hitters in the free agent market this offseason.  He spent 2016 with both the Yankees and Texas Rangers and hit a robust .295/.337/.513 with 29 home runs and 93 RBIs.  The Astros had been pursuing both Beltran and slugger Edwin Encarnacion.  Now that Beltran has agreed to come back to the Astros, where he played for a half a season in 2004 after getting dealt by his original team the Kansas City Royals, it most likely means that Encarnacion will not be joining the Astros as the addition of Beltran creates a bit of a logjam with the current roster. It will be interesting to see how the Astros end up deploying Beltran in the field as he is limited as an outfielder now so will most likely spend a lot of time in the designated hitter’s spot. The Astros have now added three left-handed hitting hitters to what was a right-handed heavy lineup in 2016 so they will most likely have a bit more of balance throughout the season as they attempt to seize control of the AL West Division.

Other Storylines:

- The Washington Nationals are continuing to remain active in trade talks with both the Pittsburgh Pirates about center fielder Andrew McCutchen and the Chicago White Sox in regards to lefty Chris Sale per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The Nationals most likely do not have enough trade chips to land both so it will come down to which team is willing to accept the price for their star player.

- The Nats are not the only team still in on Sale trade talks as the Atlanta Braves and Red Sox are still engaged per Rosenthal.  The Red Sox are only willing to do business if the White Sox lower their asking price while the Braves possess plenty of young talent to do a deal.  No deal appears close but once the Winter Meetings start then things may pick up and Sale could end up trading uniforms in a hurry.

- The San Francisco Giants are still searching for a top-notch closer and appear more and more likely to find one on the free agent market as opposed to the trade market per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.  The Giants had one of the worst bullpens in 2016 and their bullpen struggles cost them dearly in the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs.  The Giants appear primed to sign one of Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon with Melancon being the most obvious fit as they pursued a trade for him at the deadline with the Pirates before the Pirates ultimately traded him to the Nats.

- Free agent outfielder Ian Desmond is reportedly expected to sign a four-year deal and his talks with the Rangers have intensified per Jon Morosi of MLB Network.  Desmond was tendered a qualifying offer last year and signed with the Rangers.  He was placed in the outfield despite having little to no experience there but played pretty well and hit .285/.335/.446 with 22 home runs and 86 RBIs.  The Rangers gave him another qualifying offer this offseason but he is looking to sign a long-term deal this time around.  That being said, no deal appears close between the Rangers and Desmond.

- The Red Sox, despite appearing to be in a prime position to steal Encarnacion away from the division rival Toronto Blue Jays, do not seem inclined to sign him to a long-term deal any time soon per Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald.  The Red Sox have been above the luxury tax for two consecutive years and a third straight year above the luxury tax threshold appears to be too much of a gamble even President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski appears to be willing to take.  Exceeding the luxury tax threshold for the third consecutive year will cost a stiff penalty between 40-50% in taxes.

- The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly nearing a multi-year agreement with veteran Rich Hill per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.  Nothing is official but all signs point towards a reunion.  Hill was acquired at the deadline along with Reddick in a multi-player package with the Oakland Athletics.  He turned in quality outings with the Dodgers and being able to bring him back only enhances their pitching depth.

- The Colorado Rockies are showing interest in free agent Mark Trumbo per Morosi.  The Rockies have an opening at first base with Mark Reynolds becoming a free agent.  It remains unclear how much of an interest they really have in Trumbo, who was the home run leader last season by belting 47 home runs with the Baltimore Orioles.  His price tag should be high despite the fact he has a draft-pick compensation attached to him.

- The New York Mets are in a good position to act quickly and trade one of their veteran outfielders at the Winter Meetings per Marc Carig of Newsday.  The Mets outfield depth became a point of strength in terms of trade talks once Yoenis Cespedes re-signed with the team, thus giving them too many outfielders.  The two outfielders on the trading block are Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson.  Both have good power from the left-hand side of the plate and seem to be generating plenty of trade interest.  It is possible they end up moving both veterans but that seems like a long shot.  Bruce remains the best bet to get traded.

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