MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Correa No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

Astros' Correa, Indians' Lindor, Cubs' Russell lead strong contingent

Correa No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

The top two players from the 2014 list of top shortstop prospects graduated: Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox and the Cubs' Javier Baez. So did the last two on that top 10: Luis Sardinas, then of the Rangers, and Chris Owings of the D-backs.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lowrie helps grow game with trip to Colombia

Shortstop joins Sports Diplomacy Program to host camps for at-risk kids

Lowrie helps grow game with trip to Colombia

HOUSTON -- When the head of the Sports Diplomacy Program in Washington, D.C., wanted to get in touch with Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie to gauge his interest in serving as a sports envoy, he knew exactly who to call.

Lowrie's wife, Milessa Muchmore Lowrie, is a former Foreign Service Officer who served the Department of State as a diplomat based in Toronto and Mexico City.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros legend Bagwell to rejoin organization

Former first baseman will aid players as guest Spring Training instructor

Astros legend Bagwell to rejoin organization

HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell, who has been largely out of baseball since he decided not to remain as hitting coach of the Astros following the 2010 season, will return to the organization after accepting an offer from the team Tuesday to become a guest instructor at Spring Training.

Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said Bagwell will be in Kissimmee, Fla., for a few days in March, marking his first appearance in spring camp in five years. Ryan and manager A.J. Hinch had worked for weeks trying to get Bagwell back in the fold, and Bagwell told Ryan on Tuesday he would lend his knowledge to the Astros.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros' roster upgrades have Hinch raring to go

Manager enjoying 'active winter,' ready to lead club at Spring Training

Astros' roster upgrades have Hinch raring to go

HOUSTON -- The roster has been retooled and improved since A.J. Hinch took over as manager of the Astros last fall. The team has beefed up the offense, strengthened the bullpen and created competition that will take center stage at Spring Training next month in Kissimmee, Fla.

Simply put, the Astros have given Hinch a club with which he can compete. After six consecutive losing seasons, Houston hopes to be in the thick of the American League West race and build off last year's 19-win improvement from 2013.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Biggio reflects on Hall of Fame career at FanFest

Legendary second baseman embraces chance to speak with Astros fans

Biggio reflects on Hall of Fame career at FanFest

HOUSTON -- One of the biggest events of Saturday's FanFest at Minute Maid Park was the Fan Forum session with Craig Biggio, the Astros legend who was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this month.

Biggio spent about 30 minutes answering questions from more than 100 fans who filled the Diamond Club behind home plate. The future Hall of Famer was asked about everything from his relationship with Jeff Bagwell, his favorite player growing up (Thurman Munson), craziest teammate (Jose Lima) and -- of course -- what logo will appear on his cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Newest Astros relish chance to partake in FanFest

Gattis, Gregerson, Neshek among acquisitions to meet supporters face to face at Minute Maid Park

Newest Astros relish chance to partake in FanFest

HOUSTON -- After a couple of days of heavy rains, sunshine dominated the sky Saturday morning, allowing the Astros to open the roof at Minute Maid Park as more than 5,000 fans came to the ballpark for the team's annual FanFest.

More than a dozen Astros players, including newcomers like Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson and Evan Gattis, as well as familiar faces like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Chad Qualls and Dallas Keuchel, spent a few hours signing autographs and interacting with fans, who were able to take batting practice, throw in the outfield, meet some Astros legends and even tour the clubhouse.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Healthy Correa eager to resume big league quest

Healthy Correa eager to resume big league quest

KINGWOOD, Texas -- Had Astros top prospect Carlos Correa not broken his right ankle sliding into third base last summer while playing at Class A Advanced Lancaster, he likely would have finished the year at Double-A Corpus Christi and put himself in position to reach the Majors early this season.

The 20-year-old shortstop refuses to call the injury, which required season-ending surgery, a setback, even though he's likely headed to Corpus Christi to begin this season. Now that he's 100 percent recovered, Houston is still very much on Correa's radar. So much so that he's thought about what it will be like to get that call.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Altuve: Astros setting sights on playoffs

Altuve: Astros setting sights on playoffs

GALVESTON, Texas -- Perhaps no one is more encouraged to see the additions the Astros made this winter than All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who at 24 years old suddenly finds himself as one of the longest current tenured members of the club.

Altuve made his Major League debut midway through the 2011 season and quickly became a fixture in the lineup, as well as a fan favorite. He was one of the few shining stars during some rough times for the Astros, who have gone 186-328 in the 514 games in which Altuve has played.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros, Gonzalez avoid arbitration with one-year deal

Astros, Gonzalez avoid arbitration with one-year deal

The Astros and Marwin Gonzalez avoided arbitration and agreed to terms on a one-year, $1,062,500 contract on Friday.

Gonzalez, 25, is coming off the best season of his young career, as he posted career highs in multiple categories, including at-bats (285) and batting average (.277).

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William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Biggio debating which Astros logo will go on Hall plaque

Houston legend leaning toward one, but will review all three before selecting

Biggio debating which Astros logo will go on Hall plaque

HOUSTON -- Craig Biggio's Hall of Fame plaque will feature an Astros logo. That certainly comes as no surprise, but exactly which logo remains to be seen.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Thursday announced the logos that will appear on the caps of the Hall of Fame plaques for 2015 inductees Biggio, Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) and John Smoltz (Braves). On Jan. 16, it was announced that a D-backs logo will appear on Randy Johnson's cap.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Reed No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

Bucs' Bell leads list, followed by A's Olson, Yanks' Bird

Reed No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday, Jan. 30, on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

As has become an annual occurrence, the list of top first basemen lacks a bit in the elite prospect department. But there is good news: There are two players on this list on this year's Top 100: Josh Bell of the Pirates and Matt Olson of the A's. That doubles the total from the 2014 preseason list.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hoes, Grossman welcome competition for outfield spot

Pair likely competing for backup role with additions of Rasmus, Gattis

Hoes, Grossman welcome competition for outfield spot

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas -- After making the Opening Day roster a year ago, L.J. Hoes and Robbie Grossman will come to spring camp as perhaps the odd men out in an Astros outfield configuration that's gotten deeper with the additions of Colby Rasmus and slugger Evan Gattis.

That means the pair will be battling with Alex Presley for the fourth outfielder spot, with Rasmus and George Springer slated to start and Jake Marisnick's defense and good offensive showing at the end of last season giving him a leg up on some others.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Conger admits that Squirtle is his favorite Pokemon

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Conger admits that Squirtle is his favorite Pokemon

Well, you can move Hank Conger to the top of my "Major Leaguers I think I would have a pretty rad time with" list. While visiting a group of elementary school students on Thursday, the new Astro admitted quite a lot about himself. Namely: 

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As long as club's run total increases, Astros OK with K's

Gattis, Rasmus bring power, high whiff totals

As long as club's run total increases, Astros OK with K's

HOUSTON -- While the Astros have unquestionably added a lot of power to their starting lineup in the last week with Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus, they've also added a pair of guys who strike out at a high clip to a team that already has a high whiff rate.

Adding that much punch to a lineup that needed it comes at a cost, and for the Astros it's the strikeout. It should be all worth it, general manager Jeff Luhnow said, if the Astros can produce more runs and put themselves in position to win more games in 2015.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

With Astros, Rasmus can step up and lead

With Astros, Rasmus can step up and lead

HOUSTON -- Almost everything about playing for the Astros feels comfortable to outfielder Colby Rasmus. He has a good relationship with general manager Jeff Luhnow, who drafted him 10 years ago with the Cardinals, and he's finally playing his home games in the South, where he was born and raised.

Rasmus even likes how his big trucks will blend into the Houston cityscape, but not everything about coming to the Astros will be familiar to the 28-year-old. For the first time in his six-year Major League career, Rasmus will be looked upon to be one of the leaders.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

With great depth, Astros wait to place outfielders

Houston holding off until spring before locking in who plays where

With great depth, Astros wait to place outfielders

HOUSTON -- Forget about "Who's on first?" The Astros still don't know who's in center field, right field or left field. At least, that's what they're saying publicly.

After trading for Evan Gattis and signing Colby Rasmus within the last week, the Astros have built some depth and versatility in the outfield, and general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch said it will take the spring to sort out just who plays where.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros acquire righty Bostick in exchange for Corporan

Astros acquire righty Bostick in exchange for Corporan

HOUSTON -- The Astros traded catcher Carlos Corporan to the Rangers on Wednesday, one day after designating the veteran backstop for assignment, for Minor League right-hander Akeem Bostick.

Corporan was the Astros' backup catcher the past four seasons, and last year hit .235 with six homers and 19 RBIs while playing 55 games. But the Astros traded with the Angels for Hank Conger in the fall, and Corporan's time with Houston was likely over at that point.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minor League righty Walter suspended 50 games

HOUSTON -- Andrew Walter, a right-hander who split last season between Class A Quad Cities and Class A Advanced Lancaster, received a 50-game suspension without pay on Wednesday following a second positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The suspension of Walter will be effective at the start of the 2015 California League season.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rasmus joins Astros' outfield mix, signs 1-year contract

Drafted by Luhnow in St. Louis, former Blue Jay 'tight' with Houston's GM

Rasmus joins Astros' outfield mix, signs 1-year contract

HOUSTON -- The Astros' trade of veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler to the Cubs on Monday not only freed up a spot in the outfield and netted them infielder Luis Valbuena and pitcher Dan Straily, it also led them to free-agent outfielder Colby Rasmus.

With Fowler, who would have made more than $9 million, off the books, the Astros allocated some of that money to sign Rasmus, a left-handed-hitting outfielder with some power who will hold down a starting role in 2015. Rasmus signed a one-year deal worth $8 million, according to a source.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Appel intent on making Major League debut in '15

Likely to begin year at Triple-A, Astros righty speaks at Caravan hospital visit

Appel intent on making Major League debut in '15

HOUSTON -- Mark Appel's visit to Methodist Hospital on Tuesday morning as part of the Astros' annual Caravan was a meaningful one for the big right-hander, who about a year ago was in the hospital himself after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.

That was the start of an eventual year for Appel, who missed most of Spring Training, struggled at Class A Lancaster, got his feet under him at Double-A Corpus Christi and finished strong in the Arizona Fall League. So for Appel, fellow pitcher Kevin Chapman and former Astros pitcher Chris Sampson, meeting patients put a smile on their faces as well.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Vogelsong makes free-agent stop in Houston

Vogelsong makes free-agent stop in Houston

HOUSTON -- Free-agent pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who is in contract discussions with the Astros, arrived in Houston on Monday. That's a clear sign that Vogelsong may be poised to take a physical prior to potentially signing a deal.

Vogelsong, when contacted by MLB.com late Monday, declined to comment, but the veteran right-hander has been on the Astros' radar in recent days. General manager Jeff Luhnow said earlier on Monday that the club would still like to add a starting pitcher.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Pipeline Perspectives: Correa will have Minors' top average

Astros shortstop prospect has what it takes to win batting title

Pipeline Perspectives: Correa will have Minors' top average

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

As the first team to possess the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft for three straight years, the Houston Astros got a tremendous opportunity to rebuild their franchise. Their results with those selections haven't been all that they hoped, however.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros deal Fowler to Cubs for Valbuena, Straily

Astros deal Fowler to Cubs for Valbuena, Straily

HOUSTON -- The Astros pulled off their second trade in a week on Monday, acquiring right-handed pitcher Dan Straily and infielder Luis Valbuena from the Cubs in exchange for veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler, who will be joining his third team in three years.

The move helps the Astros fill needs at starting pitcher and third base while freeing up a crowded outfield picture. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said Straily will compete for a spot in the rotation and Valbuena will be in the mix to start at third base, though he can play elsewhere.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Singleton ready to make adjustments, take next step

Singleton ready to make adjustments, take next step

HOUSTON -- Jon Singleton didn't play baseball this winter, choosing instead to clear his mind after a challenging 2014 that also proved to be very rewarding for the Astros' first baseman.

Singleton made his Major League debut last year after signing a $10 million contract, clearing the way for him to be Houston's first baseman for the next decade, following in the footsteps of Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. Singleton had put up huge numbers throughout the Minor Leagues, but the big leagues proved to be a tough transition.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Luhnow: Astros will be winning club in 2015

GM points to the club's improved lineup, bullpen

Luhnow: Astros will be winning club in 2015

HOUSTON -- Are the Astros poised to have their first winning season in nearly a decade? General manager Jeff Luhnow thinks so.

Appearing on MLB Network's High Heat on Friday afternoon, Luhnow told host Chris "Mad Dog" Russo that he believes the days of losing records in Houston are over:

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros sign Castro, Sipp, Conger to 1-year deals

Club locks up two catchers, left-handed reliever before deadline

Astros sign Castro, Sipp, Conger to 1-year deals

HOUSTON -- The Astros reached deals with catchers Jason Castro ($4 million) and Hank Conger ($1.075 million), as well as left-handed pitcher Tony Sipp ($2.4 million) prior to Friday's deadline for arbitration-eligible players to exchange numbers with their teams.

That leaves the Astros with two unsigned players -- versatile infielder Marwin Gonzalez and outfielder Dexter Fowler, who made $7.35 million last year and could command somewhere around $9 million. The agents for Fowler and Gonzalez exchanged figures with the team Friday and can continue negotiating until arbitration hearings, which are set for next month.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lowrie to travel to Colombia for 'Diamond Diplomacy'

Baseball players join Olympic softball stars to serve as sports envoys

Lowrie to travel to Colombia for 'Diamond Diplomacy'

HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie will travel to Colombia next week to serve as a sports envoy in Major League Baseball's "Diamond Diplomacy" program in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State.

Lowrie, who signed a contract to return to the Astros after playing two seasons in Oakland, will be in South America from Jan. 19-23. He will travel to the cities of Bogota, Cartagena, and Barranquilla.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gattis ready to hit the ground hitting in Houston

Gattis ready to hit the ground hitting in Houston

HOUSTON -- Evan Gattis, the newest member of the Astros, is coming here, more than anything, to add some thunder to the lineup. That much is evident in the fact the Astros aren't publicly saying which position he'll play primarily, and that Gattis himself isn't focusing on defense at this point.

"I'm not really worried about positioning and stuff like that right now," Gattis said Thursday, one day after the Astros sent three prospects to the Braves to acquire him. "I'm just ready to get after it, you know?"

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Strong pipeline has moved Astros' pieces into place

Trade for Gattis latest example of how Houston is aiming to compete now

Strong pipeline has moved Astros' pieces into place

HOUSTON -- The Astros pride themselves on being smart -- the diplomas hanging on the walls in the front office are a testament to that. Everything they do is calculated and has a purpose, so when they traded for third-base prospect Colin Moran last July, it was part of a plan.

Rio Ruiz, Houston's top third-base prospect, was expected to start this season at Double-A Corpus Christi, but the arrival of Moran -- the former No. 6 overall pick by the Marlins in 2013 -- seemed to serve as a roadblock. It turns out the Astros were able to package Ruiz and pitching prospects Mike Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman in a trade Wednesday with the Braves to land slugger Evan Gattis and Minor League pitcher James Hoyt.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.