The Astros front office’s worst move was a non-move


While waiting for the Astros Front Office to make a move before the trade deadline, one’s mind wanders off to past moves that worked or failed.

Justin Verlander trade? Big Yes. Gerrit Cole? You bet. Picking up Tony Sipp, Will Harris and Colin McHugh for nothing? Great work. Trading for Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna? Very good so far…..and onward.

How about giving Jon Singleton that early multi-year contract? Oops. Sending 5 prospects including the former 1-1 draft pick for Ken Giles and a throw-in? Collapsed pretty quick. What about sending four youngsters including Josh Hader and Domingo Santana for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers? Ouch. Letting J.D. Martinez walk away? Oh, man….and onward.

But perhaps the worst move the Astros current front office has ever made was a non-move. That non-move was not wrapping pitcher Charlie Morton up with a nice 2 year / $30 million bow (that could have vested up to a 3 year / $45 million contract).

The Astros were facing a season, where Dallas Keuchel was going to be gone, Lance McCullers Jr was going to be unavailable and the team’s options were iffy. Having to replace three starters was a huge step over replacing two starters and brought lots of risks. They did go out and pick up Wade Miley, who has been really solid and they did install former starter McHugh in the rotation, where he floundered a bit and after a term on the IL moved to the bullpen. They also moved swingman Brad Peacock into the rotation where he was fine until he was hurt. Along with this, top prospect Forrest Whitley hit a physical and mental wall, Corbin Martin had Tommy John surgery and J.B. Bukauskas struggled at AA. Framber Valdez failed in his attempt at grabbing a rotation brass ring, Josh James has been succeeding at one and two inning stints in the bullpen and the only solid help has come in small samples from Rogelio Armenteros and Cy Sneed.

Meanwhile, Morton, who the Astros failed to even hand a Qualifying Offer has been simply one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. His 11 wins only trails the much luckier Lance Lynn in the AL. His 2.35 ERA (1st), 1.037 WHIP (5th), 0.7 HR/ 9 IP (Tied 1st), 11.2 K/9 IP (6th), his 2.79 FIP (1st – it measures effectiveness in preventing HRs, BBs, HBPs and causing Ks) are all top notch.

So why did the Astros not try to tie up Morton for two or three years? Well, he was 35 y.o., though Justin Verlander who they did extend is one year older. He did miss time in both 2017 and 2018 with injuries, though he did pitch very well for both seasons. Did Morton say he didn’t want to return – would only sign with Tampa Bay near his home? He never said it as an absolute.

Or was this a budget situation? Did they see bringing in Michael Brantley for about the same as Morton signed for as more of a sure thing due to their relative ages? According to Spotrac.com the Astros are currently within $6 million of the competitive tax limit. Did they not want to bust the budget? Is this affecting who they are chasing in a trade right now?

The odds are that the Astros thought that they had their rotation covered between Peacock, McHugh, Valdez, Cionel Perez, and James, with call-ups of Whitley, Martin or Bukauskas in their back pocket. They wanted to spend that money elsewhere.

Right now that looks like a mistake – their biggest mistake to date.

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80 comments on “The Astros front office’s worst move was a non-move

  1. I admit that I am a little uneasy about this particular ‘trading season’. I have not seen the kind of fire/spunk in this team [except lately in Cole and, of all people, Marisnick] that I think warrants any real hope for a deep playoff push. Yes, we will – SHOULD – win the AL West. But we would need [a] no more lost-time injuries; [b] some kind of improved offense from the catcher’s position, [c] star-like performances in the playoffs from hitters 1-7, [d] a significant upgrade in the bullpen, and [e] most importantly, another top of the line starting pitcher to compete with the Twins and Rays [who have beaten us impressively head-to-head this year] and the Yankees [who are just significantly better than us overall in every area except defense]. Considering that pickings on the market look to be very slim, the competition fierce, the cost exorbitant, and the expected return minimal in each of our areas of need, I almost hope Jeff doesn’t make a deal, and we just ride out this season and gear up over the winter for a big ‘last hurrah’ run in 2020.

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    • No way Mr. Bill. This might well be the last year of the Verlander Cole one two punch. Luhnow is going for it. And when we get all our bats back on the field at the same time in a week or so, we might not have the most powerful line up, bt it will be the most athletic. I’m only concerned that Luhow could get shut out in his effort to find pitching.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Can’t understand how they could think rotation was covered. That was main reason, plus injuries, I didn’t think 2019 could be WS year. To not sign Morton, who won Game 7 of our only WS, was a heart blistering non-move. Didn’t understand then, don’t now.

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  3. Remember, Morton also was making noise about retiring. Additionally, his injuries were near the end of the season, he did not pitch as much because of them. In this case, I trusted Luhnow then and I do now.

    I am of the opinion that Morton really wanted to be near home and that is why the Rays were able to scoop him up.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. From all that I’ve read about about Charlie, he was kind of surprised not to be coming back. Seems to me that Luhnow only wanted to give him a year. Maybe the medical experts thought the arm would not hold up. Maybe it won’t. But damn, two years at 15 to 17 and this club would feel a whole lot more ready to go deep into October right now. We’d be leading all of baseball in wins.

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  5. I think Charlie would have stayed, but when he wasn’t given a qualifying he knew he was gone. Who knows why that didn’t happen, and you can bet your blue bibby Luhnow wishes he could have a do over.
    I listened to a radio interview with Luhnow yesterday……..and I was very angry because at this point he doesn’t seem to be in on a trade. He said he’s ok with the pitching rotation. He is either lieing, or he is telling the truth. If he is telling the truth, this team is done. We are 4 1/2 games in front of the A’s.

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    • Becky –
      This is straight out of GM 101:
      – Never admit that you really need a trade – “We really like our rotation (of 3 great pitchers and 2 faulty band aids) and our bullpen of fire extinguishers and fire starters. But if you really really want to twist my arm I might be willing to part with Tyler White and the home address of Jon Singleton for Madbum and Will Smith.”
      – Never let your own guys know how close you are to giving up on them, you don’t want to discourage them in case you can’t make a deal – “I’m so ready to go to war with Framber Valdez every 5 days that even if I trade for Matthew Boyd – I think I will put Boyd in a mop up role in the bullpen and let Framber keep starting.” (Pinocchio nose suddenly knocks over the microphone).
      – Never let the other guys know you might be “in on a trade”. This is also true with buying a car – don’t let the guy know you have narrowed it down to him – there are a lot of other car dealers / teams out there. “I’m not really close to a deal for XYZ (even though I have been talking to his GM 2 hours a day – every day including holidays), there are a lot of other options out there – I might be able to bring back someone like Ken Giles pretty easily, as long as I change his name on his uniform and don’t tell A.J. who the new guy is.”

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  6. This offseason there was some talk about the next wave of analytics being all about predicting injuries before they happen. I suspect this is the real reason Charlie is playing for the wrong team. I hope Morton continues to prove the naysayers wrong if that’s the case.

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    • Had we paid Charlie, we wouldn’t have surplus to buy anything in trade now.

      Which would we rather have at that time? Not knowing if Charlie would be healthy in late July and no money, or having more up-to-date health awareness with recency stats?

      The other factor that makes it fruitless to discuss today is we didn’t know how the QO negotiations would go with Keuchel, Marwin, and literally 100’s of other player considerations. Looking back as a revisionist, to those others who keep mentioning Salt — what’s the point? We offered him a year, while having all the data on his shoulder. Nobody held a gun to Charlie’s head, it’s his decision. That’s how “we let him get away” sounds to me, like fans are Jailers ha! He’s a rare bird that misses his infants too — can’t put a price on the time away is the way he thinks.

      Anyway, this blog overall is super light on knowing where our prospects are in process. Paredes pitched a gem last night, he’s ready. Bielak is close. Because many don’t follow it, they may not understand what the Astros were thinking before the season.

      The Problem with the Way Things have been Handled
      Consider for the most part, rookies etc. have been expected to assume #5 status, when they could have been treated more like Josh James … in shorter outings. Martin, Urquidy, Sneed, Armenteros, McHugh, Peacock, Valdez (Rodgers, Perez). That’s a lot of talent we expected should just jump right in.

      Maybe we could have done things differently, but the Astros are in a position of strength with a Top 5 farm system from which to trade.

      Additionally, we have targeted 33 players Luhnow said over a week ago. We’ve been discussing them..

      I do agree with the premise that we have blinked, or let some players value run out; AJ Reed, Guduan, Martes, and Derek Fisher is on the verge. Dean Deetz, McCurry, Abreu have to be fast-tracked, or they too… And I think we made mistakes not getting enough for Davis, Teoscar and Laureano. Trades don’t always go like the Fields for Alvarez deal.

      Some believe Whitley is at peak right now, since he’s still ranked #1, and not considered a bust yet. I don’t share that sentiment, with Tucker either. I would need a Bowl-Me-Over deal to move them.

      Our focus in acquisition should be in getting pitchers who dominate NYY, and LAD. Three teams are clearly the class of 2019, whether that’s true when the playoffs near. I have my eye on a long list (Castillo, Boyd, Marquez, Syndergaard, Stroman, Watson, Garrett, Bummer, Alex Young/Robbie Ray, etc.) Have faith there is foresight from which, as Dan alludes, we don’t have direct access but we can connect the dots.

      Liked by 1 person

      • First off, qualifying offers had to be accepted in mid-November. Charlie signed with the Rays on December 21st…so I’m not sure where you’re headed with most of your post. Second, the majority of this blog does follow the pitching prospects in the minors. We’re not keeping spreadsheets saying they are ready or not though. We’re mostly looking at the simplistic numbers of the 25 man roster, 40 man roster, and who is out of options. You think someone is ready to jump from Corpus to MLB? Luhnow is only going to gamble on starting service clocks for so many prospects. Since you believe signing Morton would have prevented other moves you better believe they’re concerned about keeping low cost players as options as long as possible over the next three to five years.

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      • Grayson, it’s clear that you do keep close track of things, way beyond me in analytics for example. But months ago you mentioned that a whole batch of guys were ready or just about. Now it’s Paredes. I hope he’s got the stamina and the gumption to make the move to the big club and have a positive impact. But he’s only made 7 appearances in AA ball. And he’s at 78 innings to date, it’s a career high for him and he’s only 170 soaking wet. So I am again dubious.

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  7. Five reasons we are suddenly only 4.5 games up on the As, and seem to be fading fast:

    1. We don’t have anything resembling a viable #4 or #5 starting pitcher [either on the 40 man or anywhere in the entire organization] who can stay off the IL;
    2. The guy who anchors both the middle of our batting order and our up-the-middle defense hasn’t played since Hector was actually a good pitcher.
    3. Our catchers are hitting .216 and .171 respectively;
    3. Between them, our #1 catcher and our DH have struck out a whopping 158 times in 451 ABs [both K-ing at a rate of almost one in every three at bats] -and did I mention that our DH is hitting .228 and has only 21 RBIs on the year?
    4. Our best hitter [this year] has already grounded into 15 DPs; our best hitter in this decade -if not ever – has just recently decided to raise his BA above .250;
    5. four of our regular relievers have ERAS over 4.00 and WHIPs over .130.

    Can even Jeff Luhnow fix this?

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  8. I said earlier in the week that I thought the Astros missed Charlie Morton.
    I don’t consider that to be admitting a mistake. I don’t like looking back. I like looking forward.
    I think the Astros are going to kick ass in August and September. I think Luhnow will fix the pitching staff and the Astros lineup will wreak havoc on other team’s pitching and the Astros will have the best record in the AL and will give the Dodgers a run for their money to have the best record in baseball.

    Liked by 4 people

    • agree op. i looked at the schedule and said a post or two back that it favored us. add that we will soon have our full lineup and i see things going more our way in aug and sept. sure would be nice to get another strong starter without having to give more than we oughta.

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  9. And now the Astros bloggers say:
    “We really miss his E.R.A.;
    who knew he’d want to be a Ray?
    and leave our strugglin’ ‘Stros”

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  10. First, this is not aimed at DanP because he has a thankless job of giving us “food for thought.” But I have no patience with a ballplayer, soldier, or policeman, or whatever, making a decision in a split second (in the latter two it is life or death) and then later someone wanting to penalize them for what they “should have done.” I don’t think the issue is Luhnow, it is a rash of injuries and lack of ability on those that he and others were counting one. This is not a poke at anyone else, but last year we had the best prospects in baseball and they would press our starters and bullpen. It has been said a million times, “you have plans and then life happens” I trust the FO and Crane will do what they can provided it does not wreck the team for years to come.

    And finally, if Morton goes down with an arm injury, that does not make Luhnow a genius.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ac – I guess my feeling was that it is a lot to replace two good starting pitchers. Three seemed like an extreme task – too many things have to fall right. I don’t think this was a split second, Jake Marisnick taking a step inside the path kind of decision. This front office had been thinking about this for a long time, probably longer than we perceive. I’m not getting on their case for making a mistake – I’m just calling it a mistake.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oakland has a good team. Not spectacular but good. They started the second half with White Sox and Mariners. Now for them it is the Twins, Rangers, Brewers and Astros. Let’s look where they are at the end of the month.

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  12. I understand that Thursday afternoon quarterbacking (mix/met) isn’t necessarily helpful. It’s just that Charlie was one of those pieces more than sum of parts. A chem element. I miss him and would not have repeated it but for Dan’s invitation.

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  13. I’ve said this a couple of times now. We’ve got a very interesting 13 days coming up. I have no idea what will happen, but I still believe it will be significant. I hope we beat Charlie in game 7 of the ALCS.

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  14. Grayson – I will be perfectly honest. The research and writing that went into this post took 45 minutes of my one hour lunch hour today. My point is to give folks like you a chance to chew the fat on the post subject. I wish I could spend more time on these and make them more stat heavy or do more research on the kids, but it is not available in my current life. I have chosen to try and put something out there for you folks every other day or so and I know that sometimes, like today they may be lacking.
    Anyways – I will continue to do my best and you all will have to enjoy it or not enjoy it – I can’t control that. I’ve always thought that y’all’s comments are the most interesting part of this blog any ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Just where do you think all of us armchair managers would be without you Dan?!! This blog is the very first thing I check on when I get up! You didn’t know I have coffee with you everyday did you!! As a matter of fact you stayed up with me last night….I stayed up until the last pitch! I know MY life would be pretty boring if I didn’t have you and Chip to give me something to “chew” on everyday! By the way Astros 2 Angels 0 thanks to our GOLDEN DH!
    GO ‘STROS!!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, we chat here about the game and our favorite team pretty much the way I do at the ballpark with my buddies. We’re not looking up stats on our phones, we’re just shooting the poop and generally we know what we’re talking about. Same here. Maybe in honor of Billy C., we should call Chipalatta the diet blog for a couple of weeks, or at least until we have a trade or two to chew on.

        On a separate note, I’m not usually pleased with a .500 trip, but heck we got those four wins after getting beaten up a bit. Again, this is a resilient group of baseball players.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I second that Becky.
    I know I would be utterly lost without you Dan. First thing in the morning, coffee and Chipalatta.
    You deserve so much more praise than we give you. Personally, I think your conversations are a good step above anything else out there.
    I know it can’t be easy to find time to keep us going. I, personally, am eternally grateful.
    By, the way, that weird man is back. Same seat and looks like the same clothes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • i suspect that the guy has something to do with MLB but then again. He looks like a Sean Connery look alike that I saw on SNL a few years back. I believe that it was a Jeopardy parody with Will Ferrell. It sure looks like him.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Listen – the praise for me is having y’all come in and read and comment. Some negative comments are to be expected – just need folks to understand this is not going to be Nerd-vana – I will have quick simplistic stats

    Sandy – that guy just freaks me out. By the way on the radio they said Scott Boras has a suite near home plate. You don’t suppose….

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  18. Like I told Tim….we are family. Every one of us who have been together more than 10 years, have laughed together and prayed together. We are family💯⚾

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes family we are. Helped ease those gruesome years. No offense, no pitching, no TV, and for the most part no radio.
      We stuck it out together till that glorious night in November 2017.
      But it was Dan kept us going.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Right now there are 6 AL teams under .500. In the NL the number is 7. That means something like 13 sellers and 17 buyers. Some teams may decide either way, but it appears to be more of a seller’s market than buyer’s market – right now. And not being familiar with the NL, I see very few good buys in the AL. Lots hope there is a nugget in there for us.

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    • The difference this year is that sellers have to trade by the July 31st deadline or they can’t get prospects back after that. There is more incentive at the deadline, which will help even out the market.

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  20. Kyle Tucker made his first start ever at 1B last night. He has played a few innings there late in games this year, but has been practicing there quite a bit lately.
    With AJ Reed out of the picture in AAA the Astros want to add some versatility to Tucker’s game, as well as have a backup to Taylor Jones.
    Josh Rojas has three homers in his last two games.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. A player I would like to be one of the 33 the Astros have checked into is catcher Omar Narvaez of the Mariners.
    I believe the Astros would like to have Peacock and McHugh in their playoff bullpen because of the experience they bring. So, I will not be surprised if the Astros go after a starter who is a rental and a starter who is not.
    I think the Astros will deliberate long and hard about including any reliever on their playoff roster who has a habit of issuing bases on balls.
    Finally, I believe that some Astros pitching prospects will suddenly come alive on August 1st.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Dan, usually I read first thing in morning but today, just got here. Anyhow, it’s pretty easy to tell when somebody is dropping by to cause a stir. You are the phenom of the bloggers. You should be on the Astros payroll.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Great job last night by Wade Miley and the pen – and offensively by Springer, Bregman, and Alavarez. Man, did we ever need that split!

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  24. Time flies. The way things are headed, Yordan will be off of the prospect list by next weekend because of his ABs. An interesting Yordan-fact that I came across this morning is that when Baseball America came out with their midseason revised Top 50 Prospect rankings at the end of May, they still didn’t have him on it. At the time, he was crushing the baseball in AAA.
    I guess baseball is so hard to understand and predict that the “experts” not only miss bigtime, they miss bigtime when bigtime is slapping them in the face.

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  25. Yordan has had a truly remarkable beginning to his MLB career. Perhaps part of what caused BA to overlook him is the fact that he is not a great defender. I alos notice that he’s also presently, at the MLB level, hitting 19 points higher than his milb lifetime batting average; that his OBP is 10 points higher at the MLB level than his lifetime Milb OBP; and that his OPS is over 100 points higher so far in the MLB than his lifetime Milb OPS. If you don’t tell the kid he’s supposed to have an adjustment period, where his MLB production is tens of points below his milb lifetime numbers, I won’t tell him either!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I attribute those stats to the fact that he is such a great talent at age 22 now. He was only 18-19-20-21 in the majority of his MILB career. Yordan is a talent that few saw coming.
      Forget about his defense. We are an American League team with the DH and this guy is very rare. We need to use him at the plate as often as we possibly can and spend the rest of the year getting him acclimated to one position to use him in when we play NL teams after Brantley, Reddick, Gurriel move on in 2021.
      Every time this guy sits out a game, we are missing out on that bat!

      Liked by 3 people

  26. Peacock is not due back until August….if that. No news about what the Dr. found, but if it had been bad I think we would have heard about it by now. I’m about to wear out my MLB Traders app….checking on an Astros trade.
    It’s Friday off to eat Mexican food (Tony’s on Ella) and go watch the game at our Friday night hang out!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. I just happened to find length of game stats on Baseball Reference. At 3:08 per contest, we’ve jumped back up 4 minutes per game on the season, tying the record, in spite of all the new things being tried to speed up the game. More pitchers are throwing more pitches. The juiced ball has created more calls to the pen with more pitches being thrown outside the zone. Manfred needs to figure out what he really wants. But I don’t think he really knows enough about the game to know what he wants.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I have absolutely never seen trip HR’s like this display this evening. Whata show! Since Jake’s mishap the other nite the boyz have been banging out hits like they are on a mission. Keep it up.

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  29. Man our guy Verlander did his job again, but he never seems to have an easy night. Nobody battles like him, but can he keep it up all the way through October?

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  30. Jose sure made Harris work unnecessarily hard.
    For a squad now 11 games out, they sure have some hotdogs in that group.
    We got a win without playing the whole game.

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  31. Boy…..I was biting my nails in the 9th. I had visions of Asuna blowing that save!
    Justin really gutted that game out with a season high 112 pitches. He deserved that win…..he’s now one of 4 pitchers with 12 wins! NICE!
    Sargeh….you are soo right, White never took the advice of the trainers, and literally ate himself out of a job. I hope he hooks on with another club and maybe he will listen to THEIR trainers.

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  32. In Forrest Whitley’s start for the GCL Astros, his line was:
    2.2 IP, 1 hit, 2R, 1ER, 6BB, 5Ks, 3 WP, 1 throwing error, 2 grounders, 1 flyball, 46 pitches/19 strikes.

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  33. Nephew is gone. I hope he reinvents himself and finds a way to turn himself back into a productive Major League Baseball player. I’d love to see him not get picked up and the organization help him get back in playing shape, not in AAA or AA, but somewhere away from the actual game.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. The other thing about Nephew is that he could have a health issue, an eating disorder, any number of things that he’s dealing with. So rather than thinking about his baseball career for a second, I do hope the guy finds what he’s looking for and if that means some kind of help, then by any and all means. I think it’s pretty clear that he’s a nice guy. I hope things work out for him.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. tyler white never caused any trouble and never (to my knowledge) clapped back at anyone doling out derogatory nicknames. a nice guy. i wish him well. i hope he gets his body healthy and does well for himself.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I wonder if cutting Tyler White loose will open some trade possibilities. I’m sure all the other GMs knew it was likely the Astros would have to DFA someone. Maybe this breaks the logjam.

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  37. Concerning Tyler White, this is a Twitter post from Mrs. Josh Reddick.

    “To all of you a**holes celebrating someone losing their job, I hope you never have to feel what it’s like to move your whole life in the matter of days. Best of luck to my best friend and @twhite409 on their next journey in this crazy baseball life. We love .”

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