Bill Hall Rumors
The Central divisions are home to not just the four worst records in baseball (the Twins, Astros, Cubs and Royals) but also to the Cardinals and their MLB-best 37-25 record. Here's some news from the middle of the baseball map...
- Phil Humber's improbable journey from being a third overall pick to injury-riddled obscurity to a star in the White Sox rotation is chronicled by ESPNChicago's Jon Greenberg.
- The Cubs have no plans to rush Brett Jackson to the Major Leagues, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Jackson just recently returned to action after a finger injury. Muskat's piece also contains updates on several other Cubs prospects.
- The Cardinals would be "crazy" to think about dealing Colby Rasmus, writes Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The Tigers took position players with 10 of their first 11 draft picks, and 24 of their first 29 picks were college players. Baseball America's John Wagner looks at how both trends were a departure from Detroit's recent draft strategies.
- Bill Hall has cleared waivers and is now a free agent, tweets Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle. Hall was put on release waivers by the Astros on Monday.
- The Astros can also claim the first signing of the 2011 Amateur Draft, as 44th-round pick Blake Ford told Stephen Goff of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) that he will sign tonight. Ford, a right-hander from Lamar University, happened to have tickets to tonight's Astros-Cardinals game so he figured he would take care of his contract while at the ballpark. Also from Goff, the Astros have already signed two other draft picks.
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Some news items from around the league....
- Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com and David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune both feel that Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs should part ways in the wake of Zambrano's recent tirade against the club, and that the right-hander would certainly waive his no-trade clause in order to leave town.
- Levine and Haugh each cite the Yankees as a potential trade partner, though it's hard to imagine the Yankees taking on a high-priced pitcher with such baggage. It's even harder to imagine New York parting with a significant player like Joba Chamberlain or Brett Gardner in exchange for Zambrano, as Levine suggests.
- Ian Stewart is "the best player to buy low on," a non-Rockies scout tells Troy Renck of the Denver Post. For that reason, Renck feels the Rockies will hold onto the struggling third baseman until he gets back in form or at least improves his trade value.
- The Reds have won just five of their last 18 games, which has B.J. Bethel of the Dayton Daily News and John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer both calling for a "shake-up." Bethel suggests the club should look for relief pitching, a veteran starter, or a solid bat for left field and/or at third base or shortstop. Fay suggests that a prospect like Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier or Zack Cozart could help fill those holes in the lineup, and also thinks Cincinnati could deal one of its catchers (Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan).
- Bill Hall drew some attention from the Yankees last winter and the Bombers could sign Hall for the minimum salary now that the veteran utilityman has been released by the Astros, writes Mike Axisa of the River Avenue Blues blog. As Axisa notes, Hall doesn't offer much more than what the Yankees currently have in bench options, but for a minimum salary, Hall is a no-risk signing.
A few items of note on the club formerly known as the Colt .45s as Albert Pujols smacks a walkoff homer, his second jack of the day:
- The Astros continue to deny any rumors that they've been trying to work out a pre-draft deal with Stanford pitcher Chris Reed with the intent of selecting him at No. 11 overall, tweets Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner. Goff predicts the Astros will take Archie Bradley (Twitter link), and ESPN.com's Keith Law writes in his latest mock draft that they'll take prep shortstop Francisco Lindor or Bradley if he's still available.
- The Astros have improved their farm system under GM Ed Wade and his stable of area scouts, according to Goff. Wade's first draft as Astros GM was in 2008, when Houston selected Jason Castro and Jordan Lyles, both of whom have reached the bigs.
- In contrast to their relative improvements in drafting and developing minor league players, Wade admitted that releasing Bill Hall represented a failure in judgment, writes Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
The draft is right around the corner but there's still plenty more going on in the world of baseball..
- The rise of Emmanuel Burriss combined with the return of Pablo Sandoval could push Miguel Tejada out the door, writes Carl Steward of the Mercury News. Even though eating Tejada's contract is less than ideal, Giants GM Brian Sabean has often said that he wants the best 25 players active and contributing, regardless of contract.
- The Mets have released Double-A outfielder Carlos Guzman, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter). Guzman, 25, was let go in order to make room Bubba Bell and Erik Turgeon, who are moving down from Triple-A Buffalo.
- Mets manager Terry Collins plans to continue using closer Francisco Rodriguez in high-leverage, non-save situations late in games, write Anthony DiComo and Aaron Taube of MLB.com. The Mets have used K-Rod liberally despite his looming 2012 option for $17.5MM, which vests if he finishes 55 games this year.
- Astros GM Ed Wade checked with both Drayton McLane and new owner Jim Crane before releasing Bill Hall, tweets Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle. Wade called the move "a big economic hit before [Crane] even takes control of the club."
The Astros announced that they intend to give Bill Hall his unconditional release. They asked for release waivers on Hall and activated infielder Jason Bourgeois from the 15-day disabled list in a related move.
The transaction will take effect Monday and if no team claims Hall by Wednesday, he’ll become a free agent and will be able to sign with any team. Last offseason, Hall signed a one-year, $3MM deal that included a $4MM mutual option ($250K buyout) for 2012. The 31-year-old posted a .224/.272/.240 line in 158 plate appearances as Houston's second baseman this year.
Of all the teams in baseball, the 18-30 Astros are likeliest to become sellers this summer, in the eyes of ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Yet Stark suggests there may be a shortage of sellers, since so many teams are within striking distance of a playoff berth. Here are the details, as the summer trade market starts to take shape:
- Houston GM Ed Wade says it makes sense to explore “anything that builds the type of depth that will get us where we need to be."
- Rival teams believe Wade would listen to offers for players like Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Clint Barmes and Bill Hall, but the GM says he’s “going to be very protective of [Houston’s] younger players."
- Stark hears that the Braves, Orioles and Phillies have some interest in Hunter Pence. A rival executive says Wade would need an immense haul to justify trading Pence, who is under team control through 2013.
- The Phillies’ interest in Pence may be overstated. Pence’s $6.9MM salary appears to be about double what Philadelphia can add and at this point, the Phils are just creating a shopping list of possible targets.
- The Braves are “actively stepping up” their search for hitting. They’ve been looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder and would also like a utility infielder who can handle shortstop. They signed longtime shortstop Julio Lugo yesterday.
- Though the Cardinals probably wish that Albert Pujols and Cubs GM Jim Hendry hadn’t exchanged a heavily scrutinized public hug, they aren’t overly concerned with it, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (on Twitter).
- The Pirates recalled Ascanio and placed Michael Crotta on the DL with right elbow inflammation, according to Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). The team had to decide whether to add Ascanio to the roster or risk losing him to another team, since he's out of options.
- As MLB.com's Brian McTaggart explains, the Astros will have to clear up roster space when Jeff Keppinger returns from the disabled list. Bill Hall could slide into a utility role, or the Astros could part ways with him. Including the buyout on next year’s mutual option, about $2.5MM remains on Hall’s deal.
Links for Wednesday night..
- Longtime major leaguer Juan Castro told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick that he never considered retirement at any point this winter. The 38-year-old is trying to hook on with the Dodgers in 2011 for what would be his fourth stint with the club.
- Earlier today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told versatile Astros veteran Bill Hall that the club was "this close" to signing him, tweets Jack Curry of the YES Network.
- A source close to the Rockies told Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated that the Rangers sought a "very good player" for Michael Young, but didn't elaborate on who that player might be.
- Some in the Rangers front office feel that Neftali Feliz could develop into the type of starter that would otherwise cost a bundle in a trade, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.
- Yankees fans have been hard on A.J. Burnett, who is set to earn $16.5MM annually through 2013. However, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that Burnett's career numbers are not all that different from Boston's Josh Beckett.
- Outfielder Travis Buck views his arrival in the Indians locker room as a fresh start, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
Before he signed with the Astros, Bill Hall drew interest from teams that wanted him to be a utility player again. The 30-year-old played seven positions for Boston in 2010 and while Hall takes pride in his versatility, he chose Houston because the Astros wanted to make him their everyday second baseman.
"I don't like the word utility player. I call myself a baseball player" Hall said on a conference call with reporters. "I'm really good at a lot of positions, but if I concentrate on one, hopefully I can be great."
Hall said he's excited about returning to the NL Central, working under manager Brad Mills and hitting for power to the opposite field. He hit 18 homers and posted a .247/.316/.456 line last year - respectable numbers that he intends to surpass in 2011.
Hall clubbed 35 homers for the Brewers in 2006, but hasn't topped 18 homers or a .456 slugging percentage since. He'll have the chance to do some damage against Milwaukee in 2011 and says he has already circled some dates on next year's schedule.
The Astros have signed Bill Hall to a one-year, $3.25MM deal that includes a mutual option for 2012. Hall will earn $3MM this season and either $4MM or a $250K buyout in 2012. The Yankees and Dodgers were among the teams pursuing Hall, who will play second base regularly for Houston. Gaylord Sports represents Hall.
Hall, 31 this month, hit 18 homers for the Red Sox as a utilityman last year. He batted .247/.316/.456 and played all three outfield positions plus second, third and short. He even set the Royals down in order when Terry Francona called on him to pitch in May.
The agreement "practically ensures" that the Astros will trade Jeff Keppinger, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes (Twitter link). Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported earlier that the Yankees have spoken to the Astros about acquiring Keppinger for their bench.