Brandon Lyon Rumors
The 13-15 Astros have scored more runs than they’ve allowed so far this season, but they’re still expected to be sellers at the summer trade deadline. GM Jeff Luhnow acknowledged to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he'll consider trades that add talent to the organization.
“If we have pieces on our club that are in demand by other clubs and we get enough future value for them to make up for the short-term loss, we’ll consider every opportunity,” Luhnow told Rosenthal.
The GM expects rival teams to have interest in some of his players late this summer. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, closer Brett Myers, first baseman Carlos Lee and reliever Brandon Lyon are playing well, but Luhnow said he’s not actively looking to make trades yet.
“We need those guys right now,” Luhnow said. “I’m not in any rush to have any conversations about our veteran players.”
Rodriguez, Myers and Lee have $10MM or more remaining on their contracts and relative to other middle relievers, Lyon’s $5.5MM salary is hardly a bargain. The Astros would presumably need to absorb a considerable percentage of their veteran players’ contracts to obtain highly-regarded prospects in trades.
Notes from the NL Central...
- Zack Greinke talked to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his frustrations with the media and the reason he believes he can get to know his teammates without going out to dinner with them every night.
- MLB.com's Adam McCalvy has more from Greinke.
- Brewers owner Mark Attanasio told Haudricourt that this year's Brewers team could help him reach one of his biggest life goals. "One thing I want before I kick the bucket is a World Series ring for the Milwaukee Brewers," Attanasio said.
- Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains that Corey Wimberly, who arrived in Pittsburgh in an offseason trade with Oakland, intends to make it impossible for the Pirates not to place him on their 25-man roster. The speedy utility player stands just 5'8" and says he's well-suited for the National League.
- Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle wonders where the critics of the Brandon Lyon signing have gone. Many analysts panned the reliever's three-year, $15MM deal last winter, but Lyon went on to stay healthy and produce for the Astros in 2010. His performance may have helped other relievers, as I explain here.
- Jiovanni Mier, the Astros' 2009 first rounder, has added 20 pounds of muscle and impressed the team's front office, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
- Clint Barmes is looking forward to playing shortstop again, reports MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. The new Astros infielder admitted that while he enjoyed playing in Colorado, he knew he'd have to go elsewhere if he wanted regular playing time.
- Miguel Cairo is happy to have finally earned a multiyear contract, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. The veteran infielder signed a two-year deal with the Reds in December.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick does a nice job profiling the underwhelming market for relievers. The Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Rays, Phillies, and Twins could be looking to make an acquisition. A few tidbits...
- The Astros "will gladly talk about Brandon Lyon, but aren't so interested in discussing Matt Lindstrom." Lyon is still owed $12.48MM through 2012.
- Crasnick points out that Octavio Dotel is not a pitcher you want facing lefties. How about D.J. Carrasco? He's quietly having another decent year, he's cheap, and he's under team control through 2012. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted yesterday that at least five teams have inquired.
- Crasnick finds "the consensus" to be that Mariners closer David Aardsma will be dealt before the deadline. The Tigers have been linked to the hard-throwing righty, whose ERA is up several runs this year despite his strikeout and walk rates remaining stable. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times feels the Mariners would need their socks knocked off to move Aardsma.
- Chad Qualls, Clay Hensley, and most of the Brewers' and Royals' pens also merit consideration as trade bait.
Recently MLBTR spoke to several MLB executives to gather their nominations for the best and worst moves of the offseason.
Free agent signings that received mention for the best moves: Felipe Lopez, Adrian Beltre, Adam LaRoche, Chone Figgins, Hideki Matsui, and Aroldis Chapman. Said one exec on Chapman: "He might truly live up to the hype." It's hard not to praise the Cards for getting Lopez on a one-year, $1MM deal.
Three trades came up as choices for the best moves of the offseason: the Mariners' acquisition of Cliff Lee, the Royals' trade of Mark Teahen, and the Rangers' trade of Kevin Millwood. One exec noted that the Mariners "didn't trade anyone that can hurt them in the next couple of years" for Lee, while another believed that "trading Lee and Kyle Drabek in the Roy Halladay deal will hurt [the Phillies] in the long run." The Royals received props for "getting some value for Teahen," while the Rangers' increased payroll flexibility from the Millwood deal was noted.
Nominated for the worst moves: free agent deals for Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, Brandon Lyon, Jason Kendall, Aubrey Huff, Jason Marquis, Randy Wolf, and Garrett Atkins. All the execs polled mentioned Holliday's seven year, $120MM deal when choosing their worst deals of the winter. Said one: "The fear that he would sign a one-year deal elsewhere and take his chances a year from now — that just doesn't make sense to me."
Aside from Kendall and Huff, there was a vibe of "like the player, hate the contract" with the panned free agent signings. One exec felt the Royals downgraded behind the plate with Kendall. Huff was nominated as a small-scale misstep, in that the exec felt that "Hank Blalock is better and he couldn't get half that salary on a non-roster deal."
Some Sunday links to browse....
- The Royals agreed to terms with Brayan Pena and Chris Getz, according to a team press release. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed. With Pena and Getz sorted out, the team now has four unsigned players remaining: Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, Luke Hochevar, and Carlos Rosa.
- In his most recent blog post, ESPN.com's Buster Olney writes that Prince Fielder ought to consider a long-term extension with Milwaukee, since "it's still unclear whether any team would value him as much as the Brewers."
- Mike Cameron considered signing with the Mariners before he landed in Boston, according to Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
- Andy Martino of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that the Phillies were Chan Ho Park's first choice heading into this winter, but that the two sides just couldn't work anything out.
- If Josh Beckett's last contract was any indication, he won't be concerned about "setting the market" when he signs his next deal, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald.
- Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle defends the Astros' offseason bullpen signings, explaining how the team evaluated Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom.
- Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch passes along comments from Tony La Russa about how the club's infield rotation will work with Felipe Lopez now a Cardinal.
- Blaine Boyer played a major part in recruiting Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson to Arizona, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
We've already talked about the best move of the offseason this evening, so now let's turn the page and discuss the worst move of the winter. Here are some candidates...
- Dodgers sign Jamey Carroll to a two-year, $3.85MM contract.
- Mets sign Alex Cora to a one-year, $2MM contract.
- Adam LaRoche declines a two-year, $17MM offer from the Giants.
- Astros sign Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15MM contract.
- Giants re-sign Bengie Molina to a one-year, $4.5MM contract.
There are plenty of more bad moves out there, but which one is the biggest head scratcher?
A quick rundown of some of the day's items...
- In an appearance on WEEI's Dale & Holley Show, ESPN's Keith Law said that the Red Sox are the clear front-runners if and when Adrian Gonzalez hits the trade market. "I really think that Boston could top anybody if Adrian Gonzalez becomes available, and he will," Law said. The transcript of Law's appearance is available here.
- It looks like Washington might still be the only team interested in Kris Benson. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that the Indians have no interest in the right-hander.
- ESPN.com's Jayson Stark polled "20 baseball wise men" to get their take on the offseason moves. The panel picked Seattle and Arizona as the most improved teams in their respective leagues, while Cleveland and the Dodgers were the least improved. John Lackey was named the winter's best free agent signing, while Brandon Lyon's deal with Houston was considered the worst.
- Giants infielder Freddy Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery on December 23, but the news of the procedure didn't come out until almost a month later. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News believes the club wanted to keep Sanchez's condition a secret in order to help them sign Juan Uribe to a more team-friendly contract. Uribe signed a one-year, $3.25MM deal on January 5.
- MLB.com's Jim Street answers some Mariner-related questions in a fan mailbag. Some topics of note include the possibility that the M's could deal one of their surplus outfielders, and Chad Cordero could also be trade bait if he doesn't make the Seattle bullpen but otherwise appears recovered from shoulder surgery.
- Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs thinks "Arizona overpaid a bit" in the arbitration settlement between the Diamondbacks and Edwin Jackson, but also notes that "there is reason to believe this deal is fair to both sides."
- Miguel Olivo took less money to play in Colorado because he wanted to be on a contending team, reports Troy Renck of The Denver Post.
- "It's decision time" for teams to negotiate with players entering the last year of their contracts, says USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
- Wandy Rodriguez and the Astros had their arbitration hearing today, and The Associated Press reports that a decision should be reached by tomorrow. Rodriguez wants $7MM, while Houston has countered with an offer of $5MM.
- Jane Lee of MLB.com breaks down the dollars and reasoning behind Oakland's quick flip of Willy Taveras earlier this month.
- There are no new developments between Jonny Gomes and the Reds, but John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the two sides are still talking. GM Walt Jocketty is hopeful the team and player "can get something done this weekend."
- Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at some of the issues facing the Pirates this spring, and notes that the club's young players could be helped without the pressure to win starting jobs.
Since their team won the NL pennant in 2005, Astros fans have had reason to feel frustrated. A roster that has included the likes of Lance Berkman, Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt and future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio has averaged just under 79 wins per year since that World Series appearance.
This unimpressive stretch of play has led some fans to argue that club should give up on its hopes of contending over the next few seasons and focus on re-stocking its minor-league system. However, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes pointed out in his Offseason Outlook piece last October, this is a team that "could contend with the right free agent additions." In the wide-open NL Central, the Astros seem to be perpetually just a player away from a playoff berth. Even in 2006, when the club finished 82-80, they still finished just 1.5 games behind the eventual World Series-champion Cardinals.
This winter has provided the same mixed message from Houston, following its 74-88 record in 2009. Owner Drayton McLane spoke about the importance of developing young talent in an interview with The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice last June, but the Astros' offseason moves (trading for reliever Matt Lindstrom and signing free agents Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon and Pedro Feliz) make it seem like Houston is once again reloading rather than rebuilding.
If the Astros ever did commit to a rebuild, however, the most obvious candidates for a deal would be their three biggest contracts: Berkman, Oswalt and Carlos Lee. Houston has $2MM buyouts on Berkman's contract in 2011 and Oswalt's contract in 2012, but most people agree that these two iconic Astros seem destined to retire with the franchise.
That leaves Lee, who is owed $18.5MM per season through 2012. The outfielder has performed well in his three years in Houston (.305/.354/.524) but may be showing signs of a decline. His 26 homers and .831 OPS last season were his lowest totals in each category since 2002 and 2005, respectively. MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says that between Lee's big contract, poor defense (a -4.6 UZR/150 according to Fangraphs), full no-trade clause and a desire to stay in Texas due to his ranch business, Lee is "about as untradeable as they come."
Let's speculate, for a moment, that Lee could be persuaded (probably through a cash bonus) to leave the ranch behind and agree to a deal. Houston would almost surely have to eat at least half of Lee's remaining contract in any trade, but for a big-market AL team that could afford to pick up the other half, Lee would be an intriguing DH option.
Perhaps the best fit is Chicago. Much has been written about Ozzie Guillen's DH-by-committee plan for the upcoming season, and the White Sox seem committed enough to the idea to pass on signing Jim Thome. But if the Sox find themselves in a pennant race and their platoon of designated hitting options (Omar Vizquel? Really?) isn't working out, then they could make a play for an everyday DH. Lee would fit that bill and, since he spent the first six seasons of his career with the White Sox, might be amenable to waive his no-trade clause to return to a familiar location.
This scenario is, admittedly, a longshot. It's much more likely that, no matter if the Astros choose to keep aiming for contention or commit to a proper rebuilding process, Lee will be a constant in the Astros' outfield. You could say that Lee is Houston's answer to Vernon Wells --- an unwieldly contract that is too big to trade and also takes up enough of the payroll to hamstring the team from making other moves.
MLB.com's Brian McTaggart writes in his latest piece about Jose Valverde's struggle to find a multi-year contract, or even a one-year deal equivalent to the $10MM salary he was likely to receive had he accepted Houston's offer of arbitration.
McTaggart describes Valverde, 30, as the latest in a tradition of arbitration-eligible players who turn down the offer, only to find the marketplace a far colder place.
Valverde's problem isn't effectiveness- he pitched to a 2.33 ERA last year as Houston's closer, and has posted better than a strikeout per inning every season he's been in the majors- but rather finding a team willing to pay him and give up a draft pick, since Valverde is one of three remaining Type A free agents who were offered arbitration (Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are the others).
McTaggart writes, "The hard truth for Valverde is that although he is the most talented and accomplished of the available closers, it may very well be that turning down arbitration from the Astros -- and the likely $10 million salary that he would have netted for 2010 -- was a bad gamble. He may end up having to accept a one-year deal anyway, as Wagner did, and potentially at significantly less than he would have made in arbitration."
The Astros moved on, signing Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15MM deal to close. As for Valverde, his destination is still to-be-determined. If/when his price comes down, he could be one of the real bargains of the winter.
Some links to start the weekend...
- MLB.com's Joe Frisaro says that Mike Jacobs isn't a fit to return to the Marlins. The team's second best prospect is first baseman Logan Morrison, who is on the cusp of the big leagues after spending most of 2009 in Double-A.
- Milton Bradley continues to hamstring the Cubs this offseason, writes Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune.
- Tommy Bennett at Beyond The Box Score compared John Lackey to A.J. Burnett, and doesn't think he deserves a bigger contract than the Yanks' hurler.
- The Astros will make the Brandon Lyon signing official today, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
- Curious about what the 2010 draft order looks like following the recent signings? Check it out.