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Chad Qualls Rumors
The Astros announced today that setup man Chad Qualls has been placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to June 25) with a pinched nerve in his neck. To fill his spot on the roster, Houston recalled first baseman Jon Singleton.
The 23-year-old Singleton was the subject of a good deal of controversy in 2014, as many felt that the five-year, $10MM extension (plus three club options) that he signed with Houston was far too team-friendly of a deal. At the time, Singleton was a much-ballyhooed prospect who had obliterated Triple-A pitching at a .267/.397/.544 pace.
Singleton, however, struggled tremendously at the Major League level in 2014, hitting just .168/.285/.335 with an alarming 134 strikeouts in 362 trips to the plate (37 percent). The offseason acquisitions of Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus, along with Chris Carter‘s presence on the roster, created a crowded corner outfield/first base/DH scenario on the Astros’ roster in Spring Training, so when Singleton struggled in March, it wasn’t surprising to see him head back to Triple-A.
Singleton’s 2015 season at Triple-A looks an awful lot like his 2014 season at the level. He’s batted .280/.387/.553 with 17 homers and 17 doubles thus far with the Astros’ new Triple-A affiliate in Fresno. Now, Singleton will hope for better results at the Major League level than he experienced last year.
It’s entirely possible that this will merely represent a short-term promotion for Singleton. But, it also seems short-sighted not to consider the possibility that the former Top 30 prospect hits well enough to force Houston to keep him on the roster. Carter, after all, has struggled in terms of hitting for average, though he sports a .321 OBP and plenty of power. And Gattis has seen his already questionable OBP dip to .262, although he, like Carter, is showing excellent pop as well.
As for Qualls, it’s not clear exactly when this injury began ailing him, but in late May, he went into somewhat of a tailspin after a strong start to the season. Qualls had a 2.93 ERA with an 18-to-3 K/BB ratio as recently as May 22. He struggled that evening, however, and since that time has yielded nine runs in 9 1/3 innings, surrendering 15 hits and four walks while striking out just five.
Mat Latos‘ fascinating interview with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal offers an unusually honest look at transactions, and team machinations in general, from the perspective of a player. Latos says he received assurances from the Padres that they wouldn’t trade him, and then they traded him eight days later and didn’t tell him. “I woke up, had like 50 text messages,” Latos says. “I called my agent. He said, ‘(GM) Josh Byrnes couldn’t get ahold of you.’ I had zero missed calls from him. I had to call him. Maybe he had the wrong number.” He speaks of “great times” in the Reds organization and says he’s satisfied to be with the Marlins, but questions the Reds for pushing him too aggressively as he returned from injury last year, and expresses lingering bitterness at going through the arbitration process with Miami. “You see it as a business,” he says. “You kind of see how much of a pawn you really are.” Here are more notes on pitchers.
- Cuban pitchers Vladimir Gutierrez and Yadier Alvares won’t be able to sign until July 2, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. Any international free agent born later than September 1, 1995 must register with Major League Baseball to be able to sign, and Gutierrez and Alvares aren’t registered. (The rule is designed to help MLB keep track of young international free agents and prevent identity fraud, although Badler notes that the rule is tough on Cuban players, who can’t register while they’re in Cuba. The rule does not apply to Yoan Moncada, who was born in May 1995.) The two pitchers must register by May 15 to sign beginning in July. Gutierrez won Serie Nacional’s 2013-14 Rookie of the Year award, and Alvares is an interesting young pitcher who can throw 97 MPH.
- Veteran reliever Chad Qualls is happy about the talent the Astros have added this winter, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com writes. “They’re going to contribute a lot to the back end of the bullpen,” says Qualls, referring to Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. “The trades and the signings we made are spot on for our offense,” he adds. Qualls’ perspective on the Astros is different than most, since he spent the first four seasons of his career with the team. In two of those (2004 and 2005), they were an NL powerhouse, advancing to the World Series in ’05. Since then, Qualls has moved around the country, playing for the Diamondbacks, Rays, Padres, Phillies, Yankees, Pirates and Marlins while the Astros eventually became the worst team in the Majors. Now he’s back with them as they’re beginning to show signs of reemerging.
WEDNESDAY, 8:24pm: With the period for a deal expiring, and Qualls still with Houston, the obvious conclusion is that the Astros failed to work out a deal with Detroit and have revoked the waiver request. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart confirms that Qualls will in fact stay put.
8:18am: A trade is looking increasingly unlikely, writes MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Between Qualls’ highly affordable contract and his desire to play out his contract and retire as an Astro, there’s little motivation to deal him. Beck reports that the Astros recently had a pro scout watching Detroit’s Double-A team, which includes prospects such as Steven Moya, Devon Travis and Angel Nesbitt, all of whom could be of interest to Houston. However, Detroit already parted with top prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson in the Joakim Soria trade, and the team is reluctant to deal more well-regarded prospects for another reliever.
Asked about the waiver claim, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (who caught Qualls for four years from 2004-07) told Beck: “I don’t think there’s anything to talk about. As far as I know, Tigers baseball stance, there’s really nothing to it.”
TUESDAY: Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons reports that the Tigers were awarded the claim on Qualls (Twitter link). As he notes, it’s hardly surprising that Detroit placed a claim, though it’s at least mildly surprising that the Yankees, who had waiver priority and have been aggressively claiming players, neglected to go after Qualls.
The Tigers have had bullpen issues all season, with Joe Nathan struggling at the back of the bullpen and deadline acquisition Joakim Soria hitting the disabled list with an injury earlier this month. Qualls would provide a solid late-inning option for the Tigers and could serve as a low-cost 2015 replacement for Joba Chamberlain, should the setup man find a new home as a free agent after a strong season in Detroit.
MONDAY, 9:00pm: MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes that it’s more likely that Qualls will be pulled off waivers than traded.
5:50pm: Astros right-hander Chad Qualls has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unnamed club, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). It’s not clear if the Astros are willing to move Qualls, but the Astros will have until Wednesday to work out a deal with the claiming club, Rosenthal adds.
Qualls, 36, signed a two-year, $5.95MM contract with the Astros in the offseason. He’s owed about $531K of his $2.7MM salary through the end of the year, plus a $3MM salary in 2015. His contract contains a $3.5MM salary for the 2016 season which comes with a $250K buyout, bringing his remaining guarantee to about $3.781MM through the end of next season.
The veteran ground-ball specialist has been excellent in 2014, posting a 3.07 ERA (and an identical 3.07 FIP) with 7.8 K/9, 1.0 BB/9 and a 56.7 percent ground-ball rate in 44 innings. He’s spent a good deal of time in the closer’s role this season as well, picking up 14 saves for manager Bo Porter.
Houston isn’t averse to trading its closer midseason, as the team pulled the trigger on a trade to send Jose Veras to the Tigers last summer. Somewhat coincidentally, the Tigers are a very likely candidate to have placed a claim on Qualls this season, given their need for bullpen help in a tight AL Central race. However, as Peter Gammons reported over the weekend (Twitter links), the Yankees are “claiming everyone” on waivers, so it’s possible that the Bombers placed a claim with the hope of working out a deal or at the very least blocking their Wild Card competitors from strengthening their bullpens. The Yankees would have waiver priority over the Tigers.
Bartolo Colon is reportedly on revocable waivers at the moment (his waiver period expires tomorrow), but he is of course just one of many names to be in that situation. We’ll keep track of the players that are reported to be on revocable waivers today in this post…
- Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons reports that the Astros placed Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls on revocable waivers yesterday, meaning their waiver periods will expire tomorrow (Twitter link). The Angels and Tigers will both monitor the situation, he notes, referring to Anaheim’s need for rotation help and Detroit’s bullpen needs. Feldman is owed roughly $22.4MM through 2016 as part of a front-loaded three-year, $30MM pact. He’s posted a 4.37 ERA with 5.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 44.9 percent ground-ball rate this season. His salary commitment, like Cahill, gives him a realistic chance of falling to the Angels, in my view.
- Qualls has been excellent out of the Houston bullpen, notching a 3.07 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 1.0 BB/9 and a 56.7 percent ground-ball rate in 44 innings this year. He’s owed about $3.78MM through 2015 on his current contract. That sum includes the remainder of this season’s $2.7MM salary, next year’s $3MM guarantee and the $250K buyout on a $3.5MM option for the 2016 season.
- The Diamondbacks appear to be putting a large chunk of their roster through waivers this weekend, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Trevor Cahill, Oliver Perez, Cliff Pennington, Addison Reed and Brad Ziegler are all on revocable waivers. At first glance, Cahill would appear to be a sure thing to clear, given his $12MM salary in 2015 and the fact that he already cleared outright waivers earlier this year after struggling. However, Cahill has a 3.43 ERA in 42 innings since returning from Triple-A, and it’s fair to speculate about an injury-ravaged team like the Angels placing a claim with the hopes that he can sustain the turnaround. Cahill is guaranteed about $13.7MM through the end of the 2015 season, but his contract also contains a pair of reasonable club options (reasonable, of course, assuming he is effective). His team can exercise a $13MM option ($300K buyout) for 2016 and a $13.5MM option ($500K buyout) for 2017.
- As Rosenthal notes, virtually every reliever being placed on waivers is being claimed. Even non-contending clubs could look to claim any of Arizona’s three relief arms known to be on waivers, as each is controlled beyond 2014. Perez will probably generate the most interest given his strong results and the modest $2.8MM remaining on his deal. Reed’s save totals will inflate his price tag in arbitration, while the D’Backs have reportedly shown no interest in parting with Ziegler all summer.
- Teams may be wary of claiming Pennington, who is owed $639K through season’s end, due to his injury troubles in 2014 and his history of modest offensive contributions. He’s arb-eligible following the season, but he’s a non-tender candidate after earning $3.25MM this season.
For a more complete explanation of how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR’s August Trades primer. You can also check out MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers to see who is eligible to be traded to any team.
Troy Tulowitzki, one day after his name was misspelled on a Rockies’ T-shirt giveaway, was at Yankee Stadium watching New York play Toronto. Tulowitzki flew to Philadelphia yesterday for a second opinion on his left hip flexor strain, which landed him on the disabled list, reports MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The doctor’s visit (Harding tweets it’s for a dry needling procedure to promote healing) is in of itself routine, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes Tulowitzki being at Yankees Stadium is no accident after the spelling snafu adding the Rockies cannot be happy he is attending another team’s game while on the DL and this sort of thing can lead to an eventual trade (Twitter links). Last Sunday, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post theorized a trade would only be possible if Tulowitzki was willing to wear the label of a disloyal, bad guy. The All-Star shortstop defended his decision to go to the Yankees’ game telling the Denver Post, “I’m with my family. I wanted to see (Derek) Jeter play one more time.“
Here’s the latest out of the game’s western divisions:
- Though he constitutes a “backup plan” for the club, the Mariners have real interest in Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, tweets Passan. Seattle envisions shifting Kemp to the DH role eventually.
- The Yankees, meanwhile, are currently “not in” on Kemp, tweets Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. We heard earlier today the club is seeking a bat, including several potential options that profile similarly to Kemp (right-handed, power bats). Of course, those players do not come with Kemp’s $107MM in future commitments.
- The Padres have announced right-hander Ian Kennedy, a popular name on the MLBTR pages of late, will not make his start tomorrow because of left oblique soreness, but will throw a side session either Tuesday or Wednesday, per the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow reiterated he is not going to trade closer Chad Qualls, tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. But, Luhnow said the team would consider dealing a starter from its MLB or Triple-A roster.
- Last year’s number one overall draft pick, Mark Appel of the Astros, has been moved up to Double-A, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The righty struggled mightily at the High-A level, throwing in a notoriously hitter-friendly environment, but had perhaps his best outing on Thursday. “All along the plan has been to get him to Corpus Christi and have him pitch there this summer,” said Luhnow. “And we wanted to build off of some positive momentum to make that happen. We have a lot of pitchers at High-A that are deserving of opportunities higher up. I think there were things that we wanted him to accomplish at Lancaster.”
- Appel’s promotion, as well as being rewarded with a bullpen session earlier today at Minute Maid Park, has been met with displeasure within the Astros‘ clubhouse. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle tweets players have approached several reporters to vent and the comments have been laced with expletives (Twitter links).
- Astros manager Bo Porter addressed the Appel uproar by telling reporters, including Ortiz, “Any time something affects your clubhouse, I think as the manager you have to handle it. I will handle it internally. It’s unfortunate that they have been put in that position.“
- Ortiz opines, via Twitter, Appel’s promotion and bullpen session add fuel to the clubhouse perception the 23-year-old is being babied. Baseball America’s Ben Badler agrees the Astros are sending the wrong message to their players, but their discontent should be over the promotion to Double-A, not the bullpen session (Twitter links).
- The Pirates are believed to have interest in Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Though he could hold appeal as a setup option to a contender, Astros closer Chad Qualls appears unlikely to change hands at the trade deadline,MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Qualls, 35, has been lights out this year with a 1.78 ERA and 7.9 K/9 against just 1.0 BB/9.
GM Jeff Luhnow indicated that he has little interest in moving Qualls, who is playing out the first season of a two-year, $6MM deal that includes a $3MM option for 2016. Said Luhnow:
“I hesitate to use the word ‘untouchable,’ but he likes it here, he’s comfortable here, and he’s pitching well. To have a guy who’s capable of pitching late in the game, in close games, we’re going to have opportunity going forward. This is a team that’s improving, and as the team improves, you have more save opportunities, more opportunities to pitch at the end of close games. We need more Chad Qualls. We don’t need less.”
Qualls, likewise, says he hopes to finish out his career in Houston.
While it is always tantalizing to consider the possibility of adding young talent, it should be noted that Qualls’s contract does look fairly reasonable at this point. And neither would he figure to bring back a significant haul. Instead of rolling the dice on another veteran next year, Houston may well be best served by holding onto him for the time being.
Nick J. Faleris of Baseball Prospectus provides a thorough account of the Brady Aiken failed signing from both his perspective and that of the Astros. Anyone with interest will want to give it a full read; I’m still working through the lengthy (but entirely worthwhile) piece myself.
Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:
- The Astros are unlikely to deal away any of the club’s young starting pitching but are definitely listening on relievers Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In particular, the Tigers have asked about Qualls, who has served as the Houston closer of late, according to Heyman. Meanwhile, there has not been much discussion of other Astros veterans such as Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, and Jason Castro.
- Though some around the league believe the Dodgers are highly motivated to deal former star Matt Kemp, the Red Sox were not left with that impression after making an inquiry, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. At least three other American League teams have also asked about Kemp’s availability, including the Indians, Mariners, and Rangers, but Rosenthal says that none have made trade proposals. Cleveland and Texas both appear unlikely partners, while Seattle could have an outside chance of adding him. Though moving Kemp poses many difficult questions for the Dodgers, Rosenthal says that the veteran is “at odds” with manager Don Mattingly.
- Taking a look at a Padres club that has already dealt away several veterans, Rosenthal writes that the team should also move outfielder Chris Denorfia. But key pitchers Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are under control for 2015, and Rosenthal opines that the team’s new GM ought to make the call on them.
- A new GM is, of course, at or near the Padres‘ priority list, and the club is indeed nearing a conclusion of its search. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the club will finish up its second round of interviews on Thursday and hopes to have a new GM installed within two to three weeks.
- The Diamondbacks have exhibited a startling tendency, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: former pitchers have succeeded elsewhere while newly-acquired arms have struggled. Piecoro lists Brandon McCarthy, Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, and Trevor Bauer as examples of the former phenomenon, with Trevor Cahill, Randall Delgado, and Addison Reed representing the latter. For his part, GM Kevin Towers says it is not a result of anything the organization is doing differently: “It’s not anything that we’re doing in the minor leagues or development or up here that prevents guys from having success,” he said. “Especially young guys, they usually get better with time and experience in the big leagues. The reason why guys get better [elsewhere] isn’t because we don’t have good instructors here. I believe in our staff and in our farm system and the people we have down there.”
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Red Sox will succumb to fan pressure and re-sign Jon Lester. Lester turned down a four-year, $70MM offer from the Red Sox in spring training and other clubs will almost certainly offer six- or seven-year deals if he reaches the open market. Boston, of course, doesn’t want to go that far. “If that’s your philosophy you can’t make exceptions or it will be viewed as a joke,” said one American League general manager. “If you vary from it, that sends a weak message to the baseball community, agents etc., when it comes with dealing with other players. I think the players themselves need to know where you stand as an organization, and if you keep deviating that sends the wrong message.” Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Mariners don’t mind dealing for Rays ace David Price without an agreement in place for a long-term deal, but that’s not the case for everyone. The Cardinals are interested in Price but would want a financial commitment, a major league source tells Cafardo. Cafardo cautions not to rule out the Giants, who also have had interest in Ben Zobrist.
- The Phillies have been discouraged by what they’re hearing from other teams on Cole Hamels. The Phillies consider him their biggest trade chip, but will hold on to him if they don’t get what they consider a fair deal. The Red Sox sent their top pitching scout to watch the hurler before the break and the Phillies have scouted Boston’s major and minor league teams all season. One major league source said if the Phillies get a taker on the full contract and they get three top prospects, he’s gone, and Hamels, according to another major league source, wouldn’t mind.
- Joaquin Benoit is one of the most sought after relievers on the market but a Padres official tells Cafardo that they won’t just give him away.
- Chad Qualls has resurrected his career with the Astros and teams are calling on him, according to a major league source. Houston left-hander Tony Sipp has also drawn interest.
- A.J. Pierzynski, who cleared waivers Friday, has told agent Steve Hilliard that he would like to continue playing.
This trade deadline could be a quiet but a fascinating one for the Astros, as the team may still willing to move veteran players but not only for prospects, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. “We’re going to do anything that presents itself that will improve our club,” GM Jeff Luhnow said. “We’re not going to focus only on the next two months. We’re also not going to focus only on 2017 and beyond. We’re going to focus on any moves that we think can help in both the short term and the long term. That may be nothing; it may be several things.”
Here’s some more from Drellich’s broad overview of what the Astros could explore over the next two months…
- Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro would’ve likely been trade candidates in past years given the Astros’ veteran-dealing strategy since Luhnow took over. Now, however, the GM says he wants both players to be Astros “for a while. And they’re still under team control, and there are opportunities to keep them beyond team control.”
- Fowler told Drellich that he hadn’t had any extension talks to keep him in Houston beyond the end of the 2015 season, when his current contract expires.
- Castro’s trade value has dropped thanks to a poor season, though Houston is known to have explored dealing the catcher thanks to the team’s recently-leaked trade notes. Castro is under team control through 2016 and the Astros have catching prospect Max Stassi at Triple-A.
- Drellich thinks every member of the bullpen “feels moveable.” Once some injured relievers return, Luhnow said “we would probably have surplus in the bullpen, and bullpen is one of those areas that clubs that feel like they’re in contention for a division or wild card oftentimes need some depth. Something could happen there, but there’s nothing right now that seems obvious.”
- Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls both figure to draw interest from other teams, though Drellich isn’t sure the Astros would trade Chad Qualls so soon after he signed a two-year deal with the club last winter. Dealing a player relatively soon after a multiyear commitment could harm the team’s standing with future free agents.
- On the minor league front, Houston has so many quality prospects that they can’t protect them all via the Rule 5 draft. Some prospects may have to be traded if the organization doesn’t truly see them as long-term pieces.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark hosted a chat with readers today and touched on a number of hot stove topics with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline roughly a month away. Here are some highlights, though the entire thing is worth a read-through for those interested in next month’s deadline…
- Stark has received no indications that the Yankees are shopping for a third baseman. He hears that they’re prioritizing the rotation over everything else at this time.
- Domonic Brown‘s trade value is dropping by the day, says Stark. Scouts have been watching Brown (and the Phillies in general) over the past couple of weeks, and Philadelphia is trying to bill Brown as “a guy who did it once before so he can do it again.” However, Stark has a hard time seeing Brown fetching anything more than another change-of-scenery candidate.
- Jeff Luhnow and the Astros view most relievers as interchangeable parts, making it likely that they’ll be very willing to move names like Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp next month.
- Right-hander Ken Giles has impressed so much that Stark expects the Phillies to ratchet up their efforts to trade Jonathan Papelbon, and with Papelbon pitching better than he has in years, this is the perfect time to do it, he opines. Giles has thrown just seven innings for the Phils, but he’s averaged 97.1 mph on his heater with a 12-to-3 K/BB ratio and a ground-ball rate north of 55 percent.
- The Dodgers have been telling teams that they won’t move Joc Pederson or Corey Seager this summer, according to Stark. If that’s indeed the case, that should take them out of the running for David Price (in my opinion).
- Stark doesn’t get the sense that the Tigers are shopping for a closer, which meshes with yesterday’s comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Detroit doesn’t think Joe Nathan is finished yet.