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4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:
“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI. Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible. This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.
“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information. While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”
2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs. The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year. The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.
A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken. At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control. The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world. The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes. It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution. Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.
The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.
- On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton. From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.” It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston. That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining. UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
- Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors. The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams. Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
- Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013. The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline. The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon. For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates. The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down. In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
- When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
- “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives. White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits. Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal. In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
- More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Bud Norris | Carlos Correa | Chicago White Sox | Daniel Murphy | Delino DeShields Jr. | Deven Marrero | Dustin Ackley | Dylan Bundy | Garin Cecchini | George Springer | Giancarlo Stanton | Houston Astros | Jackie Bradley Jr. | Jarred Cosart | Jason Castro | Jonathan Villar | Jose Altuve | Kevin Gausman | Lucas Giolito | Lucas Harrell | Luis Heredia | Marcus Stroman | Matt Dominguez | Miami Marlins | New York Mets | Nick Kingham | Pittsburgh Pirates | Ryan Lavarnway | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals | Xander Bogaerts
Over the weekend, the Astros locked up second baseman Jose Altuve to a low-risk four-year, $12.5MM extension that carries a pair of club options at $6MM and $6.5MM. All told, Altuve can be controlled through the 2019 season if the Astros choose, and those six years would cost a total of $25MM. Here's more out of the AL West…
- In light of Altuve's extension, Brian T. Smith and Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle note that a position change is a possibility for top prospect Delino DeShields Jr., whose path to the Majors as a second baseman is now blocked. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, DeShields is hitting .290/.388/.399 with 30 steals in 71 games this season at high Class A. Last season, he swiped 101 bases in 135 games. General manager Jeff Luhnow said for the time being, DeShields would finish the season as a second baseman.
- The Rays are believed to have checked in on Mariners bats such as Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in the most recent edition of his Stock Watch column. He speculates that the Yankees and Rangers would also make sense as potential trade partners for Seattle.
- From that same piece, Heyman adds that Joe Saunders is likely more available than either Morales or Ibanez. After a brutal start to the season, Saunders has a 2.37 ERA over his past nine starts. The Mariners are currently deciding when to begin a sale, says Heyman.
If not for the hapless Miami Marlins, the Astros would be in line for the worst record in baseball for the third straight season. Clearly, it's been a rough stretch for the Houston fan base. The good news is that a strong group of reinforcements is on the way to The Show. The fans will have to take a leap of faith while the high-ceiling, minor-league talent rises to the surface.
The last two-plus years of mediocrity in Houston have allowed the organization to receive the first overall draft picks in both 2012 and 2013. An astute group of talent evaluators and baseball minds in the scouting department has helped to ensure the organization not only made the most of its first overall selections, but also made some clever trades for young talent while shedding players that did not figure into the rebuilding vision.
General Manager Jeff Luhnow has worked to ensure the club is pointed in the right direction as it moves to recapture some of the organization's past successes. But, truth be told, the club's front office and scouting department began to find its footing in 2010 — almost two years before Luhnow was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals to replace ousted GM Ed Wade.
From 2000 to 2009 the Astros' drafting efforts bordered on brutal — especially when focusing on the club's first choice each season. Current Astros catcher Jason Castro (2008) stands out as the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary decade. It certainly didn't help that the club's free agent exploits cost the scouting department three first round selections (2003, 2004, 2007) and resulted in the selection of forgettable prospects such as Robert Stiehl, Derick Grigsby, and Max Sapp.
As mentioned above, the 2010 season began the major shift for the Astros and the past five first round draft picks are among the 10 best prospects in the system. Let's have a closer look at them:
2010 — Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Georgia HS: Reds prospect Billy Hamilton received a ton of hype last year for breaking the century mark in steals, but DeShields also swiped more than 100 bags in a much quieter fashion. It's been a slower go for the 20-year-old Astros prospect in 2013 as he's managed just 15 steals in 24 attempts. He's holding his own at the plate with a .280 batting average but has yet to have a true breakout to solidify himself as one of the top prospects in the game.
2010 — Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Illinois HS: Foltynewicz flew under the radar for a few seasons but the hype is starting to build — and it's easy to see why. The right-hander's velocity has crept up in the past year and he's been clocked as high as 98-100 mph in recent starts. Only 21, he opened the 2013 season in the offense-padding launching pad in Lancaster (High-A) and held his own before a promotion to Double-A in early May. Since that time, hitters have batted just .157 against him, and he has a 1.41 ERA in nine appearances. Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle recently took a look at Foltynewicz and highlighted both his talent and his drive to succeed. "Everybody knows what kind of power and strength he's got… But the encouraging part is since he's been here we're starting to get better down location, OK, and his breaking stuff and changeup (are) really coming along really nice… you won't find much better talent than he's got."
2011 — George Springer, CF, University of Connecticut: It took a couple of years but Springer has officially sprung. The young outfielder is tapping into his raw power on a more consistent basis (18 homers, .618 slugging percentage) while treading water with his contact rates. Springer still strikes out a lot (77 strikeouts in 61 games) but the tradeoff for the power output is worth it. He could be ready to patrol the outfield in Houston before the 2014 All-Star break. In another piece for the Chronicle, Smith featured Springer, and the prospect said he's not trying to put too much pressure on himself: "It's just kind of one of those things where I'm not too concerned about the results. I just try to go out and compete and play hard and develop as a player," Springer said. "It's one of those things where I was told to just let the results happen… For me, it's all about slowing myself down, having a lot of fun…"
2012 — Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico HS: One of the youngest hitters in A-ball at 18, Correa has started to heat up and has become more consistent while flashing the tools that caused him to go first overall in 2012. After hitting .221 in April, the young Puerto Rican's batting average is now up to .292, and he's walked 30 times in 50 games. Correa is still at least two years away from adding stability to the Astros' big league shortstop position but the wait could be well worth it. Brandon Simes of MiLB.com recently spoke to the young infielder and Correa gave his thoughts on what Mark Appel should look to do now that he's been drafted by the Astros. "Just focus on making the organization proud, keep working hard and try to get to the big leagues as fast as possible," Correa said. "I saw him getting called. I'm very excited to have him here with us in the organization. I'm looking forward to meeting him and being able to play together."
2013 — Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University: Appel is not property of the Astros just yet — and something could still go terribly wrong — but there is a very good chance that the college senior will eventually come to terms with his hometown club. After turning down the Pittsburgh Pirates as the eighth overall selection of the 2012 draft, the right-handed pitcher's gamble paid off as he has become an even better player, will earn a larger signing bonus, and appears ready to develop into one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
As the saying goes, things are always darkest before the dawn, and – if the minor league system is any indication – Houston fans are in for a bright future.
Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow wrote the club's season ticket holders this afternoon to encourage them to stay on board as they look to build for future seasons. Houston is dead last in the standings but Luhnow pointed to the club's commitment to building through the draft, international free agents, and the trade market as evidence of better things to come. More on the Astros..
- While the Astros weren't expecting to contend this year, new owner Jim Crane told the Associated Press that he wasn't expecting the team to be struggling this much. "We made a lot of trades and once we made that decision — Jeff started moving some of the talent — we knew we might slide back a little bit, but we didn’t think it would be this bad," Crane said.
- Prospect Delino DeShields Jr. is on a path to reach the majors in the near future, but Luhnow says that the club isn't yet concerned about what to do with him and All-Star Jose Altuve, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. "If we get to the point we have two guys up here and they're blocked, or one guy here and one guy [at Triple-A], maybe then you make an adjustment. That's how we're going to approach it," the GM explained.
- The Astros' rebuilding project is a gift to the rest of the contending teams that are scheduled to face them in the coming weeks, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of the seven teams in the hunt for the Wild Card (including the division-leading Reds), five have games remaining against Houston.
THURSDAY, 5:43PM: The deal was officially announced today. DeShields' bonus is worth $2.15MM, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America (Twitter link). As Callis notes, this bonus is $107K over the recommended slot for the eighth overall pick.
TUESDAY, 6:51PM: The Astros have reached an agreement with eighth overall pick Delino DeShields Jr., according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. DeShields' father, longtime big leaguer Delino DeShields, told McTaggart yesterday that his son would sign. The younger DeShields turns 18 on August 16th, the date by which teams must sign their draft picks.
This year's MLB draft guide noted that DeShields was "one of the best high school running backs in Georgia" and had committed to LSU.
It's not clear how much the Astros will commit to the compactly-built teenager, but recent history suggests the bonus will fall in the $2MM range. Mike Leake ($2.27MM in 2009), Gordon Beckham ($2.6MM in 2008) and Casey Weathers ($1.8MM in 2007) all signed for $2MM or so after their clubs selected them eighth overall. The recommended bonus for the eighth overall pick was $2.04MM last year.
Click here for MLBTR's list of first-round picks to sign.
Links for Thursday, as Juan Pierre picks up his 500th career stolen base…
- Pedro Martinez said he has recently received offers to pitch this year, but still doesn't intend to play in 2010, according to this AP report on ESPN.com.
- Mets owner Fred Wilpon implied to Mike Puma of the New York Post that Omar Minaya will definitely be his GM in 2011.
- Top Astros draft pick Delino DeShields Jr. told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he's excited to begin his pro career. DeShields' deal could be finalized today.
- Astros GM Ed Wade told Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse that he has no concern about Brett Myers' health. "He's a 29-year-old horse," Wade said.
- Chuck Greenberg's group, which won the auction to buy the Rangers for hundreds of millions, plans to pursue Cliff Lee when he hits free agency after the season, according to Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter). Yesterday, we saw that GM Jon Daniels has interest in bringing the left-hander back.
- Tim Redding, who had been pitching in the Yankees system, signed with the Samsung Lions of the Korean Professional Baseball League, according to Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune (Twitter link).
- Over at RotoAuthority, Tim Dierkes wonders what to expect from Mike Minor as a fantasy baseball option this year.
- The Yankees had interest in Willie Harris before the deadline, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter).
- The Rockies 'kicked the tires' on Derrek Lee last month, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post (on Twitter).
Links for Monday, as Jeremy Hellickson makes a smooth transition to the majors…
- Ivan Rodriguez told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez that he isn't thinking about retirement and expects to play two or three more seasons. Pudge is under contract with the Nationals through 2011.
- MLB.com's Hal Bodley names the Yankees and Rangers trade deadline 'winners.'
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained his club's approach to the deadline, speaking to ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett.
- The Astros may be in good position to sign their first round pick from the June draft. Delino DeShields told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that his son, Delino Deshields Jr., intends to sign instead of going to college. "He's going to be an Astro," DeShields said. "No doubt."
- Former Astro Lance Berkman told Tim Britton and Didier Morais of MLB.com that adjusting to life in the Bronx after so many years in Houston will take some time.
Links for Saturday..
- White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter) that the team has the financial freedom to add pieces, though he added the team "might be good enough the way it is". Meanwhile, Reinsdorf said that GM Kenny Williams has the power to fire the manager, though that isn't in his plans, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
- Fred Lewis told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that his improved performance in Toronto isn't a result of a change of scenery. Lewis is OPSing .799 for the Blue Jays, a marked improvement over his OPS of .738 for the Giants in 2009.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter) wonders aloud if Nolan Ryan's recent comments regarding Roy Oswalt could be considered tampering.
- Ken Davidoff of Newsday tweets that a Mets scout was on hand to watch Lee last night, though it was said to be part of "normal coverage".
- Joel Sherman of The New York Post says that despite all the talk about Cliff Lee, the Yankees might need to fixate on adding a bat between now and the trade deadline.
- Speaking of Lee, Ryan Divish of The News Tribune mentions that the lefty shrugs off all the trade talk. “It’s out of my control,” said Lee. “That’s a better question for Jack [Zduriencik]. He’s the one who makes those decisions, but I don’t.”
- The Astros are pleased with how negotiations with top draft pick Delino DeShields Jr. are going, reports Bernardo Fallas of The Houston Chronicle. Houston selected DeShields with the eighth overall pick last week.
- Daric Barton told Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he's grateful for being included in the Mark Mulder trade because it created an opportunity for him. "For me, it was probably the best move that could have happened to me," said Barton. "I was catching then and (Yadier Molina) was back there then, and some guy by the name of (Albert) Pujols was at first. Obviously, I could never fill his shoes."
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Chicago White Sox | Cliff Lee | Daric Barton | Delino DeShields Jr. | Fred Lewis | Houston Astros | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Oakland Athletics | Roy Oswalt | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays