Houston Astros Rumors

Houston Astros trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL West Notes: Scioscia, Crisp, Kazmir

In his introductory press conference with the Mariners yesterday, GM Jerry Dipoto said that he wouldn’t let his split with the Angels define his career, and he also stressed the importance of communication between a manager and a GM. Asked about what he’s learned about communication from the drama, manager Mike Scioscia said the following to reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez): “I just know how important communication is, not only with the GM and the manager, but also communication with the people who are controlling your depth chart in the Minor Leagues, getting an evaluation of players. When you have that communication, the decision-making process is very, very clean and we have positive situations on the field.” Dipoto said that the perception of a consistent war between himself and Scioscia was “the furthest thing from the truth,” and Scioscia said that he doesn’t anticipate it’ll be tough to smooth out any communication issues with a new GM. Per Gonzalez, Scioscia would, though, like a larger say in player development and a more direct line to the coaches at the team’s upper minor league levels. Scioscia has an opt-out clause in his contract after this season but is expected to return in 2016, Gonzalez adds.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • Coco Crisp expects to be the Athletics‘ starting left fielder in 2016, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but there’s been no official determination from management. Crisp will sit down with manager Bob Melvin, assistant GM David Forst and GM Billy Beane to discuss the future following the 2015 season. His guaranteed $11MM salary certainly figures to play a role in matters. Said Forst of Crisp: “We’re optimistic that he will be able to play out there next year. He takes care of himself, and we think the (physical) issues can be resolved.”
  • Astros lefty Scott Kazmir feels that poor execution of his pitches has led to his poor month of September, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Kazmir acknowledged that it’s unreasonable for thoughts of free agency not to creep into a player’s head this close to reaching the open market, but he doesn’t feel that’s the root of the problem either. There’s no physical issue, per Kazmir, and pitching coach Brent Strom agrees that execution (or lack thereof) is the source of his woes.

Injury Notes: Piscotty, Tulowitzki, Gomez, Drew

Here’s the latest on some significant members of playoff contenders who are battling injuries down the stretch…

  • Stephen Piscotty has been diagnosed with a concussion following his scary outfield collision with Peter Bourjos on Monday.  Still, he passed his initial set of neurological tests and there is now optimism that Piscotty will be able to play again before the season is over, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  The rookie outfielder has already been cleared to fly with the Cardinals to Atlanta for their final series of the year.
  • Troy Tulowitzki could return to the Blue Jays lineup as early as Thursday’s game against the Orioles, the shortstop told reporters (including Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star).  Tulowitzki hasn’t played since September 12, when he suffered a small crack in his left scapula after colliding with center fielder Kevin Pillar while chasing a pop fly.
  • Carlos Gomez may return to the Astros lineup tonight, manager A.J. Hinch told Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link).  Hinch is “not convinced [Gomez] is completely 100 percent” recovered from his left intercostal strain, but “it’s a risk worth taking” since the Astros are battling for their postseason lives.  Gomez played on Sunday and Monday as a pinch-runner and defensive sub, respectively, getting one plate appearance but laying down a sacrifice bunt.  A return to the lineup would obviously involve taking full swings, which worries Hinch a bit given the threat of re-injury.
  • Stephen Drew may have played his last game of 2015 after being hit with a deflected grounder earlier this month.  Drew has been sidelined since Sept. 22 and he tells Fred Kerber of the New York Post that he may have suffered a concussion and also a recurrence of a past inner-ear problem.  If Drew is indeed done for the year, it may also mark the end of his Yankees tenure, as the veteran infielder will be a free agent this winter.

AL West Notes: Zito, Smith, Singleton, Gray

Barry Zito will start for the Athletics on Wednesday in what the veteran southpaw hinted would be his last Major League game, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports.  “So maybe I could pitch next year. But I have a son now, and the travel with a family is pretty nuts. I think about it, but I also know that I was pretty at peace with being done during those nine days,” Zito said, referring to the nine days between the end of the Triple-A season and his callup to Oakland.  “There have been so many last starts for me. I would think this would be the last. Anything could happen still. I haven’t come out and said, ‘This is it.’ But that’s something I’ll have to mull over when I’m home-home (that’s Nashville for the next few months) in a week or so.”

Here’s more from around the AL West…

  • Joe Smith is “confident” he’ll be able to pitch again before the end of the season, the reliever told reporters, including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez.  Smith suffered a sprained ankle on September 19 but has taken part in fielding drills and a bullpen session over the last two days, and he’ll throw another bullpen today.  Smith’s return would be a boost to the Angels relief corps, which has already lost closer Huston Street for at least the rest of the regular season.
  • Jon Singleton signed a five-year, $10MM extension with the Astros before ever playing a Major League game, a deal that at the time was criticized by some current and retired players (including Bud Norris and Mark Mulder) for being far too team-friendly.  Two years into the contract, however, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes that the deal is looking more like a mistake on the Astros’ end as Singleton has both struggled and not even collected all that much service time.  Drellich reports from one source that the Astros wouldn’t have made the deal in hindsight if they’d known how Singleton’s 2015 would unfold.
  • The Astros‘ strategy of offering multi-year deals to players early (or even before) their MLB careers have begun may have backfired in Singleton’s case, though Drellich notes that Houston avoided more commitments when Robbie Grossman and Matt Dominguez both rejected similar extensions.  The Astros may have already ultimately gotten a good return on this strategy since Jose Altuve‘s deal is looking like a bargain, which makes up for other mistakes.
  • The decision to accept or reject such an early-career extension is a fascinating one for any player, as they’re facing possible peer (and union) pressure to “bet on themselves” in hopes of making more in the future, or to accept what’s already a life-changing sum of money and cash in on pure potential.  Drellich speaks to former A’s outfielder Bobby Crosby, who signed a five-year, $12.75MM extension after his Rookie Of The Year season and doesn’t regret signing the deal since his career was hampered by injuries.
  • During an appearance on the MLB Network (video link included), Peter Gammons said he doubts the Athletics will trade Sonny Gray this winter.  This isn’t to say that a deal won’t eventually happen, however, perhaps as soon as the 2016-17 offseason when Gray becomes arbitration-eligible for the first time.  Until then, Gray is one of the game’s biggest bargains, posting top-of-the-rotation numbers at just over a minimum salary.

Red Sox Notes: Hill, Front Office, McCracken

Last night, veteran lefty Rich Hill struck out ten batters in a complete-game shutout against the Orioles. In doing so, he became the first AL pitcher in the last century to whiff at least ten in each of his first three starts with a new team, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com writes. As McAdam notes, that’s an amazing achievement for anyone, let alone a 34-year-old journeyman who was until recently pitching in independent ball. The Nationals released Hill in June, and the Sox signed him to a minor league deal after he struck out 21 batters in two starts with the Long Island Ducks. Since the Sox promoted him to the big leagues earlier this month, Hill has allowed just three runs in 23 innings, striking out 30 and walking two. Here’s more out of Boston.

  • The Sox’ hiring of Frank Wren is the latest evidence of their commitment to building a robust front office, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. They used their financial heft to lure Dave Dombrowski to Boston rather than Seattle or Toronto, and they’ve added Wren and promoted Mike Hazen to general manager. Dombrowski says he will solicit evaluations from assistants to the GM Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek. The Red Sox are also hoping to add adviser and former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto to a full-time role, although that will have to wait until it’s clear whether Dipoto will get a GM job elsewhere.
  • One exec the Red Sox didn’t hire was Quinton McCracken, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. McCracken interviewed for the GM job that ultimately went to Hazen. Now that the process is over, he’ll remain with the Astros as their director of player development. “Sunday night we interviewed pretty much half the day Monday morning. I was back in Houston later that night,” says McCracken. “Very thorough, interesting process. It’€™s the first time ever really going through something like that. Just being in consideration with a storied franchise like that for that position was truly an honor.” McCracken, of course, played 12 years as a big-league outfielder. He worked for two years in player development with the Diamondbacks before joining the Astros three years ago.

Reactions To And Details On Red Sox’ Promotion Of Mike Hazen

Roughly six weeks after the Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski to serve as their new president of baseball operations, prompting GM Ben Cherington to resign, the Red Sox named Cherington’s top lieutenant — assistant GM Mike Hazen — as their new general manager. Hazen’s promotion was officially announced at a press conference yesterday. Here are some takeaways from the conference as well as reactions to the Sox’ decision to stay in house as opposed to selecting someone outside the organization…

  • Via the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier (Twitter link), Dombrowski said yesterday that a list of about 30 general manager candidates was compiled early in the search. However, somewhat surprisingly, only two candidates — Hazen and Astros director of player development Quinton McCracken — were formally interviewed.
  • In a full column, Speier writes that Hazen had the opportunity to pursue advancement with another organization six years ago but elected to remain with the Red Sox. When Jed Hoyer left Boston to become GM of the Padres, he offered Hazen, who was then Boston’s director of player development, the opportunity to be an assistant GM in San Diego. Hazen, a Massachusetts native, spoke yesterday about the decision to remain in Boston due to a passion for the Red Sox. The ability to impact a team for which he grew up cheering trumped the notion of climbing the front-office ladder in a new organization.
  • Speier also spoke to Hazen’s Princeton baseball coach, Scott Bradley, at length about the way in which Hazen broke into the front office game; Bradley introduced Hazen to Peter Gammons after Hazen’s minor league career ended, and after doing some work scouting the Cape Cod League, an impressed Gammons put him in touch with Indians GM Mark Shapiro, encouraging Shapiro to hire him as an intern. Shapiro made the hire, and within a month contacted Bradley and Gammons to profess what a special career he believed Hazen to have in front of him.
  • Gammons recalls the story from his own end (Twitter links from Gammons), explaining that Bradley initially called him seeking an opportunity for Hazen, whom he described as the best leader he’d ever coached. Gammons set up the scouting internship and promised to send Hazen’s reports to GMs around the league, and Shapiro “immediately hired Mike” after being impressed by his work. Gammons considers Hazen one of the most honest people in the game and adds that Dombrowski won’t ever get anything other than what Hazen truly believes in terms of feedback.
  • The promotion of Hazen is a vote of continuity for the Red Sox, writes the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. Twenty-two members of the current front office piled in the back of yesterday’s press conference to applaud Hazen, and as Britton notes, his ascension to GM all but ensures that there won’t be a mass exodus of front office talent from the pre-existing regime. Dombrowski is quoted as speaking highly of Hazen and the baseball ops staff that he inherited upon being hired. Hazen will have Dombrowski’s ear on all baseball ops decisions, especially early on as Dombrowski familiarizes himself with the system. Britton reports that Hazen interviewed for the Angels’ GM opening last week as well, and Speier noted in the above-linked piece that the Brewers had sought permission to interview him also.
  • Though McCracken wasn’t hired as Boston’s GM, Dombrowski told reporters that he was thoroughly impressed with his interview. Per the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, Dombrowski sees a bright future for McCracken: “Quinton McCracken is going to be a general manager. There is no doubt in my mind. He’s got a lot of great qualities.” Dombrowski also cited his experience in the game and the fact that many GM candidates seek final authority over baseball operations decisions — something the Sox wouldn’t be offering, given Dombrowski’s role as president — as reasons that only two candidates were interviewed.
  • Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes that Hazen’s honesty and personality make him well-suited to fill the sometimes-difficult role of being a GM that works underneath a president. Hazen’s former Princeton coach spoke to Lauber as well, explaining why that’s the case. “I think Mike will be his own person, but he’s also such a team guy that he will work really, really well with Dave in that regard,” said Bradley. “Too many people in those types of (GM) positions in baseball avoid really difficult conversations. I think that’s Mike’s strength. That’s who he is.”
  • Dombrowski will be faced with an offseason of trying to clean up some missteps by the Red Sox — most notably the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, writes ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes. Ramirez, as was announced yesterday, won’t play again this offseason due to a shoulder injury, of which the origin is unknown. Edes points out that in a way, Dombrowski and Hazen wouldn’t be in this spot were it not for those signings, as Cherington’s job probably wouldn’t have been in danger had neither player been signed to his ill-fated contract. Dombrowski gave a diplomatic answer when asked about Ramirez, as Edes notes, stating that he’d be the team’s first baseman in 2016. That could, clearly, change depending on the course of the offseason.
  • Cherington texted the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato and expressed praise and congratulations for his former assistant (Twitter link). “Mike is very deserving and ready to be a GM and I think the Red Sox made a smart choice,” said Cherington.

Quick Hits: GMs, Data, Prospects

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick takes an interesting look at the changing general managerial landscape around the league. The Brewers just hired thirty-year-old David Stearns to take the helm, of course, and Crasnick notes that several other young, analytically-minded executives are in the hunt for other GM positions. As he explains, however, there is more nuance both to the more youthful newcomers and the more established GM candidates on the market. While there is a cyclical element to front office hiring, says Crasnick, it’s also true that the job has changed significantly, with baseball operations departments growing in size and diversity of functions. Then, there’s the fact that team ownership is increasingly savvy and data-driven as the amount of money involved has skyrocketed. (Crasnick quotes one executive who notes that many owners are very hands-on: “They’ll see something on the MLB Trade Rumors site and call you and say, ‘Why didn’t we know about this?'”) You’ll want to give the piece a full read.

Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:

  • While the use of data in baseball is a given at this point, that doesn’t mean it isn’t continuing to evolve. Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal sat down recently with two key figures in analytics, A’s GM Billy Beane and noted sabermetrician Bill James, for a compelling chat. Both agreed that, while teams often work on fascinating projects behind closed doors, the analytical work done in the public realm still offers the greatest capacity for knowledge advancement because it is subject to broad scrutiny and capable of being built up from a gathering of many minds. Of course, as Beane notes, an increasing number of the people who might once have written in public fora are now employed by teams.
  • If you feel it’s been too long since the last exciting new Cuban player popped up on the radar, then check out this piece from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. He highlights a 16-year-old known as Lazarito — full name: Lazaro Robersy Armenteros Arango — who has impressive skills and a rising profile. Lazarito is currently in Haiti, where he’s preparing to showcase his talents and continuing the process of achieving free agency. While he still has a lot to prove, Lazarito already stands out in one regard: he’s much younger than most Cuban prospects that are attempting to move into MLB organizations.
  • Baseball America is running through the top prospects in each of the minor leagues. It’s an ongoing process, but now would be a good time to take a peek if you’re interested in seeing how recent draft picks and rising international youngsters are progressing, as BA is most of the way through its Rookie ball ratings. Among the players placing highly are Brewers prospects Trent Clark and Gilbert LaraBrendan Rodgers of the Rockies, and Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker.

Reactions To Brewers’ Hiring Of David Stearns

The Brewers wrapped up a fairly closely-held GM hiring process yesterday, officially announcing that the team would name David Stearns as its new general manager. Stearns is just thirty years old, but had most recently served as the top assistant to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and has a range of other experiences in the game.

Here are some reactions to the move:

  • Stearns will formally move into the position on October 5th, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. The GM-to-be said in his introduction that every team has the same basic “need to acquire, develop and keep controllable young talent — quality Major League talent.” Doing that, he said, involves “develop[ing] a process and a system that allows you to consistently generate that pipeline, even as you are competitive at the Major League level. There are a couple of teams that appear to be able to do that, and that’s certainly our goal here in Milwaukee.”
  • Joining the podcast of ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (starting at about 24:30), Stearns talked about some of the lessons he’s picked up along his journey through baseball thus far. He cited the organizational continuity of the Indians and the decisionmaking process of Luhnow’s Astros as two major takeaways.
  • Brewers’ pro scouting director Zack Minasian will be staying in his role, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but Stearns will assess and address the situations of other personnel after taking the helm.
  • The move drew rave reviews in the Brewers clubhouse, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets. The players he spoke with said they didn’t have any concern with Stearns’ young age.
  • Stearns covered broad ground as Houston’s sole assistant GM, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explains. Many clubs employ multiple people at the AGM level, but the Astros relied on Stearns alone at that position. Drellich goes on to discuss several of the internal candidates to step into the void.
  • Luhnow spoke with the media about the loss of an important piece of the organization, as Drellich further reports. Houston’s chief baseball decisionmaker said that he’ll wait for the offseason to search for a replacement, looking inside and outside the organization while considering the possibility of utilizing multiple executives in an assistant GM capacity.
  • Writing for Baseball Prospectus, Jack Moore puts the Stearns hiring in the broader context of executive trends in Major League Baseball.

Red Sox Progressing In GM Search, Will Interview Astros’ Quinton McCracken

It’s been more than a month since Dave Dombrowski was appointed president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, prompting Ben Cherington to step down from his post as the general manager. To this point, a number of names as GM replacements have been bandied about, including former Major League GMs Frank Wren and Dan O’Dowd as well as current assistant GM Mike Hazen, current adviser Jerry Dipoto, D-Backs vice president De Jon Watson and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler. Obviously, those figure to be just some of the many names the Sox will consider to work under Dombrowski. Here’s the latest on Boston’s search…

  • The Red Sox have begun the hiring process, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, and one of their first interviews will go to Astros director of player development Quinton McCracken (Twitter link). McCracken, if hired, would be the second well-regarded executive picked from the Houston front office, as the Astros have already lost AGM David Stearns, who was officially named general manager of the Brewers just one hour ago. The 45-year-old McCracken has a 12-year playing career under his belt in addition to six years working in the player development departments for the Diamondbacks and Astros.

Brewers Name David Stearns General Manager

1:15pm: The Brewers have announced Stearns at a press conference (you can follow along the live video stream of the conference here).

SEPT. 21, 9:43am: Stearns will be introduced as the new general manager today at 1pm CT, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.

SEPT. 20: The Brewers are expected to name Astros assistant GM David Stearns as their new GM, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.  Stearns will indeed be the next GM in Milwaukee, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com tweets, and he adds that a formal announcement will come on Monday.

David Stearns

Stearns, 30, will now become the youngest GM in baseball.  He is, in fact, younger than seven players on the Brewers’ current roster (Ryan Braun, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Adam Lind, Nevin Ashley, Francisco Rodriguez and Cesar Jimenez).  As an assistant GM in Houston, he was tasked with assisting GM Jeff Luhnow in “all baseball operations capacities including player evaluations, player transactions, and contract negotiations,” per his site bio.  The Harvard grad served as the director of baseball operations for the Indians in 2011/12 and has previously worked in the baseball operations departments of the Mets and Pirates.

Stearns is “adored by his colleagues,” Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.  Despite his academic background, Passan notes that he is “far from an all-analytics guy.”

In August, it was announced that longtime Brewers GM Doug Melvin would move to an advisory position within the organization.  Melvin, 63, became Milwaukee’s general manager nearly 13 years ago and prior to that spent eight years as GM of the Rangers. He was the GM in Texas for the team’s first three postseason appearances and helped to construct a pair of playoff teams during his Brewers tenure as well, including a 96-win team that made it to Game 6 of the NLCS against the Cardinals in 2011.

The Brewers have conducted an exhaustive search to fill their GM vacancy, but it seems that they have found their man before the official end to the season.  The team was known to be focusing on candidates who were both younger and had an analytics background.  Rays VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom, Pirates director of player development Tyrone Brooks, A’s assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz and the Brewers’ own scouting director Ray Montgomery were all names linked to Milwaukee’s GM opening.

Photo courtesy of the Brewers media relations department.

Quick Hits: Zito, Giants, Cespedes, Stearns

Barry Zito tossed an inning in the Athletics‘ 5-1 loss to the Astros today, marking his first Major League appearance since 2013.  It wasn’t exactly a triumphant return (Zito allowed a hit, a walk and a two-run homer to Colby Rasmus in his one inning) but it still represented a milestone for the veteran southpaw, who worked his way back to the Show after sitting out 2014 and spending most of this season at Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate.  Here’s more from around the game as we begin a new week…

  • David Stearns was involved in all facets of baseball operations as the Astros’ assistant GM, which Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets was one of the many reasons why the Brewers wanted him as their new general manager.  Stearns’ multi-tasking ability made him the ideal choice as Jeff Luhnow’s lone second-in-command in Houston, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes that many teams have multiple assistant GMs who oversee different departments.  Stearns’ departure, therefore, leaves the Astros with a big hole to fill.  The Astros have several highly-touted members of the organization who could potentially be promoted to assistant GM, and Drellich notes that promoting from within could help the Astros retain these front office talents before they’re lured away by other clubs.
  • There is some thought in rival front offices that the Giants could bid on Yoenis Cespedes this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required).  Cespedes would likely be deployed in left, though some time in center field wouldn’t be out of the question if the Giants wanted to keep him playing every day while also finding time for Angel Pagan and Nori Aoki (assuming Aoki is brought back).  It could be a moot point, however, as Olney wonders if Cespedes’ demands for a six-year deal are too rich for the Giants’ liking.
  • From that same piece, a rival executive told Olney “the Giants are the quickest fix” of any of the non-playoff teams.  While San Francisco has some clear needs in the rotation, they have a lot of payroll coming off the books as well as a solid core of proven veterans and controllable younger players.
  • Like most GMs, Alex Anthopoulos uses both analytical and scouting data to inform his decisions, and he gave a bit of insight to Fangraphs’ David Laurila about which methods were used in some recent Blue Jays transactions.  Edwin Encarnacion and Dioner Navarro may have been more inspired by scouting reports, whereas Justin Smoak may have been more of an analytics call.  Both departments endorsed signing Jose Bautista to an extension in February 2011, a contract that has been a major bargain for the Jays.
  • Also from Laurila’s piece, he spoke with Mark Melancon about his development into a star closer with the Pirates after an unsuccessful stint with the Red Sox.  Melancon credits ex-teammate Russell Martin with encouraging him to use his cutter more, and he admitted that he’s satisfied that he was able to prove to his critics in Boston (both within the fanbase and the organization) that he indeed has “the closer mentality.”