Houston Astros Rumors

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

Heyman’s Latest: Williams, Collins, ChiSox, Keuchel, Halos, Dietrich

In today’s edition of his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by highlighting the fact that the NL East division title race will determine the fate of Nationals manager Matt Williams and Mets manager Terry Collins. Heyman writes that while Nats GM Mike Rizzo has repeatedly backed Williams, Rizzo is something of a “chorus of one” — publicly, at least. Ownership is extremely frustrated with the team’s recent play, and Heyman points out that it may also be telling that amid multiple reports of players disliking his rigid demeanor, not one player from the Nats has stepped forward to defend Williams. Ownership has already discussed dismissing Williams, Heyman adds. Collins, on the other hand, is in line for a new contract if and when the Mets reach the postseason. Falling behind the Nats and missing the playoffs, though, would harken back to 2007’s epic collapse and almost certainly cost Collins his job. Then again, the Mets have remaining series against the Reds, Braves, Phillies and Marlins, as Heyman points out, so a collapse seems particularly unlikely.

Some other highlights from the column…

  • Jeff Samardzija and another unknown White Sox player were both claimed on the same day that the Yankees claimed David Robertson, Heyman reports. However, the Samardzija claim was, like the Robertson claim, primarily a blocking tactic. Heyman notes that while Samardzija has had a very poor contract season, scouts still love his build, athleticism and competitiveness.
  • Dallas Keuchel and the Astros have tabled extension talks until after the season, per Heyman. Houston hopes to lock its ace up on at least a four-year deal — that’d cover his arbitration years and one free agent season — though as I noted when word of discussions between the two sides broke, Keuchel’s currently slated to hit the open market heading into his age-31 season. Delaying his free agency by even one year would probably put a five-year max on the free-agent deal Keuchel could secure, as teams rarely guarantee pitchers’ age-37 seasons in long-term deals.
  • Regarding the Angels‘ GM vacancy, Heyman characterizes recent interviews of internal candidates Matt Klentak and Scott Servais (both assistant GMs) as “perfunctory,” believing an outside hire to be the probably outcome. Klentak could stay on in a role similar to his own, whereas Servais is said by Heyman to be more at odds with manager Mike Scioscia. Kevin Towers, Ned Colletti and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler are all listed as speculative candidates by Heyman.
  • The Dodgers took on about $150K of the remaining $450K on Justin Ruggiano‘s salary when they acquired him from the Mariners.
  • The Marlins are coming around on the idea of Derek Dietrich as a Ben Zobrist/Josh Harrison type of player that can play everyday in part due to his versatility. While Dietrich’s defense isn’t on the same level as that highly valuable duo, the Marlins see him as an athletic bat with 25-homer upside. The 26-year-old Dietrich is hitting .263/.359/.514 in spite of a cavernous home park (138 OPS+) and has smashed 10 homers in 64 games while seeing time at first base, third base and in the corner outfield. None of those are even his natural position, but he’s blocked at second base by Dee Gordon, of course.

New York Notes: Teixeira, Harvey, Bullpens

The Yankees and Mets are both firmly in the playoff picture, with the Yanks currently occupying a Wild Card spot and the Mets holding a six-game lead over the Nationals in the NL East. Here’s the latest on each club…

  • Though the Yankees had to put Mark Teixeira on the DL and will be without him for a week, the team isn’t planning to pursue any outside help at first base, GM Brian Cashman tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Astros slugger Chris Carter and the MarlinsCasey McGehee have cleared waivers, Sherman reports, and while neither wouldn’t be eligible for the postseason roster if acquired, either could pair with Greg Bird at first base in Teixeira’s absence. However, Cashman doesn’t think the Yankees can find a definitive improvement over their internal options, suggesting that he doesn’t think too highly of either right-handed corner option mentioned by Sherman.
  • Agent Scott Boras feels that the Mets are putting Matt Harvey in danger by not strictly adhering to Dr. James Andrews’ recommended limit of 180 innings. “Any club that chooses to defy a surgeon’s wishes is putting the player in peril,” Boras tells CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. GM Sandy Alderson contends that he’s consulted with doctors all year and considered any innings limit placed on Harvey to be “soft” in nature. Boras disagrees: “Expert opinion by medical practitioners is not a soft number. There are no soft numbers. These are medical practitioners providing opinions about when a pitcher is at risk, and when a pitcher isn’t at risk.” The Mets plan to skip one of Harvey’s starts in advance of the playoffs, but the righty has still totaled 166 1/3 innings this season, so he’s on pace to pitch far more than 180, especially if the Mets make a deep postseason run. In that scenario, Alderson said that Harvey would be monitored on a “case by case” basis.
  • Bullpen workload is a challenge for both Joe Girardi and Terry Collins down the stretch, writes the Post’s Ken Davidoff. Each skipper has a pair of late-inning weapons (Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances for Girardi; Jeurys Familia and Tyler Clippard for Collins), but each has had a heavy workload that will need to be monitored heading into October. As Davidoff notes, the presence of Clippard has been a godsend for the Mets, who had hoped to rely on a quartet of power arms — Vic Black, Bobby Parnell, Jenrry Mejia and Familia — only to see all but Familia work their way out of the team’s late-inning plans in one way or another.

Astros Designate Jake Buchanan

The Astros have designated righty Jake Buchanan for assignment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. He lost his spot to clear space for the team’s call-up of lefty Joe Thatcher.

Buchanan, 25, has thrown 44 1/3 MLB innings over the last two years, with most of that experience coming in 2014. He has a 4.06 ERA in that span with 5.1 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.

Prior to 2014, Buchanan had worked primarily from the rotation. But he’s thrown mostly in relief since. This season, over 80 1/3 Triple-A innings, he owns a 4.37 ERA while strike out 5.0 and walking 2.4 batters per nine.

August Trade Notes: Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Astros

Tonight marks the end of the August trade period, and two deals have already gone down today. Clubs that wish to add players from outside their organizations who are eligible to play in the post-season must do so by midnight eastern time. Of course, to be dealt, players must either clear revocable trade waivers or have been claimed by the team that seeks to acquire them.

Here’s the latest chatter with one and a half hours to the deadline:

  • The Cubs are “pushing hard” to bolster their pitching staff before tonight’s deadline, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Chicago has already added several veteran arms over the last few months, but apparently is still looking at possible moves over the next few hours.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers have their eye on a relatively minor addition of outfield depth this evening, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. With several injuries to right-handed outfielders, the club could seemingly stand to put another option on its roster.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence may be progressing more slowly from his oblique injury than had been hoped, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets. Manager Bruce Bochy did note that there hasn’t been any setback, though Pence may have been hoping to feel better in his light hitting session today, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News adds on Twitter. We heard earlier this evening that San Francisco remained active in the market, with outfielder Alejandro De Aza still on their radar and a continued desire to add an infielder.
  • While he’s now ticketed for Chicago, Austin Jackson drew interest from the Orioles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Baltimore has been said to be quite active over the month of August even as they’ve faded in the standings. As things stood before they lost tonight, however, the club was already 5.5 games out of the Wild Card and a full 11 back in the AL East.
  • While the Astros pursued several avenues over the month of August, they appear set to move on with only the addition of lefty Oliver Perez, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes“We made some, a few claims that we didn’t get,” said GM Jeff Luhnow. “And [on]] players we probably would have been interested in working out a deal for, but it didn’t work out. We feel pretty good about the guys we have on our roster right now.”

MLBTR Mailbag: Carter, Cardinals, Fowler, Desmond

The Astros are making a huge playoff push, with Chris Carter on their roster. How long will this last? Or will we see Tyler White or AJ Reed take over the helm at 1st/DH? I don’t see Singleton making a big difference in the near future. — Chris S.

Carter will remain on the roster through season’s end due to the fact that rosters expand tomorrow, and the team will at least value having that type of bat on the bench as a pinch-hitting option. I’m honestly surprised they’ve stuck with him as long as they have, but I have a difficult time seeing either of the players you mentioned as a September callup. Neither needs to be protected on the 40-man roster this winter in order to avoid the Rule 5 Draft, and Houston does have quite a few players that will need those precious 40-man spots in order to avoid being selected. White will be Rule 5 eligible in the 2016-17 offseason, so I’d imagine that at some point next year, he’ll have a better shot at cracking the Major League roster — especially with Reed moving up the ladder behind him.

Bottom line is that, barring a trade tonight — and it probably wouldn’t be for anyone too exciting — Houston seems likeliest to run with Carter and Singleton down the stretch.

With Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Martinez all already signed for 2016 and Adam Wainwright presumably returning, do the Cardinals do either of the following: Pick up Jaime Garcia’s option or extend a qualifying offer to John Lackey? — Troy K.

The Cards have the four starters you mentioned as well as Marco Gonzales at Triple-A and Alex Reyes in Double-A (to say nothing of free agent options), but I still think they’re wise to take both of the paths you listed. Lackey will be 37 next season, but we’ve seen recent pitchers like Tim Hudson and Bronson Arroyo come off worse seasons than the one Lackey is handing and land sizable two-year commitments. While a QO would hurt Lackey’s market, the superiority of his performance relative to other veterans that have landed lucrative two-year deals should be enough for him to test the market.

As for Garcia, he’s injury prone and can’t be counted on for 200 innings, but he’s an $11MM lottery ticket with an ERA just north of 2.00 in just under 100 innings right now. When Garcia is right, he’s one of the more underrated pitchers in the game. Gonzales has had injury problems in 2015 as it is, and Reyes might not be ready until late in 2016. Having Garcia as depth would be beneficial, and exercising the option keeps his 2017 option in play as well, in the event that he has a healthy and productive 2016 season. GM John Mozeliak has indicated that he’s leaning toward exercising the option, and I think only an injury will prevent that from happening.

At the top of the season, I would have considered that the Cubs were merely utilizing Dexter Fowler as a stop-gap for Albert Almora. It seems as though Almora’s stock has declined. With Billy McKinney looking one to two years away from making it to the big league team, I was wondering if the recent surge of Fowler(.364 with 7 Extra Base hits over the last 14 games) would prompt Theo to make an attempt to resign Fowler as opposed to chasing players like Parra, Heyward or Upton. With youth on their side, Upton and Heyward appear to be headed towards A-Rod and Cano type money while Parra doesn’t have the track record of Fowler in the batters box or in the field. I was wondering if it appears as apparent to you as it does to me that the Cubs would at least try to retain Fowler on a two year deal. If Fowler isn’t the Cubs CF target, I was wondering who it could be? — Keith S.

The odds of Fowler, a 29-year-old switch-hitting outfielder that could handle center or the corners, settling for a two-year deal this offseason are practically nonexistent in my mind. If the Cubs could retain him on a two-year deal, I’m sure they would have interest, but I’d peg Fowler’s realistic floor at a three-year deal, with a four-year deal seeming perfectly plausible. I’d expect his agents at Excel Sports to come out aiming for five years, honestly. I’d make Fowler the qualifying offer and collect a draft pick when he signs elsewhere. (If, for some reason, he accepts, then Fowler at one year and ~$16MM isn’t a disastrous outcome by any means.)

The Cubs could go multiple routes. Arismendy Alcantara or Matt Szczur represent perhaps underwhelming internal options. A second stopgap via trade (e.g. Peter Bourjos, Cameron Maybin, Gregor Blanco) could make sense, with the team then holding out for a pursuit of Carlos Gomez following the 2016 season. Present free agents like Austin Jackson and Colby Rasmus could be of interest on mid-range deals. And, the Cubs have the talent to try to pry someone like Aaron Hicks, Jackie Bradley or Dalton Pompey away from their current clubs (though the Twins, Red Sox and Blue Jays would probably all seek pitching, so perhaps those three aren’t ideal examples).

What has Ian Desmond’s underwhelming season done to his FA value? Will he be able to top the reported $100 mm deal the Nats previously offered him? — Scott S.

Fortunately for Desmond, there are still 33 games left for him to continue his second-half resurgence. Desmond’s batting .293/.358/.544 with 10 homers and seven steals through 41 second-half contests, and he’s drastically cut down the errors he’d been accumulating. While his overall batting line is still miserable, if he continues at anything close to that stretch, his full-season numbers will at least be passable. In that scenario, his representatives will be able to pitch that Desmond had a rough 87-game patch to open the season before rebounding to his usual self. The case could be made that his first half was merely an aberration, and the preceding three years plus the subsequent two-and-a-half months are what should be expected by a signing team.

This is obviously just a hypothetical scenario, but if Desmond’s final 33 games go exactly as his previous 33 contests did (they, of course, will not), he’d finish with a cumulative .243/.299/.414 batting line and a .291/.356/.534 second half. Entering his age-30 season with the case to be made that he has just three lousy months in the past four seasons, Desmond could make a case for a nice contract. But reaching the amount he reportedly turned down — it should be noted that said offer came with heavy deferrals — seems like a reach.

Put more concisely, Desmond would need six years to get to $100MM+, and that feels too heavy. I do think five years is in play if he maintains his current pace for the final 33 games, however.

AL West Notes: Keuchel, Newcomb, Profar, Stearns

In light of recent reports about preliminary extension talks between the Astros and ace Dallas Keuchel, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards examines the impact that a potential Cy Young Award would have on Keuchel’s arbitration case. Keuchel already has a very good chance at breaking the outdated record for a first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher (Dontrelle Willis’ $4.35MM record is, as Edwards notes, about a decade old). However, as Edwards explains, the arb process treats award-winners differently, and securing the Cy Young Award could boost his first-year arb price even further. As such, taking home the hardware for being the AL’s best pitcher in 2015, if it happens — and Keuchel indeed has a strong case — could make it difficult for team and player to agree to a fair price to put on Keuchel’s three arbitration seasons, let alone on his free agent years.

A few more items pertaining to the AL West…

  • In his latest Prospect Pipeline Inbox column, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo kicks off by answering the question of whether or not Angels southpaw Sean Newcomb could pitch in the Majors in 2016. Mayo explains that while he wouldn’t have thought so prior to the 2015 campaign, Newcomb has impressively pitched at three levels this season, showing a consistent propensity for strikeouts and ground-balls and thereby placing himself on the fast track to the Majors. While the former No. 15 overall pick (2014) needs to hone his command and improve upon his 4.8 BB/9 rate, Mayo does feel that Newcomb is capable of reaching the Majors in the second half of the 2016 season.
  • Jurickson Profar played in his first regular-season game since Sept. 27, 2013 today, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. The former No. 1 overall prospect served as the designated hitter for the Rangers‘ Class-A affiliate today. He’ll continue to rehab there but only in a DH capacity for the remainder of this season. Profar, still just 22 years of age, has missed the past two seasons due to a pair of torn shoulder muscles. He was a consensus Top 10 prospect heading into the 2012 season before emerging as the game’s No. 1 prospect (per Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus) heading into the 2013 campaign. The Rangers will hope to have him healthy again in 2016.
  • As teams trend toward the hiring of younger, analytically savvy general managers, Astros assistant GM David Stearns’ name could become a target, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. While Drellich notes that it’s perhaps a bit early for Stearns to garner serious consideration from other clubs, GM Jeff Luhnow does feel that his lieutenant has the chops to handle a GM role down the line. “There’s several people in our organization that have GM potential, and David’s one of them,” Luhnow said. “I expect over the coming years, as we have success, they’ll get opportunities at least to interview.”

Astros, Dallas Keuchel Have Discussed Long-Term Deal

Dallas Keuchel will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is under team control through at least the 2018 season, but the lefty tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that his agent, Darek Braunecker of Frontline Athlete Management, has discussed a multi-year deal with Houston. For his part, Keuchel is very open to remaining in Houston long-term. As he tells Drellich:

“[Houston] is all I’ve known, and it’s where I want to be. I know we’re in a great position for the next probably five, 10 years… it’s all about winning. Me personally, it’s not about the dollar amount. … With that being said, it’s got to be something that’s fair and that’s right for both parties. I’m not trying to break the bank. I’m just out here to have fun and pitch and do the best I can.”

The 27-year-old Keuchel had a breakout season in 2014 and has emerged as one of the American League’s top pitchers with an elite 2015 season that features a 2.37 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 63.1 percent ground-ball rate in 178 2/3 innings. As Drellich notes, comparable pitchers (at least, in terms of service time) such as Wade Miley and Lance Lynn signed away their three arbitration seasons last winter for $19.25MM and $22MM, respectively. Keuchel, however, has a much stronger two-year platform heading into arbitration and could surpass both of those figures for his arb years.

It stands to reason that the Astros would want to secure at least one, if not two or three free agent years for Keuchel, which, in my mind, would need to be valued in the $15-17MM range. However, from the player’s point of view, signing away precious free agent years isn’t as desirable, even if it’s for a relatively sizable sum. Keuchel’s best chance at a $100MM+ contract would be to hit the open market heading into his age-31 season, as he’s currently projected to do. He also has a strong arb case this winter based on his excellent 2014-15 work, so he can reasonably bank on a pair of life-changing paydays in the next two offseasons even if his 2016 campaign doesn’t go as well as 2014-15. Keuchel’s comments about not breaking the bank do offer some hope, however, that he could look to set some kind of precedent for extensions for players with three to four years of service time, as opposed to maximizing his arb salaries and signing a nine-figure contract in the 2018-19 offseason.

There’s also some logic behind the scenario in which Keuchel signs a three-year deal that locks in only his arb seasons. Keuchel would secure his first fortune and still be positioned to hit the free agent heading into his age-31 season. The Astros, in turn, would gain cost certainty over a pitcher whose arb prices could escalate at an abnormally high rate due to his status as one of the American League’s best arms and a potential Cy Young candidate.

Drellich also spoke to right-hander Collin McHugh, who said that he, too, is interested in signing a long-term deal with Houston, although no talks have taken place between the Astros and McHugh’s agents at Moye Sports Associates. McHugh, however, has one less year of service time and won’t be arbitration eligible until next winter. McHugh, another somewhat surprising breakout pitcher in the Astros’ rotation, has pitched to a 3.36 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 313 2/3 innings since being claimed off waivers in the 2013-14 offseason.

Also of note, Drellich reports that the Astros plan to make a run at re-signing Houston native and July trade acquisition Scott Kazmir this winter, though there have unsurprisingly been no talks at this point, as Kazmir is intent on testing the market.

Quick Hits: Dodgers, Stanton, Astros

Even though they’re likely to make the postseason, the Dodgers are one of the 10 most disappointing teams in baseball, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. From the mouth of one NL executive, “they have done the near impossible – they have a $300 million payroll and yet they haven’t gone all in for 2015.” Of course, they still have time to find a patch or two for their beleaguered bullpen. While they aren’t my vote for most disappointing, it’s fair to wonder why they’re only 1.5 games up on the Giants.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Of Sherman’s 10 disappointing teams, the Nationals, Tigers, and Red Sox are likely to receive the most attention. Boston struggled from day one. In retrospect, nobody was surprised by the shoddy pitching staff. However, the vaunted offense never arrived after March. The Nationals and Tigers are surprising candidates. Detroit is only four games out of the second Wild Card, but they packed up shop at the trade deadline by cashing in on Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, and Joakim Soria. The Nationals are viewed as the more likely of the two to reach the postseason, but they’re 4.5 games behind the Mets and 9.5 back from the Cubs. However, they do have better roster cohesion and only one team to leapfrog in the standings.
  • The Marlins also appeared on Sherman’s list, and slugger Giancarlo Stanton expects to see “big changes” over the offseason, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Meanwhile, club president David Sampson mentioned a non-personnel change that could be coming for 2016. The fences may be lowered and moved in prior to next season. Miami is a tough park for home runs, but run scoring is roughly neutral. Closer walls could help Stanton and others bash even more home runs.
  • The Astros and Dodgers are among the most forward thinking teams in the game, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The Dodgers obviously have a much larger war chest, but money doesn’t solve every problem. Per Los Angeles president Andrew Friedman, “more resources help you, at least in theory, more in the free-agent market. You look back over time, and it’s very hard to invest wisely. So coming from the Rays, you were almost insulated from making those mistakes in the free-agent market.” Both clubs are emphasizing the value of young, cost controlled stars. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow also commented on the process of discovering marginal advantages over other teams and hoping to hide them for as long as possible. The article itself is well worth your time with excellent quotes from several executives.

Al Notes: Fiers, Santana, Francona, Shapiro

Astros July trade acquisition Mike Fiers tossed a no hitter against the Dodgers last night. The 134 pitch performance was a microcosm of the Astros season, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Fiers, 30, was the second piece in the Carlos Gomez trade. He was supposed to provide a little depth in the rotation – not outmatch a potent Dodgers lineup. The Astros are also doing more than they ever were supposed to – they currently have a 3.5 game lead in the AL West with a 67-56 record. Of course, Fiers’ no hitter isn’t completely shocking. He’s posted a solid 3.63 ERA with 9.13 K/9 and 3.25 BB/9. The same can be said of the Astros success. The club obviously entered the season with a few good starting pitchers, a powerful offense, and a revamped bullpen.

Here are a few more notes out of Cleveland:

  • The Indians may want to consider trading first baseman Carlos Santana this offseason, opines Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.Santana, 29, used to offer more utility by playing catcher, third, and first. Now he’s locked into the cold corner due to concussion issues and shoddy defense. More importantly, his offensive performance is at a career worst. He’s been particularly bad from the right side which is peculiar given his strong career splits. Pluto lists several internal replacements. None are likely to approach Santana’s production.
  • Also per Pluto, rumors that Mark Shapiro is under consideration to become the next Blue Jays CEO won’t affect the roles of GM Mark Antonetti or manager Terry Francona. While Shapiro advises on baseball decisions, Antonetti has full authority in that sphere. Francona originally joined the Indians in part due to Shapiro, but he also has a strong relationship with Antonetti. He can opt out of his contract if either executive is fired, but it’s not clear if that extends to one of them leaving by choice. Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group echoes Pluto’s sentiments. He names a few internal candidates who could be promoted to club president, but also mentions CEO and owner Paul Dolan as a likely candidate.

Rosenthal On Park, Astros, Brewers, Morse, Jays

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video from FOX Sports:

  • Jung-Ho Kang‘s strong rookie season with the Pirates could drive up the market for fellow KBO slugger and former teammate Byung-Ho Park, who is likely to be posted this winter. Kang has been a bargain, hitting .287/.360/.444 while playing capably at third base and shortstop this season, all for an approximately $5MM posting fee and a four-year, $11MM deal. Park, who’s hit 95 home runs in the last two seasons, should make more.
  • Friday was an interesting night for both teams in the recent Carlos Gomez / Mike Fiers deal. Fiers, of course, threw a no-hitter for the Astros, while outfielder Domingo Santana homered in his first game with the Brewers.
  • Michael Morse, who went from the Marlins to the Dodgers to the Pirates in a whirlwind series of transactions last month, got a paycheck from the Dodgers even though he never played for them. (The Dodgers were obligated to pay him, of course, but it’s amusing to think about a player receiving a paycheck from a team he never played for.) He’ll also receive a game jersey from the Dodgers the next time they play the Bucs.
  • The Blue Jays‘ additions of Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere have greatly improved their defense, Rosenthal says. Justin Smoak is another key to the Jays’ defense — he uses his big frame to get to throws from across the infield that other first basemen might miss.