Houston Astros Rumors

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

Minor MLB Transactions: 7/29/15

We’ve got some catching up to do on the minor moves front after a busy couple of days:

  • Reds outfielder/first baseman Chris Dominguez has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Dominguez has seen short big league stints in each of the past two seasons, but the 28-year-old has played mostly in the upper minors. He owns a .216/.264/.368 slash over 221 plate appearances on the year at Louisville.
  • The Pirates outrighted infielder Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A after recently designating him for assignment, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter). Following two seasons as a significant utility piece for the Nationals, Lombardozzi has received only 85 big league plate appearances over the 2014-15 campaigns. He owns a .303/.362/.352 slash in his 291 turns at bat for Triple-A Indianapolis.
  • After he, too, cleared waivers, Pirates third baseman Brent Morel elected free agency, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). The 28-year-old has spent at least some time in the big leagues in every season since 2010, putting up a .601 OPS in 712 plate appearances. In 326 times coming to bat at Triple-A this year, he owns a .266/.322/.441 batting line.
  • As expected, Astros outfielder Alex Presley has accepted an outright assignment with the organization, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. He previously agreed to an outright assignment in order to preserve his $1MM arbitration salary, and chose to do the same once again.
  • The Mariners acquired righty J.C. Ramirez from the Diamondbacks, Seattle announced. Ramirez, 26, made it up to the big leagues for the second time this year, throwing 15 1/3 innings of 4.11 ERA ball from the Arizona pen. He’ll return to his first professional team, which shipped him to the Phillies in the 2009 Cliff Lee trade.

Joe Thatcher Elects Free Agency

JULY 28: The Astros announced today that Thatcher cleared waivers and elected free agency. He and his representatives at Platinum Sports are now free to seek a deal with interested parties.

JULY 21: The Astros have designated left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher for assignment in order to clear room on the active roster for Vincent Velasquez, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter).

Thatcher signed a minor league deal with Houston in the offseason but made the team out of Spring Training and has enjoyed generally successful results in his first year with the Astros. He’s posted a 3.79 ERA and averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings, though he’s also battled his command, yielding 5.2 walks per nine frames as well.

Thatcher is typically an effective weapon versus left-handed hitters, but that wasn’t the case in 2015. In fact, opponents as a whole batted .292/.376/.389 versus the 33-year-old. However, Thatcher did have his share of poor luck on balls in play; over the life of his career, opponents have notched a .321 BABIP versus Thatcher, but that number soared to .377 this season in Houston. He did have his share of good fortune as well, as both his strand rate and homer-to-flyball rate were a bit more favorable than his career norms.

Thatcher’s minor league deal had a $1MM base salary and called for up to $1.3MM worth of additional incentives, so his financial cost wouldn’t be exorbitant. Given the reasonable dollars and the fact that he has a 3.04 ERA with 10.0 K/9 vs. 3.0 BB/9 dating back to 2009, Thatcher looks to be capable of serving as a useful bullpen cog elsewhere, should the Astros attempt to gauge interest on the trade market. Of course, the return for a player that took a minor league deal in the winter and has since been designated — decent results notwithstanding — would be minimal.


Market Notes: Guerrero, Iwakuma, Latos, Prado, Cardinals, Ross

The Dodgers are having active discussions on utilityman Alex Guerrero, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Though Guerrero’s contract allows him to opt into free agency after the year if he’s dealt, Rosenthal notes that he’s expressed a willingness to work out a deal with a new team if he’s traded. Guerrero’s production has fallen back after a blistering early showing, and he’s lost playing time along the way, but he does offer relative youth and has shown good power. The 28-year-old has also dealt with a seemingly minor back issue of late. Los Angeles has several other similar utility options, as well as an overflowing stock of outfield pieces, so it’s certainly plausible to imagine that he’d have more value to another team.

Let’s take a look in at some other notable market developments as we continue to see significant activity in advance of Friday’s trade deadline:

  • It’s not yet clear whether the Mariners will move pending free agent righty Hisashi Iwakuma, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Seattle has, however, received interest from several clubs. Since a mediocre and injury-plagued start to the year, Iwakuma has turned in three consecutive solid outings and could be a nice mid-rotation piece for a contender.
  • The Marlins are increasingly “confident” they’ll find a taker for starter Mat Latos, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Latos has pitched well of late and has appeal as a reasonably high-upside rental piece. According to the report, the market for his services is “coming into focus.”
  • Marlins infielder/outfielder Martin Prado increasingly seems available, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). An executive from another club says that the Fish appear to be “open to at least contemplate” a deal, which seemingly indicates slightly more availability than we heard yesterday (when Miami was said to be interested only for a sizable offer). Sherman notes that the Yankees and Mets could join the Royals with interest in Prado as a secondary option to Ben Zobrist (who is expected to be dealt in short order).
  • The Cardinals are looking at possible bullpen additions to slot alongside the just-acquired Steve Cishek, Heyman tweets. St. Louis will hope to bring back righty Jordan Walden in the relatively near future, as he’s progressing through a rehab assignment, but the club has been active in recent years in adding pitching depth.
  • Padres righty Tyson Ross remains a hotly-pursued name on the market, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported yesterday. He’s drawn interest from teams like the Blue JaysAstros, Dodgers, and Rangers, per the report. Expectations are that Ross would require a significant return, and Heyman notes that the team would likely prefer to move other pitching assets.


Impact Of Clippard Deal: Beane On A’s, Latest On Zobrist

Earlier today, the Mets added a late-inning relief arm in Tyler Clippard. That move did not come as a major surprise, but it nevertheless created a ripple effect for the two teams involved, as well as the rest of the market.

  • Most notably, perhaps, Athletics GM Billy Beane indicated in his comments on the deal that the team could continue to build up lower-level prospect depth in its summer trades, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports“The Houston Astros have done a really good job of spending the last three or four years really creating a dynamic farm system,” said Beane, “and now they’re starting to reap the rewards of that. If we’re ever going to compete, we’re probably going to have to take a somewhat similar approach and at least make sure we’ve got young players that are coming through the system that will be here for a few years.” Oakland acquired younger players in both the Clippard trade and the earlier swap involving Scott Kazmir, marking something of a departure from the team’s winter moves (to say nothing of its win-now acquisitions last summer).
  • The Mets had been working on a deal with the Athletics that would have delivered not only Tyler Clippard, but also Ben Zobrist, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. But the clubs honed in on the reliever alone after New York went out and got Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mets are out on Zobrist, though adding a pair of versatile pieces in Uribe and Johnson could lessen heir need.
  • Meanwhile, the Mets have clearly positioned themselves as buyers, and are still looking at corner outfield bats. As we also covered in that link, the Athletics seem uninterested in parting with controllable pieces like Josh Reddick — despite their apparent decision to load up on high-ceiling youngsters.
  • Zobrist will likely be the next player dealt away from the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. She sees the Royals and Nationals as the possible front-runners for his services. Oakland has drawn wide interest in the utility man extraordinaire, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with almost every contender having checked in on him. Joining Kansas City with active interest, per the report, are the PiratesYankees, and Cubs. We’ve heard no shortage of other clubs mentioned in recent weeks as well, as Zobrist’s MLBTR timeline attests.
  • While the Mets are earning plaudits in some circles for adding a quality pen arm without dealing away any top prospects, prospect analysts say that the return for Clippard might be better than many realize. Keith Law of ESPN.com writes that he’d rank Casey Meisner as the organization’s sixth-best prospect, just behind a touted group of names, giving him a #2 starter ceiling. That’s far too much to give up for a few months of a reliever who has not been pitching at an elite level this year, Law argues. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs is not quite as high on Meisner, but still tweets that he sees him as a solid return for Oakland.
  • Clippard becomes the second shoe to drop on the relief market, following the Cardinals’ acquisition of Steve Cishek. Check out MLBTR’s round-up of the relief market. We’ve heard rumblings on star Padres Craig Kimbrel today, and there are plenty of other high-end arms that could change hands.

Latest On Market For Craig Kimbrel

10:18pm: Heyman reports that Kimbrel’s name has “at least surfaced” in talks with the Yankees, but New York’s reluctance to part with any of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Jorge Mateo would need to change before anything could ever come to fruition. As Heyman notes, the Yankees are checking on nearly all available pitchers, so it’s tough to gauge how much significance to place on the fact that his name has been kicked around.

9:41pm: The Nationals are the team that is “hottest” after Kimbrel, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.

9:43am: The Nationals, Blue Jays and Astros are among the teams to have shown interest in Padres closer Craig Kimbrel, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Astros, though, are concerned with the financial commitment that comes along with Kimbrel in the future, he adds.

While many would think the same should hold true of the Blue Jays, it should be pointed out that Toronto can potentially see Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Dioner Navarro, Marco Estrada and Maicer Izturis depart as free agents this offseason. Additionally, they’ll finally be freed from the burden of the ill-fated Ricky Romero contract this winter. That means more than $50MM will come off their books.

Of course, some of those departures will be offset by a significant increase to Russell Martin‘s salary on his backloaded contract ($7MM in 2015, $15MM in 2016) and arbitration raises to players such as Josh Donaldson, Drew Hutchison and Justin Smoak, among others. (Donaldson’s raise, in particular, will be substantial.) Kimbrel’s remaining $3.49MM salary in 2015 would fit into the Blue Jays’ reported $5-8MM in-season spending limitations, though such a move would also limit GM Alex Anthopoulos’ ability to address the rotation, which is reportedly his focus.

The inclusion of the Nationals is a bit peculiar at first glance, given Drew Storen‘s excellent 2015 season, but the team has had some bullpen issues beyond Storen. And, as the Royals made abundantly clear in 2014, a deep bullpen is a notable advantage in the postseason. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Jayson Stark speculated this weekend that the Nats could make a play for Kimbrel.

As for the Astros, GM Jeff Luhnow has stated that he’d like to add a flamethrower to his bullpen if an upgrade is made, and Kimbrel’s average fastball velocity is 97.4 mph, so he’d certainly fit that description. His four-year contract’s guaranteed salaries escalate in 2016-17, however. Kimbrel is earning $9MM this year, but that jumps to $11MM in 2016 and $13MM in 2017. He’s also guaranteed at least $1MM via the buyout of his $13MM club option for the 2018 season.

Kimbrel got off to a rough start to his Padres tenure, surrendering 10 earned runs (partially on the strength of three homers) through his first 15 2/3 innings. Since May 19, though, he hasn’t allowed a single homer, and he’s reeled off a 0.76 ERA with a 32-to-10 K/BB ratio in 23 2/3 innings. Recent reports have indicated that the Padres are “pushing” to move some of their big-name, expensive assets.


Latest On Hamels: D’backs Interested, Astros “Making Big Push,” Rangers Talking Prospects

8:04pm: The Astros are “making [a] big push” to add Hamels even after nabbing rental starter Scott Kazmir, Crasnick tweets.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports updates the names that have been discussed between the Rangers and Phillies, noting that not all would be included in a theoretical deal. (Links to Twitter.) Catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, young righty Chi Chi Gonzalez and Luis Ortiz, and outfielders Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson have all come up recently, per Rosenthal.

Texas will not move Nomar Mazara in a deal for Hamels, he says, and would only include Alfaro if the Phillies pay down more of the deal. The club is also hesitant to part with Gonzalez, who made his major league debut this season. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today, the Phillies are focused on adding Alfaro or Mazara if they strike a deal with the Rangers.

Heyman adds that the Phillies continue to dangle Hamels to the Yankees in hopes of acquiring either Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. He suggests that could be an indication that the team is not really satisfied with what it’s being offered elsewhere.

4:19pm: There’s a late possible dark horse in the Cole Hamels sweepstakes, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, who says that the Diamondbacks have “reached out to the Phillies to express their interest.” (Twitter link.)

While Arizona seems an unlikely suitor, as they sit five games under .500 entering today’s action, their situation is not necessarily much different from the Rangers, who are reportedly among the teams in most active pursuit. It would seem that the D’Backs are mostly interested in adding Hamels for the future, though he would certainly bolster their marginal Wild Card chances. With an obvious

It’s worth bearing in mind that the Diamondbacks have very little in guaranteed commitments for the future. Next year’s current tab is just over $27MM at present, though of course there will be some arbitration salaries to account for, and it only goes down from there. With an obvious need for both current and long-term improvement in the rotation, it makes sense that Arizona is exploring the market for future-oriented pitching additions.

The Hamels contract is sizable, but manageable for the mid-market D’backs. He is owed $22.5MM annually from 2016-18, and comes with a $20MM option for 2019 ($6MM buyout). That kind of cash likely won’t buy a top-line starter through free agency, so Arizona may see an opportunity to get such an arm at a discount.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a steep price to pay in terms of talent. The Diamondbacks are generally viewed as having a middle-of-the-road farm, but they do have plenty of quality young pieces at or near the big leagues — including arms like Archie Bradley and up-the-middle infielders such as Chris Owings. It would obviously be foolish to speculate as to what the club might be willing to offer, or what the Phillies might hypothetically look to bring back, but Arizona possesses sufficiently intriguing players to make a match seem plausible.

It’s worth noting that the D’backs are on Hamels’ no-trade list, meaning he could block a deal there, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. We’ve heard chatter about the lefty’s preferences regarding other clubs, but it’s not clear whether he’d have any interest in a move to Arizona.


Rosenthal On Gomez, Rangers, Choo, Gyorko

The latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports

  • Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez is attracting interest from contenders and non-contenders alike.  The Rangers and Indians have reached out, while the Giants and Astros find Gomez appealing.  Rosenthal notes that the Giants may not have the prospects required, while the Astros “appear more focused on bullpen help.”  Gomez is under contract next year for just $9MM, after which he’ll reach free agency as a 30-year-old.  In a June 1st poll, 80% of MLBTR readers said the Brewers should trade Gomez this summer.  He would appeal to many teams beyond the four listed by Rosenthal.
  • The Rangers are “acting aggressively as both buyers and sellers,” according to Rosenthal.  That explains the interest in Gomez and Cole Hamels and their willingness to listen on pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Wandy Rodriguez, who will be free agents after the season.  I should note that Colby Lewis will also be a free agent after the season, but he’s chosen to stay with Texas multiple times when given the opportunity to shop around.  On Friday, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had quotes from Rangers GM Jon Daniels about the team’s deadline stance.
  • Rosenthal says the Indians are similarly looking at both additions and subtractions this week, “exploring deals for players who could fit for next season and beyond while listening to proposals for their starting pitchers and corner players such as David Murphy and Ryan Raburn.”  Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca wrote yesterday that the Indians came close to trading pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the Blue Jays, but the deal fell apart for unknown reasons and is no longer on the table.
  • The Rangers are expected to trade Shin-Soo Choo this offseason, Rosenthal writes.  I imagine that may require some kind of bad contract swap, as Choo recently turned 33, can block deals to ten teams, and is owed $102MM from 2016-20.
  • The Padres are shopping second baseman Jedd Gyorko hard, tweets Rosenthal.  The 26-year-old signed an extension under the previous Padres regime, and at the deadline he’ll be owed more than $33MM through 2019.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote about Gyorko and all the other second base trade candidates last week.  Rosenthal suggests the Padres could rid themselves of Gyorko’s contract by attaching him to a more desirable player, pitcher Tyson Ross for example.  The Braves employed this tactic in April, pairing Melvin Upton with Craig Kimbrel.

West Notes: Price, Astros, Padres, Shields, Clevenger, Rangers

The Giants could pursue Tigers ace David Price if he’s made available, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Per Morosi, substantive talks will await the Tigers decision to compete or sell. Detroit won earlier this afternoon to improve to 48-49. They’re currently 4.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race. The Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Cubs are also interested in Price (tweet).

Here’s more from the West divisions:

  • Astros owner Jim Crane is pleased with the acquisition of Scott Kazmir, reports Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston in a series of tweets (1, 2, 3, 4). Crane says the club will absolutely make a run at the postseason, and he seems confident that “there’s some deals to be done.” Houston is open to taking on a pricey contract for the right guy, “if it makes good sense.” Crane also confirmed that a hitter is among the many things GM Jeff Luhnow is seeking to acquire. Luhnow himself said he expects to be involved in at least one more trade, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.
  • The Padres are “ready to sell,” tweets Scott Miller of Bleacher Report. However, the club will first see how they perform in a four game set against the struggling Marlins. San Diego is currently seven games below .500 and 7.5 games back in the Wild Card race. Four teams stand between the Padres and a Wild Card berth, but the Braves have already started to disassemble. A sweep could put the Friars back in the thick of the race.
  • While San Diego waits to see how the upcoming series transpires, they continue to shop starter James Shields, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN. Stark spoke with one executive who said the Padres would have to eat a big portion of the $65MM remaining on Shields’ contract. Shields is owed $21MM over each of the next three seasons with a $16MM option for 2019 ($2MM buyout). While he’s struggled with home runs this season, he’s also posted career bests in strikeout rate (10.13 K/9) and swinging strike rate.
  • The Mariners have asked the Orioles about Triple-A catcher Steve Clevenger, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports. Talks did not advance. The 29-year-old is hitting well in the minors with a .327/.402/.408 line in 246 plate appearances. He also performed well in a brief major league audition earlier this season, going 5-for-11.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters that a big weekend could lead the club to simply buy, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Texas is expected to market short term assets like Yovani Gallardo as they walk the line between contending and building for next season.

 


Latest On Cole Hamels

Phillies starter Cole Hamels has completed a no-hitter against the Cubs in what could be his final start with Philadelphia. Hamels walked two (Dexter Fowler twice) and struck out 13 in the gem. Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera deserves a hat tip – he made two adventurous catches in the final two innings. If you missed the game, it’s well worth catching the highlights on SportsCenter.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports adds (via Twitter) that only two pitchers have been traded in a season in which they tossed a no-hitter – Edwin Jackson in 2010 and Cliff Chambers in 1951. The Cubs got a good first-hand look at Hamels – they are one of several clubs connected to him. There have also been a few new bits of information from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi, all via Twitter (1 2 3 4 5).

  • The Yankees have asked about Hamels, but their interest does not appear to be much more than due diligence at this time. The Phillies like Yankees power-hitting prospect Aaron Judge, but the Yankees don’t want to trade top prospects like Judge, first baseman Greg Bird or righty Luis Severino. “We’ve had conversations with every club willing to sell, finding out what they’re willing to sell and what their price tags are,” says Yankees exec Brian Cashman.
  • In addition to the Yankees, other recent teams to express interest in Hamels include the Dodgers, CubsRangers and Giants.
  • The Astros are scouting Hamels’ start today. Rosenthal says that they’re keeping tabs on his market, since they might be better positioned to offer the Phillies what they’re looking for than some other teams are.

Alex Presley Clears Outright Waivers

JULY 24: Presley has cleared outright waivers, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. Though he can decline an assignment to Triple-A, he already accepted an outright once earlier in the season to avoid sacrificing the remainder of his $1MM salary.

JULY 18: The Astros have designated outfielder Alex Presley for assignment, the Astros announced via Twitter. In a corresponding move, Scott Feldman has been activated from the disabled list and will start tonight.

Presley, 29, was recalled by the Astros in early July. He had three hits and five strikeouts in 13 plate appearances. At Triple-A, the left-handed outfielder hit .308/.345/.392. Presley has split his career between the Astros and Pirates, compiling 1,105 major league plate appearances across parts of seven seasons. Per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (Tweet), Houston may find a suitor for Presley. The Orioles are among the teams with interest.

Feldman is returning from a right-knee injury that has sidelined him for a chunk of the 2015 season. He’s made 10 starts with a 4.80 ERA, 5.55 K/9, and 2.10 BB/9. His return will help Houston manage prospect Vincent Velasquez’s innings. He was optioned to Double-A 10 days ago despite a solid debut. Brett Oberholtzer was also optioned to Triple-A prior to the All Star Break.