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The Astros announced that they have designated right-handers Paul Clemens and David Martinez for assignment in order to make room on their 40-man roster for September callups. Righties Jorge De Leon and Nick Tropeano each had their contracts selected, necessitating corresponding 40-man moves. Additionally, catcher Max Stassi, outfielder L.J. Hoes and shortsop Jonathan Villar have been recalled, while lefty Darin Downs has been activated from the DL and waiver claim Sam Deduno has been added to the active roster.
Clemens, 26, has mopped up 98 innings for the Astros over the past two seasons and posted a 5.51 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 36.9 percent ground-ball rate in the process. Though he posted strong numbers through Double-A in his minor league career, he stumbled at Triple-A and has recorded a combined 5.91 ERA in 182 2/3 innings over parts of four seasons at that level.
The 27-year-old Martinez has logged 18 1/3 innings with Houston over the past two seasons with a 6.38 ERA and a 12-to-5 K/BB ratio in that time. He, too, has struggled at Triple-A, posting a 6.03 ERA over his two seasons (94 innings) with Oklahoma City.
Tropeano is the most notable prospect of the bunch, ranking 13th among Astros prospects on the midseason list compiled by Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. The 2011 fifth-round pick pitched to a 3.03 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 124 2/3 innings as a member of Triple-A Oklahoma City’s rotation this year. Callis and Mayo note that his low-90s fastball and changeup give him two above-average offerings, and his slider has the potential to be above-average as well. With the potential for three above-average offerings, Tropeano would seem to have a shot at being a rotation member in the future.
The Astros fired manager Bo Porter yesterday, and owner Jim Crane confirms to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle that Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow weren’t seeing eye to eye. “[The GM and the manager] have to be closely aligned and singing the same song,” said Crane. “That wasn’t happening.” Crane acknowledged that Porter was put in a difficult situation and said he feels Porter “did a pretty good job with what we gave him” before voicing his support for Luhnow’s vision. Crane says that Nolan Ryan, Reid Ryan and Craig Biggio will all be involved in the search for the next Houston manager, and he wonders if the Astros would benefit from someone with more managerial experience.
Here’s more on Porter’s firing and the search for the next Astros skipper…
- There were some within the Astros organization that thought Porter should be dismissed following the 2013 season, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney in his daily Insider-only blog. However, the prevailing opinion wound up being that it was too soon to let go of a manager who had just completed his first season. Olney spoke with team sources that told him some players and club employees are angry over the situation. Some club employees are even looking for jobs elsewhere, according to Olney.
- With porter out of the picture in Houston, Luhnow could be next on the chopping block if the team does not show significant improvement in 2014, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opines (video link). One specific area of improvement for Luhnow will be showing that he can successfully build a bullpen, Rosenthal points out.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with pitching coach Brent Strom regarding his relationship with Porter, and Strom had positive things to say. Strom was hired by Luhnow and has a longstanding relationship with the GM, but says he learned a lot from Porter, whom he met just this past offseason. “I really grew to appreciate his intelligence and his attention to detail,” Strom said. “I actually learned a great deal from him, I really did. Stuff that in all my years of baseball I had not thought about, and I documented all those things and actually had passed it on to our minor league pitching coaches for future years throughout our system.”
- Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is likely to be a candidate, sources tell ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
- Some “potential candidates,” according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, include former Astros star (and current adviser) Craig Biggio. Other possibilities include bench coaches Tim Bogar (Rangers) and Dave Martinez (Rays) along with third base coaches Dave Clark (Tigers) and Joe McEwing (White Sox). McTaggart’s colleague, Richard Justice, also tweets that Bogar is a candidate.
- In addition to the names listed above, Drellich lists some other hypothetical candidates for the skipper’s role. Former big league managers Manny Acta and Trey Hillman, A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, recent Padres assistant GM A.J. Hinch, and interim manager Tom Lawless.
Here’s the latest on the Astros’ managerial situation after the firing of Bo Porter earlier today:
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says the team could hire a new manager before the end of the season, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Luhnow says the Astros will be looking for similar qualities in a manager that they were looking for when they hired Porter. He also notes that interim manager Tom Lawless could be considered for the job on a permanent basis if he expresses interest in the position.
- It certainly sounds like Lawless is interested, to judge from his comments today (via Drellich). “Oh, it was pretty exciting,” he says. “I got (word) yesterday, last night. Jeff called and wanted to know if I wanted to take over the team for the last 30 days, and I said, ‘Sure!’“
- Porter has released a statement regarding his dismissal, thanking the Astros and the city of Houston for their support.
- One potential candidate to replace Porter could be former Padres star Phil Nevin, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Nevin has impressed observers with his work this year as the manager for Triple-A Reno in the Diamondbacks’ system.
The Astros have fired manager Bo Porter, according to a team press release. Bench coach Dave Trembley has also been relieved of his duties. Tom Lawless will be the club’s interim manager for the rest of the 2014 season.
As reported last week by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, a divide had grown between Porter and Houston GM Jeff Luhnow. Porter felt that Luhnow was overly critical of his in-game strategy, and he also didn’t think his own opinions were being heard within the front office. Porter was also upset that he wasn’t consulted when Mark Appel was brought to Minute Maid Park for a throwing session in July, a move that also drew complaints from several Astros players.
As part of the team’s official statement, Luhnow predictably didn’t address any specific issues between he and Porter, yet hinted at differences of opinion by saying “I believe we need a new direction in the clubhouse.”
“What we will seek going forward is a consistent and united message throughout the entire organization. It is essential that as an organization we create an atmosphere at the Major League level where our young players can come up and continue to develop and succeed. Ultimately, I am responsible for creating that culture and I will do everything in my power to do so — even when it means making difficult moves like the one we made today.”
Porter was hired as the Astros’ manager in September 2012 and officially took over the job on Opening Day 2013. He had a 110-190 record with the rebuilding club, and Luhnow noted in his statement that Porter’s record wasn’t the issue: “I recognize that our win-loss record is largely a product of an organizational strategy for which I am responsible.”
This has not been a stellar year for the Astros front office, as the Porter firing is the latest in a series of controversies that have emerged in Houston this season. There was a dispute over George Springer‘s promotion, several of the team’s trade discussion notes were leaked online and the Astros were heavily criticized for both their failure to sign first overall pick Brady Aiken and their subsequent decision to pull out of an agreement with fifth-rounder Jacob Nix. It’s not surprising that Luhnow won this apparent power struggle with Porter given how much the franchise has invested in Luhnow’s rebuilding plan, yet the questions about Luhnow’s stewardship of the team will inevitably continue until the Astros start to produce on the field.
This is Lawless’ first time managing at the Major League level, as he has worked as a manager, coach and roving instructor within the Astros’ organzation for several years. Former Astro Adam Everett has also been hired to take over as bench coach. According to the club’s press release, the Astros will “immediately” begin looking for next long-term manager.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports Images
The balance of power in the AL West has swung heavily in the Angels’ direction after the Halos completed a four-game sweep of the Athletics on Sunday. Los Angeles now own both baseball’s best record (83-53) and a five-game lead over the struggling A’s, who are looking for answers after an 12-17 August. Oakland is still on track to reach the postseason, as they hold a four-game lead in the AL wild card race.
Here’s the latest from around the AL West…
- The A’s will cover $1MM of the roughly $2.3MM remaining on Adam Dunn‘s 2014 salary, and ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Oakland’s willingness to take on this much of Dunn’s salary was part of the reason why the A’s were able to acquire the slugger. The Giants, Dodgers and at least one other team were also reportedly talking to the White Sox about a Dunn trade.
- Astros manager Bo Porter tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that his relationship with Houston’s front office “is what he expected coming in,” which seems to counter recent rumors of tension between Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow. “My staff and I take all the information from our baseball ops and use it to the best of our ability. Every last component of that is needed to be successful,” Porter said.
- Also from Laurila’s piece, 37-year-old lefty Joe Beimel not only has no plans to retire, his 12-year career might only be half-over. “I plan on pitching until I’m at least 50….I don’t see any reason I can’t do what Jamie Moyer did,” Beimel said. “He was starting games at 49 years old and getting guys out with 80 mph. I’m not down that low yet and I figure if he could go six, seven innings, I could at least come in and get one or two guys out.” After missing 2012 and 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, Beimel is enjoying a nice comeback year out of the Mariners‘ bullpen. The veteran southpaw has a 2.03 ERA, 5.2 K/9 and 1.92 K/BB ratio in 40 innings, and he’s held left-handed batters to only a .480 OPS.
The Angels had interest in A.J. Burnett of the Phillies, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes, confirming a report by Peter Gammons (all Twitter links). The Angels, though, wanted Burnett to waive his player option for next season, perhaps to get them under the luxury tax threshold. It wouldn’t be surprising if Burnett hadn’t wanted to do that, given that he prefers playing near the East Coast, and that his option guarantees him $10MM or more in 2015. The Angels, then, will continue to hunt for a starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would rather retire than change positions, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “No. It’s just who I am, it’s what I do, it’s what I have dreamed of as a kid,” Tulowitzki says. “So I guess when you have a dream and you accomplish it and someone tries to take it away from you … it wouldn’t be worth it for me to try and move somewhere else.” Tulowitzki is just 29 and is still a plus defensive shortstop when healthy, but he continues to have issues with injuries, and it’s not difficult to see how he might need to change positions before the end of his contract, which runs through 2020. Saunders notes that Tulowitzki is currently on crutches after surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip.
- The Astros‘ “extreme Moneyball” approach is still controversial throughout the game, Joshua Green of Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes in a profile of the Astros since Jeff Luhnow’s hiring in 2011. The Astros’ poor results the past few years, and their relentless questioning of conventional wisdom (leading to, for example, their aggressive approach to shifting and to their tandem minor league rotations), have predictably been divisive. Luhnow gives Green a look at the Astros’ “Ground Control” database (notes from which were leaked in June), which uses an algorithm to tell the team’s management when players ought to be promoted.
The Astros have claimed pitcher Sam Deduno from the Twins, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports (Twitter links). The Twins had placed Deduno on non-revocable waivers, so his contract now belongs to the Astros.
Deduno is already 31 and has gotten middling results this season in Minnesota, with a 4.60 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 92 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. He also doesn’t throw particularly hard, with an average fastball velocity of just 89.7 MPH this season (though the pitch does get plenty of movement). He will not be eligible for arbitration until after next season, however, and his near-league-minimum salary and ability to start will give the Astros flexibility. He also gets plenty of ground balls, with a very high career rate of 57%.
In the short term, Deduno hasn’t pitched more than three innings in an outing since late July, so he might not be able to start right away, if that’s even what the Astros ultimately want. He has also gotten much better results as a reliever than as a starter this season, so he might fit better in a bullpen role.
Deduno briefly pitched for the Rockies and Padres before signing with Minnesota after the 2011 season, where he soaked up starts in some tough years for the Twins rotation. In parts of five seasons in the big leagues, he has a 4.24 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.
FRIDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that 20 teams were in attendance for the showcase.
TUESDAY: Cuban first baseman Jozzen Cuesta and Cuban left-hander Misael Siverio will host a showcase for interested clubs on Friday in Jupiter, Fla., agent Eric Izen of the Legacy Agency tells MLBTR.
The last we heard on the 25-year-old Siverio came back in May when he was declared eligible for free agency. The 25-year-old Cuesta was, at the time, said to be awaiting clearance from Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control, but he has since been cleared by both entities and is now eligible to sign with any club. The 6’2″, 220-pound first baseman is said to possess some power and will present a younger alternative to the first basemen on the free agent market.
Reports on Siverio peg the lefty at 5’9″ tall, and while he’s not said to possess an overpowering fastball, he had drawn interest from 10 teams back in May. Siverio pitched in front of several clubs at a showcase in June, and the Yankees, Cubs and Astros were among the teams in attendance, MLBTR has learned.
Siverio posted a 3.24 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over his career in Cuba’s Serie Nacional – a span of 153 games (75 starts). More recently, he pitched in Mexico this past winter, posting a 2.45 ERA and a 36-to-10 K/BB ratio. His full statistics and some video footage can be seen at ObstructedView.net.
Jesus Montero was at the center of a bizarre situation on Thursday night, as MILB.com’s Tyler Maun reports. While on a rehab assignment at Seattle’s short-season class A affiliate, Montero reportedly had to be restrained from going after a Mariners crosschecker with a bat after the scout reportedly sent an ice cream sandwich to the dugout. Butch Baccala, the crosschecker in question, tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the incident is “not what is being portrayed,” though he didn’t want to comment further until speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.
- There is discord between Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and things may have gotten bad enough that “it’s difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team.” Porter feels he doesn’t have enough input in the team’s plans and Luhnow too often second-guesses his in-game decisions, plus there were some hard feelings over Mark Appel‘s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park last month.
- Yadier Molina‘s return shouldn’t end A.J. Pierzynski‘s stint with the Cardinals, FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes. Molina will need to be eased into his usual workload behind the plate, and with rosters expanding, the Cards will have room for three catchers (Tony Cruz being the third). Pierzynski has also been a fit in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following the drama that marked his exit from Boston.
- The Braves were the other finalist for right-hander Brandon Poulson, Baseball America’s Bob Padecky reports. Poulson ended up signing a $250K bonus with the Twins, capping off a fairly incredible route to pro baseball for the 6’7″ fireballer.
- Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred figures to differ from Bud Selig in several areas, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark outlines some of the areas that Manfred will focus on when he officially takes over the job.
WEDNESDAY, 8:24pm: With the period for a deal expiring, and Qualls still with Houston, the obvious conclusion is that the Astros failed to work out a deal with Detroit and have revoked the waiver request. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart confirms that Qualls will in fact stay put.
8:18am: A trade is looking increasingly unlikely, writes MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Between Qualls’ highly affordable contract and his desire to play out his contract and retire as an Astro, there’s little motivation to deal him. Beck reports that the Astros recently had a pro scout watching Detroit’s Double-A team, which includes prospects such as Steven Moya, Devon Travis and Angel Nesbitt, all of whom could be of interest to Houston. However, Detroit already parted with top prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson in the Joakim Soria trade, and the team is reluctant to deal more well-regarded prospects for another reliever.
Asked about the waiver claim, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (who caught Qualls for four years from 2004-07) told Beck: “I don’t think there’s anything to talk about. As far as I know, Tigers baseball stance, there’s really nothing to it.”
TUESDAY: Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons reports that the Tigers were awarded the claim on Qualls (Twitter link). As he notes, it’s hardly surprising that Detroit placed a claim, though it’s at least mildly surprising that the Yankees, who had waiver priority and have been aggressively claiming players, neglected to go after Qualls.
The Tigers have had bullpen issues all season, with Joe Nathan struggling at the back of the bullpen and deadline acquisition Joakim Soria hitting the disabled list with an injury earlier this month. Qualls would provide a solid late-inning option for the Tigers and could serve as a low-cost 2015 replacement for Joba Chamberlain, should the setup man find a new home as a free agent after a strong season in Detroit.
MONDAY, 9:00pm: MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes that it’s more likely that Qualls will be pulled off waivers than traded.
5:50pm: Astros right-hander Chad Qualls has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unnamed club, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). It’s not clear if the Astros are willing to move Qualls, but the Astros will have until Wednesday to work out a deal with the claiming club, Rosenthal adds.
Qualls, 36, signed a two-year, $5.95MM contract with the Astros in the offseason. He’s owed about $531K of his $2.7MM salary through the end of the year, plus a $3MM salary in 2015. His contract contains a $3.5MM salary for the 2016 season which comes with a $250K buyout, bringing his remaining guarantee to about $3.781MM through the end of next season.
The veteran ground-ball specialist has been excellent in 2014, posting a 3.07 ERA (and an identical 3.07 FIP) with 7.8 K/9, 1.0 BB/9 and a 56.7 percent ground-ball rate in 44 innings. He’s spent a good deal of time in the closer’s role this season as well, picking up 14 saves for manager Bo Porter.
Houston isn’t averse to trading its closer midseason, as the team pulled the trigger on a trade to send Jose Veras to the Tigers last summer. Somewhat coincidentally, the Tigers are a very likely candidate to have placed a claim on Qualls this season, given their need for bullpen help in a tight AL Central race. However, as Peter Gammons reported over the weekend (Twitter links), the Yankees are “claiming everyone” on waivers, so it’s possible that the Bombers placed a claim with the hope of working out a deal or at the very least blocking their Wild Card competitors from strengthening their bullpens. The Yankees would have waiver priority over the Tigers.