Houston Astros Rumors

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

AL West Notes: Young, A’s, Lowrie, Hinch

Former Rangers cornerstone Michael Young has joined the team’s front office, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link), although Heyman does not include specifics on Young’s role with the club. While he was once speculated as a candidate to fill the team’s managerial vacancy, he’s now helping with the search, Heyman adds.

More from the AL West…

  • Rival executives don’t expect Athletics GM Billy Beane to stand pat following the team’s late collapse and elimination in last night’s one-game playoff, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive speculated that Jeff Samardzija could be an offseason trade candidate, while a second threw out the possibility of trading Josh Donaldson. While I can personally envision the Samardzija scenario — he’s a free agent after 2015 and could $10MM+ via arbitration — the Donaldson suggestion is tough to picture. As Rosenthal notes, he’s arb-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled through 2018, so there’s no reason to think Oakland would feel pressure to trade him.
  • Among the players whom the A’s could potentially lose to free agency is Jed Lowrie, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Lowrie about the situation (All Twitter links). Slusser notes that Lowrie is one of the few players who was honest about his free agency by admitting that money will be a driving factor behind his decision. Lowrie adds that he’s looking for a good fit for him and his family, and he says he’s be willing to play second base on a full-time basis. Asked about the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, Lowrie said he’d have to give consideration to accepting. A qualifying offer to Lowrie seems unlikely, in my view.
  • MLB.com’s Richard Justice calls the Astros‘ hiring of A.J. Hinch a bold move and revisits former Diamondbacks/Padres GM Josh Byrnes’ decision to give Hinch his first managerial gig back in 2009. The move was controversial, to say the least, as Byrnes had to dismiss the popular Bob Melvin to bring the 34-year-old Hinch into the picture. Hinch had never coached or managed, but as Byrnes explains to Justice, Hinch brings a number of desirable qualities to the table.
  • Justice’s colleague, Brian McTaggart, writes that Astros players appear to be on board with the move. Chad Qualls spoke highly of Hinch, who was his manager with the D’Backs in 2010, and Gregorio Petit called him “a real honest guy” after getting to know him a bit while in the Padres organization. Dallas Keuchel is excited after meeting Hinch and hinted that there were communication problems not only between previous manager Bo Porter and the front office, but also between Porter and the players. “I think we need to have better communication than we’ve had in the past couple of years,” said Keuchel.

Rule 5 Draft Roundup

With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:

Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)

  • Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
  • Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
  • Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
  • Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
  • Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
  • Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
  • Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
  • Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
  • Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.

Projected Super Two Cutoff

The projected cutoff for Super Two status for this offseason’s arbitration class is looking like it’s going to come in at two years, 133 days of Major League service (written as 2.133), MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes hears (Twitter links). However, as he notes, there’s no official ruling on what this year’s cutoff will be. Before getting too much further into the fallout of this figure, let’s provide a quick refresher on what, exactly, Super Two status entails.

Players with at least three but less than six years of Major League service are considered arbitration eligible. Additionally, a player with at least two years but less than three is eligible for arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and ranks in the top 22 percent in total service in the two-to-three-years service class; these players are referred to as “Super Two” players. The current collective bargaining agreement, which went into effect December 12th, 2011, raised that Super Two cutoff percentage from 17 percent to 22 percent, and that 22 percent of players will be eligible for arbitration four times instead of the standard three times. Also bear in mind that for MLB purposes, 172 days is the equivalent of one year of Major League service time.

For some context on this year’s cutoff, here’s a look at the cutoffs from the previous five years:

  • 2013: 2.122
  • 2012: 2.139
  • 2011: 2.146
  • 2010: 2.122
  • 2009: 2.139

Astros infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who will finish with exactly 2.133 years of service, will be the last from the two-to-three-year service class to qualify for the distinction if this cutoff holds. One additional fallout for the White Sox is that the salaries of Jose Quintana will escalate. The southpaw signed a five-year, $21MM contract prior to this season, but his contract contains a clause that causes the guarantee to grow to $26.5MM if he qualifies as a Super Two. Quintana had projected to earn $1MM in 2015, $3.8MM in 2016, $6MM in 2017 and $8.35MM in 2018 with $10.5MM club options for 2019 and 2020 (each with a $1MM buyout). Those salaries will rise to $3.4MM, $5.4MM, $7MM and $8.85MM, respectively. The options will remain unchanged.

Others who looked like candidates early in the season, such as Eduardo Escobar of the Twins, Drew Hutchison of the Blue Jays and DJ LeMahieu of the Rockies would fall just shy of the distinction. (Each of those candidates was identified as a possible Super Two player in our last look at the projected Super Two cutoff back in April.)



Astros Hire A.J. Hinch As Manager

5:36pm: The Astros have officially announced Hinch as their new manager. In a prepared statement within a press release, GM Jeff Luhnow offered the following praise for Hinch:

“I am extremely excited to bring in A.J. as our new manage. Throughout our process, we searched for a person with previous Major League experience, who could effectively lead our young, growing nucleus of talented players. I have no doubt that A.J. is the right person to do that. He brings experience as a Major League player, Major League manager and player development executive. His skillsets and leadership abilities will be enormous assets in our clubhouse and to our entire organization.”

3:31pm: The Astros have called a press conference to make a “significant announcement” at 5:30pm CT today, and MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart hears from a source that it will be to name the team’s new manager (Twitter link). Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter link) that A.J. Hinch is “close” to becoming the Astros’ manager, so it seems likely that Hinch will be announced in that role two hours from now. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick had tweeted earlier in the day that Hinch was still in the running as the search was narrowing.

Hinch, 40, served as the Diamondbacks’ manager for parts of the 2009-10 seasons, leading the team to an 89-123 record after being hired despite his young age (34 at the time) and the fact that he hadn’t managed at any previous level. More recently, Hinch has served as the vice president of professional scouting for the Padres — a position he left earlier this summer. Hinch was one of three men, along with assistant GMs Omar Minaya and Fred Uhlman Jr., to fill in making baseball operations decisions for the Padres following the dismissal of GM Josh Byrnes earlier this year. A Stanford graduate, Hinch has been called a “numbers guy” by some, so the match with the analytics-driven Astros isn’t a total surprise.

In addition to his time as a manager and in the front office, Hinch played in parts of eight Major League seasons between the Athletics, Royals, Tigers and Phillies. A catcher by trade, Hinch batted .219/.280/.356 with 32 homers in 1075 big league plate appearances from 1998-2004.

The Astros dismissed Bo Porter from the managerial position earlier this month and have leaned on former minor league manager Tom Lawless as the club’s interim manager. Lawless, along with Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez were all said to have interviewed for the position at one point.


Multiple Teams Change Minor League Affiliations

As Baseball America’s Josh Leventhal writes, yesterday marked a two-week period where Major League clubs are free to negotiate with available minor league organizations. Major League clubs sign player development contracts with minor league organizations much like players will sign contracts with teams. As such, Leventhal notes that the “affiliation shuffle” is akin to free agency for minor league teams. Leventhal’s article provides more insight behind many of the moves and offers quite a bit of detail for those who are curious to read more about this process.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see multiple teams sign deals with new affiliates, and MLBTR will keep track of them here for those that are interested …

Class-A Advanced

  • The Braves announced that they have moved their Class-A Advanced affiliate from Lynchburg, Va. to Zebulon, N.C. (formerly an Indians affiliate) after agreeing to a two-year PDC. They will inherit the Carolina Mudcats moniker.

Earlier Updates

  • Daytona (formerly the Cubs’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Reds.
  • GM Jon Daniels says the Rangers will move their High-A affiliate from Myrtle Beach to High Desert, FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro tweets.
  • The Cubs announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Daytona to Myrtle Beach (previously occupied by the Rangers).
  • The Indians announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Carolina to Lynchburg (previously occupied by the Braves).

Double-A

  • The Twins announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from New Britain to Chattanooga (previously occupied by the Dodgers) after agreeing to a four-year term.
  • The Dodgers announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from Chattanooga to Tulsa (previously occupied by the Rockies).
  • New Britain (formerly the Twins’ affiliate) has announced that that it has reached a PDC with the Rockies.

Triple-A

  • The Giants announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Sacramento (formerly occupied by the Athletics).
  • The Brewers announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Colorado Spring (formerly occupied by the Rockies)
  • Fresno (formerly the Giants’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Astros.
  • The Athletics have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Sacramento to Nashville (previously occupied by the Brewers).
  • The Dodgers have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City (previously occupied by the Astros).
  • The Rockies announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque (previously occupied by the Dodgers).
  • The Brewers have announced that their Triple-A affiliation with Nashville has been terminated by the Sounds.

AL East Notes: Yankees, Red Sox, Lovullo

Yankees GM Brian Cashman believes the 2014 season to have been a worst-case scenario, reports John Harper of the New York Daily News. When asked about the club’s poor performance, Cashman said, “I honestly believe if you repeated this season 100 times, you would not get this result.” Here’s more from New York and the AL East.

  • Also from Harper, injuries were the biggest surprise for the Yankees. While some losses must be expected from an aging roster, the Yankees did lose most of their top veterans for some stretch of time. Growing fan apathy could affect New York’s offseason plans, especially with Derek Jeter‘s imminent retirement. Harper suggests the club re-sign David Robertson and Brandon McCarthy. Rather than target a shortstop like J.J. Hardy, the Yankees could look at Victor Martinez to provide punch in the lineup.
  • It’s widely accepted that the Red Sox failure this season can be traced to an over reliance on prospects. John Tomase of the Boston Herald discussed a few other warning signs in his latest column. With the exception of a couple veterans, the club was complacent in spring training. Boston lacked the depth to deal with injuries and underpeformance. Poor leadership left youngsters like Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts under intense media scrutiny during their slumps, which likely exacerbated the problem.
  • Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is ready to manage in the majors, writes Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Lovullo is on the Astros list of potential managerial candidates, although it’s unclear if he fits their analytical approach. He’s interviewed for three separate posts in the past and could be busy this offseason. Lovullo’s resume includes playing in parts of eight major league seasons for seven teams, managing for nine years in the minors, and coaching for the Blue Jays and Red Sox.

West Notes: Angels Stadium, Dodgers TV, Astros

The Angels probably won’t leave Anaheim, opines Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. We found out yesterday that the Angels cut off talks on a new ballpark lease with the city of Anaheim. Politics play into the situation, so the tabled negotiations with Anaheim may not be revived until after the election. In the mean time, the club will explore sites in Tustin. A move would presumably be funded by owner Arte Moreno. As Shaiken notes when suggesting the club would remain in Anaheim, “you don’t become a billionaire by spending hundreds of millions of dollars if you don’t have to.”

  • Also per Shaikin, the battle between Time Warner Cable and DirecTV over Dodger carriage fees could soon be moot. Currently, DirecTV subscribers do not have access to Dodgers games. While the two parties are at an irreconcilable impasse, they may be under new ownership by mid-winter. If federal regulators approve Comcast’s take over of TWC and AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, then it’s much more likely that the two parties could come to terms.
  • The Astros have a narrow lead on the Diamondbacks and other major league clubs in the search for a new manager, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say on their head start: “I’m not sure being first is a huge advantage, but certainly we’re moving as fast as we can.”

Latest On The Astros’ Managerial Search

The Astros are without a permanent manager at the moment, having dismissed Bo Porter after some philosophical disagreement with the club’s front office. Tom Lawless is filling in on an interim basis, and reports have indicated that former big league managers Manny Acta, A.J. Hinch and Don Wakamatsu could be candidates, as could Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, among many others.

Here’s the latest on the team’s search …

  • Another potential candidate could be Steve Buechele, the manager for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Drellich notes that Buechele has spoken to the Astros about the job. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram tweets that Buechele had a phone interview with the Astros.
  • Astros third base coach Pat Listach will interview today, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com tweets. Prior to joining the Astros, Listach had served as a bench coach and third base coach for the Cubs and a third base coach for the Nationals. He also has four seasons of experience managing in the high minors in the Cubs system.
  • The Astros have contacted Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that the Astros have already interviewed Banister twice for the job. Banister has spent his entire 29-year career in affiliated baseball with the Pirates, briefly playing for them in 1991 and then working his way up through their minor league system as a coach and manager. He has also managed in the Arizona Fall League. As Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel points out (via Twitter), Banister had a cameo in Ben Lindbergh of Grantland’s recent article about the strong bond between the Pirates’ field staff and their statistical analysts. Banister’s ability to work in such a system would surely interest the Astros.

Earlier Updates

  • Nevin expressed keen interest in the position, saying that Houston is a special place for him as his first MLB organization, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
  • The Astros met with Lovullo face-to-face on Boston’s off-day this week (Monday), according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). This is the first report of an in-person meeting with a managerial candidate. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently profiled Lovullo, breaking down his background and managerial philosophies
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Astros have spoken with five candidates via phone: Ebel, Hinch, Lovullo, Wakamatsu and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez (Twitter link). Martinez has previously stated that he would be very interested in the position after having a good experience when he interviewed the last time Houston was looking for a manager.
  • Ebel, however, tells MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez that he has not spoken to the Astros about their managerial vacancy at this point (Twitter link).
  • Lawless will interview for the position on a permanent basis this Saturday, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Lawless, who has 35 years of experience in baseball (10 as a minor league manager), has been received favorably by the current Astros’ players, McTaggart adds. Houston is 10-10 under Lawless, but McTaggart notes that the team’s September results won’t factor much into the equation. He’ll be asked the same questions as other candidates. Lawless looks forward to the opportunity, he says: “I’m just going to be myself and just talk honestly about what baseball means to me and the passion I have for baseball. [General manager Jeff Luhnow] has a tough decision, and the organization is going in the right direction. I think we can make this thing better.”
  • The Astros have receive permission to interview former big league slugger Phil Nevin, who is currently managing the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Nightengale adds that Nevin will also be a candidate for the D’Backs if they decide to part with manager Kirk Gibson.

Rosenthal On Bogar, Astros, Brewers, Dodgers

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

  • The Rangers‘ strong finish might almost force them to hire interim manager Tim Bogar as the permanent replacement for Ron Washington, Rosenthal says. The Rangers have gone 13-7 since Bogar took over. Their late-season surge also means they won’t get the top overall draft pick next season.
  • The Astros have talked to Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister about their managerial job, but Rosenthal says that most within the industry feel the job will go to former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch or Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.
  • Many within the Brewers are frustrated with their team’s collapse, although Rosenthal notes that the feeling throughout baseball was that the Brewers overachieved throughout much of the early season anyway, and that GM Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke should not be fired for the Brewers’ late-season troubles.
  • The Rockies could make some sort of change in their front office, and the Dodgers could even make front office moves if the team struggles in the playoffs, Rosenthal reports. That would leave the Giants as the only NL West team not to make a significant front office change this offseason.

West Notes: Angel Stadium, Carter, D’backs Front Office

The Angels have cut off talks with the city of Anaheim regarding a new ballpark lease arrangement, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. Owner Arte Moreno says that the club can afford to build a new ballpark, and indeed the team is exploring its options in other Los Angeles-area locations. After agreeing upon a “deal framework” a year ago, the parties have been unable to finalize a new contract.

Here’s more out of the west:

  • Astros slugger Chris Carter will be shopping for a new agent after losing former adviser Dave Stewart, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports on Twitter. The decision is a particularly important one for Carter, 27, given that he will qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player in the coming offseason. His 37 home runs make for a nice arb case, of course, but his raise will be well-deserved. Carter’s bottom-line production over the last three years: .228/.322/.480 (121 OPS+) over 1,409 plate appearances with 82 long balls.
  • Stewart, of course, made the rounds today after being announced as the Diamondbacks‘ new general manager. One burning question has been how Arizona will incorporate statistical analysis into its decisionmaking, and Stewart told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link) that the organization must “get on board with it” after having not done so to present. That does not mean that the club will turn its back entirely on its scouting and culture-heavy focus; to the contrary, Stewart made clear that he hopes former GM Kevin Towers will stay on and discussed the importance of developing an organizational culture in several interviews.
  • One element of the D’backs decisionmaking structure that has become clear is that De Jon Watson will play an important role in developing and disseminating information. In an appearance on the team’s television broadcast, Watson said that he will have wide-ranging responsibilities in the arenas of amateur scouting, player development, and MLB roster construction. He indicated that he likes the idea of being able to have such a broad role. That being said, Watson said the club intends to keep scouting director Ray Montgomery and player development director Mike Bell in their present roles.
  • Turning to the actual ballclub, Stewart said in an appearance on 98.7′s Burns & Gambo show that Arizona has no intention of dealing away young talent. Calling the team’s farm system “pretty much depleted,” Stewart said that rebuilding depth — rotation candidates, especially — was a key focus. That being said, Stewart indicated that he hopes to put a winning club on the field quickly and will look to the free agent market for a “front end guy.”