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TUESDAY, 7:11pm: Houston is reluctant to deal Keuchel, a GM tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, who discusses the club’s decisions on whether to deal arms that come with future control. The Orioles could be a fit for the emergent southpaw if the Astros are willing to part with him, sources tell Drellich.
1:18pm: The Astros are getting increased calls about their pitchers after yesterday’s comments from Luhnow, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (on Twitter). The goal remains the same, says McTaggart: MLB-ready offense.
MONDAY, 6:21pm: When asked about prospective deals Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said there’s “nothing that feels close” at this time, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The GM went on to say (link), “There’s conversations happening and there have been for the past week multiple conversations happening every day.”
5:32pm: The Astros have previously said that they weren’t inclined to move left-hander Dallas Keuchel or right-hander Collin McHugh, both of whom are in the midst of breakout seasons, but Luhnow softened his stance when speaking to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (12:23 timestamp in the update window). The Houston GM tells Rosenthal that the lack of available starting pitching has prompted him to consider dealing Keuchel, McHugh, or right-hander Jarred Cosart:
“We do seem to have an excess of pretty good young starters so we wouldn’t rule anything out. We’d have to get back a big-league piece, preferably a bat, in a package that makes sense for the future and present.”
The 26-year-old Keuchel can be controlled through the 2018 season, while McHugh, 27, and Cosart, 24, are controllable through the 2019 campaign. Keuchel and McHugh, in particular, have had surprisingly strong seasons, with Keuchel posting a 3.11 ERA in 127 1/3 innings, and McHugh notching a 3.45 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings (10.4 K/9).
Keuchel was Houston’s seventh-round selection in the 2009 draft, while McHugh was claimed off waivers (Houston had tried to trade for him in 2013), and Cosart was acquired in the Hunter Pence deal back in 2011. None of three are eligible for arbitration after the season. Keuchel will be arb-eligible following the 2015 season, while Cosart and McHugh are eligible following the 2016 season.
TUESDAY: Castillo, who worked out for the Phillies today, has set up a private workout with the Mariners on Sunday as well, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His one-on-one workout with the Red Sox is still set for Friday.
MONDAY, 8:29pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that the Yankees indeed have a private workout scheduled with Castillo.
7:33pm: General Manager Jeff Luhnow says the Astros may schedule a one-on-one workout with Castillo, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.
7:24pm: A source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter) that only the Phillies (on Tuesday) and the Red Sox (Friday) have private workouts set up with Castillo. However, private workouts are in the works for the Yankees and other clubs.
Unsurprisingly, the Twins are not among the teams looking to line up a workout with Castillo, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Minnesota likes Castillo, but the expected asking price is too rich for their blood.
3:11pm: Reports indicated that 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams were represented at Rusney Castillo‘s showcase over the weekend, and Ben Badler of Baseball America has the latest on the 27-year-old Cuban free agent. Castillo will have private workouts with the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies this coming week, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Orioles are also arranging a private workout.
Badler lists the White Sox, Mariners, Giants, Blue Jays, Cubs and Braves as other potential suitors. Because multiple teams have interest in getting a deal worked out quickly, however, there aren’t likely to be any further private workouts before a deal gets done, Badler writes. Additionally, Badler has posted some video footage from Castillo’s weekend showcase.
Multiple sources indicated to Badler that the Red Sox had the largest contingent on-hand Saturday for Castillo’s showcase. He notes that Jackie Bradley has more upside at the plate, and Mookie Betts might factor in as a corner outfield option in the long-term due to the presence of Dustin Pedroia, but Boston could be intrigued by Castillo as a corner option as well. He did play right field in Cuba, Badler adds.
The Yankees, meanwhile, could weigh the possibility of trying Castillo at second base, though they could have a corner spot open alongside Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as well. Castillo played second base (and some third base) back in 2009-10, but scouts at the showcase weren’t overly impressed with his glovework as an infielder.
Center field is Castillo’s best position, Badler writes, so it stands to reason that the Phillies could view him as an upgrade over the light-hitting Ben Revere. Playing Castillo in center field allows him to maximize his best tool — 70-grade speed.
While the White Sox are very well-versed in the Cuban market — as evidenced by the presence of Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on their roster — the presence of countrymen on their roster won’t influence Castillo, Badler hears. His decision will come down to financial terms.
Badler adds that the Giants also had a very strong presence at Castillo’s showcase, and he makes sense for them as their system has thinned following a trade for Jake Peavy and their continued interest in Ben Zobrist. The Cubs also had “a team” of evaluators on-hand to witness Castillo, who would bolster an already enviable crop of hitting prospects.
It’s difficult to tell whether the Nationals could be very busy or stand pat before the trade deadine, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes. It seems like the Nats are at least exploring a number of options, as Kilgore reports…
- The Nationals have asked the Astros about available relievers, and Houston had scouts watching the Nats’ Triple-A and Class A affiliates over the weekend. Left-hander Tony Sipp best fits the Nationals’ needs, Kilgore surmises, since Washington is thin on southpaw relief options.
- The Nationals haven’t talked to the Diamondbacks about Aaron Hill or Martin Prado. Either player could fill the hole at second base created by Ryan Zimmerman‘s injury (Anthony Rendon moved to third), or Prado could simply play third and Rendon could return to second. Kilgore isn’t sure the Nats want to pay Hill the $26MM he’s owed through 2016, however, though Hill loved playing for manager Matt Williams when Williams was a D’Backs coach. Arizona is reportedly shopping Hill but “barely listening” to inquiries about Prado.
- With Jose Iglesias possibly on the trade block in Detroit, Kilgore thinks the Nats could be interested given the team’s desire to add a young shortstop as depth if Ian Desmond can’t be extended. The Tigers had a scout watching the Nationals’ Class A team recently, Kilgore notes, though that isn’t necessarily related to Iglesias.
- Speaking of scouting assignments, the Rangers had an evaluator watching a recent game between the Nationals’ and Braves’ Triple-A teams. The two NL East rivals are both known to be looking for relief pitching.
- Washington had scouts watching two recent Red Sox series, and Kilgore figures that they were checking out relievers Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller. Earlier today, Peter Gammons reported that the Nats were interested in Miller.
Troy Tulowitzki, one day after his name was misspelled on a Rockies’ T-shirt giveaway, was at Yankee Stadium watching New York play Toronto. Tulowitzki flew to Philadelphia yesterday for a second opinion on his left hip flexor strain, which landed him on the disabled list, reports MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The doctor’s visit (Harding tweets it’s for a dry needling procedure to promote healing) is in of itself routine, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes Tulowitzki being at Yankees Stadium is no accident after the spelling snafu adding the Rockies cannot be happy he is attending another team’s game while on the DL and this sort of thing can lead to an eventual trade (Twitter links). Last Sunday, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post theorized a trade would only be possible if Tulowitzki was willing to wear the label of a disloyal, bad guy. The All-Star shortstop defended his decision to go to the Yankees’ game telling the Denver Post, “I’m with my family. I wanted to see (Derek) Jeter play one more time.“
Here’s the latest out of the game’s western divisions:
- Though he constitutes a “backup plan” for the club, the Mariners have real interest in Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, tweets Passan. Seattle envisions shifting Kemp to the DH role eventually.
- The Yankees, meanwhile, are currently “not in” on Kemp, tweets Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. We heard earlier today the club is seeking a bat, including several potential options that profile similarly to Kemp (right-handed, power bats). Of course, those players do not come with Kemp’s $107MM in future commitments.
- The Padres have announced right-hander Ian Kennedy, a popular name on the MLBTR pages of late, will not make his start tomorrow because of left oblique soreness, but will throw a side session either Tuesday or Wednesday, per the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow reiterated he is not going to trade closer Chad Qualls, tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. But, Luhnow said the team would consider dealing a starter from its MLB or Triple-A roster.
- Last year’s number one overall draft pick, Mark Appel of the Astros, has been moved up to Double-A, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The righty struggled mightily at the High-A level, throwing in a notoriously hitter-friendly environment, but had perhaps his best outing on Thursday. “All along the plan has been to get him to Corpus Christi and have him pitch there this summer,” said Luhnow. “And we wanted to build off of some positive momentum to make that happen. We have a lot of pitchers at High-A that are deserving of opportunities higher up. I think there were things that we wanted him to accomplish at Lancaster.”
- Appel’s promotion, as well as being rewarded with a bullpen session earlier today at Minute Maid Park, has been met with displeasure within the Astros‘ clubhouse. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle tweets players have approached several reporters to vent and the comments have been laced with expletives (Twitter links).
- Astros manager Bo Porter addressed the Appel uproar by telling reporters, including Ortiz, “Any time something affects your clubhouse, I think as the manager you have to handle it. I will handle it internally. It’s unfortunate that they have been put in that position.“
- Ortiz opines, via Twitter, Appel’s promotion and bullpen session add fuel to the clubhouse perception the 23-year-old is being babied. Baseball America’s Ben Badler agrees the Astros are sending the wrong message to their players, but their discontent should be over the promotion to Double-A, not the bullpen session (Twitter links).
- The Pirates are believed to have interest in Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin says he’s “been pretty aggressive as far as contacting teams,” but the trade front remains quiet, per Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel. Melvin reportedly checked in on right-handed setup men, but found the market lacking. According to Melvin, two players who surprisingly may not be dealt are LaTroy Hawkins and Chad Qualls.
- The Angels were active early and often in this season’s trade market, and GM Jerry Dipoto thinks the club is ready to stand pat, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Per Dipoto, “We really like our team. The likelihood is that we’ll do nothing, but we will stay in touch.”
- With rumors swirling, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti thinks a trade for an elite pitcher is “unlikely,” writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Colletti is loath to part with any of his top prospects, including Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias. In discussing Pederson, Colletti notes that he isn’t ready to contribute to a pennant race. Hitting southpaws and trimming his strikeout rate top Pederson’s to-do list.
- The Astros have a handful of relievers to market this July, including Qualls, Josh Fields, and Tony Sipp. The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reports that the trio of relievers continue to draw plenty of offers. It’s interesting to see this juxtaposed with Melvin’s expectations that the Astros intend to keep Qualls.
5:33pm: The Reds, too, will join the party, according to a tweet from C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Likewise, the Padres will be on hand, tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com. The brings the current tally of teams reportedly planning to have a look at Castillo to 17.
4:30pm: John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group tweets that the A’s will also be in attendance at tomorrow’s showcase.
12:46pm: Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo‘s showcase for Major League teams is tomorrow, but MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez adds an interesting twist to the audition: the speedster will work out at both center field and at shortstop (Twitter link).
Previous reports have indicated that the Twins, Cubs, White Sox, Braves, Giants, Mariners, and Orioles would attend the showcase. Additionally, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Rays will be in attendance, while Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel notes that the Marlins will be in attendance, and George A. King III of the New York Post adds the Yankees to the mix. Beyond that, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports adds lists a few other clubs that will attend: the Mets, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros.
Castillo is said by many to have plus-plus speed, and several scouting reports have comped him to Brett Gardner with a bit more power. The right-handed hitting 27-year-old has drawn praise for his line-drive stroke, and he’s thought of as a potential starting-caliber outfielder for a Major League club. Sanchez has tweeted a new scouting video of Castillo (including footage of him pushing a car — seriously), while a scouting report can also be seen over at Baseball America, courtesy of international guru Ben Badler. Castillo is represented by Roc Nation Sports.
The MLB Player’s Association has filed a grievance action against the Astros relating to the team’s recent failure to sign top overall draft choice Brady Aiken, reports Murray Chass. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reports the filing, via Twitter.
Though details remain vague, it appears that the union’s action alleges that Houston inappropriately manipulated the signing situations of Aiken and fifth-rounder Jacob Nix after a dispute arose over Aiken’s medicals. Ultimately, the Astros reportedly offered Aiken only $5MM after having reportedly agreed to a $6.5MM bonus. The club also did not go forward with signing Nix after having reportedly agreed to sign him for $1.5MM.
Having failed to sign Aiken, inking Nix to that reported over-slot bonus would have put the Astros well above their pool allocation for signed players and subjected them to the penalty of forfeiting each of their next two first-round choices. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis has explained, some have charged that Houston sought to sign Aiken at the lower price tag in order to make a run at 21st-round choice Mac Marshall, who had previously announced that he would go to college. Of course, it remains to be seen what precise allegations have been made by the union.
While the result sought in the grievance proceeding remains unknown, presumably the MLBPA could seek some relief for Aiken and/or Nix if not also some action against the club. As things stand, the pair of hurlers face the decision whether to matriculate at a university (both were UCLA commits) or play junior college ball and re-enter the draft next year.
Though he could hold appeal as a setup option to a contender, Astros closer Chad Qualls appears unlikely to change hands at the trade deadline,MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Qualls, 35, has been lights out this year with a 1.78 ERA and 7.9 K/9 against just 1.0 BB/9.
GM Jeff Luhnow indicated that he has little interest in moving Qualls, who is playing out the first season of a two-year, $6MM deal that includes a $3MM option for 2016. Said Luhnow:
“I hesitate to use the word ‘untouchable,’ but he likes it here, he’s comfortable here, and he’s pitching well. To have a guy who’s capable of pitching late in the game, in close games, we’re going to have opportunity going forward. This is a team that’s improving, and as the team improves, you have more save opportunities, more opportunities to pitch at the end of close games. We need more Chad Qualls. We don’t need less.”
Qualls, likewise, says he hopes to finish out his career in Houston.
While it is always tantalizing to consider the possibility of adding young talent, it should be noted that Qualls’s contract does look fairly reasonable at this point. And neither would he figure to bring back a significant haul. Instead of rolling the dice on another veteran next year, Houston may well be best served by holding onto him for the time being.
Nick J. Faleris of Baseball Prospectus provides a thorough account of the Brady Aiken failed signing from both his perspective and that of the Astros. Anyone with interest will want to give it a full read; I’m still working through the lengthy (but entirely worthwhile) piece myself.
Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:
- The Astros are unlikely to deal away any of the club’s young starting pitching but are definitely listening on relievers Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In particular, the Tigers have asked about Qualls, who has served as the Houston closer of late, according to Heyman. Meanwhile, there has not been much discussion of other Astros veterans such as Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, and Jason Castro.
- Though some around the league believe the Dodgers are highly motivated to deal former star Matt Kemp, the Red Sox were not left with that impression after making an inquiry, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. At least three other American League teams have also asked about Kemp’s availability, including the Indians, Mariners, and Rangers, but Rosenthal says that none have made trade proposals. Cleveland and Texas both appear unlikely partners, while Seattle could have an outside chance of adding him. Though moving Kemp poses many difficult questions for the Dodgers, Rosenthal says that the veteran is “at odds” with manager Don Mattingly.
- Taking a look at a Padres club that has already dealt away several veterans, Rosenthal writes that the team should also move outfielder Chris Denorfia. But key pitchers Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are under control for 2015, and Rosenthal opines that the team’s new GM ought to make the call on them.
- A new GM is, of course, at or near the Padres‘ priority list, and the club is indeed nearing a conclusion of its search. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the club will finish up its second round of interviews on Thursday and hopes to have a new GM installed within two to three weeks.
- The Diamondbacks have exhibited a startling tendency, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: former pitchers have succeeded elsewhere while newly-acquired arms have struggled. Piecoro lists Brandon McCarthy, Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, and Trevor Bauer as examples of the former phenomenon, with Trevor Cahill, Randall Delgado, and Addison Reed representing the latter. For his part, GM Kevin Towers says it is not a result of anything the organization is doing differently: “It’s not anything that we’re doing in the minor leagues or development or up here that prevents guys from having success,” he said. “Especially young guys, they usually get better with time and experience in the big leagues. The reason why guys get better [elsewhere] isn’t because we don’t have good instructors here. I believe in our staff and in our farm system and the people we have down there.”
The Astros have a perception problem, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. The Astros missed out on top overall pick Brady Aiken and another top pick, Jacob Nix, because of a disagreement about Aiken’s health. During part of the time they might have been negotiating with Aiken, Drellich points out, GM Jeff Luhnow was on vacation with his family in Mexico. That might not have had any bearing on their ability to sign Aiken, Drellich notes, but it doesn’t look good, and the Astros generally don’t get the “benefit of the doubt” with such matters.
Drellich also takes a close look at each party’s motivations as the Astros and Aiken tried to negotiate. He points out that, if Aiken goes to junior college and reenters the draft next year, it will be hard for Aiken to top the $5MM the Astros offered, given that the Astros themselves will have the No. 2 overall pick as a result of losing him, along with their own standard first-round pick, which will also be one of the early ones. For a player to get $5MM is very difficult under the new bonus pool system, especially with the Astros taking two very early picks. Here’s more from the AL West.
- Astros scouting director Mike Elias is disappointed with the way the draft signing deadline went, Drellich writes. “I haven’t been very happy about anything to do with it, because of just the unfortunate situation that I think all parties found themselves in,” says Elias. “It’s something that I think we, and everyone involved with, will look forward to ultimately having behind us at some point.” Add the failures to sign Aiken, Nix and Mac Marshall to top 2013 pick Mark Appel‘s poor performance, and it’s a tough time all-around for Elias.
- The Athletics would like to trade reliever Jim Johnson before the trade deadline, John Hickey of IBABuzz.com writes. The A’s don’t want to just cut him and swallow the rest of his salary, and they’re also having trouble drumming up interest in him. Johnson is a pitcher without a role — the A’s have been using him in low-leverage situations given his struggles this season, but even that is a problem, since he isn’t a multi-inning pitcher.