Houston Astros Rumors

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

Astros Designate Roberto Hernandez

The Astros designated righty Roberto Hernandez for assignment to open a roster spot for Jed Lowrie, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.  Lowrie will start tomorrow for the Astros at third base, after recovering from May thumb surgery.

The Astros signed Hernandez to a minor league deal in February, and he made the team out of spring training.  His contract was worth $2.65MM.  Hernandez, 35 in August, posted a 4.36 ERA, 4.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.96 HR/9, and 51.9% groundball rate in 84 2/3 innings, including 11 starts.


Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros Show Initial Interest In David Price

David Price has generated significant early interest since the Tigers declared themselves open to offers earlier today. Several teams have already emerged as early leaders to get the ace lefty.

Per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter), the Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays, and Yankees are all in contact with Detroit and make up the “four main teams” in the mix. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, who was first to note that the Blue Jays had made contact on Price, adds the Astros as a team that is in discussions (Twitter link).

Especially with Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels now off the market, Price is undoubtedly the best pitching trade piece remaining. He was dealt at the last minute in 2014 for an interesting package in a three-team deal, and now seems destined again to be one of the most-watched names in the final two days leading up to the deadline.


Astros, Padres “Gaining Steam” In Trade Talks; Houston Focused On Ross

7:30pm: The Astros are more interested in Ross than they are in Cashner, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

6:01pm: The Astros and Padres appear to be making some headway when it comes to a trade involving some of San Diego’s pitching, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. One source told Drellich that things are “gaining steam,” though multiple people close to the situation told him that there’s nothing “in the red zone” just yet.

Drellich lists Craig Kimbrel, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner as possible fits for the Astros, and it should also be noted that the Padres have reportedly been pushing to unload the remaining three and a half years on James Shields‘ backloaded four-year, $75MM contract. ESPN’s Jayson Stark recently reported that rival teams expect the Padres to pull off some form of “huge” trade, though there’s nothing yet to indicate the magnitude of a potential swap between Houston and San Diego.

Houston is still interested in Cole Hamels, Drellich hears, but they don’t expect to acquire him. The Rangers are regarded as the favorite, Drellich writes, and all of these moving pieces could align to give us an indication as to what’s to come in the next two days. Not even an hour ago, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that talks between the Padres and Rangers regarding Cashner and Ross had cooled off. As Stark tweets, that may serve as another sign that Texas is the favorite for Hamels. It would make sense, then, to hear that the Rangers’ talks for Cashner and Ross have slowed just as the Astros’ talks with the Padres — perhaps for one of those two pitchers — are beginning to gain traction.



Pitching Notes: Leake, Astros, Pirates, Angels, Johnson, Royals

The sudden availability of David Price will shake up the starting pitching market, of course, but there are plenty of less significant, but still notable developments to cover. Let’s take a look in at a few notes on the pitching market.

  • Reds starter Mike Leake is among the many pitchers still being considered by the Blue Jays, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Per Rosenthal, the club is looking at a variety of arms at a similar level of ability, with the hope of getting the best value out of a deal.
  • The Astros are “monitoring” the market for bullpen pieces, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. They have given at least some thought to quality arms like Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, and Francisco Rodriguez. Houston is also still involved on Cole Hamels, though it still doesn’t seem that they are terribly likely to get him, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • The Pirates, meanwhile, seem to be looking more at middle relief options, per MLB.com’s Tom Singer. And the Angels are also looking to add another arm to their pen, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter. Los Angeles is looking for something on the order of last year’s addition of Jason Grilli says Gonzalez. Presumably, the same holds for Pittsburgh, which sent Grilli out west last summer in exchange for Ernesto Frieri.
  • With many teams (including those just noted) looking to add arms, the Braves are “getting lots of play” on righty Jim Johnson, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets. Johnson isn’t too expensive, has been solid this year, and has obviously spent a lot of time in high-leverage situations, so it stands to reason that he’ll be moved to a contender looking to build out their stable of relief arms.
  • The Royals asked the Tigers about Price before acquiring Johnny Cueto, but moved on to the righty when they learned that Price was not yet being marketed, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets.
  • Wondering who the teams listed above could target? MLBTR recently listed the starters and relievers most likely to be available at this year’s trade deadline.

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.