Houston Astros Rumors

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

Korean Lefty Hyeon-jong Yang To Be Posted Monday

NOV. 13: Yang will be posted next Monday, the 17th, reports Feinsand in an updated piece. Feinsand notes that the Yankees might show interest in the lefty, and he lists the Cubs, Astros, Giants and Red Sox as other clubs with potential interest.

NOV. 4: Another high profile Korean pitcher and his KBO team have decided to take a run through the posting system. As Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports, lefty Hyeon-jong Yang will be posted by the Kia Tigers in the next few weeks.

Yang joins countryman (and fellow 26-year-old southpaw) Kwang-Hyun Kim in preparing for the posting process. Kim outperformed Yang last year, registering a 3.42 ERA to the 4.25 mark notched by Yang in a notoriously hitter-friendly environment.

Feinsand’s sources tell him that Yang has a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and useful slider (as well as a curve and change) that could hold appeal. According to the Yonhap News Agency, which recently reported that Yang was interested in coming to North America, Yang’s 2014 season was fairly characteristic of his results. Over his career, per Yonhap, he has struck out 740 over 860 1/3 frames.

AL West Notes: Street, A’s, Corporan, Astros

Huston Street no longer has an agent and will represent himself for any extension negotiations that take place with the Angels, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. Street was previously a client of Hendricks Sports Management. GM Jerry Dipoto tells Gonzalez that he does have interest in a new contract with Street but told the closer at the time his option was exercised that no talks would come until Spring Training.

Elsewhere in the AL West…

  • MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes that A’s sources downplayed the team’s connection to Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera. However, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that he again heard Oakland mentioned as possibility for both clubs. Heyman wonders it the A’s would try to sign both, with Drew slated for shortstop duty and Cabrera handling second base.
  • Jason Castro‘s name has drawn some attention as a trade target since the Astros acquired Hank Conger, but while Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle feels the ‘Stros would listen on Castros, he’s told that Carlos Corporan is the catcher they’d prefer to move (Twitter link).
  • In a second piece from Drellich, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow explained that he wants to give Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez a chance to make next year’s team, but both players will have to earn their spots, as both have minor league options remaining. Adding an insurance policy that is capable of handling both infield corners would be “advantageous,” Luhnow said. Drellich notes that at shortstop, the team will also look for an upgrade, but perhaps only a stopgap with Carlos Correa rising through the system. In general, said the Astros will target infielders on one- or two-year deals, as Correa, Colin Moran and Rio Ruiz can’t be counted on to impact the big league club in 2015. In last month’s Offseason Outlook for the Astros, I speculated that they’d be a fit for Drew for that very reason.

Central Notes: White Sox, Royals, V-Mart

Rebuilding is no longer a word the White Sox want to be associated with, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “We sit here on the one hand realizing that we have the prime of Chris Sale‘s career ahead of us, the prime of Jose Abreu‘s career ahead of us and wanting to make sure we’re in a position to capitalize and win within that window,” Hahn said. “We want to win, we want to win again quickly and we want to win again repeatedly in the coming years. … We still have work to do to continue that process.” At the same time, Hahn emphasized today that the team has to avoid the “dangerous allure to wanting to make a splash,” as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports in the course of an interesting look at the team’s options.

Here’s the latest from the AL Central after a busy news day:

  • The White Sox are currently focused on acquiring a right-handed starter, bullpen additions, and a left-handed hitter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. While the club has in the past looked into dealing for backstops such as Jason Castro of the Astros and Yasmani Grandal of the Padres, that does not appear to be the priority at present, per Rosenthal. Nevertheless, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com indicates on Twitter that the team does have present interest in Castro.
  • Hahn said today that Chicago is interested in multiple relief acquisitions, as MLB.com’s Phil Rogers reports“We don’t feel the need to go out and get a so-called proven closer,” said Hahn. “We certainly want to have multiple upgrades, and if some of those upgrades give us viable back-end options, that’s great.”
  • Word is that the Royals will meet with the representatives of lefty Brett Anderson this week, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. GM Dayton Moore declined to confirm or deny that or any other meetings. I picked Anderson to go to Kansas City in the MLBTR free agent prediction contest, and think he makes sense for a club that has some added cash to spend on an upside play.
  • The Royals have told Raul Ibanez that they would be interested in employing him in a non-playing capacity, tweets McCullough. Ibanez, of course, is in the hunt for the Rays’ open managerial position, and perhaps it is still to early to rule out a return to an active roster as well.
  • Victor Martinez is at the top of the Tigers‘ list of priorities, writes Paul Hagen of MLB.com, as GM Dave Dombrowski made clear that the team will make every effort to re-sign the DH. The team is still interested in outgoing free agents Max Scherzer and Joba Chamberlain, per Dombrowski, but he said the club is sitting back while both assess their markets.


AL West Notes: Kendrick, Astros, Engel Beltre

The Angels remain open to trading second baseman Howie Kendrick, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Kendrick, 31, is eligible for free agency after the season.  More from the AL West…

  • The Astros’ 2015 payroll still projects to be in the $70MM range, explains Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.  The team has about $17.7MM committed for 2015 for four players, plus around $21MM for their seven essential arbitration eligible players, a few of whom could be traded.  It’s easy to see that this team has some money to spend.
  • Drellich says “there’s little expectation the Astros would add a player who received a qualifying offer,” but admits that the team will be more open to giving up a draft pick this winter.  “We have two protected picks.  So a qualifying offer is not necessarily an impediment to how we would behave compared to a team that had a pick that was their only pick, and that was No. 13 or 15 or something like that. So we have that advantage,” said GM Jeff Luhnow.  The Astros would give up the competitive balance round pick they acquired from the Marlins in the summer if they sign one of the 11 qualified free agents.  The Astros were linked to Hanley Ramirez earlier today.
  • Outfielder Engel Beltre has elected free agency after refusing an outright assignment to Triple-A from the Rangers, writes Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com.  GM Jon Daniels said, “He’s exploring other options.  We are as well. We haven’t closed the door. We haven’t made him an offer at this point.”  Beltre, who missed the entire 2014 season with a fractured tibia, was a key piece of the Rangers’ return from the Red Sox for Eric Gagne at the 2007 trade deadline.

Astros Checked In On Hanley Ramirez

The Astros have checked in on top free agent hitter Hanley Ramirez, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX SportsRosenthal notes that with Carlos Correa, Colin Moran, and Rio Ruiz in the Astros’ pipeline for the left side of their infield, it’s unclear whether the Astros would be willing to meet Ramirez’s demands for a large contract.

In Zach Links’ profile of Ramirez for MLBTR four days ago, he projected a six-year, $132MM deal.  In recent predictions, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and an anonymous GM predicted five-year deals for Ramirez worth $105MM and $90MM, respectively, while an agent went with six years and $122MM.  ESPN’s Jim Bowden takes the low end at just four years and $76MM.  Clearly, there’s a wide range on Ramirez’s next contract.

Ramirez could make sense for the Astros, who project to have less than $40MM committed for 2015 even after paying their arbitration eligible players.  Correa, Moran, and Ruiz have a 2016 estimated time of arrival, but not all prospects pan out on a schedule, and Ramirez recently expressed a willingness to play “wherever there’s a need,” according to Heyman.  The Astros’ first-round draft pick is protected, so they would have to forfeit the competitive balance round pick they acquired from the Marlins in the summer trade that netted them Moran if they were to sign Ramirez.

AL West Notes: Hammel, Veras, A’s, Daniels

The Astros are one of roughly 12 teams who have checked in with free agent righty Jason Hammel, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reports.  While Hammel makes sense for a lot of teams as a less-expensive option behind some of the pricier names on the pitching market, he seems like a particularly solid fit for an Astros team that is looking to upgrade its rotation without expending a lot of payroll.  MLBTR’s Jeff Todd, in his Free Agent Profile of Hammel, predicted the right-hander would receive a three-year, $30MM deal this winter — exactly what Houston spent to sign Scott Feldman last offseason.

Here’s some more from around the AL West…

  • Also from Drellich, Jose Veras‘ Barry Praver says his client is interested in returning to the Astros next season.
  • The Athletics have called about free agent shortstops Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Shortstop is an area of need for Oakland this winter with incumbent Jed Lowrie also a free agent.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reports (including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that the team could consider trading from its shortstop depth.  “Its an area of strength for us. We’ve talked about the possibility for a while. We just have to decide if now is the time to make a move there,” Daniels said.  Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar are the two biggest names yet a deal involving either player wouldn’t be likely until Spring Training, when Profar can show that he’s healthy after shoulder injuries sidelined him for all of the 2014 season.  Earlier today, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Yankees were “intrigued” by Andrus.  Prospects Luis Sardinas and Hanser Alberto could also be trade chips, either in small deals or as parts of larger trade packages.
  • Two sources tell Evan Grant that Colby Lewis will likely re-sign with the Rangers.  Daniels said that if he “had to guess, I think it gets done,” though noted that Lewis has “never been healthy and a true free agent before.  This is the first real chance he’s had to find out his true value.”
  • Kevin Jepsen could be a trade candidate if the Angels wanted to deal from their right-handed relief surplus, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez opines.  Jepsen has two more years of control left as a Super Two player, and his rising price tag could make him expendable for the Halos, Gonzalez speculates.

Front Office Notes: Geivett, Conner, Schugel

Here’s the latest front office moves around baseball.

  • The Astros are preparing to hire former Rockies Sr. VP of Baseball Operations Bill Geivett as a cross-checker, reports Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com. Geivett was a finalist for the Astros GM job back when the club hired Jeff Luhnow in 2011. Geivett was recently fired from his post in Colorado after a 14 year tenure with the club.
  • The Reds have hired long-time scout Jeff Schugel as a special assistant to GM Walt Jocketty, Ringolsby notes in a separate article. Schugel and Jocketty worked together in 1994 with the Rockies. Schugel most recently served as a scout for the Braves.
  • The Padres are set to promote Mark Connor to be their director of amateur scouting, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The position opened when former director Billy Gasparino followed Josh Byrnes to the Dodgers. That news was reported two days ago by Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Cafardo’s Latest: Cespedes, Sale, Samardzija, Castro

Here are the highlights of the latest rumors column from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:

  • The Red Sox don’t “hateYoenis Cespedes, despite a previous report that indicated otherwise. But Cafardo suggests Cespedes didn’t do enough work on his defense after arriving in Boston, and his offense wasn’t enough to compensate for it. Cespedes has only one year left on his contract, but it’s not clear whether, or when, the Red Sox will deal him.
  • Cafardo says he got “a minute of straight laughter” when he asked if the White Sox might trade Chris Sale.
  • The Red Sox and Athletics could discuss a Jeff Samardzija trade. Cafardo speculates Red Sox shortstop prospect Deven Marrero could be a potential piece, given that the A’s appear to be about to lose Jed Lowrie (to free agency) and already lost Addison Russell (when they traded for Samardzija in the first place).
  • Now that they’ve acquired Hank Conger, the Astros could listen to offers for fellow catcher Jason Castro. Castro hit just .222/.286/.386 in a disappointing offensive season in 2014. He has two years remaining before free agency.

Astros Acquire Hank Conger

The Astros announced that they have acquired catcher Hank Conger from the Angels in exchange for fellow catcher Carlos Perez and right-hander Nick Tropeano.

Hank Conger

Conger, 26, split time with Chris Iannetta in Anaheim this past season but wasn’t a traditional backup catcher, as he received about 40 percent of the club’s plate appearances at the position. A former first-round pick, Conger batted .221/.293/.325 with four homers and is a lifetime .224/.294/.353 hitter in 768 plate appearances. Conger frequented top prospect lists prior to reaching the Majors, twice making Baseball America’s Top 100 (No. 79 and No. 84) and four times appearing on the Top 100 list of Baseball Prospectus (ranging between Nos. 81-89).

Though Conger’s bat hasn’t picked up at the Major League level to match his excellent Triple-A track record (.298/.371/.470), the Astros have plenty to like about his work behind the plate. He caught a slightly below-average 24 percent of base-stealers in 2014, but shined in terms of pitch-framing according to both Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner.com. Both metrics rated him as one of the four best framing catchers in baseball. The arbitration-eligible Conger is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $1.1MM this season and can be controlled via the arbitration process through 2017.

As for the Angels, they’ll get the type of cost-controlled rotation option they spent much of last offseason searching for during the infancy of the 2014-15 offseason. Tropeano, 24, made his big league debut with the Astros in 2014 and posted a 4.57 ERA with a 13-to-9 K/BB ratio and a 40.3 percent ground-ball rate in four starts (21 2/3 innings).

Baseball America ranked Tropeano as the No. 18 prospect in Houston’s system heading into the 2014 campaign and has praised his outstanding changeup multiple times in the past, grading it the best change in the Astros’ system in 2011-12 as well as the best change in the South Atlantic League in 2012. BA wrote in their scouting report that Tropeano sat 90-92 mph with a plus changeup and fringy slider that needed more work, but they also noted that he projected as a back-of-the-rotation starter or possibly more, depending on that breaking pitch’s development. MLB.com ranked Tropeano 13th among Houston farmhands following the season, also noting that he needed to further refine his slider.

As for Perez, he will give the Angels a near-MLB-ready replacement to back up Iannetta. The 24-year-old Venezuelan spent the past season at the Triple-A level where he batted .259/.323/.385 with six homers. He caught 32 percent of base-stealers last season in the minors and has caught runners at a strong 33 percent clip throughout his minor league career. BA ranked him 28th among Houston prospects prior to 2013, praising his defensive skills by calling him “fluid behind the plate” while noting that he handled velocity well and had quick pop times and a strong arm.

For the Angels, this trade allows them to add MLB-ready rotation depth without sacrificing either of Howie Kendrick or David Freese, both of whom have been rumored to be on the trading block. That the Halos have added a potential rotation piece without spending is significant; GM Jerry Dipoto and owner Arte Moreno have both stated a repeated desire to remain under baseball’s $189MM luxury tax threshold, and the team already has $140MM of guarantees committed toward that gap, to say nothing of arbitration eligible players and league-minimum players to round out the roster.

As for the Astros, their focus on improving the pitching staff will be aided by Conger’s excellent framing abilities. Incumbent catcher Jason Castro is also strong in that department, though it wouldn’t be a shock him and his projected $3.9MM salary shopped in an offseason featuring a free agent market that is painfully thin on catchers. While that’s just my speculation, the Astros could likely get by with a tandem of Conger and Max Stassi behind the plate while addressing other needs by dealing Castro.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Links: Rockies, Astros, Bogar, Young, Montgomery

The Dodgers made more headlines yesterday when it was reported that A’s assistant GM Farhan Zaidi would become their new GM to work under president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman, and that former Padres GM Josh Byrnes would join the front office as well. That may be the biggest front office news that’s come out recently, but it’s not the only news. Here’s are some more notes on front offices and coaching staffs, all of which happen to pertain to baseball’s Western divisions…

  • The Rockies announced yesterday their entire 2014 coaching staff as well as some front office promotions (Twitter links). Former Rox reliever Darren Holmes will assume the role of bullpen coach, while Steve Foster was named pitching coach. Foster has worked as a minor league pitching coach and bullpen coach with the Marlins and also worked with the Royals bullpen from 2009-11.
  • In the Rockies‘ front office, five executives were promoted. Rolando Fernandez is now the VP of international scouting and development, Zachary Rosenthal and Jonathan Weil were promoted to assistant GM, Zachary Wilson will assume the role of senior director of player development, and Danny Montgomery was named a special assistant to new GM Jeff Bridich.
  • The Astros hired Alan Zinter as their new assistant hitting coach, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted yesterday. The 46-year-old Zinter had a 19-year minor league career and also saw time in Japan back in ’99. He was twice called up for a taste of big league action, first in 2002 with Houston and again in 2004 with the D’Backs.
  • After missing out on the chance to become the Rangers‘ permanent manager, Tim Bogar has taken a role with the division-rival Angels as  a special assistant, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Bogar took over as the interim manager in Texas following Ron Washington’s abrupt resignation, but the Rangers ultimately hired former Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister as their new skipper.
  • The Rangers today officially announced the hiring of Michael Young as a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels. The move was first reported back in October though not made official until today. Young will assist GM Jon Daniels in player evaluation and development at the Major League and Minor League level in addition to going on scouting trips and special assignments.
  • The Brewers officially announced on Monday that they had hired Ray Montgomery away from the D’Backs as their new vice president of amateur scouting and a special assistant to GM Doug Melvin, and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic looks at what the loss means for the Diamondbacks. Montgomery interviewed for the team’s GM job before Dave Stewart was hired, and he was said to be in line for a promotion. Stewart tells Piecoro that the team was working to expand Montgomery’s responsibilities but hadn’t figured out exactly how his role would grow prior to his departure. Stewart and VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson will meet this week to discuss replacement candidates, and Piecoro lists a few internal candidates.