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Houston Astros Rumors
Late last night, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle followed up on his report that the Astros‘ exact draft pool is unknown because two players after the 10th round received bonuses north of $100K. Per Drellich, 14th-round pick Nick Tanielu and 15th-round pick Connor Goedert each received bonuses of $200K — $100K above slot for each of them. As such, Drellich writes in a separate piece that the team’s final $616,165 offer to fifth-rounder Jacob Nix was virtually every dollar they had available to offer without losing future draft picks.
Here’s more from the game’s Western divisions…
- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that both right-hander Taijuan Walker and left-hander Tyler Olson have made the team’s Opening Day roster (Twitter link). Walker’s inclusion on the 25-man roster is significant, as with 142 days of service time under his belt, he’ll almost certainly be a Super Two player two offseasons from now. The 25-year-old Olson, on the other hand, was in camp as a non-roster invite and will need to be added to the 40-man roster.
- Freddy Garcia‘s Minor League contract with the Dodgers does contain an opt-out clause, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, although the exact date of that opt-out remains unknown. Also pertaining to Garcia, Han Lee of Global Sports Integration has passed along Garcia’s Taiwanese stats to MLBTR. The veteran righty pitched to an 11-9 record with a 3.19 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.1 BB/9 and a 1.19 WHIP in 161 innings of work while pitching overseas in 2014.
- Though the D-Backs have named their starting rotation, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes that Archie Bradley has been so impressive that the Snakes may have to re-think at the last minute. Bradley fired six shutout innings Wednesday, including 5 2/3 no-hit innings, and after the game, manager Chip Hale told reporters: “We’ve named our five, but he’s pushed the envelope all the way down to the last possible chance he had. He’s looked great. We’ll have to sit down and evaluate everything.” Bradley could also begin his first full season in the Majors in a bullpen role, serving as a long man to get acclimated with the big leagues, Hale indicated.
The Astros announced that they’ve traded infielder Gregorio Petit to the Yankees in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
The 30-year-old Petit returned to the Majors for the first time since 2009 last year, batting .278/.300/.423 with a pair of homers in 100 trips to the plate. Petit has never much in the Majors outside of that sample, or in Triple-A for that matter, though he does bring some defensive versatility to the table, as he is capable of handling second base, shortstop or third base. The addition of Petit could be tied to the fact that the Yankees learned earlier today that Brendan Ryan will likely open the season on the disabled list after suffering a calf strain.
San Diego’s bullpen currently projects to be anchored by closer Joaquin Benoit, who is earning $8MM in the second season of a two-year, $15.5MM pact. His contract comes with an $8MM club option ($1.5MM buyout). Beyond Benoit, Kevin Quackenbush, Brandon Maurer, Shawn Kelley, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer, Frank Garces and Odrisamer Despaigne are all candidates for the bullpen, making for eight total relievers.
Of that group, Quackenbush, Vincent, Maurer and Garces are all relatively young and have several years of team control remaining, making them perhaps unlikelier to be dealt than their counterparts. (Then again, the same could have been said of Torres.) Despaigne seems likely to be the long man, though it wouldn’t be inconceivable for the Padres to find an alternative long relief option should he draw significant interest. Kelley was just acquired this offseason, so it seems unlikely that he’d be flipped again so close to the regular season. Thayer, earning $1.38MM after avoiding arbitration for the first time this winter at 34 years of age, might be the most logical trade candidate, but he was excellent in 2014 and has been a generally useful relief arm for the Friars over the past three seasons.
It’s unclear exactly how serious any talks regarding their relievers are, but the Friars do have options in the event that they part with one of their relievers. Robbie Erlin would seem capable of stepping into the bullpen, though he’s been optioned to Triple-A already this spring. Right-hander Jandel Gustave, a Rule 5 pick by the Royals (out of the Astros organization), was claimed by the Padres last week, and Lin tweeted earlier in the night that the team may be able to work out a trade with the Astros to keep him (he did characterize that scenario as “unlikely”). The Padres could also simply choose to hang onto the hard-throwing righty and use him in low-leverage situations, though it’s difficult for a team that plans to contend to justify using a roster spot in such a manner.
Of course, San Diego could potentially receive a different relief option back in a trade of one of their current ‘pen members. Flipping someone like Thayer or Vincent for a second lefty behind Garces could make some sense, as he’s currently slotted to be the only left-handed option for manager Bud Black following the Torres trade. (Non-roster invitee Chris Rearick could factor into the equation as well.)
The Blue Jays and Tigers are two teams that are oft-cited as searching for bullpen help, though recent reports have indicated that the Twins, too, are on the hunt for relief upgrades. The Marlins were known to be looking at relief options late in the offseason, and the Dodgers have incurred multiple bullpen setbacks as well this spring. Suffice it to say, if the Padres are willing to deal from what should be a sound bullpen, they’ll likely have no shortage of interested parties with which to exchange ideas.
In a revealing piece for Sports Illustrated, Stephanie Apstein spoke with 2014 fifth-round pick Jacob Nix, who was selected by the Astros and agreed to a $1.5MM bonus before having the offer pulled following complications with top pick Brady Aiken‘s physical. As most readers remember, the team reached a verbal agreement with Nix before finalizing Aiken’s deal, and once Aiken’s physical revealed troubles with his UCL, his offer had to be reduced. When Aiken didn’t agree to terms, the money for his slot was lost, and the team could no longer fit Nix’s bonus into its draft pool without incurring maximum future penalties. (Aiken, of course, recently underwent Tommy John surgery.) Nix discussed the waiting at length with Apstein, stating, “I’ve never been that kind of guy. I’ve always been out doing something.” Nix waited two weeks after departing Houston before the team contacted him, and he then waited another week to hear if his signing would come together. He was offered a revised $616K offer about an hour before the deadline, Apstein reports, but Nix passed and has since enrolled at IMG Academy in hopes of boosting his stock. It seems to have worked, as ESPN’s Keith Law noted in February that Nix is already showing first-round potential after adding 25 pounds of muscle and flashing average or better changeups and curveballs at times, complementing his solid velocity. Nix is looking forward to his pro career, though he won’t consent to being re-drafted by the Astros. “I hear nothing but good things about 29 teams,” Nix told Apstein. “I just want to get in and start my career.”
More on Nix, the Astros and the AL West…
- Team officials have indicated to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that the Astros‘ currently reported 2015 draft pool and the amount they spent in 2014 aren’t accurate (Twitter links). It seems, Drellich continues, that someone after the 10th round got more than the allotted $100K in last year’s draft. All rounds following the 10th have a $100K slot, and additional spending over that mark counts against a team’s bonus pool. Drellich notes that this makes it impossible to know what the maximum amount Houston could have offered either Aiken or Nix truly was.
- As much or more than any other team, the Mariners receive a huge portion of their value and income from their television arrangements, as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times explains. A close bottom-line focus over recent years did not deliver a winner, but did leave the team in position to ramp up its spending. Now, certainly, Seattle enters the 2015 season with postseason expectations.
- The Mariners could use a modified six-man rotation, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. By slotting in Roenis Elias liberally throughout the year, the club might hope to limit the wear and tear on its five top starters over the course of the regular season.
- That sort of flexibility figures to play an even more prominent role for the Rangers this year, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News explains. Texas may not quite reach the level of impermanence it did last year, when it used a league-record 64 players at the big league level, but the club figures to rely heavily on option years to shuttle players back and forth between the bigs and the upper minors.
Even after watching the Braves ship out key players such as Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis wasn’t expecting to be the next one to go. In January, after weeks of rumors and speculation, Atlanta struck a deal with the upstart Astros to continue their massive overhaul. Gattis was caught off guard, but it didn’t take him long to come to terms with the move and get comfortable with his new club.
“I wasn’t really actually bummed about the trade, I was just more surprised than anything. I just didn’t think it would happen,” Gattis told MLBTR prior to Wednesday’s game against the Phillies. “Other than that, its been a good camp and there’s a really good group of guys here. I’m just excited and looking forward to the season.”
Gattis understood that major change was coming to the Braves, but he figured that he would be immune to it all since he’s still pre-arbitration eligible for one more season and playing near the league minimum. Eventually, when it became clear that the Braves were listening on offers for him, he still didn’t panic or personally reach out to anyone in the Atlanta front office. “I’m always the type to focus on my own business and I just worry about what I need to do to play,” Gattis explained.
With the Braves eyeing 2017 as their year to get back to contention, Gattis sounds legitimately enthused to be with a team that has advanced their own timeline considerably. In fact, he says he’s okay with being flexible with regards to his exact role this season and isn’t fretting the split he might have between left field, the DH spot, or occasional time behind the plate. Gattis hasn’t gotten a ton of balls hit his way in left during spring training, but he’s confident that he’ll get comfortable there in time, just as he did with his new club.
With teams making decisions on the final piece of their Opening Day rosters, especially regarding Article XX(B) players, we’ll keep tabs on the day’s moves to add non-roster invitees to the 40-man.
Right-handed relievers, somewhat unsurprisingly, dominate today’s news in this arena:
- Lefty specialist Joe Thatcher has been added to the Astros‘ 40-man roster, Rosenthal reports on Twitter. The Article XX(B) veteran will receive a $1MM salary and can add an additional $1.3MM through incentives. If he can return to form, Thatcher could be quite a nice addition to a Houston pen that was an area targeted heavily for upgrades this offseason.
- Fellow non-roster invitee Roberto Hernandez will also make the club, the Astros have announced. As MLBTR originally reported, Hernandez will earn $2.65MM on the year. The 34-year-old joined the fold in Houston late in the spring, but provides a sturdy and versatile presence as the club seeks to take the next step this year.
- The Twins have announced that righty Blaine Boyer is now a member of the team’s major league roster. Boyer’s deal will pay him $750K at the big league level and includes up to $100K in incentives tied to appearances, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently spoke with Boyer about his interesting professional journey.
- Likewise, right-handed Carlos Villanueva has been added to the Cardinals‘ 40-man roster, the club announced. That means that the veteran swingman will be entitled to a $2MM salary this year with St. Louis. Villanueva, 31, has racked up 863 2/3 MLB innings in 76 starts and over 300 relief appearances. Though he had only a 4.64 ERA last year with the Cubs, Villanueva’s peripherals earned him strong marks from ERA estimators.
- The Indians have informed righty Anthony Swarzak that he will make the pen, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune tweets. Though it does not appear he has been officially added to the 40-man, that will need to occur. The 29-year-old has a 4.48 career ERA in 439 2/3 frames at the major league level, most of them coming from the pen. Swarzak will take home a $900K salary and can earn up to $350K in incentives.
- Similarly, the Cubs have told southpaw Phil Coke that he will be on the club, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Coke had exercised his opt-out clause on Friday when he was not added to the 40-man at that time, says Rosenthal. Now, it appears he will receive the $2.25MM (and up to $900K in bonuses) that his deal allows; indeed, the team has now announced that his contract was selected.
Infielder Marcus Semien isn’t surprised the White Sox traded him last winter, and the Bay Area native is happy to be with the Athletics, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. “We knew we had a lot of capable guys who could play at the big league level and that the White Sox needed some right-handed arms,” says Semien, who headed west in the Jeff Samardzija trade. “Those two, that went together and it just happened to be me and now I’m just excited to play and have an opportunity to play with anyone, especially being able to come home to Oakland.” Here’s more from around the league.
- The Rangers are seriously considering keeping outfielder and Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. DeShields is fast (like his father was), but the Rangers are convinced he can do more than just run. “The speed is obvious,” says GM Jon Daniels. “But to me there is more to it. I think his arm has played ‘up.’ I think there is strength in his swing, it’s short and through the ball.” With Nate Schierholtz out of the picture, the Rangers now have DeShields, Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski and Carlos Peguero competing for three open outfield jobs.
- Roberto Hernandez hasn’t outperformed Asher Wojciechowski in the competition to be the Astros‘ fifth starter, but Hernandez should get the job anyway because that’s the easiest way to keep depth in the organization, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Wojciechowski can easily just be sent to Triple-A. Hernandez is an Article XX(B) free agent, so the Astros either have to add him to their roster, release him or pay him a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the minors. If the Astros were to send Hernandez to Triple-A, they would also have to give him a June 1 opt-out date. (On Twitter, Drellich also suggests that, as a courtesy, teams generally do not send Article XX(B) players to the minors.) The Astros have plenty of depth at some positions, but not in their rotation, so the easiest path for now would be to place Hernandez in their rotation and make sure that both he and Wojciechowski stay in the organization.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
- The Royals have released 2B/3B Ryan Roberts, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Roberts, 34, played sparingly for the Red Sox last season and has a career .243/.320/.388 line in parts of nine seasons, also playing for the Blue Jays, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Rays.
- The Royals have announced that they’ve traded righty Angel Baez to the Astros for cash considerations. Baez, 24, pitched 62 innings of relief for Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season, posting a 4.65 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9, improving somewhat upon the control problems with which he had struggled in the low minors.
- The Diamondbacks have released a number of players, including righty relievers Jeremy Accardo and Henry Rodriguez, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets. The 33-year-old Accardo spent 2014 in independent ball and last appeared in the Majors in 2012. He’s played parts of eight big-league seasons and appeared in the Blue Jays’ bullpen in every season from 2006 through 2010. The hard-throwing Rodriguez has appeared in the big leagues in all of the last six seasons (with the Athletics, Nationals, Cubs and Marlins), but has never really established himself, thanks in large part to control problems — he has 6.4 BB/9 for his career. Both pitchers signed minor-league deals with the D-Backs this offseason.
- Twins utilityman Tyler Grimes has retired, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. The 24-year-old Grimes played at Class A+ Fort Myers in 2014, hitting .232/.313/.355 in 307 plate appearances while, remarkably, playing catcher, second, third and all three outfield positions. He had been a non-roster invite to Twins big-league camp.
- The Tigers have released righty Luke Putkonen, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. Putkonen, 28, pitched 29 2/3 innings out of the Tigers’ bullpen in 2013 and handled himself well, posting a 3.03 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He missed most of the 2014 season due to elbow issues, however. The Tigers designated Putkonen for assignment and outrighted him in January.
Here are some notes out of the game’s western divisions:
- Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. appears to have a place on the Rangers roster, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Taken from the Astros this winter, DeShields could be a force on the basepaths and would otherwise represent a backup center field and second base option.
- The Astros-Brady Aiken fallout remains too clouded in uncertainty for final judgment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. While Aiken’s Tommy John procedure has led some to claim that Houston was justified in seeking to drop the price tag on the first overall pick last year, Drellich explains that it is more complicated than just looking at that result. There’s a lot of ground covered in the article, and it is worth a full read for those interested in understanding this complicated situation.
- New Diamondbacks righty Yoan Lopez has shown steady improvement in spite of an unsightly ERA in his first professional action, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Rival scouts have raised some questions about his upside, but D’backs pitching coach Mike Harkey says that he fully expects the 22-year-old to become “a really good pitcher.” Lopez has not brought quite the level of velocity that led the team to sign him, but manager Chip Hale explains that velo isn’t everything: “I think the fastball hasn’t been quite the velocity that we thought, but 92 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you can make it move and control it, spot it,” said Hale. “The electricity has been in the breaking ball, especially, and the change-up. But I think we do expect a little tick up in the velocity eventually.”
The Reds announced that they’ve acquired veteran first baseman Dan Johnson from the Astros in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The 35-year-old had been with Houston on a minor league contract.
Johnson hasn’t seen much in the way of regular playing time since his tenure with the Athletics ended in 2008, but he’s appeared in the bigs in each season dating back to 2010. His 2014 work came north of the border, as he picked up 48 plate appearances for the Blue Jays and batted .211/.333/.342. The type of plate discipline and strike zone knowledge displayed by Johnson in that small sample is indicative of his career to date. Johnson has a 13.2 percent walk rate in 1604 Major League plate appearances and, perhaps not surprisingly, has walked six times in 25 plate appearances with Houston this spring. He’s also collected just three hits in 19 at-bats, however.
Johnson will report to minor league camp, the Reds have added, making his acquisition one for depth purposes. He reportedly has an opt-out date in his contract, but it does not come until after the season has started. Additionally, Johnson isn’t an Article XX(B) player, so the Reds wouldn’t need to offer him a $100K retention bonus to option him to Triple-A. Johnson had positive things to say about his brief time with the Astros, per the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich.