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The latest installment of Jon Heyman’s weekly Inside Baseball column is up over at CBS Sports, and Heyman begins by addressing the Troy Tulowitzki trade talk that has once again surfaced. Heyman, like many others, feels the time has arrived for the marriage between Tulo and the Rockies to come to an end, but neither Tulowitzki or owner Dick Monfort wants to appear to be the “bad guy” in the situation. Heyman hears that Tulowitzki would prefer to play for the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers or Angels if he is traded, though one person who knows the shortstop well told Heyman that he may ok with the Mets, Cardinals and Red Sox as well. Tulowitzki’s preferred destination is largely a moot point though, as his contract doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Heyman notes that in a year’s time, Tulowitzki will receive 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any deal. That reality only furthers Colorado’s need to move Tulowitzki, Heyman opines. Heyman also lists 11 clubs that he could see making some degree of sense for the face of the Rockies’ franchise.
Some more highlights from a lengthy but always-informative column…
- The Cubs “may consider” Rafael Soriano at some point as a means of lengthening their bullpen, according to Heyman. I’d note that while the team has looked a bit thin beyond Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, the Cubs just got Justin Grimm back from the disabled list and likely won’t be without Neil Ramirez for too much longer.
- Astros top prospect — and arguably the top prospect in all of MLB — Carlos Correa could be up to the Majors within three weeks, one Houston source estimated to Heyman. Also of note on the Astros front, he writes that a pursuit of Cole Hamels would appear to be a long shot, but Scott Kazmir (Houston native) and Clay Buchholz are names to keep an eye on for Houston, should either become available.
- Kyle Lohse seems like a natural candidate to be traded this offseason, but the Brewers are particularly interested in shedding Matt Garza‘s contract. The right-hander is guaranteed $12.5MM in 2015 and will earn the same rate in each of the following two seasons. Neither pitcher, however, has been particularly impressive for Milwaukee.
- Jean Segura is one of the players that the Brewers have the least interest in trading, but Heyman hears that the Padres would be interested, should Brewers GM Doug Melvin entertain offers. San Diego likes Alexi Amarista but prefers to use him in a utility role rather than as a starter.
- Rival teams seriously doubt that the Mets would ever consider parting ways with Noah Syndergaard, but there’s “a little hope” that the team could be persuaded to part with highly touted left-hander Steven Matz in a trade. Heyman adds that the Mets are going to remain patient with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop for the time being.
- It’s been reported that Yunel Escobar wanted no part of playing with Oakland, and Heyman hears that the reasoning was as simple as the fact that Escobar is very particular when it comes to geographical preferences and wanted to remain on the East coast. A trade to the Nationals accomplished that goal.
- The clause in Alex Guerrero‘s contract that allows him to opt out of his deal and elect free agency at season’s end, if he is traded, hinders his trade value. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but given the presence of Guerrero and the versatile Justin Turner, Juan Uribe could end up as a summer trade candidate for the Dodgers.
- In some agency news, Heyman reports that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will now be represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management — the agent for Gregorius’ predecessor, Derek Jeter. Gregorius had previously been repped by the Wasserman Media Group.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alexi Amarista | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Clay Buchholz | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Didi Gregorius | Hector Rondon | Houston Astros | Jean Segura | Juan Uribe | Kyle Lohse | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Garza | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Noah Syndergaard | Oakland Athletics | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Scott Kazmir | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Troy Tulowitzki | Wilmer Flores | Yunel Escobar
The Astros sent Jon Singleton to Triple-A to begin the season in the wake of his lackluster 2014 numbers and a poor Spring Training, yet the former star prospect is doing his best to earn a return ticket to the bigs. Singleton has 11 homers and an impressive .274/.386/.632 slash line over 140 plate appearances at Triple-A Fresno, highlighted by a two-homer, 10-RBI game last night. While stats in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League have to taken with a grain of salt, Singleton’s production is certainly a positive sign. Here’s some more from Houston…
- The time is now for the Astros to promote Carlos Correa, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal opines. While the Astros’ decision to give Correa more Triple-A seasoning is a reasonable one, Rosenthal argues that if Houston will just promote him in two weeks if he’s tearing up the PCL, the club should just get him to the bigs now. Correa would instantly upgrade the Astros at shortstop and help the team maintain its surprising first-place status.
- Righty Lance McCullers has also been promoted to Triple-A, and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart that McCullers could potentially be in the mix for a Major League call-up this season. “The reality is if he’s pitching the way he’s been pitching, we could probably benefit from having him here. There is a possibility he will be here,” Luhnow said. McCullers was a top-100 ranked prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America prior to the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but his stock dipped a bit following an unimpressive year at high-A ball last year. The 21-year-old rebounded to post an 0.62 ERA, 13.3 K/9 and 3.91 K/BB rate over 29 innings at the Double-A level this year.
- Colby Rasmus is enjoying his time in Houston, the outfielder tells Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. Rasmus is one of the more experienced players in the young Astros clubhouse, which seems to be a relief for him given how he wasn’t happy playing for the more veteran Blue Jays last season. Rasmus said he felt judged “in the sense of how much (service) time you had, and the pecking order, just feeling comfortable in the clubhouse. I’m not going to go into any details, but I feel more comfortable in this clubhouse and in this environment.”
Promotions are always interesting to keep an eye on this time of year, as teams look to balance future control and cost with developmental prerogatives and the needs of the MLB roster. One of the most-watched players, shortstop Carlos Correa of the Astros, will make his debut today at Triple-A after destroying the Double-A level at just twenty years of age. The next stop could be Houston, where the big league club playing well but dealing with a significant injury to Jed Lowrie. Meanwhile, the Twins have decided the time is ripe to give another shot at former top prospect Aaron Hicks, still just 25, who has struggled in his time in the majors but forced his way back with a .336/.415/.561 run through the highest level of the minors this year.
Here’s more from the American League:
- The Angels, who have fielded a somewhat surprisingly unproductive lineup thus far, look in need of a bat, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes. While GM Jerry Dipoto says that he expects at least some of the team’s group of established hitters to return to their usual contributions on offense, Fletcher says that the front office is ready and willing to pursue an acquisition over the summer. Given the team’s struggles against right-handed pitching, Fletcher opines that Brewers first baseman Adam Lind would make for a particularly sensible trade target. He ticks through a few other plausible options as the market begins to take shape.
- Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka is set to throw his first bullpen today since suffering a forearm strain, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweeted yesterday. At this point, it would seem to rate as a pleasant surprise if Tanaka is able to contribute more quality innings this year, though the club seems determined to give him every opportunity to return before pursuing more drastic options.
- Indeed, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, the Yankees rotation has plenty of issues but still rates as the most complete outfit in the division. GM Brian Cashman continues to say that he believes Tanaka can stave off a Tommy John procedure. And as Sherman rightly notes, Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova both appear on track to deliver useful arms in the relatively near future. If the club stays in position and has a need, of course, it should have no difficulty finding ways to add quality innings via trade over the summer.
- The Red Sox staff, meanwhile, has been a source of near-constant hand-wringing and speculation for months. There are reasons to believe in improvement from the peripherals, as MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince explains, though as he notes the biggest reason for hope may lie in the club’s evident ability (and demonstrated willingness) to swing deals to add additional arms.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington continues to emphasize the organization’s commitment to delivering better results from its internal pitching options, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. “We knew we needed good pitching coming into the year to win games, and we still know that,” says Cherington. “I believe we’ll pitch better, and I believe we have a lot of the solutions here already.” Cherington emphasized that he wants to see how things proceed with a new pitching coach (and new backstop duo) now in place. Regardless, as he notes, it would be hard to make a move now. “Not a lot of teams are in that (trade) mode,” said the Red Sox GM, “but there wouldn’t normally be this time of year anyway. We’re not really there yet. There’s not a lot of team-altering moves being discussed this early. Probably need a little bit of time on that.” In Lauber’s estimation, Cherington’s protestations notwithstanding, Boston must and will strike one or more trades and/or promote well-regarded lefty Eduardo Rodriguez for an infusion of talent.
- One possible trade target for the Red Sox (and, of course, other teams) is Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines. Indeed, Kazmir’s strong recent track record and meager remaining commitment, to say nothing of the free-wheeling nature of Oakland GM Billy Beane, frame him as a popular source of trade speculation over the next few months. If the team decides to market him, which seems more and more plausible with each passing day for the 12-22 A’s, it will be fascinating to see what the 31-year-old returns in a trade.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman touched on many topics in his latest “Inside Baseball” column, and since we’ve already focused on Heyman’s notes about the Brewers, let’s look at some of his other hot stove info from around the league…
- The Astros will be looking to add one or even two starting pitchers, though Cole Hamels is “too pricey” for them, according to one team source. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored the case for Houston going after the Phillies southpaw, and 42.44% of MLBTR readers polled thought that the Astros should indeed pursue Hamels.
- Rival executives aren’t bothered by Hamels’ sub-par performance this season since all of this trade speculation is assumed to be impacting his work. Executives “seem to be split on” whether the Phillies are making the right move in holding out for a blue chip prospect or two in exchange for Hamels, or if they should just be looking to get his big salary off the books for a lower return of young talent.
- A.J. Hinch’s deal with the Astros is a three-year contract with a club option for 2018. The exact dollar figure isn’t known but Heyman reports that the average annual value is less than $1MM, which could end up being a bargain given how Houston has thus far played under Hinch’s management.
- While Zack Greinke is expected to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, Heyman doubts he’ll leave the Dodgers since they certainly have the money to sign him to a new deal.
- One scout suggests that Javier Baez might need “a change of scenery” to get back on track. Baez struck out a whopping 95 times in 229 plate appearances with the Cubs last season, and only has a .755 OPS at the Triple-A level this year. Baez is only a year removed from being considered an elite-level prospect, so while it seems early to consider trading him, Chicago is already deep in young middle infield talent.
- The Rangers are willing to deal Shin-Soo Choo, rival executives believe. This is no surprise given Choo’s huge contract and underwhelming performance in Texas, though obviously those same issues will make dealing him a tall order. Heyman notes that the Yankees were interested in Choo when he was a free agent two winters ago, though even if Choo turns it around, I’m not sure I see New York taking on a big contract when they already have a pretty full outfield.
- The Cardinals “will rue the day they made that trade” of Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward and Jorden Walden, in the words of one scout. Heyman feels this is a bit of a stretch, even though Miller has been outstanding for the Braves and Heyward has struggled for the Cards (and Walden is on the DL).
- Veteran Andruw Jones isn’t yet planning to retire, though he won’t play in 2015. Jones has played in Japan for the last two seasons and expressed interest in a return to Major League Baseball this winter, drawing interest from at least two teams, including the Indians. According to Heyman, Jones turned down minor league contract offers from multiple teams.
In his newest column for CBS Sports, Jon Heyman examines how the Brewers are hopeful that new manager Craig Counsell can help turn the club around, yet GM Doug Melvin has also “already sent out feelers” to other teams if Milwaukee continues to struggle. Here are more Brew Crew-related notes from Heyman’s piece…
- Counsell received a strong vote of confidence from Melvin, which included an 18-point e-mail to owner Mark Attanasio arguing why Counsell was the ideal choice to replace Ron Roenicke. As Heyman notes, the club may have been better served to fire Roenicke after last year’s late-season fade rather than guaranteeing his 2016 option and letting him continue to manage.
- While Melvin is “planning to consider just about anything in terms of trades,” Jonathan Lucroy and Jean Segura (in that order) are the Brewers’ two most untouchable players. “I guess you have to be open to everything. But you’d have to be overwhelmed….[Catcher and shortstop] are positions that can take years to fill,” Melvin said.
- Carlos Gomez is likely the Brewers’ top trade chip, and would undoubtedly generate the most interest from other teams if he’s shopped. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently explored Gomez’s trade candidacy in the subscriber-only MLBTR Newsletter.
- The Dodgers, Astros and Cardinals all seem like fits for Kyle Lohse, rival GMs tell Heyman. Lohse formerly pitched for the Cardinals and also has ties to Houston, as GM Jeff Luhnow was in the St. Louis front office when Lohse pitched for the team. The surprising Astros have already been considering starting pitching upgrades, while the Dodgers (Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-jin Ryu) and Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia) are both looking to replace injured starters.
- Matt Garza is owed roughly $35MM through the 2017 season and has a $13MM club option for 2018 that can vest into a guaranteed year. With this in mind, “I’m not sure anyone would want him,” a rival executive said about Garza, who has a 4.58 ERA and unimpressive peripherals over six starts.
- Scooter Gennett received some interest from the Angels and others during the offseason and could be shopped again to clubs in need of second base help.
The Astros have designated infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for outfielder Preston Tucker, who has been promoted from Triple-A, according to a team announcement (Twitter link).
The 22-year-old Torreyes was originally signed by the Reds out of Venezuela back in 2009. The versatile 5’10”, 150-pound infielder was eventually traded to the Cubs alongside Travis Wood and Dave Sappelt in the trade that sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati. The Cubs eventually flipped Torreyes to the Astros in exchange for a pair of international bonus slots, and Houston added him to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this winter.
Torreyes, however, was hitting just .200/.211/.214 in 72 plate appearances at the Triple-A level this season — a far cry from the .298/.345/.376 slash that he posted at the same level in 2014. Baseball America ranked Torreyes 24th among Astros farmhands heading into the season, and MLB.com ranked him 28th. Scouting reports believe that he has the upside of being a big league utility player.
The Dodgers‘ latest update on the shoulder of Hyun-jin Ryu is not a good one. As Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times reports, Ryu sat in the 82 to 83 mph range in his last bullpen session. Manager Don Mattingly says that level was below what the team was comfortable with to continue his progression, with the club preferring instead to give Ryu extra rest. Mattingly acknowledged some concern, though he indicated it is too early to tell whether Ryu will get back on his expected timetable. The Dodgers’ summer trade plans could hinge in large part on Ryu’s health.
- The Astros have placed star outfielder George Springer on the 7-day concussion DL and promoted fellow youngster Preston Tucker to take his place, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. Tucker, 24, entered the year listed by Baseball America as the 14th best prospect in a deep system. The power-hitting outfielder is off to a .320/.378/.650 start with ten long balls in 111 Triple-A plate appearances. Houston will need to make a 40-man move tomorrow.
- Meanwhile, Astros third base prospect Colin Moran will miss four to six weeks after suffering a broken jaw, Drellich tweets. Moran, 22, was scuffling somewhat at Double-A, where he owns a .268/.318/.378 line in 88 turns at bat. He was acquired last summer as part of the deal that also brought Jake Marisnick to the Stros in exchange for Jarred Cosart (among other pieces). The club is still waiting for him to find his expected development arc; whether he is able to do so will have important implications on the club’s long-term planning.
- Josh Reddick has had a breakout month at the plate for the Athletics, Dave Cameron writes for FOX Sports. Beyond his impressive results, Reddick has put up an outstanding mix of good and frequent contact, writes Cameron, who explains that a change in approach may be to credit. Reddick has just one season of arbitration eligibility remaining after this year, and he looks to be on pace to significantly boost his earning power. Another Oakland outfielder, Craig Gentry, has been headed in the opposite direction and will return to Triple-A on an optional assignment to work out his struggles. Gentry, too, is playing out his second-to-last arb-eligible campaign.
Cole Hamels‘ name has been on the trade market for the better part of a year, but despite reported interest from teams such as the Red Sox, Rangers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Padres and others, the 31-year-old ace remains in Phillies pinstripes to open the 2015 season. The expectation is that Hamels will once again frequent the rumor circuit this summer, and many of the aforementioned clubs figure to be mentioned as suitors. Struggles in the Red Sox’ rotation and injuries to the Dodgers should place them among the most oft-mentioned suitors, but with an 18-8 start under their belt, the Astros merit consideration as a potential landing spot.
Yesterday, when looking at some items from around the AL West, I briefly explored the idea of a Hamels-to-Houston move when discussing the idea of the Astros making an early move to fortify their rotation. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle pointed out, both Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs have the Astros’ playoff odds listed at greater than 50 percent with their 18 wins already banked and the second-place Angels trailing by seven games. While an elite bullpen (2.13 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 2.87 xFIP) and an offense that has collectively batted .247/.324/.446 (good for a fourth-ranked wRC+ of 113) have paired with a decisively above-average defense, the team’s rotation has has been less impressive.
Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have continued their 2014 breakouts and stepped into the No. 1 and 2 slots atop the rotation, but the collective contributions of Scott Feldman, Roberto Hernandez, Sam Deduno, Asher Wojciechowski and Brad Peacock have yielded just a 5.05 ERA. Feldman’s track record of solid innings and contract will keep him locked into a rotation spot, barring injury, but aside from him, there’s little certainty in the team’s remaining rotation options.
Deduno’s solid 2013 effort was bookended by a pair of replacement-level showings. Hernandez was reasonably effective with the Phillies last season, but he hasn’t been a reliable rotation arm since he was still known as Fausto Carmona. Wojciechowski and Peacock are both prospects that have proven little at the Major League level, and neither Dan Straily or Brett Oberholtzer (rehabbing from a blister issue) has ever handled a full big league workload.
While we can make the case that the team has enough arms to patch its way through the season with this mix, the rotation appears to be the clearest spot for an upgrade. Indeed, GM Jeff Luhnow has acknowledged as much, saying yesterday that the rotation is the team’s only “obvious” area to make an addition. He also hinted that the club may ultimately look to add at the top of the rotation rather than just settling for a back-of-the-rotation option. As Luhnow put it, “there are scenarios where we would continue to invest in this team as the year goes on in order to maximize our chances of not just getting to the playoffs, but being better in the playoffs.”
There’s certainly an argument to be made that a less expensive veteran such as Kyle Lohse would be a better target for the Astros, but Houston showed little interest in giving up talent for one-year rentals this winter when it acquired a long-term piece in Evan Gattis. They, in fact, traded a rental by moving the final year of Dexter Fowler‘s contract for Luis Valbuena and Straily (and replacing him cheaply via free agency with another rental, Colby Rasmus). Perhaps if the price is right, that would end up being the preferred route, but with an Astros team that is seemingly on the brink of what it hopes will be a sustainable run of contending seasons, there may be some additional value placed on adding Hamels at a below-market rate as opposed to spending heavily in free agency this winter on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, etc.
The Astros aren’t known as big spenders, but they invested $62MM in Major League free agents this offseason — the 13th-largest sum of any team — and they can’t be criticized for not trying to spend more. Houston reportedly made the largest offer for Andrew Miller and aggressively pursued David Robertson, only to see each sign elsewhere. They also appeared set to add Ryan Vogelsong late in the offseason before questions regarding his physical resulted in a decrease in their offer.
Nonetheless, the $96MM in guaranteed money remaining on Hamels’ contract (not including an option that could invest and bring the guarantee to $124MM) is certainly a level of spending that we haven’t seen the Astros approach since escaping the tail end of what was a disastrous $100MM contract issued to Carlos Lee by the previous front office/ownership group. However, if the sum is daunting for owner Jim Crane, the Phillies have expressed a willingness to include money to facilitate a trade. And, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd explained on Opening Day, the Astros have the second-lightest swath of long-term commitments among all MLB clubs, with only the A’s having a clearer payroll in the years to come. Houston, then, is arguably better-equipped to add a hefty contract like the Hamels pact than the Red Sox or Dodgers, both of whom would acquire Hamels with the added cost of serious luxury tax implications.
As far as prospects are concerned, there’s no question that the Astros’ farm system has deteriorated a bit following the trade for Gattis and the promotion of George Springer (among others). However, ESPN’s Keith Law still ranked them third, even after the Gattis swap, and Basebal America ranked them a less-impressive 14th late in Spring Training. Carlos Correa is among the game’s very best prospects, and while he’d surely top GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s wishlist when discussing Hamels deals, I’d imagine the Astros consider him untouchable. Moving on from Correa, however, the Astros have a host of Top 100 prospects, with Mark Appel likely considered the second-best among their ranks. Appel ranked between 30th and 35th on the Top 100 lists of BA, Law, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, while Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel ranked him 18th entering the season. A deep farm system beyond that top two reveals the likes of Vincent Velasquez, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, Domingo Santana, Josh Hader and Brett Phillips, among others. And while parting with a significant portion of that talent would come as an unequivocal blow to their organizational depth, the Astros are positioned to add more high-impact talent in this year’s draft, with two of the top five picks and four of the top 46.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is a somewhat reactionary response to a 25-game sample, but with 18 wins accounted for, the Astros could play sub-.500 baseball (68-69) over the rest of the season and still finish with 86 wins. Another five months of ~.500 ball will have them firmly in the mix for a playoff spot. At that point, an early or midseason swap of Hamels for the group of occupants that would’ve otherwise provided innings from the fifth slot in the rotation could prove an upgrade of two or three wins.
Hamels, of course, hasn’t looked himself to open the season, but his 91.5 mph average fastball velocity is in line with his 2012-13 levels, and a fluky homer-to-flyball ratio has plagued him thus far. Overall, his bottom-line results through six starts aren’t entirely dissimilar from the first six outings of his 2014 campaign. Perhaps the one area for concern with Hamels is his increased walk rate, but with a rebound in his control, Hamels still appears plenty capable of providing a significant jolt to any big league rotation.
With my perhaps unnecessarily long-winded preamble aside, let’s open it up to public debate…
Right-hander Brett Myers, who spent parts of 12 Major League seasons with the Phillies, Astros, White Sox and Indians, said in an interview with Section215.com that he’s enjoying retired life and believes that his playing days are likely over. Myers explained that over the final few years of his playing career, he missed spending time with his children, but he now is enjoying coaching his 10-year-old son’s baseball team. In his career, the former 12th overall pick posted a 4.25 ERA a 97-96 record, 40 saves, 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 1710 big league innings spent as both a starter and a closer. His playing days were also marred by off-field issues, including charges of domestic violence that were eventually dropped at his wife’s request, and an expletive-laced tirade aimed at a Phillies beat reporter whom he ultimately threatened with physical violence.
Some more notes from around the league…
- Though Chris Iannetta has struggled tremendously with the bat in 2015, the Angels don’t consider Jarrod Saltalamacchia a fit, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The 30-year-old Saltalamacchia cleared release waivers earlier today and is free to sign with any club. Gonzalez also adds that the Angels are hopeful that fellow catcher Drew Butera will clear waivers, giving them a chance to keep him in the organization following his recent DFA.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow discussed the timelines for prospects Carlos Correa and Mark Appel with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, and Drellich notes that the 20-year-old Correa could very likely beat the 23-year-old Appel to the Majors. Luhnow acknowledged that Correa has a good chance of being promoted to Triple-A this month, once they see a bit more of how he reacts to facing teams and pitchers for the second time in Double-A. Appel, meanwhile, has struggled a bit at Double-A, and the GM said he’d like to see some consistently dominant outings from Appel before moving him up the Minor League ladder.
- Brendan Rodgers of Florida’s Lake Mary High School is the first of three shortstops perched atop Keith Law’s list of Top 100 Draft prospects at ESPN.com (Insider subscription required and highly recommended, particularly for draft followers). Arizona’s Kevin Newman and Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson add a pair of college shortstops to the mix, while UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate and prep lefty Kolby Allard round out the top five. Former No. 1 overall consideration Mike Matuella has dropped to 19th, as the Duke right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this spring. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken sits 26th on Law’s list following his own Tommy John surgery.
It’s still early, of course, but with a seven-game lead in the AL West entering the evening’s action, the Astros (like the rest of the league) now look like a buyer on the summer trade market. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports, GM Jeff Luhnow says that the club is looking at where it might improve, with starting pitching at the top of the list.
According to Luhnow, the “only area that’s obvious [to explore acquisitions] is in the rotation.” While the unit owns a 3.64 collective ERA, that has been driven by the strong work from Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh at the top of the rotation. Roberto Hernandez and Scott Feldman have been serviceable, but hardly dominant, and the team has yet to settle on a fifth starter. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained earlier today, and as Tim Dierkes and I noted in last week’s MLBTR Podcast, Houston has the cash, prospects, and need to profile as an early and aggressive buyer.
The Stros’ head baseball decisionmaker did not shy away from acknowledging that situation. “[The club’s strong start] makes it more likely that we’re going to be making moves to have an immediate payback and potentially even moves that come at a cost long term,” said Luhnow. “The more we feel like we’ve got a chance to be relevant all summer and potentially be relevant in October, the more we can be focused on what we can do to bolster this team.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Astros are looking to make a rare May strike for an arm, of course. “We’re constantly looking at it,” Luhnow explained. “It’s unusual for things to start this soon but we’re certainly doing our homework to get ready for it.”
If and when the time comes, though, it seems that Houston will be able to add to its still-low payroll. Luhnow said that he has spoken with owner Jim Crane about the club’s spending capacity, saying that “there are scenarios where we would continue to invest in this team as the year goes on in order to maximize our chances of not just getting to the playoffs, but being better in the playoffs.” Reading between the lines, the notion of bolstering the club’s playoff roster would suggest that an impactful starting acquisition is not out of the question.
This early look in at the Astros’ thought process should not be read as an assumption on the club’s part that it will continue to play this level of baseball. While acknowledging the rising expectations, Luhnow cautioned that a quick start is no assurance of continued success. “But, at the same time,” he said, “it’s never too early plan for the outcomes we’ve been trying to get towards.”