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Every small-market team dreams of building a rotation of young, controllable arms, and Peter Gammons (in his latest piece for Gammons Daily) feels the Indians have done just that in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. Salazar was signed as an undrafted high schooler and the other three were acquired in trades, giving the Tribe an enviable collection of pitchers for both their wild card push this season and to stay in contention for years to come.
Here’s some more from around the game as we head into the weekend…
- The Astros have made little progress in negotiations with draft pick Jacob Nix and the situation between the two sides seems likely to proceed to a hearing, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. The MLBPA filed a grievance on Nix’s behalf after Houston withdrew an offer to the fifth-rounder that had seemingly been agreed-upon.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow hasn’t decided whether to make his managerial search candidates known to the public, he tells Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle.
- Mark Buehrle‘s future with the Blue Jays is discussed by several Sportsnet writers and broadcasters. Buehrle will earn $19MM in 2015, his last year under contract, and the feeling amongst the panel is that the Jays could explore trading the veteran in order to free up payroll space. While Buehrle still has value on the mound and as a mentor to Toronto’s young starters, that might not be worth the $19MM piece he takes out of what could be a limited Jays budget.
- Koji Uehara will be temporarily replaced by Edward Mujica as the Red Sox closer, manager John Farrell told reporters today (including MLB.com’s Steven Petrella). Uehara has slumped badly over his last few outings, indicating to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that GM Ben Cherington may have erred in not dealing Uehara at the trade deadline. Uehara is a free agent this winter and, at the very least, his struggles have eliminated any chance of the Sox extending him a qualifying offer.
- Right-hander John Holdzkom began his season in independent ball and now may end it on the Pirates‘ Major League roster. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper looks at Holdzkom’s seven-year journey through the minors that finally led to his Major League debut last Tuesday.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball, with the newest transactions at the top of the page…
- The Yankees have outrighted outfielder Zoilo Almonte, according to the International League transactions page. Almonte, 25, has collected just 36 plate appearances in the big leagues this season, spending most of the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he’s hit .261/.311/.437 in 454 plate appearances. The Yankees designated him for assignment earlier this week.
- The Padres outrighted left-hander Troy Patton to Triple-A El Paso, the team reports. Patton was designated for assignment on Tuesday. He posted a 5.14 ERA in 14 combined innings with the Orioles and Padres this season, but since coming to San Diego in May in exchange for Todd Hundley, Patton has a 2.45 ERA, eight strikeouts and just one walk over 7 1/3 relief innings.
- The Astros outrighted right-handers Paul Clemens and David Martinez off their 40-man roster, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports (Twitter link). The two were designated for assignment on Tuesday. Clemens has a 5.84 ERA in 24 2/3 relief innings for Houston this season, while Martinez allowed four in seven innings of work for the Astros.
- The Phillies have purchased the contract of right-hander Sean O’Sullivan, the team announced. Lefty Mario Hollands was moved to the 60-day DL in a corresponding roster move. O’Sullivan signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia last winter and has twice been outrighted off the club’s roster this season, while posting a 6.94 ERA over 11 2/3 IP in two starts with the Phillies.
The Red Sox are planning on having Will Middlebrooks play winter ball this offseason in an attempt to get him back on track, and they’re telling teams that they won’t simply give the soon-to-be 26-year-old away, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Middlebrooks may seem a good buy-low candidate, as the former top prospect has followed a strong rookie campaign with a .213/.264/.375 line over a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2013-14, but it sounds as if the Red Sox aren’t ready to give up on him.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke with reporters before tonight’s game, and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com has some highlights from the session. Cherington says that “barring something unforeseen,” Rusney Castillo will join the Major League club this month. He also said that the club will continue to have Mookie Betts focus on center field, noting that having three plus center fielders isn’t a bad thing if Castillo, Betts and Jackie Bradley all pan out. “We believe we’re better off having more than one major league center fielder,” said Cherington. “In the long run, in terms of long-term control, hopefully we have three at the upper levels.”
- While there’s been an unthinkable amount of ink dedicated to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard problem, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees have a similar issue on their hands with Mark Teixeira. Sherman reports that while the Phillies have aggressively shopped Howard, the Yankees haven’t even tried to move Teixeira, knowing that he would be nearly impossible to jettison due to his injuries, his no-trade protection and the $45MM he’s owed in 2015-16. Teixeira, who turns 35 next April, has batted just .213/.316/.404 in 493 plate appearances over the past two seasons.
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is interested in the Astros’ managerial opening, writes MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Martinez, who was on a short list of candidates for the last Astros managerial search, called the opening a “great opportunity” but made it clear that his current focus is on helping the Rays. “I interviewed for them a couple years ago, and they had good baseball people, very creative minds over there, and I kind of like that whole situation over there,” said Martinez. “Right now, my concern is being the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and hopefully we win as many games as possible this month.” As Berry points out, Martinez is a good fit with the Astros after watching the way in which longtime Rays manager has Joe Maddon has built a rapport with an analytically inclined front office. Martinez noted that he got along well with Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in his previous interview, adding that he thinks Houston has a very bright future.
- Brandon Morrow wants to pitch in the rotation in 2015 and beyond, he tells MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm. As Chisholm notes, Morrow may soon have the opportunity to dictate where that could happen, as his $10MM club option is likely to be declined by the Blue Jays after another injury-plagued season. Morrow doesn’t seem to fit into Toronto’s rotation moving forward, with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris all at the Major League level.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells the story of Billy Bean’s return to baseball as MLB’s newly-appointed Ambassador For Inclusion. Paul Mifsud — MLB vice president and deputy general counsel, and one of the key players in hiring Bean — said that he has experienced “a tremendous feeling of pride … using baseball to help people.”
Here are the latest notes from around the league …
- Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant is very much on the cusp of MLB action, even if it won’t come this season, writes ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers. But it remains to be seen at what position he will end up. Bryant himself hopes to stay at third, and said he is proud of his improvements at the position this year. Meanwhile, club president Theo Epstein noted that the team will look to get Bryant some time in the outfield to “keep that fresh for him” going forward. “We think — no doubt in our minds — he can play third base and be a really good third baseman,” explained Epstein, “but we just don’t know how the roster is going to look a year from now, two years from now, five years from now.”
- Cuban ballplayers Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio recently put on a showcase, and Jeff Moore of Baseball America provides an account (subscription required). Scouts came away somewhat underwhelmed by the “pedestrian performances” they witnessed, according to Moore.
- The upcoming Astros managerial search will once again be an uncertain undertaking for an organization that hopes to thrive on scientific decisionmaking, writes Ben Lindbergh of Grantland.com. GM Jeff Luhnow will need to evaluate how he interacts with his next manager, says Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, who notes that other teams (like the Athletics and Rays) seem to have been able to find smooth partnerships between forward-thinking front offices and their field managers.
The Astros announced that they have designated right-handers Paul Clemens and David Martinez for assignment in order to make room on their 40-man roster for September callups. Righties Jorge De Leon and Nick Tropeano each had their contracts selected, necessitating corresponding 40-man moves. Additionally, catcher Max Stassi, outfielder L.J. Hoes and shortsop Jonathan Villar have been recalled, while lefty Darin Downs has been activated from the DL and waiver claim Sam Deduno has been added to the active roster.
Clemens, 26, has mopped up 98 innings for the Astros over the past two seasons and posted a 5.51 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 36.9 percent ground-ball rate in the process. Though he posted strong numbers through Double-A in his minor league career, he stumbled at Triple-A and has recorded a combined 5.91 ERA in 182 2/3 innings over parts of four seasons at that level.
The 27-year-old Martinez has logged 18 1/3 innings with Houston over the past two seasons with a 6.38 ERA and a 12-to-5 K/BB ratio in that time. He, too, has struggled at Triple-A, posting a 6.03 ERA over his two seasons (94 innings) with Oklahoma City.
Tropeano is the most notable prospect of the bunch, ranking 13th among Astros prospects on the midseason list compiled by Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. The 2011 fifth-round pick pitched to a 3.03 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 124 2/3 innings as a member of Triple-A Oklahoma City’s rotation this year. Callis and Mayo note that his low-90s fastball and changeup give him two above-average offerings, and his slider has the potential to be above-average as well. With the potential for three above-average offerings, Tropeano would seem to have a shot at being a rotation member in the future.
The Astros fired manager Bo Porter yesterday, and owner Jim Crane confirms to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle that Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow weren’t seeing eye to eye. “[The GM and the manager] have to be closely aligned and singing the same song,” said Crane. “That wasn’t happening.” Crane acknowledged that Porter was put in a difficult situation and said he feels Porter “did a pretty good job with what we gave him” before voicing his support for Luhnow’s vision. Crane says that Nolan Ryan, Reid Ryan and Craig Biggio will all be involved in the search for the next Houston manager, and he wonders if the Astros would benefit from someone with more managerial experience.
Here’s more on Porter’s firing and the search for the next Astros skipper…
- There were some within the Astros organization that thought Porter should be dismissed following the 2013 season, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney in his daily Insider-only blog. However, the prevailing opinion wound up being that it was too soon to let go of a manager who had just completed his first season. Olney spoke with team sources that told him some players and club employees are angry over the situation. Some club employees are even looking for jobs elsewhere, according to Olney.
- With porter out of the picture in Houston, Luhnow could be next on the chopping block if the team does not show significant improvement in 2014, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opines (video link). One specific area of improvement for Luhnow will be showing that he can successfully build a bullpen, Rosenthal points out.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with pitching coach Brent Strom regarding his relationship with Porter, and Strom had positive things to say. Strom was hired by Luhnow and has a longstanding relationship with the GM, but says he learned a lot from Porter, whom he met just this past offseason. “I really grew to appreciate his intelligence and his attention to detail,” Strom said. “I actually learned a great deal from him, I really did. Stuff that in all my years of baseball I had not thought about, and I documented all those things and actually had passed it on to our minor league pitching coaches for future years throughout our system.”
- Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is likely to be a candidate, sources tell ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
- Some “potential candidates,” according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, include former Astros star (and current adviser) Craig Biggio. Other possibilities include bench coaches Tim Bogar (Rangers) and Dave Martinez (Rays) along with third base coaches Dave Clark (Tigers) and Joe McEwing (White Sox). McTaggart’s colleague, Richard Justice, also tweets that Bogar is a candidate.
- In addition to the names listed above, Drellich lists some other hypothetical candidates for the skipper’s role. Former big league managers Manny Acta and Trey Hillman, A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, recent Padres assistant GM A.J. Hinch, and interim manager Tom Lawless.
Here’s the latest on the Astros’ managerial situation after the firing of Bo Porter earlier today:
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says the team could hire a new manager before the end of the season, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Luhnow says the Astros will be looking for similar qualities in a manager that they were looking for when they hired Porter. He also notes that interim manager Tom Lawless could be considered for the job on a permanent basis if he expresses interest in the position.
- It certainly sounds like Lawless is interested, to judge from his comments today (via Drellich). “Oh, it was pretty exciting,” he says. “I got (word) yesterday, last night. Jeff called and wanted to know if I wanted to take over the team for the last 30 days, and I said, ‘Sure!’“
- Porter has released a statement regarding his dismissal, thanking the Astros and the city of Houston for their support.
- One potential candidate to replace Porter could be former Padres star Phil Nevin, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Nevin has impressed observers with his work this year as the manager for Triple-A Reno in the Diamondbacks’ system.
The Astros have fired manager Bo Porter, according to a team press release. Bench coach Dave Trembley has also been relieved of his duties. Tom Lawless will be the club’s interim manager for the rest of the 2014 season.
As reported last week by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, a divide had grown between Porter and Houston GM Jeff Luhnow. Porter felt that Luhnow was overly critical of his in-game strategy, and he also didn’t think his own opinions were being heard within the front office. Porter was also upset that he wasn’t consulted when Mark Appel was brought to Minute Maid Park for a throwing session in July, a move that also drew complaints from several Astros players.
As part of the team’s official statement, Luhnow predictably didn’t address any specific issues between he and Porter, yet hinted at differences of opinion by saying “I believe we need a new direction in the clubhouse.”
“What we will seek going forward is a consistent and united message throughout the entire organization. It is essential that as an organization we create an atmosphere at the Major League level where our young players can come up and continue to develop and succeed. Ultimately, I am responsible for creating that culture and I will do everything in my power to do so — even when it means making difficult moves like the one we made today.”
Porter was hired as the Astros’ manager in September 2012 and officially took over the job on Opening Day 2013. He had a 110-190 record with the rebuilding club, and Luhnow noted in his statement that Porter’s record wasn’t the issue: “I recognize that our win-loss record is largely a product of an organizational strategy for which I am responsible.”
This has not been a stellar year for the Astros front office, as the Porter firing is the latest in a series of controversies that have emerged in Houston this season. There was a dispute over George Springer‘s promotion, several of the team’s trade discussion notes were leaked online and the Astros were heavily criticized for both their failure to sign first overall pick Brady Aiken and their subsequent decision to pull out of an agreement with fifth-rounder Jacob Nix. It’s not surprising that Luhnow won this apparent power struggle with Porter given how much the franchise has invested in Luhnow’s rebuilding plan, yet the questions about Luhnow’s stewardship of the team will inevitably continue until the Astros start to produce on the field.
This is Lawless’ first time managing at the Major League level, as he has worked as a manager, coach and roving instructor within the Astros’ organzation for several years. Former Astro Adam Everett has also been hired to take over as bench coach. According to the club’s press release, the Astros will “immediately” begin looking for next long-term manager.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports Images
The balance of power in the AL West has swung heavily in the Angels’ direction after the Halos completed a four-game sweep of the Athletics on Sunday. Los Angeles now own both baseball’s best record (83-53) and a five-game lead over the struggling A’s, who are looking for answers after an 12-17 August. Oakland is still on track to reach the postseason, as they hold a four-game lead in the AL wild card race.
Here’s the latest from around the AL West…
- The A’s will cover $1MM of the roughly $2.3MM remaining on Adam Dunn‘s 2014 salary, and ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Oakland’s willingness to take on this much of Dunn’s salary was part of the reason why the A’s were able to acquire the slugger. The Giants, Dodgers and at least one other team were also reportedly talking to the White Sox about a Dunn trade.
- Astros manager Bo Porter tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that his relationship with Houston’s front office “is what he expected coming in,” which seems to counter recent rumors of tension between Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow. “My staff and I take all the information from our baseball ops and use it to the best of our ability. Every last component of that is needed to be successful,” Porter said.
- Also from Laurila’s piece, 37-year-old lefty Joe Beimel not only has no plans to retire, his 12-year career might only be half-over. “I plan on pitching until I’m at least 50….I don’t see any reason I can’t do what Jamie Moyer did,” Beimel said. “He was starting games at 49 years old and getting guys out with 80 mph. I’m not down that low yet and I figure if he could go six, seven innings, I could at least come in and get one or two guys out.” After missing 2012 and 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, Beimel is enjoying a nice comeback year out of the Mariners‘ bullpen. The veteran southpaw has a 2.03 ERA, 5.2 K/9 and 1.92 K/BB ratio in 40 innings, and he’s held left-handed batters to only a .480 OPS.
The Angels had interest in A.J. Burnett of the Phillies, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes, confirming a report by Peter Gammons (all Twitter links). The Angels, though, wanted Burnett to waive his player option for next season, perhaps to get them under the luxury tax threshold. It wouldn’t be surprising if Burnett hadn’t wanted to do that, given that he prefers playing near the East Coast, and that his option guarantees him $10MM or more in 2015. The Angels, then, will continue to hunt for a starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would rather retire than change positions, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “No. It’s just who I am, it’s what I do, it’s what I have dreamed of as a kid,” Tulowitzki says. “So I guess when you have a dream and you accomplish it and someone tries to take it away from you … it wouldn’t be worth it for me to try and move somewhere else.” Tulowitzki is just 29 and is still a plus defensive shortstop when healthy, but he continues to have issues with injuries, and it’s not difficult to see how he might need to change positions before the end of his contract, which runs through 2020. Saunders notes that Tulowitzki is currently on crutches after surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip.
- The Astros‘ “extreme Moneyball” approach is still controversial throughout the game, Joshua Green of Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes in a profile of the Astros since Jeff Luhnow’s hiring in 2011. The Astros’ poor results the past few years, and their relentless questioning of conventional wisdom (leading to, for example, their aggressive approach to shifting and to their tandem minor league rotations), have predictably been divisive. Luhnow gives Green a look at the Astros’ “Ground Control” database (notes from which were leaked in June), which uses an algorithm to tell the team’s management when players ought to be promoted.