Houston Astros Rumors

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

Rangers Acquire Carlos Corporan, Designate Gonzalez Germen

11:08am: The deal is official, per Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake (via Twitter). To create roster space, the club designated righty Gonzalez Germen, who was acquired only yesterday.

9:40am: The Rangers have agreed to a deal to acquire backstop Carlos Corporan from the Astros, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. Corporan was designated for assignment yesterday to create roster space for the signing of Colby Rasmus. Righty Akeem Bostick is headed to the Astros in return, Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram tweets.

Corporan, 31, is set to earn $975K in his first season of arbitration eligibility. That means that he’ll come with two more years of control. His role was occupied by trade acquisition Hank Conger, and the presence of the younger Max Stassi rendered Corporan a largely redundant piece for Houston.

The switch-hitter should, however, be more useful for a Rangers club whose big league options included Robinson Chirinos, who had never even seen 100 plate appearances in a big league season before last year, along with largely untested 23-year-old Tomas Telis and minor league non-roster invite Chris Gimenez.

Last year, Corporan put up a .235/.302/.376 slash and six home runs over 190 trips to the plate. That line is fairly representative of Corporan’s offensive profile in the majors: low-average, low-OBP, solid power. In a backup role in Houston, he has rated out as a reasonably capable option behind the dish.

Bostick, 19, was a (below-slot) second round pick out of high school in 2013. He seems a nice return for a player who was in DFA limbo, though Corporan’s market was surely active before he technically lost his roster spot. Bostick struggled to a 5.18 ERA in 92 Class A frames last year, though that may have been a somewhat aggressive assignment. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs included him at the tail end (27th) of his recent list of the most promising Rangers prospects, explaining that Bostick has plenty of raw talent but is in need of refinement.


Astros Nearing Deal With Ryan Vogelsong

11:15pm: Drellich tweets that a deal with Vogelsong would be for one year, if it is ultimately finalized.

6:57pm: Nothing is likely to get finalized tonight, tweets Drellich. Meanwhile, Berman adds that Vogelsong is no longer in Houston, though he doesn’t specify how the physical went.

TUESDAY, 8:42am: Vogelsong and the Astros are nearing a deal but are still addressing the final details of the arrangement, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.

MONDAY, 10:44pm: Vogelsong is in Houston presently, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26. He declined comment on his situation with the club, per Berman.

6:07pm: Vogelsong is a “realistic option,” but nothing is expected to be wrapped up tonight, Drellich tweets.

5:40pm: The Astros are in “serious discussions” with free agent righty Ryan Vogelsong, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported earlier today that Houston was not done with its roster, noting that a pitching addition was possible and that Vogelsong was a player the club had confirmed interest in.

Houston added some rotation depth today by dealing for a package that included former MLB starter Dan Straily. But the team is obviously still looking for innings.

Vogelsong, 37, has been a steady presence at the back of the Giants’ bullpen since re-emerging with a stunning season back in 2011. Though his results have been up and down, he has averaged 164 frames per year of 3.74 ERA ball, to go with a 3.92 FIP on the back of 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. And it is worth noting both that Vogelsong has posted fairly consistent regular season velocity figures (and was able to amp up his fastball into the mid-90s during the postseason.


Latest On The Market For James Shields

With Max Scherzer off the market following a historic seven-year agreement with the Nationals, all eyes will be on top remaining free agent James Shields and agent Page Odle leading up to Spring Training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark has spoken to a number of industry sources for his most recent look at Shields’ market, and he lists various reasons that the industry doesn’t expect Shields to end up with the Marlins, D-Backs, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals and Brewers (the Padres, at least, are listed as “possible, but not likely”).

Of particular note from Stark is that the D-Backs are actively trying to trim their payroll, rather than add salary; the Cubs are likely to look for another big-name starter, but not until next offseason; and the chances of the Marlins signing Shields are precisely “zero,” the latter of which meshes with a recent report from Grantland’s Jonah Keri.

Nonetheless, one executive to whom Stark spoke said he sees jumping back into the mix for Shields. However, one of the reasons, per that exec, is that teams believe Shields will have to settle for less than the $110MM that he reportedly was offered earlier this month and are revisiting the situation with the assumption that the price has dropped. Said Stark’s source, “But the problem is, now everyone is bottom-feeding. And when you’re someone like him, that’s the last thing you want, is a lot of teams bottom-feeding on you in late January.”

Regardless of the imperfect fits that litter the market for Shields, most executives tell Stark they can’t see Shields signing for anything less than $80MM over a four-year term, and nearly everyone to whom he spoke thinks that Shields could sign at virtually any time.

One club that won’t be signing Shields is the Giants, it seems, based on comments made by GM Brian Sabean earlier today on KNBR radio. As KNBR scribe Dieter Kurtenbach writes, Sabean plainly stated that while his club has wiggle room to add another piece, “it’s not going to be a high ticket item.” Sabean explained that while the team made a run at a pair of “high ticket” items in the form of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, the team made the decision to spread the money throughout the roster. As such, the club acquired Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki to fill respective holes at third base and in left field, and Jake Peavy was re-signed to add some stability to the rotation. (Of interest to Astros fans may be Sabean’s statement of the fact that he believes Ryan Vogelsong is “going elsewhere as we speak,” as Vogelsong is said to be nearing a deal with Houston.)



Astros Sign Colby Rasmus

Just a day after trading Dexter Fowler to the Cubs, the Astros look to have found a replacement, as the team announced on Tuesday the signing of Colby Rasmus to a one-year deal. The Excel Sports Management client will reportedly take home an $8MM guarantee, and his contract does not contain any options.

Colby Rasmus

Rasmus, 28, entered the offseason as one of the most intriguing available free agents. Though he struggled a great deal in terms of average and on-base percentage in 2014, Rasmus again showed solid power and possesses upside that much of the free agent class could not match at the onset of the offseason. Overall, Rasmus batted .225/.287/.448 with 18 homers in 376 plate appearances in a season that was shortened by a hamstring issue. He also lost some playing time late in the season as Toronto elected to see what it had on its hands in top prospect Dalton Pompey.

Houston has always seemed like a plausible landing spot for Rasmus, but the match really opened up with the recent trade of Fowler to the Cubs. The Astros have Jake Marisnick in hand as a right-handed hitting center field option, but could potentially pair him with Rasmus in some form of platoon. Though Rasmus has not played the corner outfield since his rookie year, he could presumably spend time there as well.

In essence, the Astros appear to have swapped out Fowler for a combination of Rasmus in the outfield, Luis Valbuena at third base(acquired in the Fowler deal and likely to replace Matt Dominguez) and possibly Dan Straily in the rotation (also acquired in the Fowler deal). The addition of Rasmus serves as another transaction with short-term ramifications for an Astros team that made a 19-game improvement in the win column in 2014. The club has also added Evan Gattis recently, and the team is also said to be in serious talks with Ryan Vogelsong, who is reportedly in Houston for a physical. However, in spite of last season’s improvement, it can’t be ignored that the team still won just 70 games overall.

One also has to wonder about the Astros’ apparent decision to load up on so many strikeout-prone players; Rasmus joins a group of regulars — Chris Carter, George Springer, Jonathan Singleton and Jason Castro — who whiffed at a 30 percent clip or higher. Though Houston projects to have an abundance of power throughout the lineup, Astros fans may again need to be prepared for a strikeout-prone offense and somewhat of a boom-or-bust approach at the plate.

As for Rasmus, a multi-year deal for him never appeared to materialize, so he will now look to make good on a one-year deal and hit the open market again next winter heading into his age-29 season. That’s still younger than the typical free agent, though Rasmus will have the unenviable task of stacking up against the likes of abnormally young free agents such as Jason Heyward and Justin Upton on the open market in the 2015-16 offseason.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the two sides were talking (Twitter link). Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweeted that Rasmus was in Houston for a physical. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that the deal would be one year once it was finalized. MLB Network’s Matt Yallof first reported the guarantee (Twitter link), while Jon Morosi of FOX Sports added that the contract contained no options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Astros Designate Carlos Corporan For Assignment

The Astros announced that they’ve designated catcher Carlos Corporan for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Colby Rasmus.

The 31-year-old Corporan hit .235/.302/.376 with six homers in 190 plate appearances for Houston last year. Over the past three seasons, he’s proven himself to be a competent defender (in terms of pitch-framing and throwing out base stealers) while exhibiting low batting average and OBP marks with respectable pop for a catcher.

Of late, Corporan has drawn trade interest from the Rangers, so it certainly seems possible that Houston will be able to move him before he must be exposed to outright waivers. Given Texas’ interest, I’d imagine that, at the very least, a deal for cash considerations could be reached, if not a trade to send a minor leaguer to Houston in exchange for Corporan’s services (be it from the Rangers or another club).

Corporan was arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and agreed to a one-year, $975K deal with Houston just last Thursday. That might take away a bit of his trade value, although that sum is largely negligible for a big league club that would have interest in trading for him.


Reactions To And Fallout From The Fowler Trade

Here are reactions to and fallout from today’s trade between the Cubs and Astros, which sent Dexter Fowler to Chicago for Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily.

  • Fowler says he never discussed a long-term deal with the Astros, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. “We didn’t really talk about contract stuff — more going through the arbitration process and that whole thing,” says Fowler. “Obviously I’m going to be a free agent next year so I guess that (topic) would have been a little bit more down the road.”
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says the two teams had been discussing a Fowler trade since last month, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago tweets.
  • The Cubs and Astros are suddenly looking to be competitive in 2015, and the Fowler trade was about making each of their rosters more complete, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs writes. The Cubs had plenty of infield talent but were thin in the outfield, and sending Valbuena to the Cubs gives them more flexibility to figure out what to do with Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez while giving them a veteran outfielder who they might also be able to extend a qualifying offer after the season. Meanwhile, Valbuena improves the Astros at third base while clearing space for some combination of Jake Marisnick and Robbie Grossman in the outfield.
  • Valbuena’s departure assures that Kris Bryant will begin his big-league career at a third baseman and not as an outfielder, Rogers writes. Meanwhile, the Cubs will have Alcantara play a number of positions, remaining open to the idea that he could emerge as a starter at one of them.

Cubs Acquire Dexter Fowler For Valbuena, Straily

The Astros and Cubs have officially announced that the Astros have traded outfielder Dexter Fowler to Chicago for infielder Luis Valbuena and righty Dan Straily. It’s a win-now move for both teams, with the Cubs trading from depth to upgrade their outfield and the Astros getting a new third baseman and adding rotation insurance.

USATSI_7964867_154513410_lowresFowler, 28, hit .276/.375/.399 in 505 plate appearances in his first season in Houston in 2014. He posted poor defensive numbers in center, but he’s relatively young and has a long track record of posting high on-base percentages, with a career .366 mark. He’s in his final season of arbitration eligibility and is seeking $10.8MM, with the Astros filing at $8.5MM.

The Cubs had reportedly been seeking an outfielder, and Fowler will take over in center and join an outfield mix that also includes Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Chris Denorfia and Arismendy Alcantara. Alcantara is just 23 and struggled in his first big league season in 2014, so perhaps the Cubs will have him start the season in the minors, or maybe they’ll also have him play infield, perhaps using him at third base until Kris Bryant arrives. (Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella could also be in the short-term mix at third.)

It’s not surprising that the Astros sought big-leaguers in return for Fowler, since their offseason has been oriented around improving their 2015 club. They’ve added Evan Gattis, Jed Lowrie, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to a team that finished 70-92 last season. With Fowler gone, the Astros could have Jake Marisnick, a strong defender, take over center field, although Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that George Springer could also be an option there.

Valbuena, 29, hit a solid .249/.341/.435 while playing third and occasionally filling in at second in 2014, but the Cubs have a wealth of young infield talent (including Bryant), making Valbuena expendable. Incumbent Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez had an awful .215/.256/.330 season in 2014, so Valbuena provides a dramatic upgrade. Valbuena will make $4.2MM in 2015 and will be eligible for arbitration for the last time next winter.

Straily was not needed in Chicago, which has plenty of interesting rotation options after adding Jon Lester and Jason Hammel this offseason. In Houston, he’ll likely provide depth for a rotation picture that will also include Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock (with Peacock potentially missing the start of the season after having hip surgery). The 26-year-old Straily struggled in 2014, posting a 6.75 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 52 big-league innings, but he had a solid season in Oakland in 2013. He has five years of control remaining before he’s eligible for free agency and can be optioned to the minors if needed.

Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com was the first to tweet that the Cubs were close to acquiring Fowler. Rosenthal tweeted that the Astros would receive big league players in return. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle noted (on Twitter) that Straily was involved in the deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that Valbuena was involved.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Max Scherzer Close To Deal With Nationals

9:08pm: The deal is “close” but will not be completed tonight, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post tweets.

6:54pm: Scherzer is “very close” to signing with the Nationals, although the deal is not yet done, a source tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).

6:10pm: Max Scherzer is talking with the Nationals and one other team about a seven-year contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, on Twitter, categorizes the negotiations as “close.” Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweeted earlier the impression around baseball is the Nationals will sign Scherzer, but it was unclear whether a deal was imminent. Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski denies Detroit is the other team, telling Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press their pursuit of Scherzer is still inactive (Twitter). The New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets the Yankees are not the other team and Rosenthal reports the Red Sox, Astros, and Dodgers are also not in on Scherzer (Twitter links). The Angels aren’t the mystery team, either, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets, and neither are the Giants or Cardinals, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links).

Agent Scott Boras has said it would be an ownership-level decision on whether a team will sign Scherzer and that it could be a “two-step process” – ink Scherzer and then trade another member of their rotation. Barry Svlurga of the Washington Post sees Boras pitching Nationals owner Ted Lerner the notion of signing Scherzer to win the World Series in 2015 knowing the salaries of impending free agents Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Denard Span will be coming off the books for 2016 (Twitter links).

The Nationals have engaged multiple teams over the past few weeks in trade talks for Zimmermann, tweets FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi. If Scherzer signs, Zimmermann is the most likely trade candidate; but, if an acceptable offer for Zimmermann does not materialize, sources tell Morosi the Nationals will look to move Stephen Strasburg (Twitter links).

Washington, amidst reports the club has not had significant extension talks with Desmond, has discussed its All-Star shortstop with other teams, most notably the failed three-way trade involving the Mets and Rays. The Nationals also have not re-engaged Fister in extension talks since last spring and are said to be willing to listen to any trade proposals for the right-hander.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won’t go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox (per the most recent updates) are known for their “file and trial” policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $5MM or more. Projections can be found here. Now for the details …

  • The Reds countered the $5.7MM filing of Todd Frazier with a $3.9MM figure, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman David Freese filed at $7.6MM and the Angels countered at $5.25MM, WAPT’s Mike Perchick tweets. Halos outfielder Matt Joyce has filed for $5.2MM against a $4.2MM counter, according to Perchick (on Twitter).
  • Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler filed for $10.8MM while the club countered at $8.5MM, Perchick tweeets.
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker filed at $9MM while the club landed at $8MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Just-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard has filed for $8.85MM against the Athletics, who countered at $7.775MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay filed at $5MM while the team countered at $4.1MM, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
  • Pedro Alvarez has requested a $5.75MM salary for the coming season while the Pirates are at $5.25MM, per a tweet from Perchick.
  • Righty Mat Latos filed at $10.4MM and the Marlins countered with a $9.4MM figure, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman Casey McGehee filed at $5.4MM, with the Giants countering at $4MM, Heyman tweets.
  • The Braves countered Mike Minor‘s $5.6MM filing number with a $5.1MM team figure, Heyman reports on Twitter.
  • Mark Trumbo has filed for $6.9MM against a $5.3MM counter from the Diamondbacks, Heyman tweets. Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, filed at $5.6MM with the team countering at $4.7MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles went with a $7.5MM price point for righty Bud Norris, who filed at $10.25MM, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). In both relative and absolute terms, there is an even bigger gap between the O’s ($2MM) and breakout slugger Steve Pearce ($5.4MM), who is looking to cash in on a big season in his final year of eligibility. That news also comes via Connolly, on Twitter.
  • Entering his final year of arbitration, infielder Daniel Murphy has filed for $8.6MM while the Mets have submitted a $7.4MM figure, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.
  • Reds 9th inning man Aroldis Chapman filed for $8.7MM while the team countered at $6.65MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles and outfielder Alejandro De Aza will negotiate between filing figures of $5MM and $5.65MM, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer filed at $6.7MM and the team countered at $4.6MM, Heyman tweets. The club will also have some ground to make up with closer Greg Holland, who filed at $9MM versus a team filing of $6.65MM, per another Heyman tweet.
  • Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson has filed at $5.75MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $4.3MM, Heyman tweets.