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Houston Astros Rumors
Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided an update on the Astros’ talks with Brady Aiken after speaking to GM Jeff Luhnow, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Aiken’s adviser), a league official and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Close feels that the the Astros are acting “with disregard” to the draft’s rules, while an MLB official noted that everything about the process has been within the CBA’s guidelines. Here are a few reactions to that story, and some other notes from around the AL West…
- Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that there’s more than just gamesmanship going on with the Aiken situation (Twitter link). Medical reports are highly subjective, he notes, adding that he can’t see the Astros concocting the concern as part of some plan.
- Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the Astros are being demonized for doing something that is allowed within the rules laid out in the last CBA. He feels that Major League Baseball created this problem by leaving a loophole in the rules. McDaniel also notes that this is what more traditional organizations dislike about the Astos; while their moves can be perceived as smart or strategic, they come off as cold and calculating (All Twitter links). Interested parties should also note that McDaniel’s timeline is full of discussion with his followers regarding this very topic.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle looks at last year’s extension for Jose Altuve and provides some detail regarding the negotiations. Luhnow and Altuve’s representatives at Octagon had laid most of the groundwork, but there were some loose ends, so Luhnow had a one-on-one breakfast meeting with Altuve (conducted entirely in Spanish) to address the remaining issues. Drellich spoke to Altuve’s former agent, Scott Boras, who unsurprisingly said that he would’ve advised against taking the four-year, $12.5MM guarantee (which can be worth as much as $25MM if two club options are exercised).
- The Astros’ No. 1 pick from 2013, Mark Appel, recently had a cortisone shot in his wrist, agent Scott Boras told Drellich at yesterday’s All-Star game festivities. While Boras characterized the wrist issue as minor (Twitter links), it’s hard not to wonder how much the wrist has bothered him in 2014. Appel has struggled tremendously, posting a 9.57 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
- The Mariners are casting a wide net in their search for a bat and have even contacted the Royals about underperforming DH Billy Butler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Those talks are not new, however, according to a tweet from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Over the weekend we learned that the M’s have had serious talks on Marlon Byrd, who would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile hears that the Mariners have shown interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays (Twitter link). Zobrist could fill a variety of roles for the Mariners (among many other teams), as Seattle could stand to improve its production at shortstop or in the outfield.
- Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN feels that it would be a mistake for the Mariners to pursue David Price, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested they should do last week. Drayer feels that parting with a package including Nick Franklin, D.J. Peterson and Taijuan Walker too closely resembles the Erik Bedard trade that cost Seattle Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. While trading prospects isn’t necessarily something to shy away from, such a trade would too greatly diminish the team’s hope for sustained success, she opines.
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura has left the team after learning of the death of his nine-month-old son Janniel, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. There are few details about what happened, although Brewers manager Ron Roenicke notes that Segura’s son had been sick. “It’s tough,” says Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez. “After I leave last night, I can’t wait to come home and hug my kid and sleep with my kid. It’s hard to imagine. It’s painful. It’s not my kid, but I feel like it.” We at MLBTR send our deepest condolences to Segura and his family after this tragedy.
- Brady Aiken and the Astros still don’t see eye-to-eye over the pitcher’s injury status, Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes in a long feature. The Astros have dropped Aiken’s bonus offer from $6.5MM to $5MM over an issue with his elbow, but Kenney quotes Aiken’s high school coach and trainer, who both say he’s healthy. The issue, as Kenney points out, might be that interpreting an MRI is more art than science — a player can appear healthy and yet have abnormalities in his MRI, and yet it isn’t easy to tell which abnormalities are significant and which ones aren’t.
- Despite the aftereffects of a PED suspension and a fall into the cracks of the qualifying offer system, the Orioles‘ Nelson Cruz didn’t spend the offseason worrying about where he would end up, Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun writes. Instead, he took comfort in spending the offseason in his home country of the Dominican Republic. “It feels natural,” Cruz says. “Everything is more calm [in the U.S.] You have more peace. But I miss my people.”
Here are today’s minor moves:
- The White Sox have acquired righty Bobby Doran from the Astros, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter). Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that shortstop Jeffry Santos is headed to Houston (Twitter links). Doran, 25, has pitched in the upper minors since 2012, working as a starter and out of the pen while compiling a 3.83 ERA at the Double-A level and 4.90 mark at Triple-A. He was taken in the fourth round out of Texas Tech back in 2010. The 21-year-old Santos is old for his current Arizona Rookie League club, where he’s posted a .295/.483/.386 batting line in 60 PA.
- The Phillies have released outfielder Steve Susdorf, tweets the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. The 29-year-old outfielder is a veteran of seven minor league seasons (all with the Phils) and was very well-liked by his teammates, Gelb adds. He’s a career .291/.360/.379 hitter in 964 PA in Triple-A.
- Justin Maxwell has accepted an outright assignment with the Royals rather than electing free agency, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. This is the second time this year that the veteran outfielder has taken a demotion from Kansas City.
- Ramon Ramirez has signed a new deal to remain with the Orioles after being outrighted, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday (via Twitter). The right-handed reliever could have sought a new home through free agency, but will instead return to Triple-A Norfolk.
- The Angels have released southpaw Rich Hill, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Hill was designated for assignment on Saturday just four days after being acquired via trade from the Red Sox. The veteran had three very rough outings with the Halos, and has a roller coaster history in the majors, but had been quite effective at Triple-A this year.
Recently-released Astros hurler Jerome Williams has already drawn inquiries from eight clubs, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. That does not include the Twins, he notes. Williams’ agent tells MLBTR’s Zach Links (Twitter link) that he believes the veteran righty will get a chance to start on a major league club.
Here’s more from the AL West:
- The Astros are interested in upgrading the club’s bullpen in both the short and long-term, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Owner Jim Crane said that the team’s relief corps has cost the club ballgames, indicating that he hopes to find some solutions during the current season. Nevertheless, any moves would keep an eye firmly on the future: “We’re always looking more long term,” he said, “but we want to try to establish a nucleus this year and win a lot more ballgames than we did last year.”
- Of course, the Angels‘ bullpen needs are on a much shorter fuse. Even after making several recent acquisitions, club GM Jerry Dipoto says that the team is still browsing the market, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Dipoto hopes to form a late-inning nucleus that can record the “last nine outs” of a game. “We will continue to look for a guy who can join that group,” he said.
- Multiple teams have expressed interest in Mariners righty Erasmo Ramirez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old has not had sustained success at the major league level, but does offer plenty of youth and team control. Ramirez would seem to make a useful trade chip in a lower-level deal for Seattle, or as a part of a package in a larger swap.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Righty Jerome Williams has been released by the Astros, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The 32-year-old swingman owns a 6.04 ERA through 47 2/3 innings (all as a reliever) on the year for Houston, with 7.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. Across nine MLB seasons, he has allowed 4.45 earned runs per nine while working mostly as a starter.
- The Phillies have agreed to a minor league deal with Jo-Jo Reyes, reports MLBTR’s Zach Links (via Twitter). The 29-year-old lefty has seen time in parts of five MLB seasons, the last of which came in 2011. He owns a 6.05 career ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 through 334 2/3 innings, mostly as a starter. Reyes has been playing in Korea since the start of the 2013 season.
- The Orioles have outrighted righty Ramon Ramirez to Triple-A, the club announced. Ramirez got just one inning during his time with Baltimore, though he has seen action in parts of nine MLB seasons.
- After being designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on Sunday, outfielder Brad Glenn has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter). The 27-year-old notched his first MLB hit during a brief call-up.
- The DFA rolls are growing, with the following players are currently in limbo (per MLBTR’s DFA tracker): Justin Maxwell (Royals), Jeff Francis (Athletics), Rich Hill (Angels), Raul Fernandez (Rockies), Alfonso Soriano (Yankees), Brad Mills (Athletics), Donnie Murphy (Rangers), George Kottaras (Indians), John Buck (Mariners), and Mark Lowe (Indians).
In a video interview with ESPN’s Jim Bowden, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto discussed the recent trades his team has made. Regarding the team’s swap of Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli, Dipoto tells Bowden that he received a text message from Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, and the discussions took “about seven minutes” from start to agreement. The Halos’ interest in Grilli dates all the way back to his most recent run as a free agent, says Dipoto, who adds that the team discussed similar deals to this trade before making the move.
More from Dipoto’s chat with Bowden and the rest of the AL West below…
- Regarding his acquisition of lefty Joe Thatcher, Dipoto notes “that’s one we’d been looking at for quite a long time.” Dipoto adds that Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers had made his interest in Zach Borenstein, who went to Arizona in the deal, known in the past. Perhaps most interestingly, Dipoto implies that the negotiations on the trade took place with Towers. Previous reports have indicated that some organizations weren’t sure about Arizona’s front office hierarchy now that Tony La Russa is in the mix.
- Asked by Bowden if the Angels were done shopping, Dipoto replied, “We’ll continue to try to find ways to make the team better. Particularly, I’ve talked about the idea that if we can find one more piece for that bullpen.” Dipoto makes sure to qualify that he’s very pleased with the current mix of relievers but remains open to possible improvements at the back of the ‘pen.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who said he’s hopeful the team can reach an agreement with top pick Brady Aiken, but he won’t handicap it either way (Twitter link). Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that a ligament issue in Aiken’s elbow has held up negotiations and caused the Astros to drop their bonus offer from $6.5MM to $5MM. Drellich talked to Aiken’s trainer, who claims that the lefty is healthy.
- With the Twins in Seattle, Kendrys Morales spoke through an interpreter to the Seattle media (including Bob Candotta of the Seattle Times) about his offseason discussions with his former club. Morales said there was a bit of discussion with the Mariners, but as his interpreter says: “…in his heart he just didn’t really want to come back here and be in the same spot. He was taking his chances to see maybe something would get better.”
The Astros have agreed to sign Dominican outfielder Ronny Rafael to a contract with a $1.5MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link). The 20-year-old ranked 20th on MLB.com’s list of top 30 international prospects, while he checked in at 25th on Baseball America’s top-30 list.
A 6’0″, 177-pound product of Santo Domingo, the MLB.com scouting report notes that “some scouts believe Rafael is the perfect mix of power, speed and football-type athleticism” with plus speed and aggressive base-running, the ability to play any of the three outfield positions and good raw power. BA’s scouting report is a little more pessimistic, calling Rafael a “strength-based tools guy who’s still learning feel for the game,” and “a free swinger whose pitch recognition needs work, so his offensive profile projects to be power over OBP.”
Rafael is the third international prospect to sign a seven-figure deal with the Astros, following their $1MM contracts with Franklin Perez and Miguel Sierra. Houston has room to be aggressive since they have the highest international bonus pool of any team in MLB.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball.
- The Astros have traded pitcher Alex Sogard to the Diamondbacks, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. The Astros will receive minor-league infielder Cesar Carrasco in return. Sogard, 26, has pitched 43 1/3 innings for Double-A Corpus Christi this season, with 5.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
- Utilityman Pedro Ciriaco has accepted his outright assignment from the Royals, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The Royals designated Ciriaco for assignment last week. He has a career .270/.299/.372 line in 498 plate appearances over five seasons with the Pirates, Red Sox, Padres and Royals.
Here are today’s minor league transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- The Brewers have signed first baseman Matt Clark to a minor league deal, the club’s player development department announced on Twitter. Clark had been hitting .297/.380/.498 at Double-A for the Mets before he was released recently. He will take the roster spot of Hunter Morris, the club’s tenth overall prospect coming into the year (per Baseball America), who was DL’ed after breaking his arm.
- Veteran righty Luis Ayala has been released by the Blue Jays, according to the International League transactions page. The reliever had been working at Triple-A. As MLBTR’s Zach Links reported at the time of the signing, Ayala did not have the right to opt out of his deal. Though he worked to a 2.90 ERA with 5.8 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 over 31 innings last year for the Braves, Ayala has not had an opportunity to throw in the bigs yet this season. Through 17 innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, he owns a 5.29 ERA (7.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9)
- The Braves officially acquired minor league right-hander Andrew Robinson from the Astros in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later, as per a Houston media release. Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reported yesterday that the trade was imminent.
- The Cubs released left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports (Twitter link). The Cubs signed Sanchez to a minor league deal in December but the southpaw has been injured for most of the season and only pitched 2/3 of an inning for Triple-A Iowa. After being traded from the Giants following the 2011 season, Sanchez’s numbers ballooned to the tune of an 8.73 ERA over 78 1/3 IP with the Royals, Rockies and Pirates in 2012-13.
- The Royals have signed infielder Paul Janish to a minor league deal, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Janish opted out of his previous minors deal with the Rockies on Tuesday. Janish provided some good defense but only a .572 OPS in 1206 PA with the Reds and Braves from 2008-13, and he spent all of his season with Triple-A Colorado Springs.
- The Blue Jays have released outfielder Brett Carroll, as announced via Twitter by the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Carroll posted only a .438 OPS in 63 Triple-A plate appearances after signing a minor league contract with the Jays in February. Carroll appeared in 173 games with the Marlins from 2007-10 and had cups of coffee with the Brewers and Nationals in 2011-12 before spending 2013 with the Pirates’ Triple-A franchise.
This trade deadline could be a quiet but a fascinating one for the Astros, as the team may still willing to move veteran players but not only for prospects, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. “We’re going to do anything that presents itself that will improve our club,” GM Jeff Luhnow said. “We’re not going to focus only on the next two months. We’re also not going to focus only on 2017 and beyond. We’re going to focus on any moves that we think can help in both the short term and the long term. That may be nothing; it may be several things.”
Here’s some more from Drellich’s broad overview of what the Astros could explore over the next two months…
- Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro would’ve likely been trade candidates in past years given the Astros’ veteran-dealing strategy since Luhnow took over. Now, however, the GM says he wants both players to be Astros “for a while. And they’re still under team control, and there are opportunities to keep them beyond team control.”
- Fowler told Drellich that he hadn’t had any extension talks to keep him in Houston beyond the end of the 2015 season, when his current contract expires.
- Castro’s trade value has dropped thanks to a poor season, though Houston is known to have explored dealing the catcher thanks to the team’s recently-leaked trade notes. Castro is under team control through 2016 and the Astros have catching prospect Max Stassi at Triple-A.
- Drellich thinks every member of the bullpen “feels moveable.” Once some injured relievers return, Luhnow said “we would probably have surplus in the bullpen, and bullpen is one of those areas that clubs that feel like they’re in contention for a division or wild card oftentimes need some depth. Something could happen there, but there’s nothing right now that seems obvious.”
- Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls both figure to draw interest from other teams, though Drellich isn’t sure the Astros would trade Chad Qualls so soon after he signed a two-year deal with the club last winter. Dealing a player relatively soon after a multiyear commitment could harm the team’s standing with future free agents.
- On the minor league front, Houston has so many quality prospects that they can’t protect them all via the Rule 5 draft. Some prospects may have to be traded if the organization doesn’t truly see them as long-term pieces.