Houston Astros Rumors

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

West Notes: Vogelsong, Gutierrez, Doolittle

The Astros nearly signed Ryan Vogelsong, but after Vogelsong took his physical with the Astros, he went another direction and re-signed with the Giants. Vogelsong later said he “really wasn’t comfortable with what was going on” with the Astros, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes. Vogelsong’s agent, Dave Meier, later said Vogelsong simply meant he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that negotiations were falling apart. Vogelsong also later added that his wife wanted to stay in San Francisco. As Drellich notes, though, Vogelsong’s phrasing was odd, and it’s unclear exactly why the two parties weren’t able to agree on a deal. “[E]verything that’s happened to me this offseason — and one of these days I’ll tell you guys all about it, when we’re all sitting around having a couple beers 10 years from now when I’m done playing — and you’ll go, ‘There’s no way that happened,’ and I’ll say ‘Yup,’ and you’ll understand what I’m talking about,” Vogelsong says. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • The Mariners could still re-sign outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to a minor-league deal, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. “He wants to give it a shot,” says assistant general manager Jeff Kingston. “Full disclosure, there are some veteran non-roster players we’re still talking to, and we probably will add a few more here before the start of camp.” The 31-year-old Gutierrez hit .248/.273/.503 in 2013, hitting a remarkable ten home runs in 151 plate appearances, but he missed the 2014 season with gastrointestinal issues.
  • Athletics closer Sean Doolittle has a slight rotator cuff tear in his throwing shoulder, MLB.com’s Jane Lee notes. He is not expected to be ready to pitch to start the season (Twitter links). Doolittle dominated for the A’s in 2014, posting a 2.73 ERA with a ridiculous 12.8 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 in 62 2/3 innings. The newly acquired Tyler Clippard, who had 32 saves with the Nationals in 2012, could perhaps get save opportunities for however long Doolittle is out.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

Earlier today, the Twins avoided arbitration with Jordan Schafer by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.55MM. We’ll keep track of the remainder of today’s smaller moves to avoid arb here in this post (with all projections courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)…

  • First baseman Mitch Moreland has reached agreement on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with the Rangers, the club announced in a press release. Moreland will earn $2.95MM with the chance at $25K in bonuses, Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. Moreland filed at $3.35MM and the team countered at $2.75MM, with the 29-year-old landing just below the midpoint but just above his $2.8MM projection. After struggling to a .246/.297/.347 slash in just 184 plate appearances and missing significant time to ankle surgery, Moreland and his employer will hope for better things in 2015.
  • The Astros and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay the Octagon client a salary of $1.0625MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Gonzalez, who filed for $1.4MM and received a $900K counter-offer from the team, settled for somewhat less than the $1.15MM midpoint between the figures, though he did still top his $1MM projection by about $60K. The former Rule 5 pick enjoyed his best season as a big leaguer in 2014, batting .277/.327/.400 with six homers, although defensive metrics were split on his work at short. Ultimate Zone Rating pegged him at four runs below average, while Defensive Runs Saved thought he was four runs above average. With Gonzalez’s case settled, the Astros are done with their arbitration class this offseason.
  • The A’s have avoided arbitration with infielder Eric Sogard by agreeing to a one-year, $1.075MM contract, tweets Heyman. Sogard filed at $1.425MM, while the A’s countered at $900K, as can be seen  Sogard, 28, batted .223/.298/.268 with a homer and 11 steals in 329 plate appearances last season. Known more for his glove than his bat, Sogard played his usual brand of excellent second base defense for 721 innings, and he also filled in at shortstop a bit, chipping in 108 innings there. The Octagon client will receive $75K more than his $1MM projected salary. Oakland still has some work to do in arbitration, as the team has yet to reach an agreement with right-handers Tyler Clippard and Jarrod Parker as well as lefty Fernando Abad.

Note that you can monitor the arb situations of each team/player using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.

Ryan Vogelsong Likely To Return To Giants

3:22pm: The Giants and Vogelsong are working toward a one-year deal, and it seems likely to happen, tweets Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

THURSDAY, 11:07am: The Giants are in “active discussions” with Vogelsong, tweets Crasnick, though nothing is completed.

9:54am: The Astros have not been told that Vogelsong has decided to sign elsewhere, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). Houston appears to be waiting and watching at the moment, per the report.

WEDNESDAY: While yesterday it looked like Ryan Vogelsong was on the verge of signing a one-year deal with the Astros, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports now reports that the right-hander has “shifted course” and is in serious discussions with the Giants about a reunion (Twitter link). Earlier today, MLB.com’s Chris Haft wrote that San Francisco remained in contact with the 37-year-old Vogelsong.

Vogelsong spent the 2011-14 seasons in San Francisco, pitching to a 3.74 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 657 2/3 innings and winning a pair of World Series rings along the way. Those numbers were skewed somewhat by an injury-shortened 2013 campaign that saw Vogelsong post a 5.73 ERA in 103 1/3 innings, but he rebounded to a 4.00 ERA over the life of 184 2/3 innings in 2014.

The Giants appear to have a full rotation with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum all in the fold, plus excellent swingman Yusmeiro Petit waiting in the wings as a safety net. However, both Cain and Hudson are on the mend from surgery, while Lincecum has deteriorated over the past three seasons and Petit has never thrown more than 117 innings in the Majors.

West Notes: Rockies, Astros, Gallardo, White

Wilin Rosario‘s name has come up quite frequently in trade talks this winter, but Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes that it now appears likely that the Rockies will hold onto Rosario heading into the 2015 season. GM Jeff Bridich explained to Saunders that he feels Rosario possesses the athleticism and work ethic to add first base and corner outfield to his repertoire, and he’ll still likely see some time behind the dish.

Here’s more from Saunders’ piece and more regarding other clubs in baseball’s Western divisions…

  • Charlie Blackmon has also been a popular name on the rumor mill of late, but Saunders hears that the Rockies haven’t initiated any trade talks regarding Blackmon. While they’ve talked to several teams over the past few months, they’ve been on the receiving end of those calls rather than openly shopping Blackmon.
  • Saunders also notes that a trusted Major League source informed him that the Rockies “unequivocally did not make [James] Shields an offer,” thereby squashing some speculation that it was Colorado who extended the previously reported five-year, $110MM offer.
  • The Astros‘ deal with Ryan Vogelsong looks to have fallen through, with the Giants reportedly making a serious run at re-signing the righty, but Houston GM Jeff Luhnow indicated earlier today that the team could still add another starting pitcher but is likely set from an offensive standpoint, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (All Twitter links). Luhnow also did not rule out trading away more of his own players. It seems like the Astros may not be quite done shaping the 2015 roster.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with Luhnow about the Astros‘ abundance of strikeout-prone hitters, and Luhnow explained that the team is OK with the trade-off of strikeouts for power. “We probably will have a few strikeouts because of the types of players that we have,” said Luhnow, “but the flipside of that equation is we’re going to produce a lot of runs with those types of players. It’s up to our hitting coach to work on them to figure out when’s the right time to go for it and when to put the ball in play, and (manager A.J. Hinch) to figure out the lineup, so we don’t kill rallies by stacking up more than two or three of these guys at a time.”
  • More from Drellich, who adds some additional Astros notes in a late-night roundup, noting that Luhnow doesn’t expect to resolve the team’s only outstanding arbitration case (that of Marwin Gonzalez) in the near future. He also adds that the Astros’ acquisition of so many strikeout-prone hitters wasn’t due to a philosophy or belief that Houston knows something about strikeouts that other clubs do not; it just happened that the power bats they targeted came with strikeout issues.
  • In a piece for FOX Sports, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the changes in Yovani Gallardo‘s arsenal of pitches over the past few seasons and wonders if the Rangers can receive better results from the 28-year-old by trying to revert him to his previous ways. Gallardo has switched from pitching primarily off a four-seam fastball to throwing  significant amount of two-seamers. The results, Cameron notes, has been an increase in grounders and a decrease in strikeouts. However, Cameron theorizes that part of the thinking behind the conscious shift from Gallardo was that Milwaukee catchers excel at expanding the bottom half of the strike zone. Meanwhile the Rangers ranked 29th in team ground-ball percentage in 2014 and typically emphasize four-seamers over two-seamers. Cameron wonders if the change in scenery could cause Gallardo’s strikeout rate to rise, which could pay significant dividends for Texas.
  • Logan White is invigorated by his transition from Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting to Padres senior adviser/professional scouting director, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock. White spoke at length about the differences between working on the amateur side of the game and working the pro side and the aggressive approach that the Padres will be taking to scouting: “We’re going to see anyone and everyone in pro baseball. We’re going to get after it on the back fields, make sure we know the makeup of these guys, talk to coaches, watch BP and early work. …  Some of the best decisions you make is because you work a little harder, not because you’re smarter than everyone else.”

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.