Houston Astros Rumors

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

AL West Notes: Rangers, Beimel, Taylor, Weaver, A’s

The Rangers are off to an 8-16 start this season, and GM Jon Daniels says that while some minor changes could be made this week, the team is “not going to going to wait too much longer before we consider mixing it up further,” writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Daniels didn’t specify what would constitute a more significant shakeup, but Grant speculates on three scenarios: demoting second baseman Rougned Odor, benching a struggling “core” player (i.e. Elvis Andrus) and/or replacing hitting instructor Dave Magadan.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • The Mariners last night announced the demotions of righty Yoervis Medina and lefty Tyler Olson to Triple-A Tacoma, and while no official word has been released on the corresponding roster moves that will follow, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that signs point to Chris Taylor and Joe Beimel joining the club. Taylor was batting Brad Miller for the everyday shortstop role in Spring Training before a fractured wrist sidelined him for four to six weeks. He’s hitting .313/.385/.475 in Triple-A this season and could either serve as a platoon partner for the lefty-swinging Miller or eventually push him for more regular playing time. Beimel inked a Minor League pact in April after unsuccessfully holding out for a more lucrative big league deal this winter. Beimel isn’t on the 40-man roster, so a 40-man move will need to be made, though I’d imagine that could entail simply moving southpaw Edgar Olmos to the 60-day DL, as he’s already been on the 15-day DL since March 30.
  • In the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan notes that Angels righty Jered Weaver‘s fastball is averaging an alarming 83-84 mph (depending on whether one uses Baseball Info Solutions’ data or Brooks Baseball). Either way, the concern over his fastball is justified, as Passan points out that 120 of the 122 pitchers that throw four-seam fastballs have an average velocity higher than Weaver’s peak velocity of 87.81 mph this year. Weaver is averaging just 3.9 K/9 and has whiffed three or fewer hitters in all but one of his starts this season, en route to a 6.29 ERA. “Reinvention is the only way to save Weaver,” Passan opines, unless he, like righties Mike Pelfrey and Chris Young before him, is experiencing such a precipitous decline due to injury. (Young, like Weaver, never threw particularly hard in the first place and may be a more apt comparison.)
  • Struggles in the Athletics‘ bullpen have the team pondering roster moves, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. One option is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who has performed well at Triple-A since signing a Minor League deal this offseason. However, he’s not on the 40-man roster, and space is tight after claiming Alex Hassan off waivers for a staggering third time in the past several months. Slusser writes that when first baseman Nate Freiman is activated from the DL later this month, the team may try to sneak him through waivers to remove him from the 40-man but keep him in the organization. She also notes that southpaw Drew Pomeranz could be bullpen-bound when Jarrod Parker is activated from the DL and reinserted into the rotation.
  • I’ll add a note on the surprising division leaders — the 18-7 Astros. Houston is the only club in the AL West with a record above .500 and, as the Chronicle’s Evan Drellich pointed out (Twitter link), they now rank as probables to make the playoffs looking at both Fangraphs’ and Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds. However, outside of the excellent work provided by Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel, the team has received a collective 5.05 ERA from Scott Feldman, Sam Deduno, Brad Peacock, Asher Wojciechowski and Roberto Hernandez in the final three spots in the rotation. Given the club’s early lead, Brett Oberholtzer‘s health and the struggles of Dan Straily at Triple-A, I’d wonder if the ‘Stros would be open to pursuing an early rotation upgrade in an attempt to make their grip on the division more sustainable. Few teams are actively selling pieces this early in the season, but the Brewers are reportedly open to trade proposals, and Houston could look to clubs that have more serviceable arms than slots in the rotation. Given the lack of quality innings at the back of the Astros’ rotation, the team needn’t add an elite arm in order to acquire a significant upgrade. While this is all speculation, history has shown GM Jeff Luhnow to be aggressive on the trade market. Names like Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Dillon Gee have all been floated on the rumor mill lately, and it’s not hard to envision the Rays soon having a surplus of arms once Alex Cobb and, eventually, Matt Moore are healthy. For Astros fans that really want to dream big, the argument could be made that there is in Houston both the need and the means (in terms of prospects and finances) to take on a significant portion of Cole Hamels‘ contract, though the asking price could very well exceed Houston’s comfort level.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Correa, Olivera, Hamels, Ramirez

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:

  • With Jed Lowrie out, the Astros could soon promote Carlos Correa even if that risks making him Super Two-eligible, Rosenthal says. Correa is currently dominating at Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .370/.452/.716 at the tender age of 20.
  • The Dodgers continue to receive reports on Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, who’s playing simulated games while waiting for his visa. The Dodgers agreed to sign him to a $62.5MM deal in March, although the deal isn’t official due to the visa issue. Once Olivera gets that visa, Rosenthal says, he could be ready to play in the big leagues within three to four weeks.
  • The Giants and Phillies discussed a deal for Cole Hamels this past offseason. They could revive those talks at some point, although the Giants might not have the kind of elite prospect the Phillies seem to be seeking as a centerpiece.
  • Aramis Ramirez‘s contract with the Brewers has a limited no-trade clause, but Ramirez’s agent says his client would likely approve a deal to a contender if the Brewers were to strike one. Ramirez hasn’t hit well this year, but if he can improve his trade stock, the Giants could have interest, due to Casey McGehee‘s poor performance this season.

Prospect Timeline Notes: Lindor, Correa, Franco

ESPN.com’s Keith Law ranked the top 25 big leaguers (non-rookies) who have yet to begin playing their age-25 season (Insider piece). I won’t bore you with the obvious top choice, and many of the names are obviously to be expected. Only one pitcher (Gerrit Cole) made it into Law’s top ten, though plenty more appear further down the line. Perhaps the most interesting slot is #6, which features the increasingly hard-to-ignore Nolan Arenado.

Which of the next crop of prospects will similarly make that leap from tearing up the minors to producing at the big league level? That remains to be seen, of course, but some may soon get a chance to begin proving themselves. Here’s the latest on promotion timelines for some of the game’s top prospects:

  • The Indians are happy with how young shortstop Francisco Lindor has progressed at Triple-A but are not planning to be aggressive with moving him up, T.J. Zuppe of 92.3 The Fan reported recently. GM Chris Antonetti says that Lindor’s timeline “hasn’t changed from what we talked about in Spring Training,” and also noted that the club still believes in Jose Ramirez. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince recently advocated for a move up for Lindor, citing the struggles of Ramirez and the club as a whole, but it should be remembered that he is just 21 years old and has yet to dominate (offensively, anyway) at any minor league level.
  • Another highly-touted shortstop, Carlos Correa of the Astros, now has a clear path to the big leagues after a significant injury to major league starter Jed Lowrie. But as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports, the 20-year-old’s incredible start at Double-A is probably not enough to force a promotion at this point. Things may have been different had Correa not missed significant time last season with a broken leg, but GM Jeff Luhnow indicated that the club does not want to rush him through the upper minors. “He’s definitely a special player, so his time will come faster than it would for other guys,” said Luhnow. “But having —he’s got 70 at-bats above Class A, and we feel like he needs some more. But how many more, I don’t know. And it’ll be a different number for him than it would be for someone else.”
  • We’ve heard recently that the Phillies are in no rush to move up top prospect Maikel Franco. But the team just began working out incumbent third baseman Cody Asche in the outfield, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports, which could be an indication that preparations are being made for Franco to slot in at the hot corner. The 22-year-old had a rough introduction to the big leagues last year — which not only showed the need for further development, but means that a promotion before May 15 (per Salisbury’s calculation) would cost the club a season of control. Franco is off to a strong .333/.371/.512 start in his first 89 plate appearances at Triple-A this year.


Jed Lowrie To Undergo Thumb Surgery

7:50pm: Via the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, GM Jeff Luhnow says that the specific injury to Lowrie is a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb (Twitter link). That’s not to be confused with the elbow ligament of the same name which is the cause for Tommy John surgery. A torn UCL in the thumb is the same injury for which Dustin Pedroia underwent surgery in the 2013-14 offseason.

7:25pm: Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie will be out until after the All-Star break following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, the team announced tonight.

Jonathan Villar has been recalled from Triple-A to take Lowrie’s spot on the 25-man roster, but the loss of Lowrie is a significant one for an Astros team that is off to a hot start and currently sits atop the AL West. Fresh off inking a three-year, $23MM contract (plus a club option) to return to Houston this offseason, Lowrie was hitting an exceptional .300/.432/.567 with four home runs. While that level of production was of course not sustainable, Lowrie was set to be relied upon as a key contributor near the top of or in the middle of the Astros’ lineup.

Villar is the player that Lowrie was signed to replace, after his 2014 shot to cement himself as Houston’s everyday shortstop fell short. Villar’s blistering speed wasn’t enough to to outweigh his lack of on-base skills, as the switch-hitter batted just .209/.267/.354 in 289 plate appearances last year.

The long-term injury to Lowrie will naturally lead to speculation among Astros fans and those throughout the league as to whether or not top prospect Carlos Correa is an option to replace him. The 20-year-old is off to a blistering start at Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .382/.440/.735 with four homers through Monday. A consensus Top 5 prospect and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Correa is one of the most promising Minor Leaguers in the game. However, he’s also played fewer than 20 games above Class-A Advanced, so promoting him at this juncture or in the near future would be a highly aggressive move and seems unlikely.


Quick Hits: Astros, Young, Mesoraco

Five current members of the Astros bullpen (Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek, Joe Thatcher and Sam Deduno) were on the 2011 Padres, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart notes. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was an executive with the Padres in 2011, but he says the Astros weren’t intentionally aiming to acquire former Padres players. “When we started this offseason, we wanted to have multiple guys that could finish games,” says Hinch. “Chad Qualls has a long history of closing, and Neshek and Gregerson were added for that reason. The way the game has evolved, those last nine outs are really hard to get, and to have guys that have done it before is nice to have.” Here are more quick notes from around the Majors.

  • Outfielder Chris Young has had much more success with the Yankees than he had with their crosstown rivals, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “We’ve always talked about [how] New York sometimes can be a tough place to get used to and adjust to. Sometimes it takes some players some time,” says Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “The way he’s played for us, I’m a little bit surprised that’s what happened [with the Mets], but he’s been really good for us.” Young now has 17 extra-base hits in 112 plate appearances with the Yankees going back to last season, after having just 20 in 287 plate appearances with the Mets. He’s also done a better job hitting for average and getting on base. His history suggests he might come back to earth, but at only 31, he could continue to help in a part-time role in the Bronx. Hoch notes that Young’s contract contains a series of bonuses for plate appearance thresholds, so if Young continues to play well, he could end up making significantly more than the $2.5MM he’s guaranteed.
  • The Reds say catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip impingement) was available to pinch-hit this weekend, but his absence in the ninth inning with the tying run aboard against the Cardinals says otherwise, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Mesoraco wasn’t even in the team’s clubhouse after the game, Rosecrans reports. Mesoraco has been out for a week now, but the Reds continue to play with a short bench, even though they could place Mesoraco on the disabled list and backdate the move to April 13. In any case, being without a healthy Mesoraco hurts the 5-6 Reds — he earned a January extension after hitting .273/.359/.534 in a breakout 2014 season.

McDaniel On The June Draft

Here’s the latest on the 2015 draft, via a massive post from FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel.

  • McDaniel notes that there isn’t much top-level talent in this draft (an opinion shared by many analysts), and says that the industry is unclear what the Diamondbacks will do with, or even how they’re thinking about, the first pick in the draft.
  • The Astros, who have the second overall pick, appear to be focused on high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers, UC-Santa Barbara pitcher Dillon Tate, and Vanderbilt infielder Dansby Swanson, who McDaniel ranks the top three prospects in the draft.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was seen on ESPNU last night watching Swanson and Vanderbilt pitcher Carson Fulmer. The Red Sox pick seventh. They’ve also been connected to LSU shortstop Alex Bregman. McDaniel ranks Bregman the fourth-best prospect in the draft, Fulmer the seventh.
  • Since the draft lacks much top talent, one possibility is that many teams will draft second-round-type players in the first round and save money against their bonus pools for later picks in the draft.
  • McDaniel ranks Astros unsigned 2014 No. 1 pick Brady Aiken the No. 24 prospect in the draft, noting that many in the industry feel that Aiken’s arm issues go beyond Tommy John surgery and that he could have further injury problems later in his career.

AL Notes: DeJesus, Rays, Medlen

The Astros christened the Astrodome 50 years ago today with the first regular season game played in the Eighth Wonder of the World, remembers Bob Hulsey of The Astros Daily. Twenty-two NASA astronauts threw out the ceremonial first pitch, but Philadelphia shutout Houston 2-0 behind Dick Allen‘s home run, the first regular season long ball hit in the Astrodome, and Chris Short‘s four-hitter.

In American League news and notes from today:

  • The Rays have been trying to trade outfielder David DeJesus because of his salary and a lack of a clear-cut role on the team, but John Jaso‘s wrist injury changes that for now, tweets the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin. DeJesus blasted a three-run home run for the Rays this afternoon and is hitting .545 (6-for-11) with a 1.454 OPS on the young season.
  • Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman sees an upside to the club having a MLB-leading nine players on the disabled list, writes Topkin. “We knew we would be calling upon our depth, and that call has come sooner than we expected,” said Silverman. “The bright side of this is that we’re going to get a chance to see some of these (replacement) players and get a better look at them, and we’ll be even better off when our players return from injuries.” Topkin notes the Rays have nearly one-third of their payroll (nearly $25MM) on the DL and six of the organization’s top ten starting pitchers.
  • Royals right-hander Kris Medlen threw curveballs off the mound this week for the first time since undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and plans to return to Phoenix for rehab outings in May, tweets Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star.

Heyman’s Latest: Kimbrel, Howard, Perez, Salty, Soriano, Cueto

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has penned a lengthy column that’s chock full of Hot Stove related items as the season gets underway. First and foremost, he chronicles the Braves‘ trade of Craig Kimbrel at length. Heyman spoke to president of baseball ops John Hart, who candidly told Heyman that the team took a hard line of refusing to trade Kimbrel unless Melvin Upton Jr. was involved in the deal. “We were not going to separate Kimbrel and trade him by himself,” Hart told Heyman. Atlanta reached out to the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers and Padres, among others, this winter in an effort to move Upton, and despite the Dodgers’ bullpen needs, they weren’t willing to add Upton’s contract to that of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, having already shed Matt Kemp‘s contract. The Padres trade didn’t heat up until about four days before it was agreed upon, Heyman writes, with Hart even remaining in Orlando to finish negotiations rather than fly with the team to Miami at the end of Spring Training. Hart credited assistant GM John Coppolella for doing much of the legwork and his creativity in getting the trade finalized.

More highlights from Heyman’s article (though the entire piece is well worth your time)…

  • While some reports late in Spring Training indicated that the Phillies would be willing to eat up to $50MM of the remaining $60MM on Ryan Howard‘s contract, two GMs tell Heyman they hadn’t heard that figure. One of those GMs was of the belief that the Phillies’ top offer was to pay about $35MM, which, Heyman speculates, may have been a large reason that the Royals opted to sign Kendrys Morales for two years and $17MM rather than pursue a Howard trade.
  • Speaking of the Royals, Heyman hears that the team is open to pursuing a second extension with catcher Salvador Perez and would be happy to make him a Royal for life. Heyman notes that some in the organization even have some sympathy for Perez, whose five-year, $7MM contract is widely considered the most team-friendly deal in all of baseball. Perez’s deal contains three startlingly low club options valued at $3.75MM, $5MM and $6MM for the 2017-19 seasons — two of which would have been free-agent seasons beginning at the age of 28.
  • The Marlins tried to trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter after the catcher’s first season on a three-year, $21MM pact was a struggle, but his salary was too great a deterrent. The Marlins presumably feel that top prospect J.T. Realmuto could step into the catcher’s role in the not-too-distant future.
  • The Tigers are believed to be at least monitoring Rafael Soriano‘s workouts at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Miami, per Heyman. However, Soriano has seen his stock suffer not only due to ineffective innings late int he 2014 season but also due to perceptions about his personality and negative clubhouse impact. At least one club that was taking a hard look at late-inning relievers ruled out Soriano entirely due to that perception, Heyman reports.
  • The Reds felt the odds of extending Johnny Cueto prior to Opening Day were so slim that it’s not even clear if they made a formal offer, writes Heyman. Cueto is seeking a figure in the range of $200MM following Max Scherzer‘s mammoth contract this offseason, he adds. Heyman also opines that David Price would probably be selling himself short if he took much less than $200MM from the Tigers at this point as well.
  • Anecdotally, Heyman tells the story of how Cody Ross‘ career began when he was sold to the Marlins from the Reds in exchange for “cash considerations” of precisely one dollar. Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky spoke to Heyman about the deal, explaining that they didn’t have room on the Cincinnati roster back in ’06 but genuinely wanted to get Ross into the best possible position to have a chance at a Major League roster spot. Ross has gone on to earn more than $52MM in the game of baseball.

Minor Moves: White, Presley, Capps, Perez, Smoker

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Astros outfielder Alex Presley has cleared waivers and is now deciding whether to accept his outright assignment, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). He is expected to accept the assignment in order to retain his $1MM salary, per the report. Righty Alex White has also cleared waivers and has been assigned to Houston’s Triple-A affiliate, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart tweets.
  • Veteran righty Matt Capps has re-signed with the Braves, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports on Twitter. The former Nationals closer had been with the club this spring but was released. Capps, 31, gave up two long balls in his only two innings of work, and has thrown just 12 professional innings over the last two seasons.
  • The Mariners have loaned lefty Rafael Perez to Mexico’s Quintana Roo Tigers, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets. Perez, 32, was once a mainstay in the Indians’ pen and owns a 3.64 ERA over 329 big league innings. His peripherals declined, however, and he has not pitched in the big leagues since 2012. Perez has put up strong numbers in the upper minors over the last two years, however, and even returned to working as a starter last year.
  • Former top draft pick Josh Smoker has signed with the Mets, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports. The 26-year-old, who washed out of the Nationals’ system, is said to be working back into the mid-90s with his fastball.

Astros Designate Alex White For Assignment

TUESDAY: White has been placed on outright waivers, Drellich reports.

SUNDAY: The Astros have designed right-hander Alex White for assignment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports.  Between this move and designating Alex Presley for assignment earlier this week, Houston now has two 40-man roster spots for Roberto Hernandez and Joe Thatcher.

White was selected by the Indians as the 15th overall pick of the 2009 draft and was formerly a high-rated prospect, ranked as high as 47th in Baseball America’s preseason list of the top 100 prospects in the sport prior to the 2011 season.  He has struggled over 149 Major League innings with Cleveland and Colorado in 2011-12, posting a career 6.03 ERA with 6.09 K/9, and 4.58 BB/9 and he also missed all of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

White and Presley are two of the four players currently in “DFA limbo” according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.  The two Astros join the Yankees’ Austin Romine and the Tigers’ Chad Smith in awaiting their next assignment.