Houston Astros Rumors

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

Minor Moves: Bernadina, Cruz

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The Dodgers selected the contract of outfielder Roger Bernadina, reports Pedro Moura of the OC Register (via Twitter). The move was necessitated by an illness to Yasiel Puig, who will receive an IV for fluids. The Dodgers have moved Josh Beckett to the 60 day disabled list to facilitate the move. Bernadina was preparing to play in Europe when the move was announced. The 30-year-old hit .153/.286/.203 in 71 plate appearances for the Reds earlier this season.
  • The Astros have announced that they’ve acquired Jared Cruz from Atlanta as the player to be named in the July trade that sent Andrew Robinson to the Braves. The 19-year-old Cruz played first base, second base and shortstop in the Gulf Coast League this year, hitting .182/.267/.212 in 79 plate appearances. The 26-year-old Robinson finished the season pitching out of the bullpen for Double-A Mississippi.

Brad Johnson contributed to this post.


Manager & GM Notes: Rangers, Astros, LaRocque

Ron Washington’s departure to deal with an unidentified personal matter might turn out to help the Rangers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Washington would have been a lame duck next season, and an extension was unlikely after the Rangers’ poor season. A bad start in 2015 would have put Washington and the Rangers in awkward spots. Instead, the organization gets to start fresh, beginning with a few weeks auditioning interim manager Tim Bogar, who was once viewed as a top managerial prospect. Here are more notes on managers and GMs.

  • Replacing Washington will be difficult, writes MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby, offering a contrasting view. Washington had his players’ respect, an important quality in a manager, particularly in a Rangers season that has endured so much roster turnover. Bogar, former Rangers coach Dave Anderson (now with the Orioles) and current pitching coach Mike Maddux are all potential candidates for the team’s open job.
  • Maddux has interest in replacing Bo Porter with the Astros, however, Grant writes. Maddux declined to interview for the Astros’ open position two years ago when the team hired Porter, but it seems times have changed, and Nolan Ryan’s role as an executive advisor with the Astros could help Maddux this time around.
  • The Diamondbacks will interview Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque for their open GM job today, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. LaRocque has extensive experience in both player development and scouting in the Dodgers, Mets and Cardinals organizations, and he worked with the Diamondbacks’ Tony La Russa in St. Louis. LaRocque has also served as a manager at the minor league level.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says the Diamondbacks will also formally interview Angels pro scouting director Hal Morris, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reported yesterday that LaRocque and Morris would be among the Diamondbacks’ candidates, along with player agent Dave Stewart, Diamondbacks scouting coordinator Ray Montgomery and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler.

Quick Hits: Cabrera, Pinto, Astros, McDonald, Yankees

The Blue Jays have announced that outfielder Melky Cabrera will be out for the rest of the season with right pinky finger fracture he suffered during Friday’s game, and he’ll have surgery next week. Cabrera is a free agent after the season, which means his career in Toronto could soon be over. As long as he figures to be healthy for the start of next season, though, he could be in for a nice payday in a free agent market that doesn’t feature much hitting. After struggling through the first season of his two-year deal with the Jays, Cabrera has bounced back in 2014, hitting .300/.348/.457 in 619 plate appearances. Cabrera’s injury is a blow to the Jays, who have won five games in a row to cling to their playoff hopes but are still 4 1/2 games back of the last Wild Card spot. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Twins catcher Josmil Pinto says he has no issue with the team signing Kurt Suzuki to a two-year extension, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. “It’s good,” says Pinto. “If I play a little more time with him, I’ll get more experience. He’s got like eight years in the big leagues.” Suzuki initially signed a one-year deal with the Twins before the season, and it looked like Pinto might take over once he left. But Suzuki hit well and won the respect of the Twins’ pitchers, and now it looks like Pinto will back him up as Suzuki’s extension kicks in next season.
  • The Astros recently fired manager Bo Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley, and it’s unclear what will happen to their remaining coaches next season. But GM Jeff Luhnow is happy with them, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Luhnow points to performances by Chris Carter and Jose Altuve this season as evidence that the team’s hitting instruction has been good, and he says that pitching coach Brent Strom has done “a tremendous job.”
  • Tigers third base coach Dave Clark would have interest in returning to Houston to manage the Astros, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. “[I]t’s always intriguing to have your name mentioned as a possible managerial candidate. It’s definitely something I would entertain,” says Clark, a base coach with the Astros until he joined Brad Ausmus’ staff this season.
  • Angels infielder John McDonald realizes the 2014 season might be his last, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. “I don’t want to discount anything, but you’re also realistic about where you are in your career,” says the 39-year-old McDonald. “I’m at [69] at-bats right now, over the course of a full year, and last year I had the same. I’m also realistic.” McDonald has now played parts of 16 seasons with the Indians, Blue Jays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Phillies, Red Sox and Angels.
  • The Yankees‘ performance this year should serve as a wake-up call to the team’s top brass, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues writes. The team’s usual strategy of signing the best free agents doesn’t work as well as it used to, Axisa writes, but the advent of the luxury tax has limited the Yankees’ advantage over other teams — the Yankees’ payroll has stayed roughly static in the last several years, while other teams’ payrolls have risen. And the number of pre-free-agency extensions means fewer players hit free agency during their prime years. The Yankees will need to stop depending so heavily on veteran free agents, Axisa suggests.


Quick Hits: Nix, Astros, Buehrle, Uehara

Every small-market team dreams of building a rotation of young, controllable arms, and Peter Gammons (in his latest piece for Gammons Daily) feels the Indians have done just that in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer.  Salazar was signed as an undrafted high schooler and the other three were acquired in trades, giving the Tribe an enviable collection of pitchers for both their wild card push this season and to stay in contention for years to come.

Here’s some more from around the game as we head into the weekend…

  • The Astros have made little progress in negotiations with draft pick Jacob Nix and the situation between the two sides seems likely to proceed to a hearing, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  The MLBPA filed a grievance on Nix’s behalf after Houston withdrew an offer to the fifth-rounder that had seemingly been agreed-upon.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow hasn’t decided whether to make his managerial search candidates known to the public, he tells Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Mark Buehrle‘s future with the Blue Jays is discussed by several Sportsnet writers and broadcasters.  Buehrle will earn $19MM in 2015, his last year under contract, and the feeling amongst the panel is that the Jays could explore trading the veteran in order to free up payroll space.  While Buehrle still has value on the mound and as a mentor to Toronto’s young starters, that might not be worth the $19MM piece he takes out of what could be a limited Jays budget.
  • Koji Uehara will be temporarily replaced by Edward Mujica as the Red Sox closer, manager John Farrell told reporters today (including MLB.com’s Steven Petrella).  Uehara has slumped badly over his last few outings, indicating to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that GM Ben Cherington may have erred in not dealing Uehara at the trade deadline.  Uehara is a free agent this winter and, at the very least, his struggles have eliminated any chance of the Sox extending him a qualifying offer.
  • Right-hander John Holdzkom began his season in independent ball and now may end it on the Pirates‘ Major League roster.  Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper looks at Holdzkom’s seven-year journey through the minors that finally led to his Major League debut last Tuesday.

Minor Moves: Almonte, Patton, Martinez, Clemens

Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball, with the newest transactions at the top of the page…

  • The Yankees have outrighted outfielder Zoilo Almonte, according to the International League transactions page. Almonte, 25, has collected just 36 plate appearances in the big leagues this season, spending most of the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he’s hit .261/.311/.437 in 454 plate appearances. The Yankees designated him for assignment earlier this week.
  • The Padres outrighted left-hander Troy Patton to Triple-A El Paso, the team reports.  Patton was designated for assignment on Tuesday.  He posted a 5.14 ERA in 14 combined innings with the Orioles and Padres this season, but since coming to San Diego in May in exchange for Todd Hundley, Patton has a 2.45 ERA, eight strikeouts and just one walk over 7 1/3 relief innings.
  • The Astros outrighted right-handers Paul Clemens and David Martinez off their 40-man roster, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports (Twitter link).  The two were designated for assignment on Tuesday.  Clemens has a 5.84 ERA in 24 2/3 relief innings for Houston this season, while Martinez allowed four in seven innings of work for the Astros.
  • The Phillies have purchased the contract of right-hander Sean O’Sullivan, the team announced.  Lefty Mario Hollands was moved to the 60-day DL in a corresponding roster move.  O’Sullivan signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia last winter and has twice been outrighted off the club’s roster this season, while posting a 6.94 ERA over 11 2/3 IP in two starts with the Phillies.

AL East Notes: Middlebrooks, Sox, Teixeira, Martinez, Morrow

The Red Sox are planning on having Will Middlebrooks play winter ball this offseason in an attempt to get him back on track, and they’re telling teams that they won’t simply give the soon-to-be 26-year-old away, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Middlebrooks may seem a good buy-low candidate, as the former top prospect has followed a strong rookie campaign with a .213/.264/.375 line over a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2013-14, but it sounds as if the Red Sox aren’t ready to give up on him.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke with reporters before tonight’s game, and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com has some highlights from the session. Cherington says that “barring something unforeseen,” Rusney Castillo will join the Major League club this month. He also said that the club will continue to have Mookie Betts focus on center field, noting that having three plus center fielders isn’t a bad thing if Castillo, Betts and Jackie Bradley all pan out. “We believe we’re better off having more than one major league center fielder,” said Cherington. “In the long run, in terms of long-term control, hopefully we have three at the upper levels.”
  • While there’s been an unthinkable amount of ink dedicated to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard problem, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees have a similar issue on their hands with Mark Teixeira. Sherman reports that while the Phillies have aggressively shopped Howard, the Yankees haven’t even tried to move Teixeira, knowing that he would be nearly impossible to jettison due to his injuries, his no-trade protection and the $45MM he’s owed in 2015-16. Teixeira, who turns 35 next April, has batted just .213/.316/.404 in 493 plate appearances over the past two seasons.
  • Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is interested in the Astros’ managerial opening, writes MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Martinez, who was on a short list of candidates for the last Astros managerial search, called the opening a “great opportunity” but made it clear that his current focus is on helping the Rays. “I interviewed for them a couple years ago, and they had good baseball people, very creative minds over there, and I kind of like that whole situation over there,” said Martinez. “Right now, my concern is being the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and hopefully we win as many games as possible this month.” As Berry points out, Martinez is a good fit with the Astros after watching the way in which longtime Rays manager has Joe Maddon has built a rapport with an analytically inclined front office. Martinez noted that he got along well with Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in his previous interview, adding that he thinks Houston has a very bright future.
  • Brandon Morrow wants to pitch in the rotation in 2015 and beyond, he tells MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm. As Chisholm notes, Morrow may soon have the opportunity to dictate where that could happen, as his $10MM club option is likely to be declined by the Blue Jays after another injury-plagued season. Morrow doesn’t seem to fit into Toronto’s rotation moving forward, with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris all at the Major League level.

Quick Hits: Bean, Bryant, Cuesta, Siverio, Astros

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells the story of Billy Bean’s return to baseball as MLB’s newly-appointed Ambassador For Inclusion. Paul Mifsud — MLB vice president and deputy general counsel, and one of the key players in hiring Bean — said that he has experienced “a tremendous feeling of pride … using baseball to help people.”

Here are the latest notes from around the league …

  • Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant is very much on the cusp of MLB action, even if it won’t come this season, writes ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers. But it remains to be seen at what position he will end up. Bryant himself hopes to stay at third, and said he is proud of his improvements at the position this year. Meanwhile, club president Theo Epstein noted that the team will look to get Bryant some time in the outfield to “keep that fresh for him” going forward. “We think — no doubt in our minds — he can play third base and be a really good third baseman,” explained Epstein, “but we just don’t know how the roster is going to look a year from now, two years from now, five years from now.”
  • Cuban ballplayers Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio recently put on a showcase, and Jeff Moore of Baseball America provides an account (subscription required). Scouts came away somewhat underwhelmed by the “pedestrian performances” they witnessed, according to Moore.
  • The upcoming Astros managerial search will once again be an uncertain undertaking for an organization that hopes to thrive on scientific decisionmaking, writes Ben Lindbergh of Grantland.com. GM Jeff Luhnow will need to evaluate how he interacts with his next manager, says Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, who notes that other teams (like the Athletics and Rays) seem to have been able to find smooth partnerships between forward-thinking front offices and their field managers.

Astros Designate Paul Clemens, David Martinez

The Astros announced that they have designated right-handers Paul Clemens and David Martinez for assignment in order to make room on their 40-man roster for September callups. Righties Jorge De Leon and Nick Tropeano each had their contracts selected, necessitating corresponding 40-man moves. Additionally, catcher Max Stassi, outfielder L.J. Hoes and shortsop Jonathan Villar have been recalled, while lefty Darin Downs has been activated from the DL and waiver claim Sam Deduno has been added to the active roster.

Clemens, 26, has mopped up 98 innings for the Astros over the past two seasons and posted a 5.51 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 36.9 percent ground-ball rate in the process. Though he posted strong numbers through Double-A in his minor league career, he stumbled at Triple-A and has recorded a combined 5.91 ERA in 182 2/3 innings over parts of four seasons at that level.

The 27-year-old Martinez has logged 18 1/3 innings with Houston over the past two seasons with a 6.38 ERA and a 12-to-5 K/BB ratio in that time. He, too, has struggled at Triple-A, posting a 6.03 ERA over his two seasons (94 innings) with Oklahoma City.

Tropeano is the most notable prospect of the bunch, ranking 13th among Astros prospects on the midseason list compiled by Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. The 2011 fifth-round pick pitched to a 3.03 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 124 2/3 innings as a member of Triple-A Oklahoma City’s rotation this year. Callis and Mayo note that his low-90s fastball and changeup give him two above-average offerings, and his slider has the potential to be above-average as well. With the potential for three above-average offerings, Tropeano would seem to have a shot at being a rotation member in the future.


Astros Notes: Porter, Luhnow, Managerial Search

The Astros fired manager Bo Porter yesterday, and owner Jim Crane confirms to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle that Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow weren’t seeing eye to eye. “[The GM and the manager] have to be closely aligned and singing the same song,” said Crane. “That wasn’t happening.” Crane acknowledged that Porter was put in a difficult situation and said he feels Porter “did a pretty good job with what we gave him” before voicing his support for Luhnow’s vision. Crane says that Nolan Ryan, Reid Ryan and Craig Biggio will all be involved in the search for the next Houston manager, and he wonders if the Astros would benefit from someone with more managerial experience.

Here’s more on Porter’s firing and the search for the next Astros skipper…

  • There were some within the Astros organization that thought Porter should be dismissed following the 2013 season, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney in his daily Insider-only blog. However, the prevailing opinion wound up being that it was too soon to let go of a manager who had just completed his first season. Olney spoke with team sources that told him some players and club employees are angry over the situation. Some club employees are even looking for jobs elsewhere, according to Olney.
  • With porter out of the picture in Houston, Luhnow could be next on the chopping block if the team does not show significant improvement in 2014, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opines (video link). One specific area of improvement for Luhnow will be showing that he can successfully build a bullpen, Rosenthal points out.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with pitching coach Brent Strom regarding his relationship with Porter, and Strom had positive things to say. Strom was hired by Luhnow and has a longstanding relationship with the GM, but says he learned a lot from Porter, whom he met just this past offseason. “I really grew to appreciate his intelligence and his attention to detail,” Strom said. “I actually learned a great deal from him, I really did. Stuff that in all my years of baseball I had not thought about, and I documented all those things and actually had passed it on to our minor league pitching coaches for future years throughout our system.”
  • Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is likely to be a candidate, sources tell ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
  • Some “potential candidates,” according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, include former Astros star (and current adviser) Craig Biggio. Other possibilities include bench coaches Tim Bogar (Rangers) and Dave Martinez (Rays) along with third base coaches Dave Clark (Tigers) and Joe McEwing (White Sox). McTaggart’s colleague, Richard Justice, also tweets that Bogar is a candidate.
  • In addition to the names listed above, Drellich lists some other hypothetical candidates for the skipper’s role. Former big league managers Manny Acta and Trey Hillman, A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, recent Padres assistant GM A.J. Hinch, and interim manager Tom Lawless.

Fallout From Astros’ Dismissal Of Bo Porter

Here’s the latest on the Astros’ managerial situation after the firing of Bo Porter earlier today:

  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says the team could hire a new manager before the end of the season, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Luhnow says the Astros will be looking for similar qualities in a manager that they were looking for when they hired Porter. He also notes that interim manager Tom Lawless could be considered for the job on a permanent basis if he expresses interest in the position.
  • It certainly sounds like Lawless is interested, to judge from his comments today (via Drellich). “Oh, it was pretty exciting,” he says. “I got (word) yesterday, last night. Jeff called and wanted to know if I wanted to take over the team for the last 30 days, and I said, ‘Sure!’
  • Porter has released a statement regarding his dismissal, thanking the Astros and the city of Houston for their support.
  • One potential candidate to replace Porter could be former Padres star Phil Nevin, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Nevin has impressed observers with his work this year as the manager for Triple-A Reno in the Diamondbacks’ system.