Houston Astros Rumors

West Notes: Garza, Ortiz, Appel, Capuano

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that back at the Winter Meetings, the Angels offered Matt Garza a four-year contract similar to the deal he eventually he inked with the Brewers last week. However, owner Arte Moreno typically wants a quick response to free agent offers, so the Angels didn't leave the offer on the table for long (Twitter links). The Halos have added Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs this offseason and inked a returning Mark Mulder to a minor league deal. Here's more from the West divisions.

  • Rangers southpaw Joe Ortiz will miss three months of the season after he was hit by a motorcycle in Venezuela, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Ortiz, who was a pedestrian at the time of the frightening accident, has a broken bone in his left foot.
  • The Astros announced that top prospect and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel has had an emergency appendectomy. General manager Jeff Luhnow said in a press release that Appel isn't expected to miss much time: "He will report to camp on time. Once he arrives in Spring Training, we’ll see where he is at health-wise and take it from there. We anticipate that he will either be ready to work out at the start of camp or very close to ready." The Astros also announced that waiver claim Raul Valdes will be out four to six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.
  • Former Dodgers starter Chris Capuano figures to be a bargain this offseason, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes. ESPN's Buster Olney recently noted (on Twitter) that Capuano is now only asking for a one-year contract. Sullivan suggests that could make him a better buy than someone like Bronson Arroyo, even though Arroyo is perceived as being more durable. In October, the Dodgers paid Capuano a $1MM buyout rather than picking up an $8MM option, suggesting that they did not believe he was worth $7MM to them. The Steamer projection system, however, projects that Capuano will be approximately as valuable as Arroyo, Tim Hudson or Phil Hughes.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

Olney On Kimbrel, Rumors, Morales, Ryan

In his latest ESPN Insider piece (subscription required and recommended), Buster Olney covered some interesting topics. Among them:

  • It makes sense for the Braves to roll the dice on winning their upcoming arbitration hearing with closer Craig Kimbrel, says Olney, who notes that Kimbrel could otherwise earn more through arbitration than he might get on the open market. The stakes are high for both sides: Kimbrel's $9MM demand would set him up for perhaps a $14-15MM payday next year, while the Braves' $6.55MM counter could hold him to the $10-11MM range in 2015. That could make the difference between whether he is kept in Atlanta or is instead dealt to free up payroll space. And, as Olney notes, the return on Kimbrel in a trade might not be quite what fans would hope for if he is going to be paid like a starter.
  • In spite of the MLB rules prohibiting team officials and agents from dispensing certain types of information regarding free agents, says Olney, a "tsunami of disinformation" has hit the rumor mill this offseason. 
  • Some MLB team executives have told Olney that Kendrys Morales may need to wait to sign until after the June 5-7 amateur draft if he hopes to beat the $14.1MM qualifying offer rate that he previously declined. By rule, a signing team would no longer be required to sacrifice draft pick compensation for Morales at that point. And, Olney notes, injuries and other happenings could increase demand.
  • One major issue (among others) with this hypothetical strategy, I would suggest, is that Morales would only be able to earn a prorated portion of whatever 2014 salary he arrives at. For a player who was never really expected to land more than a two-year deal, giving up half-a-year of playing time might be more costly than just signing with the compensation attached. 
  • If Nolan Ryan joins the Astros organization, reports Olney, he will not be interested in serving as a figurehead and will want to have a voice in player personnel decisions. 

Quick Hits: Prospects, Cruz, Yoon, Madson, Baker

MLB.com's Jim Callis has an interesting breakdown of the dollars committed to the game's top prospects. Over $228MM has already been committed by teams to the prospects listed among MLB.com's top 100. Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Keith Law has released his own prospect rankings (Insider links), naming the Astros' system as the game's best and tabbing Byron Buxton of the Twins as the best overall prospect. In his own top 101 prospects list, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus agrees with Buxton as the top choice, which certainly appears to be the consensus. And Baseball America has completed its listing of the ten best prospects by team.

Here are some more links from around the game:

  • The Twins are keeping tabs on free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, but are a long shot to land him. Minnesota is probably only interested if Cruz drops his price fairly significantly, Wolfson adds, guessing that the club would probably only be involved at two years with an average annual value at or below the $10MM mark.
  • Likewise, the Twins are waiting for the price to fall on South Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, Wolfson reports (Twitter links). When Wolfson floated the number of two years and $10MM total to his source, he was told that cost was likely too steep for Minnesota.
  • Free agent reliever Ryan Madson plans to hold a full public workout on February 7th, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The 33-year-old threw yesterday for an unknown club that is reportedly a leading candidate to land him, Crasnick adds. 
  • Starter Scott Baker chose the Mariners over offers from the IndiansRangers, and Royals, reports Wolfson (via Twitter). The Twins never had interest in a reunion, Wolfson adds.
  • Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers were discussing a deal in the range of $200MM to $205MM over the summer, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. By waiting until he wrapped up a Cy Young campaign, Kershaw was able to secure a deal with a $215MM guarantee.

Quick Hits: Mets, Drew, Bullpen, Nolan Ryan, Cards

For those of you who entered MLBTR's annual free agenct prediction contest, be sure to check out the leaderboard to see where you stand with 39 of the top 50 free agents now under contract. At present, four readers are tied with an eye-pleasing .333 batting average, with eleven others right on their heels with 12 correct picks. 

Here are some notes to round out the evening:

  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that the team is unlikely to sign shortstop Stephen Drew, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Though this is not the first time he has given such an indication, Alderson said he had only had "sporadic" talks with Drew's agent, Scott Boras. Of course, neither did he close the door on Drew. "We haven't ruled it out, but I think doing anything is unlikely," said Alderson. "… I know there's been a lot of speculation about Drew and the Mets, but at this point, that's what it remains — speculation." 
  • Alderson likewise said that New York was not enamored with the possibility of giving out a big league deal for a free agent reliever. New York has recently been linked with closer Fernando Rodney and reportedly made a legitimate run at Grant Balfour before he signed with the Rays. "Acquiring someone with some experience would give us some comfort going into Spring Training, but we don't want to preclude some of our younger pitchers from getting a solid opportunity either," Alderson explained. "So if there's somebody there that we like, we'll pursue them. Otherwise, one of the ways we've approached starting pitching, for example, is to bring in a couple of guys on minor league contracts and have them compete with some of our own internal candidates. We may do the same thing with the bullpen."
  • As expected, Nolan Ryan has met with Astros owner Jim Crane, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Today's sit-down reportedly included Ryan's son Reid, who is Houston's president of business operations. Details have yet to emerge as to what was discussed and where things stand, but it would appear that the former Rangers CEO could be headed toward some kind of role with the Astros.
  • None of the players on the Cardinals' 40-man roster is out of options, says MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, leaving the club with ample flexibility in constructing its active roster. In fact, only three players — Pete Kozma, Sam Freeman, and Shane Robinson — are down to their last option. (Of course, players with at least five years of service time can refuse an optional assignment.) That should leave the Cards with the means to stash and shuttle players as necessary over the course of the coming season without exposing them to waivers.

Cafardo On Burnett, Tanaka, Morales, Matsuzaka

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checks in with GMs, players, writers, and scouts to help run down the best coaches in baseball.  On his list of bench coaches who are managers in waiting: Brad Mills of the Indians, Torey Luvullo of the Red Sox, Larry Bowa of the Phillies, Tim Flannery of the Giants, and the Brewers' Jerry Narron.  More from today's column..

  • The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if A.J. Burnett retires.  Right now, Pittsburgh is looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the money that would have gone to the veteran toward that end.  Cafardo also notes that the Orioles could be a "wild card" in the situation since Burnett lives in Baltimore.  
  • While the bids of the other teams are still unknown, one GM threw out the following figures in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes: Yankees $155MM, Cubs $120MM, Diamondbacks $120MM, Dodgers $119MM, White Sox $100MM, Astros $100MM.
  • The Diamondbacks were head over heels for Tanaka, but the fact they weren’t on one of the coasts and they were in a smaller media market worked against them.
  • Scott Boras doesn't represent David Ortiz, but he tells Cafardo that he feels for them.  Boras sees some similarities between the Red Sox star and his own client Kendrys Morales.  Morales is seen by most clubs as a DH rather than a first baseman which is hurting his value.  Boras argues that Ortiz is the featured power hitter in Boston's lineup as a DH and believes that Morales can also provide value in that role.
  • There had been some talk that Daisuke Matsuzaka might go back to Japan to pitch, but the possibility of breaking into the Mets’ rotation with Matt Harvey out intrigued Matsuzaka enough to fight for a spot.
  • The Giants have been through a lot with Pablo Sandoval and even if he has a good season, this could be Pablo Sandoval's last in San Francisco.  Sandoval will be a free agent following the 2014 season.

Quick Hits: Ryan, Garcia, Diaz, Santiago

After public expressions of interest recently between the Astros and Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, the stage is set for another step forward. Team owner Jim Crane has arranged to meet Ryan in person at some point next week. Presumably, the two will discuss a role for the former Rangers CEO with a Houston organization that already features his son as its president of business operations. Here are a few more stray notes to round out the week:

  • Freddy Garcia does not want to pitch in Triple-A for the Braves, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has an opt-out on March 25 that can be exercised if he has not been added to the MLB roster, but Garcia is confident that he won't need to do so.
  • Two of his countrymen were cleared to sign today, but Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz is still ineligible to sign until February 19th due to age misrepresentation issues. He is now training in Arizona, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, and plans to showcase himself for scouts on at least two occasions in February. The 23-year-old has reportedly drawn wide interest from MLB clubs.
  • 34-year-old infielder Ramon Santiago has chosen new representation, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. He will rely on the Beverly Hills Sports Council to find him a home after eight years with the Tigers.

Masahiro Tanaka Reactions And Fallout

The Masahiro Tanaka saga has come to an end in record-setting fashion. Earlier today, Tanaka agreed to an enormous seven-year, $155MM contract with the Yankees that contains an opt-out clause after the fourth season. Tanaka's $155MM guarantee is the second-largest in history for a free agent pitcher (the largest for a right-hander) and is also the second-largest pitcher contract in history in terms of new money guaranteed. The Tanaka buzz is unlikely to die down in the next couple of days, as pundits dissect the contract and what it means for the Yankees and the free agent market. Here's a look at some of the early reactions to and fallout from the Yankees' staggering investment…

  • New York GM Brian Cashman discussed the deal from the team's perspective in a conference call today, and MLBTR's Zach Links reported on the highlights.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Yankees' internal sense is that this concludes their pursuit of major free agents this offseason (Twitter link). 
  • It's little surprise that the team with the biggest need and one of the two biggest revenue bases from which to draw wound up landing Tanaka, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required). Law feels that Tanaka will be one of the 20 to 25 best starters in Major League Baseball in 2014 and notes that the opt-out clause works to the Yankees' advantage, in a way.
  • SB Nation's Rob Neyer writes that while Tanaka is a significant upgrade for the Yankees, it's hyperbolic to suggest that this signing will change the balance of power in the American League.
  • The Cubs were the runner-up in the Tanaka sweepstakes, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). Ultimately, the fact that they're not ready to win in 2014 ended their chances, he elaborates.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees separated themselves, but not by a wide margin. The DodgersCubsWhite SoxAstros and Diamondbacks were all involved in the end. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, all teams that participated in the second round of bidding had to come in above the six-year, $120MM level.
  • Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com reports that the seventh guaranteed year is what separated the Yankees from the rest of the pack (on Twitter). According to Kaplan (via Twitter), other factors "trumped the possibility of more money," including the influence of Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda and the attractiveness of playing for the game's highest-profile franchise. 
  • The Dodgers wanted Tanaka, but drew a financial line, reports Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. As Dilbeck explains, the team does have financial limitations that it intends to abide by. "We went as far as we thought we could go," said GM Ned Colletti. 
  • For the White Sox, GM Rick Hahn says that reports of the team's efforts to land Tanaka largely seemed "accurate," reports Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Ultimately, however, Hahn says that the money reached a level that the club was not comfortable reaching. The resources that the club would have used to sign Tanaka remain available for a similarly attractive opportunity in the future, Hahn said, but he does not see any in the current market. (Links to Twitter.)
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros' offer to Tanaka exceeded $100MM. McTaggart adds that GM Jeff Luhnow, owner Jim Crane and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens were among the Astros contingent that went to meet with Tanaka in Los Angeles. 
  • Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona was told that the Diamondbacks would not pursue other free-agent starters if they missed out on Tanaka, as the front office believes the asking prices to be too high (Twitter link). 
  • The Blue Jays were involved initially on Tanaka, but had "no way to compete" once it became clear that he would command seven years, reports John Lott of the National Post. Toronto had been willing to pay the $20MM fee, but was only interested in going to five years on the contract, Lott says. The team was also troubled by the opt-out clause, Lott tweets. Toronto figures to be among the most active teams on remaining free agent starters.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters, including MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, that his team was never very involved with Tanaka and did not make a formal offer (Twitter link). As Gonzalez further explains, the Halos will instead either try to fit Matt Garza within the team's approximately $15MM of 2014 budget space or hunt for a good deal from amongst the cheaper open-market options.
  • The Tanaka signing caps a nice run for Casey Close and the Excel Sports Management agency, notes Darren Heitner of Forbes. With an estimated 4% take, those two contracts would deliver a total of $14.8MM to the agency. Heitner notes also that Excel has worked out several notable deals with the Yankees in the past, given its representation of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. With its latest run of big contracts, says Heitner, Excel will surely climb the Forbes agency valuation chart.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.

Astros, Nolan Ryan Have Mutual Interest In Relationship

The Astros and recently retired Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan have both expressed interest in exploring a working relationship, according to multiple reports today. Reid Ryan, the son of the legendary pitcher, is Houston's president of business operations.

Astros owner Jim Crane said today that he was "hoping to talk to Nolan [Ryan] pretty soon," reports Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle"Certainly, we could make room for Nolan," said Crane. "We'll see how that works with the business side and the baseball side." The younger Ryan indicated that he would "love to have my dad work with the Houston Astros," but said he would leave it to his father and Crane to work things out.

Meanwhile, the Hall of Famer Ryan said that he would "look forward to [working with his son] if that turned out to be a doable deal," reports Mark Berman of Houston's FOX 26. Having already retired from his work with the Rangers, Ryan indicated that the Astros were the only club he would realistically be interested in working for.

Of course, none of the reports give any indication of the type of role that Ryan might occupy with the Astros. Reid Ryan is already perched atop the business hierarchy, with the respected Jeff Luhnow running things from the baseball ops side.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: Houston Astros

Masahiro Tanaka Links: Tuesday

News on a landing spot for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has been expected between now and Thursday. But now Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets that the decision could take til Friday since Tanaka may stand on a physical taken during his trip to Los Angeles earlier in the month. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explains (Twitter links), the results of Tanaka's January 9th physical were shared with interested clubs, but teams may want their own medical staff to get a firsthand look. Either way, Tanaka must be signed to a deal with no contingencies on or before Friday at 4pm central time. We'll keep tabs on today's news right here:

  • In case you missed it from this morning, ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote an Insider piece that profiles Tanaka agent Casey Close of Excel Sports Management. The relatively non-promotional and rumor-free negotiation process reflects the businesslike personalities of both Close and Tanaka, Olney suggests.
  • Teams bidding on Tanaka are "in for at least 6 or 7 years," reports Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (on Twitter). The average annual value will be "at or above" $20MM, Levine adds. Put those numbers together, of course, and Levine's report suggests that Tanaka will command at least $120MM (in addition, presumably, to the $20MM posting fee).
  • The Red Sox "do not appear to be among the finalists" in the Tanaka sweepstakes, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
  • Astros owner Jim Crane says that the team is interested in Tanaka, reports Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (via Twitter). We heard yesterday that Houston may have been one of the clubs to have met with Tanaka and his representatives. It is still not known, of course, whether the 'Stros interest has manifested itself as a competitive, formal offer. And McTaggart tweets that, in his opinion, the club is a "longshot."
  • Once Tanaka officially comes off the board, baseball is set to experience a rush of important free agent signings that has not been experienced in recent seasons, as MLBTR's Transaction Tracker documents. On or after January 24, 2009, there were six multi-year free agent deals and three contracts that included at least $10MM in guaranteed money. Last year, five and three deals hit those respective marks on or after 1/24. The intervening years – 2012 (2/2), 2011 (0/0), and 2010 (1/1) — had much fewer substantial, late signings. Assuming that no major deals go down before Friday, however, at least eight still-available free agents seem quite likely to get multi-year deals that guarantee over $10MM: Tanaka, Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz, Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ervin Santana. A good number of others — including A.J. BurnettPaul Maholm, Chris Capuano, Grant Balfour, and Fernando Rodney — still have an excellent chance at scoring multiple years, eight-figure guarantees, or both.

Masahiro Tanaka Links: Monday

The Masahiro Tanaka clock is ticking, and the right-hander has until Friday to agree to a deal with his first Major League team. Recent reports have indicated that the Cubs are emerging as one of the favorites, but their status as a losing team could stand in the way of landing Tanaka. Yesterday it was reported that Tanaka could agree on Tuesday or Wednesday this week in order to give his new club time to perform the necessary physical and paperwork to make things official. We'll keep track of today's Tanaka-centric links here…

  • Whichever club is chosen by Tanaka should know by at least the end of the day Wednesday, tweets David Kaplan of CSN Chicago and WGN Radio. That way, explains Kaplan, the club has time for "additional medicals."
  • The Blue Jays "are not among the teams in consideration" for Tanaka, says Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. But Toronto is definitely involved in adding a free agent starter from what Griffin calls the "next tier" of starting arms, and is willing to sacrifice a second-round pick to do so. (The Jays' two first-round choices are protected.)

Earlier Updates

  • Industry source believe that the Cubs will outbid the field in terms of years and dollars in order to land Tanaka, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. Levine adds that at this point, no team knows how much its competitors have bid.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes that the Cubs may need Tanaka more than the Yankees or Dodgers, but he doesn't feel that Tanaka is interested in coming to America to pitch for a losing club. He feels Chicago would have to overpay in order to land Tanaka, which he says is not the Ricketts family's style. The Dodgers present the best set of circumstances in terms of available money, proximity to Japan, weather, a competitive team and a pitcher-friendly environment, Morosi writes.
  • Over the weekend, a rival executive told MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that he believes the Astros met with Tanaka, though he is unsure whether or not they made a formal offer (Twitter link).