Houston Astros Rumors

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

International Notes: Forecasts, Astros, Castillo, Tomas

Earlier today, MLBTR’s Steve Adams broke down everything you need to know entering the July 2 signing period. As it opens up officially, here’s the latest on the international market:

  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler has excellent team-by-team forecasts for the 2014-15 July 2 market. In addition to covering the landing spots of some of the more notable available names, Badler also discusses teams’ differing approaches and predilections in this area of player acquisition.
  • Armed with over $5MM in available pool money, the Astros expect to be “reasonably aggressive,” GM Jeff Luhnow tells MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart“It’s a good class,” said Luhnow. “It’s deep and has got pitchers, position players. I’m excited about it. I think we’re going to add a lot of depth to our system this year.”
  • Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is expected to hold a showcase next week in Miami, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports on Twitter. Badler notes that Castillo could make an impact down the stretch; he has previously written that the 26-year-old is viewed as a major league-caliber, but not necessarily top-flight, talent.
  • Yasmani Tomas, who recently defected from Cuba, is working with agent Jay Alou, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via Twitter). The 23-year-old outfielder will be exempt from spending limits, and is expected to draw significant interest based on his impressive power.

Astros Sign Derek Fisher

2:07pm: Fisher will receive a full-slot bonus, tweets Jim Callis of MLB.com.

1:56pm: The Astros announced that they have signed No. 37 overall pick Derek Fisher (Twitter link). Terms have yet to be disclosed, though the University of Virgina outfielder’s slot comes with a value of $1,534,100.

Fisher ranked 15th among draft prospects according to ESPN’s Keith Law, while MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo ranked him 26th, and Baseball America ranked him 31st. He was originally selected in the sixth round by the Rangers in 2011 but reportedly turned down a seven-figure offer to attend UVA. Fisher was thought to be a potential Top 100 pick at one point, Law notes, but a broken hamate bone caused his stock to drop a bit.

Law, however, cautions that his average speed and defensive question marks likely limit Fisher to left field as a pro, meaning he will have to hit to provide significant value. It appears there’s a good chance of that happening, though, as Law praises his left-handed swing which comes with “very little wasted movement” and good bat speed. Callis and Mayo project him as a plus hitter in terms of both average and power, and BA notes that scouts have given him 70-grade raw power (which would line up with Law’s assertion that he could hit 30-plus homers if everything breaks right).


Reactions To The Astros’ Data Leak

Yesterday’s leak of roughly 10 months worth of Astros trade notes and discussions made plenty of headlines around the nation. Not only was information that was sensitive to the Astros revealed, but other teams found their own executives and trade discussions included in the data. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has a full transcript of GM Jeff Luhnow’s response to the situation. Luhnow says that he’s been on the phone with other clubs since the information leaked and said that “in general, they’re understanding and supportive,” though he added that he’s sure other clubs aren’t happy to have seen their names in place. Luhnow mentions multiple times that not all of the info in the data leak is accurate, adding that the team is working with the FBI to determine who stole the information and will press criminal charges. He also says that the Astros have since upgraded the security on their databases, but he still used a pencil and paper to take notes in all conversations he had yesterday. “I think we were prepared,” Luhnow told Drellich after being asked if the Astros should’ve been better prepared. “We had security in place, and when you’re talking about criminals we just never know if we have enough. I think we were prepared as we could have been.”

Here are some reactions from around the baseball world…

  • Jim Margalus of SB Nation’s South Side Sox looks at the mentions of the White Sox within the leak and makes some educated guesses as to how the team’s offseason trade talks played out. He points back to a December comment from Sox GM Rick Hahn in which Hahn noted that the club almost swapped one of its pitchers for a position player before the other team decided it preferred a position player from another club. Margalus speculates that, based on data leaked yesterday and Hahn’s prior comments, that a Hector Santiago/Peter Bourjos swap (or a different three-team deal involving those players) may have been in play at one point.
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays will review the safeguards on their own proprietary database — entitled “The BEST.” He describes the system as a “one stop catch-all for scouting reports, video, medical records, analytics and dialogue with various clubs.”
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he’s thankful to have escaped from the situation unscathed, as he’s “certainly talked to the Astros about various things.” The Twins have had internal discussions about communications security since the breach.
  • George Springer, whose name appeared in supposed trade talks in the leaked information, offered little comment when asked by Bob Nightengale of USA Today“I’m just here to play baseball. That’s it,” Springer said.
  • MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reminds that the Marlins made it clear prior to last offseason’s GM Meetings that Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t on the market. Still, he continues, teams commonly throw out feelers, but that hardly means the noted discussion of Stanton for Springer and Carlos Correa ever had any real legs to it. Marlins GM Dan Jennings dismissed the information yesterday, calling it “laughable.”
  • Rob Neyer of FOX Sports writes that he simply doesn’t believe Jennings’ claim that the two sides never discussed anything involving Stanton. Neyer points out that it does behoove Jennings and the Marlins to deny the report in an effort not to upset fans or Stanton himself, but the better route to take would be to simply acknowledge that he’d have been doing the Marlins a disservice not to float the idea of two elite prospects as headliners for a Stanton trade package.


Astros Designate Jerome Williams For Assignment

The Astros have designated swingman Jerome Williams for assignment, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Houston also optioned shortstop Jonathan Villar to Triple-A.

Williams, a 32-year-old righty, signed a one-year, $2.1MM deal with Houston before the season. He owns a 5.91 ERA through 45 2/3 innings with the club, all in relief. He does own superior peripherals (7.1 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9) than those that he carried as a starter in previous seasons, and some ERA estimators looked more favorably on his work (4.70 FIP, 4.09 xFIP, 3.72 SIERA).


Rosenthal On Aiken, Parra, Dodgers, Benoit, Cubs

In his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reminds everyone why experienced foreigners like Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu are considered eligible for Rookie of the Year awards.  Of course, players like Abreu and Tanaka come with years of professional experience, but they still have to make a significant transition when it comes to the move to MLB, both professionally and culturally.  Here’s more from Rosenthal..

  • High school left-hander (and first overall draft choice) Brady Aiken reportedly arrived in Houston last Monday, which would indicate that an agreement was close, but a week later nothing has been announced and neither side is saying why.  The holdup, Rosenthal says, bears a resemblance to the delays that occasionally occur in free agency when players fail physicals and teams try to rework deals.  If indeed Aiken failed his physical, the Astros would have the right to offer him 40 percent of his signing bonus value, according to the new draft rules that were negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement in 2011.  Of course, this is just speculation on Rosenthal’s part and only the parties involved know whether there is any kind of issue with Aiken’s physical.
  • D’Backs outfielder and fan favorite Gerardo Parra might be among the least likely in Arizona to be traded. With  A.J. Pollock and Mark Trumbo on the disabled list, a trade of the 27-year-old would leave the club short on experienced outfielders.  It’s also unclear how much Parra would bring back in a trade.  Parra is making $4.85MM in his third year of arbitration and amounts to little more than a platoon player, given his career .586 OPS against left-handers. Third baseman Martin Prado, earning $11MM per season through 2016, is another player the D’Backs might opt to keep, even though he has struggled at the plate as well.  Second baseman Aaron Hill, meanwhile, is expendable given their surplus of middle infielders.
  • It would be surprising if the Dodgers traded an outfielder considering the recent injury woes of Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, and Andre Ethier.
  • The Tigers didn’t re-sign Joaquin Benoit last winter because they didn’t want to pay him closer money, but he still makes sense for them as a mid-season pickup.  The Padres reliever, who turns 37 in July, is owed about $3MM this season and $8MM next season with an $8MM team option or $1.5MM buyout for 2016.
  • Jake Arrieta probably has the best stuff of any Cubs starter right now but, of course, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are more likely to be traded since Arrieta is under club control through 2017.  Lefty Travis Wood, meanwhile, could be an extension candidate once the Cubs complete their rotation selloff.

Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.

AL Notes: Indians, Santana, Red Sox

Indians scouting director Brad Grant says he had indications on the first day of the draft that University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer would be available when Cleveland picked at No. 21, Fangraphs’ David Laurila reports. “There are a lot of sources who provide information on who is going to go where,” Grant says. “You talk to different sources in order to kind of put that together. … You usually get a pretty good feel from that and can normally narrow it down to one or two players for your first pick.” Grant adds that the Indians became especially interested in No. 31 overall pick Justus Sheffield because they scouted his older brother Jordan, a 2013 Red Sox 13th-round pick who is now at Vanderbilt. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • Astros top prospect Domingo Santana isn’t likely to be promoted this summer, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. “Domingo still has some developing in Triple A, from our perspective,” says GM Jeff Luhnow. “We’re really excited about what he’s done, and I think the higher average at a higher level has been clearly a sign of better development and of him becoming a more complete player. But, the profile of the feast or famine is not something that we want to continue to have.” Santana has hit .305/.383/.508 so far this season for Oklahoma City, but with 94 strikeouts in 350 plate appearances. He’s already on the Astros’ 40-man roster, however, which makes him a good candidate for a September callup.
  • The Red Sox‘ options this summer remain wide open, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. The Red Sox, in the midst of a disappointing season but still only 6 1/2 games back in the AL East, could become buyers with a good month, and the recent addition of top prospect Mookie Betts could spark the Red Sox to add talent this July. If they don’t play well, they could sell. They could also pursue a multifaceted strategy in which they move players who are eligible for free agency after the season in exchange for players who might be around for the longer term but still could help this season.

Stark On Yankees, Brown, Astros, Papelbon, Dodgers

ESPN’s Jayson Stark hosted a chat with readers today and touched on a number of hot stove topics with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline roughly a month away. Here are some highlights, though the entire thing is worth a read-through for those interested in next month’s deadline…

  • Stark has received no indications that the Yankees are shopping for a third baseman. He hears that they’re prioritizing the rotation over everything else at this time.
  • Domonic Brown‘s trade value is dropping by the day, says Stark. Scouts have been watching Brown (and the Phillies in general) over the past couple of weeks, and Philadelphia is trying to bill Brown as “a guy who did it once before so he can do it again.” However, Stark has a hard time seeing Brown fetching anything more than another change-of-scenery candidate.
  • Jeff Luhnow and the Astros view most relievers as interchangeable parts, making it likely that they’ll be very willing to move names like Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp next month.
  • Right-hander Ken Giles has impressed so much that Stark expects the Phillies to ratchet up their efforts to trade Jonathan Papelbon, and with Papelbon pitching better than he has in years, this is the perfect time to do it, he opines. Giles has thrown just seven innings for the Phils, but he’s averaged 97.1 mph on his heater with a 12-to-3 K/BB ratio and a ground-ball rate north of 55 percent.
  • The Dodgers have been telling teams that they won’t move Joc Pederson or Corey Seager this summer, according to Stark. If that’s indeed the case, that should take them out of the running for David Price (in my opinion).
  • Stark doesn’t get the sense that the Tigers are shopping for a closer, which meshes with yesterday’s comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Detroit doesn’t think Joe Nathan is finished yet.

Draft Signings: Daniel Mengden

Here are Friday’s notable mid- to late-round draft signings, with all slot information coming courtesy of Baseball America

  • The Astros announced that they have officially signed fourth-rounder Daniel Mengden. The agreement was first reported earlier this week by Tyler Stafford of the Associated Press and the Texas A&M Battalion (Twitter link). According to Stafford, Mengden’s deal is worth $470K, which is a bit south of the $494,800 slot value of the No. 106 overall selection. The A&M right-hander ranked 143rd on BA’s Top 500 list and 101st on MLB.com’s Top 200. BA notes that Mengden features an above-average slider with a fastball that has touched 95 mph and a changeup that is solid-average to above-average. However, BA also notes that he has dealt with back issues that prevented him from throwing his slider much this past season.

AL West Notes: Correa, Holland, Shoemaker, Otero

Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa will miss the rest of the year after undergoing surgery on a broken fibula, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle“The surgery went very well,” said GM Jeff Luhnow. “We expect him to go through a rehab process and return to exactly the point he was at when he got injured.” The 19-year-old shortstop had been close to earning a promotion to Double-A, says Drellich. He owns a robust .325/.416/.510 triple-slash with six long balls and 20 stolen bases in his first 293 plate appearances at the High-A level.

As Astros fans deal with this tough news, here are a few more notes from the AL West…

  • Rangers lefty Derek Holland will have his minor league rehab assignment pushed back, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Holland participated in fielding drills today but wasn’t ready to progress to pitching in games, manager Ron Washington tells Fraley. GM Jon Daniels tells Fraley that the club hasn’t given consideration to shutting Holland down for the season at any point and won’t do so unless there’s significant risk that he could re-injure his problematic knee.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports looks at the journey of Matt Shoemaker from undrafted college arm to Angels starting pitcher. After Shoemaker went undrafted, his college coach called Major League teams to tell them that they missed a prospect, and he eventually signed with Anaheim for a modest $10K bonus. Brown’s story also chronicles Shoemaker’s journey and his close relationship with his father and the work the pair put into baseball throughout Shoemaker’s childhood.
  • Dan Otero has gone from unheralded waiver claim to one of the most valuable relievers in the league, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Assistant GM David Forst — the driving force behind acquiring Otero — tells Slusser that Otero’s command attracted the A’s. Scout John McLaren gave a strong review of Otero after seeing him pitch with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate. When Otero was waived by the Giants, the Yankees claimed him and tried to sneak him through waivers, only to lose him to the A’s the next day. Since that time, Otero has posted a 1.79 ERA with 5.1 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate north of 57 percent.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.