Houston Astros Rumors

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

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).

West Notes: Astros, Dodgers, Mariners, Rangers

A source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that the Astros haven't discussed a long-term extension with Jason Castro yet. The 26-year-old appears to be a candidate for a long-term deal after a 2013 breakout campaign that saw him slug 18 home runs and generate 4.3 fWAR, tops among AL catchers not named Joe Mauer. However, he's now eligible for arbitration, and could become expensive quickly if he's not interested in an extension. As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal observed recently, teams appear increasingly willing to trade players who resist being locked up. Here's more from baseball's Western divisions:


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)



Minor Moves: Gregorio Petit

Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • The Astros have signed infielder Gregorio Petit to a minor league contract, according to the team's transactions page. Petit, 29, hasn't played in the Majors since 2009 but enjoyed a solid season for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in 2013, slashing .292/.344/.380 with four homers and five steals in 555 plate appearances. Petit is primarily a shortstop but also has experience at second base and third base.

Astros To Sign Cesar Izturis

The Astros have agreed to a minor league deal with infielder Cesar Izturis, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Izturis, who is represented by the Legacy Agency, will receive an invitation to Major League Spring Training.

Izturis spent the 2013 season with Cincinnati, where he batted .209/.259/.271 in 142 plate appearances. A well-regarded defensive shortstop, Izturis posted a +4.8 UZR/150 and was worth +4 runs, according to The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved metric. Heyman notes that he has a good chance of making the Astros' roster as a utility infielder out of Spring Training.


Cafardo On Arroyo, Overbay, Drew, Boras

In his latest column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe revealed that he is part of a BBWAA committee that will explore the Hall of Fame voting process and discuss what changes (if any) need to be made.  Some of the issues likely to be addressed by the committee is whether to allow voters to name more than 10 players on their ballots, whether or not long-time broadcasters or statistical analysis-centric writers should be given a say in HOF voting.

Here's the latest hot stove news from Cafardo…

  • Two new teams have joined the hunt for Bronson Arroyo.  At least one of his suitors is moving closer to giving Arroyo the third contract year he's looking for, though that third year could come in the form of a vesting option.  Cafardo isn't sure if the Twins were that mystery team, though they've been interested in Arroyo all winter.  He also cites the Yankees and Phillies as interested parties, as those two clubs join the likes of the Orioles, Mets and Pirates as those linked to the veteran righty this winter.  Cafardo reported last month that Arroyo has received two-year contract offers from four different teams.
  • Free agent Lyle Overbay is an option for both the Astros and Brewers at first base.  Milwaukee is also still considering signing Michael Young for first, or trading for Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
  • Agent Scott Boras says “there are five or six teams who I have actively talked to concerning Stephen [Drew],” including the Red Sox.  As you might expect, Boras denied that Drew's market is in any way limited, noting that Drew doesn't have a new contract yet since "free agency is a long process.  It just doesn’t end at Christmas. It’s a January, February, and even a March process."
  • Boras "has a tremendous stake in the Red Sox’ present and future," Cafardo writes, noting that the agent represents not just Drew, but also top youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Deven Marrero.
  • "The silence on [Kendrys] Morales is deafening," as teams are reluctant to give up a first round draft pick as compensation for the slugger.  At least one team said they're leery about spending significant money for a DH, though Boras, Morales' agent, counters by noting the impact that David Ortiz has had on the Red Sox and also noting that his client can play first base.
  • Johnny Damon has stayed in shape and would be willing to resume his career.  The 40-year-old hinted at retirement if he couldn't find a contract last offseason and indeed Damon ended up sitting out the 2013.  Damon is also a Boras client, and the agent tells Cafardo that Damon has yet to contact him about officially retiring.
  • Manny Ramirez wants to continue his career, his hitting coach David Segui predicts, though Segui hasn't spoken to Ramirez in over two months.  “Manny will always be able to hit,” Segui said. “He loves to play, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s still looking for something.”  Ramirez's agent, Barry Praver, said in November that his client looking for a return to the Majors.  Ramirez, 41, last played with the bigs with the Rays in 2011 before being suspended for PED use.  Over the last two years, Ramirez spent some time with the Athletics' and Rangers' Triple-A affiliates and also played in Taiwan.
  • A National League GM predicts that one of Masahiro Tanaka's many suitors will "come in and blow everyone away.  There’s going to be a dance where everyone is in the same boat and then there will be a team that breaks the bank for him.”

Astros Sign Scott Feldman

JAN. 10: Feldman's deal is front-loaded, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The right-hander will earn $12MM in 2014, $10MM in 2015 and $8MM in 2016.

DEC. 6: Though several of their starters turned in a strong finish to the 2013 campaign, the Astros' rotation still ranked 28th in ERA and 27th in innings pitched. Looking to add an experienced arm to help solidify an unstable group of starters, Houston announced a three-year deal for right-hander Scott Feldman that is reportedly worth $30MM. It's been a busy few days for Feldman's agent, Matt Brown, as he also represents Curtis Granderson, who just agreed to a four-year, $60MM deal with the Mets.

Feldman-Scott-Os

Feldman rebounded from a series of injuries with the Rangers to post a solid season between the Cubs and Orioles in 2013. The 30-year-old posted a 3.86 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 49.6 percent ground-ball rate in 181 2/3 innings.

Feldman's contract represents both a significant raise for the pitcher — he earned $6MM in 2013 — and a significant change in philosophy for the Astros. Houston trimmed payroll in 2013 to the point where Erik Bedard's $1.15MM salary made him the only Astro with a salary north of $1MM. By signing Feldman and acquiring Dexter Fowler and his $7.35MM salary earlier this week, the Astros are making good on their promise to fans that they will spend money this offseason.

Feldman will join a promising young rotation that includes Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock (who improved significantly in the season's final two months). Houston also has promising prospects on the way in the form of Mike Foltynewicz and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel. Beyond those already impressive names, the Astros will once again pick No. 1 overall in 2014, meaning that another highly touted arm could be added to the mix. North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon currently projects as the consensus No.1 overall pick. Feldman was traded midseason and therefore wasn't eligible to receive a qualifying offer, meaning the Astros will not surrender a draft pick to land his services.

Feldman's contract is somewhat comparable to that of other mid-tier starters such as Jason Vargas and Phil Hughes. Though he was unable to secure the fourth year that Vargas commanded, Feldman also netted a higher annual value despite a more inconsistent track record. He and Brown were able to top my prediction of two years and a vesting option.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to report the agreement and terms of the deal (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL West Links: Tanaka, A’s, Astros, Castro

Could the Athletics be stealth contenders for Masahiro Tanaka?  A Major League executive tells Bill Madden of the New York Daily News to "watch out for Oakland" as a suitor for the Japanese right-hander.  "They’ve got as much money as any team and they like doing these big international things — as with their signing of (Yoenis) Cespedes and the fact they were second to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman five years ago," the exec said.  Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com explores the possibility of Tanaka joining the A's and thinks the executive might've just been speculating, but while he feels it's unlikely the A's can outbid the field for Tanaka, Stiglich notes the A's have already made some surprising moves this winter "so no sort of Tanaka speculation should come as a complete shocker."

Here's some more from the AL West…

  • Speaking of Tanaka, ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) opines that "he would be absolutely perfect for" the Astros.  Tanaka is young enough that he'll be in his prime when Houston will theoretically be able to contend, and the Astros can afford to make a big contract offer since they have so few long-term payroll commitments.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle breaks down the question of whether the Astros should trade or extend catcher Jason Castro.  There's clear value to keeping a cost-controlled, power-hitting catcher on one-year deals through arbitration, and yet without an extension, a trade becomes more logical the closer Castro gets to free agency.
  • Trading for outfielder Michael Choice "was the best move made by the Rangers this winter," opines MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan as part of a reader mailbag.  Sullivan sees Choice as a candidate to help the team in 2014 and take over as Alex Rios' replacement in 2015.  Texas acquired Choice as part of the deal that sent Craig Gentry to Oakland last month.
  • The Rangers drafted Jameis Winston in the 15th round of the 2012 draft and Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News talks to Texas assistant GM A.J. Preller and other club personnel about how serious Texas was about signing Winston and still letting him play football for Florida State.  Winston, of course, is quarterbacking FSU against Auburn in tonight's national championship game and says he aims to be a two-sport star a la Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders.  Winston is next eligible for the MLB draft in 2015.
  • In other AL West news from earlier today, the Mariners will need approval from ownership before going ahead with any more big moves, and the M's signed catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor league deal.

MLBTR's Zach Links also contributed to this post


Rosenthal on Angels, Qualifying Offers, Drew, Jays, Putz

The Angels are likely to eclipse the $189MM luxury-tax threshold eventually, despite their efforts to avoid doing so this offseason, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Sources tell the columnist that the Angels have between $13MM and $15MM of space left beneath the cap, figures that are much lower than what will be required to sign Masahiro Tanaka. However, extending Mike Trout at, say, $300MM over 10 years would make it difficult to avoid surpassing the threshold anyway, so the Angels may as well do so now, Rosenthal surmises. Here's more from his new column:

  • This offseason's big contracts for less-than-durable stars like Jacoby EllsburyCurtis Granderson and Brian McCann show that position players can earn more as free agents than they would with club-friendly, long-term deals. Meanwhile, clubs appear increasingly willing to move players who resist extensions. For example, sources tell Rosenthal that rival teams have asked about Astros catcher Jason Castro, who could be moved if Houston is unable to ink him long-term.
  • Qualifying offers appear to have suppressed the market for players such as Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales, frustrating player representatives. Potential fixes to the system include guaranteeing that free agents receive a qualifying offer only once, or ensuring that teams signing free agents who received qualifying offers lose only draft picks and not their associated bonus-pool amounts. The current system will remain in place for another two offseasons, Rosenthal notes.
  • Stephen Drew appears to be a fit for the Mets, rival executives say, despite the club's insistence that it will consider Ruben Tejada for its starting shortstop job.
  • The Blue Jays remain among the favorites to sign either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, despite their quiet offseason thus far. The Jays could acquire as many as two starters before the offseason is over, Rosenthal reports. In addition to upgrading through free agency, the club has also discussed trades for the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija and other starters.
  • The Diamondbacks could trade J.J. Putz after acquiring Addison Reed from the White Sox. Swapping the righty for Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is one potential deal, or Putz could be packaged with other players in a deal for a starter such as Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers.

West Notes: McHugh, Astros, Mariners, Giants

Pitcher Collin McHugh has published a fascinating chronicle (at ESPN New York) of his year in baseball, which includes stints with the Mets and Rockies. McHugh ended the calendar year by getting claimed by the Astros, and at the end of his article, he lists what seem to be the key differences between the two franchises, at least for someone in his situation. One of the more interesting of those is that the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs is just 45 minutes from Denver, while the Astros' Triple-A team in Oklahoma City is six hours from Houston. That's not something a fan would consider, but it's part of the reality of life on the fringes of the big leagues. Here's more from the West divisions.

  • The Astros announced that they've named Kevin Goldstein their Director of Professional Scouting. They also named Stephanie Wilka their Specialist of International Operations and Associate Counsel, and Pete Putila their Coordinator of Baseball Operations. Goldstein, who joined the Astros organization in 2012, was previously a writer for Baseball Prospectus and ESPN.
  • The Mariners want to add a top-notch starting pitcher, and the Robinson Cano signing demonstrates a kind of "urgency" or "desperation," so their pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka could get wild, Jeff Sullivan of USS Mariner writes. The market for Tanaka could reach the point where paying his price no longer makes sense, though, and if it does, it might be better for the Mariners to sign someone like Ubaldo Jimenez for half of what Tanaka will cost.
  • It's unclear whether the Giants might consider signing Brandon Belt to an extension, but if they did, the Anthony Rizzo, Allen Craig, Paul Goldschmidt and Billy Butler deals might provide a basic framework, writes Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles. Belt is a Super Two, which means the Giants control him for the next four years, but at arbitration prices. Brisbee suggests a fair deal for Belt might be something like five years and $42MM, with an option for 2019.