Houston Astros Rumors
The Mariners long seemed destined to bring back Kendrys Morales after the first baseman/designated hitter declined his $14.1MM qualifying offer. With interest already likely limited to American League clubs since he is not generally viewed as a regular first baseman, Morales's market figured to be dragged down further by draft pick compensation. That, in turn, made a return to Seattle an obvious fit.
But now, after adding both Corey Hart and Logan Morrison in quick succession, Seattle may no longer be a real landing spot for Morales. Both of those players seem more likely to see time at first and DH than in the outfield, and the club still has Justin Smoak in the mix as well. (Smoak, of course, just had his best big league season at age 26.)
On the other hand, the M's could elect to deal Smoak and bring back Morales. But if they do not, the remaining market looks to be a tough one for the Cuban national. It may be fair to wonder whether he will be able to better the qualifying offer that he turned down. (It would not be the first time that something like this has happened: Jason Varitek declined arbitration, under the prior Type A/B compensation system, only to re-sign with the Red Sox for far less than he stood to earn via arbitration.) Indeed, one GM even told Peter Gammons that he "just cannot see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft." (Twitter link.)
There are, of course, some other American League clubs that would seem to make sense as a landing spot for Morales. (Presumably, NL teams will remain disinterested given his defensive limitations, even if agent Scott Boras is pitching him as a regular in the field.) After all, the switch-hitter is capable from both sides of the plate and mashes righties in particular. He has hit thirty home runs and seems a good bet to knock over twenty on a regular basis. Since his first season as a regular in 2009, he has a 128 OPS+. There is a reason he received, and declined, a qualifying offer, and he begins to look more and more appealing the more top players depart the open market.
There is one team that, like the Mariners, could make a great deal of sense if they make a trade. The Yankees currently stand to give a lot of DH at-bats to Alfonso Soriano. If the club deals Brett Gardner -- however unlikely that may be -- Soriano would move back to the oufield and potentially open the door for Morales, who could also spell a recovering Mark Teixeira at first. Bear in mind, New York would have relatively little to lose in terms of sacrificing draft picks, having already given up its first rounder. And Yankee Stadium would make quite an appealing spot for Morales to up his power numbers.
Then, there are the Orioles and Angels, both of which could definitely use Morales' bat. Unfortunately, each of those teams would also be required to give up a first-round draft selection (the 15th and 17th overall, respectively) to bring him in. And that is before considering payroll limitations. Nevertheless, the Brewers ultimately proved willing last year to give up a top choice to bring in Kyle Lohse on a seemingly reasonable deal last year, so it would be unwise to count the Halos and O's out completely.
The most interesting alternative possibility, however, could be the Astros. Houston has begun spending after trimming payroll to minimal levels in years past, and an interesting bat would elevate interest and expectations. And the team would only lose a second round choice if they inked Morales. GM Jeff Luhnow said just yesterday that the first base/DH slot was an area that the club might consider upgrading. Brett Wallace and Chris Carter are both limited players, while top prospect Jonathan Singleton might still need time to develop. If Morales could be had at a low enough cost, Houston could slot his bat in the middle of the lineup and use Wallace and Carter in some manner of platoon (or shed one of them).
While a return to Seattle may not be in the cards, there's still a market out there for Morales, even if there isn't a clear odds-on favorite for his services.
The Astros are in serious discussions with Michael Morse, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Earlier today we learned that Astros skipper Bo Porter is pushing for Morse in Houston.
Morse, who hit just hit .215/.270/.381 last year, reportedly wants a $7MM or $8MM on a one-year deal. In Morse's defense, he battled significant injuries in 2013 en route to that career-worst slash line. He's quite familiar with Porter, who was the Nationals' third base coach from 2010-12 when Morse posted a strong .296/.345/.516 batting line with 64 homers in 1298 plate appearances.
Morse is a client of ACES, as shown in the MLBTR Agency Database.
Since being ruled ineligible due to providing a false birthdate over the summer, Cuban shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz has interest from a list of teams including the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees, agent Jamie Torres tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. "There are some very good players out right now and more are coming," Torres said. "Let's put it this way: I can predict that a few of the Cuban players that sign between now and Spring Training are going to contribute in the big leagues in the 2014 season and their contribution is going to be significant." More from around baseball..
- Omar Infante has been looking for a four-year deal and is drawing some interest from clubs who see him as a left fielder or third baseman, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Yesterday it was reported that Infante is seeking a deal with an $8MM+ average annual value.
- Some agents and teams are convinced that the three-year, $30MM deal the Astros gave free agent pitcher Scott Feldman has been a wrench in talks for others since agents feel obligated to also shoot for that type of "lottery ticket" contract, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
- Free agent Raul Ibanez is considering offers from multiple contenders, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Earlier today, Stark reported that Ibanez could be headed to the Angels.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he'll hold on to Ike Davis if no one comes to the table with a strong enough offer, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. "Let me emphasize one thing: We're not in the business of giving players away," Alderson said. "We don't expect to get in that business."
- The Tigers are in on Ervin Santana, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). The Twins, meanwhile, aren't in the mix because of the draft pick compensation tied to him.
- Agent Scott Boras says he would talk to Orioles owner Peter Angelos about extensions for Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, writes CSNBaltimore.com's Rich Dubroff.
- The Twins continue to talk to free agent pitcher Mike Pelfrey, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). It's unclear whether a deal with Pelfrey would preclude a signing of fellow free agent hurler Bronson Arroyo, but MInnesota has flexibility.
- One GM tells Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily (Twitter link) that he can't see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft.
- White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn says his team still has several potential options ahead less than 24 hours after acquiring center fielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. One rival exec believes the White Sox would like to trade outfielder Dayan Viciedo, who is now part of a crowded house with the addition of Eaton. Another baseball source said the White Sox have looked into the possibility of trading away second baseman Gordon Beckham.
- The free agent market for second basemen seems to be impacted by the availability of Howie Kendrick, Brandon Phillips, and others, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
5:19pm: The Astros have a lot of offers out and are no closer with any one pitcher than another, including Veras, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.
3:58pm: The Astros are pushing hard for Jose Veras and could get a deal done today, tweets MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Veras was candid yesterday in explaining to McTaggart a strong desire to return to Houston, noting that he considers it home after loving his experience there in the first four months of the 2013 season.
Veras posted a 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers, collecting a career-high 21 saves along the way. The right-hander has also drawn interest from the Rockies this offseason.
A look at the AL West..
- The Mariners' plan for Corey Hart is to see time in the outfield and at DH and he's not necessarily slotted for first base despite his knee troubles, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
- Astros manager Bo Porter is pushing for Michael Morse in Houston, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Morse is said to be willing to do a one-year deal to re-establish his value.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says that he has had a few conversations with Nelson Cruz's agent and will continue to talk with him, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
- The Angels aren't close to any free agents signings, so if Matt Garza is nearing a deal somewhere, it's not with the Halos, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.
The Astros have acquired Anthony Bass and a player to be named later or cash considerations from the Padres in exchange for a PTBNL or cash, the Padres announced on Twitter. The reasoning behind the PTBNLs on each side seems likely to be related to tomorrow's Rule 5 Draft.
The 26-year-old Bass has a 4.08 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a solid 46.9 percent ground-ball rate in 187 1/3 career innings at the Major League level. In 98 innings at the Triple-A level, Bass has a 5.42 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9.
Attention on the first base market could now shift to James Loney after the Mariners took a pair of options off the board in Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Yesterday, we heard that the Pirates were checking back in on him, while the Brewers were hesitant to meet his three-year asking price. Here's the latest:
- The Brewers have "sincere interest" in Loney but don't expect to get anything done before leaving the Winter Meetings, according to McCalvy (on Twitter).
- The Pirates and Brewers are still in on Loney, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com, with the Rays also remaining in the discussion.
- Indeed, after watching Hart leave for Seattle, the Brewers have turned their attention to Loney, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The club is probably only interested if the deal stays under three years, tweets Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.
- If Milwaukee instead shifts its attention at the trade market, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via Twitter), options include Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland, and Justin Smoak. Haudricourt wonders (via Twitter) if the thin market could lead to an increased willingness to pay Loney.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted earlier today that while the Astros prefer a stopgap, they haven't ruled out Loney.
It's been a busy day for baseball's Western divisions, with the Mariners agreeing to sign Corey Hart and acquiring Logan Morrison as well as the A's trading Jerry Blevins to the Nationals. Here's more out of each division...
- Astros outfielder L.J. Hoes has switched agencies, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweeted last night. Formerly a client of Excel Sports Management, Hoes will now be represented by the MVP Sports Group.
- The Nationals asked the Athletics about Sean Doolittle before acquiring Blevins, but Oakland didn't want to part with Doolittle, according to MLB.com's Jane Lee (on Twitter).
- The A's are excited about Drew Pomeranz as a potential replacement for Blevins, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal adds that Oakland's interest was piqued by a handful of strong relief appearances by Pomeranz at the end of the season.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies still want to add another bat, but relief help appears to be their priority. Colorado's prefernce is to add a left-handed arm, which is why they were so interested in Sean Marshall earlier in the week (Twitter links).
- Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius has drawn some interest from the Yankees, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The D-Backs reportedly could use their shortstop surplus to land a starting pitcher, but the Yankees are in the market for starters themselves and don't seem to be a good fit in that regard.
1:46pm: The Tigers are a possible destination for Chamberlain as well, tweets Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.
1:32am: The Astros are interested in Joba Chamberlain as a buy-low option, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). Chamberlain is the latest free agent to be linked to the Astros, who also reportedly have some interest in Michael Morse, Jesse Crain, and Chad Gaudin, among others.
Chamberlain, 28, had arguably the worst year of his big league career in 2013, posting a 4.93 ERA in 45 appearances for the Yankees. However, his 3.54 ERA on the road was significantly better than his 6.23 mark at home, and his velocity and strikeout rates remained solid. Assuming he can reduce his control issues going forward, he looks like a solid bounceback candidate.
On Tuesday, we heard that Chamberlain had received a one-year, $3MM proposal from an interested team. It initially appeared as if the Diamondbacks had put that offer on the table, but at least one report suggested Arizona hadn't offered the right-hander a contract. The Cubs and Royals were also mentioned as potential suitors for Chamberlain over the weekend.
Here are some quick notes from around the West divisions:
- The Mariners have interest in re-signing outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, likely to a one-year, incentive-based deal, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes. (Twitter links).
- M's GM Jack Zduriencik also says the Mariners might attempt to improve their outfield via trades, Divish tweets.
- The Dodgers are discussing Michael Young as a possible option in their infield, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes (via Twitter).
- Mike Morse wants $7MM or $8MM on a one-year contract, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. That seems to be a lot to pay a player who hit .215/.270/.381 with poor defense last season. The Astros are reportedly among the teams interested in Morse.
- The Astros have also recently spoken with representatives of outfielder Grady Sizemore, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart writes (via Twitter). Sizemore, 31, last played in the big leagues in 2011.
- The Rockies are interested in both Morse and Young, the Denver Post's Troy Renck tweets.
- Now that the Mark Trumbo trade is complete, the Angels are likely to keep second baseman Howie Kendrick, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez tweets.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean says that if infielder Pablo Sandoval comes to spring training in good shape, the Giants would consider signing Sandoval to an extension, MLB.com's Chris Haft tweets.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz doesn't owe the Rangers special consideration despite missing 50 games in 2013 after being suspended, reports ESPN's Richard Durrett. "He had a decision to make," says Daniels. "[W]e all understood the position he was in. I can’t speak for everybody, but I don’t view it that way. I don’t think he owes us." Cruz could have appealed his suspension and continued to play for the Rangers last season, but he chose not to.
- If the Diamondbacks are unable to trade for a pitcher, they could pursue Matt Garza, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets.