Houston Astros Rumors
As we wind up one of the busiest weeks in the history of baseball transactions, here are a few more notes as we head into the weekend...
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is happy to have acquired Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman before the Winter Meetings, but Luhnow tells reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that his club has more on its to-do list. “To have them both done before the Winter Meetings is a bonus," Luhnow said. "So now that we can focus on the bullpen and focus on potentially another position player somewhere....We may not be done with starting pitching either. We’re still actively talking to some other folks.”
- With the Phillies reportedly shopping closer Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the team will have a tough time given Papelbon's large salary, signs of decline and his possible attitude issues.
- J.A. Happ could be a trade chip for the Blue Jays if the team needed to free up some payroll space, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. Happ is set to earn $5.2MM in 2014 with a $6.7MM team option for 2015. The southpaw was limited to 18 starts in 2013 due to head injuries suffered when he was hit in the head with a line drive, as well as a knee injury also stemming from the incident.
- Also from Nicholson-Smith, nothing is imminent with Yuniesky Betancourt, though a number of teams are still interested in the veteran as infield depth. The Marlins were linked to Betancourt last month.
- Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has a good glove at shortstop, is lacking at the plate and is overall not going to provide the impact of recent Cuban signings, a scout tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. "This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop," the scout said. Arruebarruena will showcase his skills for teams this weekend, and the Mets have been identified as one of the attending clubs.
Earlier today, the Astros announced that they have reached agreement with free agent pitcher Scott Feldman on a three-year deal that is believed to be worth $30MM. Right around this time last year - on November 27th, to be exact - Feldman inked a one-year, $6MM deal with the Cubs. This afternoon, I asked Feldman if signing early in the offseason is a priority for him or if it's merely coincidental.
"Well, my lucky number is 27...I don't know, whatever happens, happens. I pretty much stay out of it so I just rely on my agent for that kind of stuff and he just kind of fills me in on whatever goes on," the 30-year-old said, while adding that he was happy to have the deal done in advance of Christmas.
Feldman is no stranger to changing uniforms - he was with three teams (Rangers, Cubs, Orioles) in an 18 month period. With his new three-year deal, Feldman presumably gets to take his coat off and stay for a while. Somewhat surprisingly, the hurler says that securing a longer pact wasn't really a priority for him.
"I think I just wanted a fair deal and to be somewhere that i want to be and I just feel very blessed and fortunate. I think this whole organization is headed in the right direction. I'm just fortunate to be somewhere where they want me," said Feldman on today's conference call.
Even though the Astros have won just 106 games across the last two seasons, Feldman spoke glowingly of the club's future. With that said, I asked Feldman when he sees the Astros taking a massive step forward towards contention.
"That's a good question. I don't think anyone can say for sure when that day is going to come. It's just going to happen and you cant really predict the future but i will say from talking with [Bo Porter] here on the phone before I signed, he was very optimistic and he kind of told me that with the young talent that is going through here and all that, the future is going to be very bright. I can't say for sure when it's going to be, but I think everyone here has the same goal," Feldman said. "We've seen crazier things happen. The Red Sox go from last place to winning the World Series, so anything can happen."
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 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.
Tonight's look at the AL West..
- The Mariners have been among the most aggressive suitors for Matt Kemp, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, but they are looking at free agents too.
- The Rangers met with free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, but the odds that Texas will land him are still long, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas News. One source says that the Rangers are one of four clubs actively engaged in talks with Choo.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters, including MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, that he'll likely have "another deal or two" done with regards to pitching by this time next week.
- Luhnow also said that it would make sense to evaluate Dexter Fowler as a leadoff hitter, but it would be up to Bo Porter and the staff to decide that, tweets Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle.
Fowler, 28 in March, wasn't able to replicate his brilliant offensive performance in 2012, but he still enjoyed a strong season. The switch-hitter batted .263/.369/.407 with 12 homers and 19 stolen bases as Colorado's primary center fielder. A sore right wrist and a left knee sprain limited Fowler to just 119 games, but he's only one year removed from a .300/.389/.474 batting line.
Fowler has a strong walk rate and rarely strikes out, but he's not without his warts. Fowler isn't regarded as a strong defensive center fielder, owning negative career marks in Ultimate Zone Rating and Derfensive Runs Saved. He's also done most of his damage at Coors Field, posting an .880 OPS at home in his career compared to a .694 mark on the road. He's owed $7.35MM in 2014 and will be arbitration eligible for the final time before free agency the following offseason.
Lyles, who recently turned 23, has a career 5.35 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 48.6 percent ground-ball rate. Those numbers certainly aren't impressive, but Lyles has consistently been one of the youngest pitchers in the Majors after debuting as a 20-year-old in 2011. The Astros selected him 38th overall in the 2008 draft, and he twice ranked on Baseball America's list of Top 100 prospects. Lyles appeared to be on the road to a solid breakout season, having posted a 4.02 ERA through July 10, but he faded down the stretch, posting a 7.67 ERA over his final 13 appearances. Lyles won't be eligible for arbitration until next offseason and is under team control through the 2017 season.
Barnes, 27, batted .240/.289/.346 with eight homers and 11 stolen bases. Though he offered little at the plate, Barnes played outstanding defense in the outfield. He was solid against left-handed pitching as well, batting .296/.354/.437. He's under control through the 2018 season and is not yet arbitration eligible.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
If MLBTR had only been around in 1954. On this date 59 years ago, the Yankees and Orioles completed the largest trade in baseball history by naming the eight players to be named later in the 17-player deal. Two weeks prior, the Yankees received Don Larsen (yes, that Don Larsen) Billy Hunter, and Bob Turley from the Orioles in exchange for Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Willy Miranda, Hal Smith, Gus Triandos, and Gene Woodling. Let's take a look at what's simmering on the Hot Stove in today's American League:
- The Tigers are one more bold move away from entering Spring Training with the "Best Team in Baseball" designation, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. Signing Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, or Curtis Granderson would qualify as that bold move, in Justice's opinion.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore tells the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton his staff will convene Monday morning to determine the fate of their nine arbitration eligible players. "I don't look for us to do anything that is too surprising," said Moore. "We might not tender everybody, but we might. There are some things that we’re kind of working on."
Also within Dutton's article, Royals officials acknowledge Emilio Bonifacio is drawing steady interest from other teams, so second baseman Chris Getz may be tendered as insurance against a deal involving the utilityman. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz predicts a $3.3MM arbitration award for Bonifacio and $1.3MM for Getz.
- The Rays are likely to tender each of their nine arbitration eligible players and then possibly flip one or more in a trade, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. David Price is the most obvious arbitration eligible trade candidate, but Mooney also lists outfielder Sam Fuld and lefty relievers Cesar Ramos and Wesley Wright as possible chips. If the Rays do tender all nine players, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz expects their arbitration salaries to total $26.6MM.
- The Astros are already preparing for the 2014 amateur draft as they expect to interview several candidates for the first overall pick by the end of the year, according to the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. The club's approach to the interview process and its slight variations based on whether the player is in high school or college is also detailed by Drellich.
- On Thanksgving Day, MLBTR's Mark Polishuk examined the managers and GMs entering the final year of their contract. Today, Jim Margalus of SouthSideSox.com concludes the most front office stability can be found in the AL Central.
A look at the latest out of the AL West..
- The A’s position player most coveted by other clubs is Yoenis Cespedes, but it’s tough to imagine that they would part with him after a down season, unless they were overwhelmed by an offer that includes a big bat in return, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser adds that Oaklad expects to contend in 2014 and isn’t a team looking to dump payroll.
- Teams have tried to trade for Mariners left-handed reliever Brian Moran and he's a virtual lock to get picked up in the Rule 5 draft, tweets Peter Gammons of MLB Network. Moran pitched to a 3.45 ERA with an eye-popping 12.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 48 Triple-A outings last season.
- The Astros have yet to make a big move this offseason, but they say that the winter is unfolding as they expected it to, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Because the Astros aren’t regarded as a “destination” team, they may well benefit from a waiting game more than most.
Here are today's minor moves from around the league...
- The Astros have signed righty Peter Moylan to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. After an injury-plagued 2013, Moylan recently elected to become a free agent rather than accepting an outright assignment from the Dodgers.
- Hansel Robles has cleared waivers and will remain under the Mets' control despite being removed from the 40-man roster, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter). The 23-year-old has never appeared above the High-A level; throwing there last year, he put up a 3.72 ERA in 84 2/3 innings, posting 7.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. Robles tossed 18 innings in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 19 batters and registering a 4.00 ERA in that span.
- The Athletics have outrighted second baseman/third baseman Scott Sizemore, according to the team's transactions page. The 28-year-old received crushing news when he was diagnosed with a torn ACL this Spring -- the second straight season in which that exact injury has shelved him for the whole year. Formerly a promising prospect in the Tigers organization, Sizemore is a career .238/.328/.381 with 14 homers in 160 career games.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Royals have signed right-hander Cory Wade to a minor league deal (Twitter link). The 30-year-old split the 2013 campaign between the Rays, Cubs and Mets Triple-A affiliates, totaling a 3.86 ERA in 67 2/3 innings.
- Cotillo also tweets that right-hander Josh Judy has signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. Judy, 27, posted a 6.75 ERA between the Angels' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in 2013 but has respectable minor league numbers in his career (3.83 ERA, 9.8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9). Judy's deal does not contain an invite to Spring Training.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Astros owner Jim Crane has filed a lawsuit against former owner Drayton McLane, Comcast and NBC Universal as a result of the Astros' television situation, reports David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. The lawsuit accuses the trio of fraud and civil conspiracy and also accuses McLane's former ownership group of a breach of contract in conjunction with Crane's 2011 purchase of a 46 percent interest in Comcast Sportsnet Houston's parent company, Barron explains.
According to Barron, the lawsuit also accuses McLane of selling "an asset (the network) they knew at the time to be overpriced and broken" and claims that Crane was provided with "knowing misrepresentations" and "falsely inflated subscription rates" prior to agreeing to the purchase.
CSN Houston launched in the fall of 2012 but is only available in 40 percent of Houston-area households, which Crane understandably claims will damage Houston's ability to field a competitive team. As Barron reports, the lawsuit claims that Crane has been left with an impossible choice: "...either accept the broken network as is and deprive thousands of fans the ability to watch Houston Astros games on their televisions, or distribute the game at market rates and take massive losses out of the Houston Astros player payroll..."
Barron's article is a terrific, in-depth look at the lawsuit and contains a wealth of details for Astros fans and those with an interest in the ongoing controversy.
Here are today's minor transactions from around the league...
- The Yankees announced that they traded right-hander Ben Paullus to the Padres for utility man Dean Anna. Anna, who recently celebrated his 26th birthday, posted an .892 OPS in Triple-A last season. Paullus, 24, worked his way up to Advanced-A Tampa last season.
- Right-hander B.J. Hermsen has been outrighted from the Twins' 40-man roster, the team announced. The 23-year-old posted a 4.81 ERA In 86 Double-A innings this season, but his strikeout rate fell to just 3.7 per nine innings. The low whiff rate was likely to blame for the whopping 117 hits he allowed in those 86 frames.
- Minnesota also announced that it has signed outfielder Chris Rahl to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. The 30-year-old spent 2013 with the Nats' Triple-A affiliate. Rahl is a .292/.325/.443 hitter in 700 Triple-A plate appearances and can play all three outfield spots.
- The Pirates announced the signing of five players to minor league deals, three of whom have big league experience. Right-handers Seth McClung, Josh Kinney and Collin Balester are all veterans of multiple seasons. The others -- right-handers Jay Jackson and Jake Brigham -- each split last season between Double-A and Triple-A.
- The Rangers announced that left-hander Edwar Cabrera has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A. Texas claimed the 26-year-old from the Rockies back in October. A shoulder injury cost him the entire 2013 season, but Cabrera has an impressive minor league resume: a 3.13 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 501 innings.
- The Astros have released right-hander John Ely, according to the team's transactions page. Ely underwent Tommy John surgery after just four innings of work at the Triple-A level in April. The 27-year-old has a 5.70 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 115 1/3 career big league innings, though he was excellent for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in 2012. Ely pitched to a 3.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 168 2/3 innings that season.
- The Nationals have signed right-hander Gabriel Alfaro to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, tweets Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. The 30-year-old has spent the past two seasons pitching for the Guerreros de Oaxaca in the Mexican League, compiling an impressive 2.58 ERA with 11.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 52 saves in 129 innings as the team's closer.