Houston Astros Rumors
4:22pm: There's mutual interest between Morse and the Astros, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.
4:10pm: MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros are interested in outfielder/first baseman/DH Mike Morse as well as right-handers Jesse Crain and Chad Gaudin. Additionally, according to McTaggart, right-hander Jose Veras would like to return to the Astros after being traded to Detroit in July and having his club option declined following the season.
Morse battled significant injuries in 2013 en route to a career-worst .215/.270/.381 batting line with 13 homers between the Mariners and Orioles. He's quite familiar with Astros manager Bo 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.
Crain, who attended college in Houston, missed the final three months of the 2013 season after posting a historic scoreless streak. The 32-year-old allowed just three earned runs in 36 2/3 innings for the White Sox, averaging 11.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 en route to a pristine 0.74 ERA. Gaudin posted a strong 3.06 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 97 innings for the Giants, serving as both a reliever and a starter. Based on McTaggart's report, Houston seems to like him as a reliever.
Veras, who spent the first four months of the 2013 season as Houston's closer, he offered high praise for the Astros organization:
"It feels like family there. It’s a young team and they’re hungry to win. I feel part of the team. I doesn’t mater to me if we won or lose. When you play as a team and everybody cares, that’s the best part for me."
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.
In the wake of their acquisition of Dexter Fowler, the Astros are being viewed by other teams as a realistic trade partner this offseason, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal reports (via Twitter) that Astros starter Lucas Harrell is drawing some trade interest.
Harrell, 28, struggled through the 2013 season, losing a league-worst 17 games and recording a 5.86 ERA to go along with a 1.71 WHIP. Still, the right-hander had a strong 2012 campaign, and his 2013 peripherals, including an xFIP that was nearly a run lower than his ERA, suggest that he could be a bounceback candidate.
In addition to potentially fielding calls on Harrell, the Astros are in the market for a reliever who can potentially close, tweets ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. Jose Veras, who earned 19 saves for Houston last year before being shipped to the Tigers, is one of the "many names" on the Astros' list, says Stark.
Houston claimed Thames off waivers from the Orioles in September. The 26-year-old Thames is a career .250/.296/.431 hitter with 21 homers in 684 plate appearances. He's been significantly better in Triple-A throughout his career though, as evidenced by his .312/.389/.506 batting line in 870 plate appearances at that level.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have narrowed their list of possible selections for the first pick in this year's Rule 5 Draft to roughly 10 players, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. One possibility on their list is Pirates right-hander Zack Thornton. The 25-year-old pitched to a 2.63 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 across three levels in 2013, topping out at Triple-A. Here's more out of the AL West in the midst of the calm before the storm that is the Winter Meetings...
- Two general managers told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that they wouldn't part with Taijuan Walker in a package to land David Price (Twitter link). Last week, it was reported that the Mariners could push for Price but that Walker would need to be included in any trade.
- The Mariners have received a lot of interest in Dustin Ackley, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As Heyman notes, Ackley had a solid finish to his 2013 season, batting .290/.360/.412 over his final 65 contests.
- Heyman also tweets that the Mariners' targets include David Price, Nelson Cruz, Joaquin Benoit and Corey Hart. Hart was drafted by General Manager Jack Zduriencik when Zduriencik was with the Brewers.
- The record for the highest payout through the arbitration process is $10MM, but one person familiar with the process tells Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that Angels outfielder Mike Trout could get $15MM in his first go 'round through arbitration, $20MM in his second year, and $25MM in his third trip through the process. Even for a star of Trout's caliber, those numbers seem lofty.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
SUNDAY: Feldman has passed his physical with the Astros, so the deal is complete, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.
FRIDAY: 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.
Huge long-term deals frequently turn out badly, and yet teams continue to offer them, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. "I thought after [Albert] Pujols [10 years for $240 million] went so wrong, so quickly, turned into such instant garbage, such a horror show, that the industry had finally learned," an NL executive tells Sherman. "I really did think it was the tipping point." That didn't stop the Mariners from giving Robinson Cano ten years and $240MM, however. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Astros have already acquired Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls this offseason, but that doesn't mean they won't be busy at the Winter Meetings, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. They'd like to add another reliever, and they also have the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place Thursday.
- Many Padres fans were disappointed when the team shipped Luke Gregerson to the A's for Seth Smith, but GM Josh Byrnes saw acquiring a left-handed bat as essential, U-T San Diego's Bill Center writes.
- The Padres are looking to acquire left-handed relief and could trade a young starter such as Burch Smith, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets, adding that the Twins haven't been in contact yet.
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says the team is open to trading one of its outfielders, provided "it makes sense and we like what we get back," Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Colletti also says he's made "a few offers" to Juan Uribe, who's known to be asking for a three-year contract.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
While the Yankees have already netted several of the offseason's top players, inking Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Hiroki Kuroda for a combined $299MM, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that the Bombers will again field a roster with age and injury concerns. Beltran, for example, will be paid $45MM for his age 37-39 seasons despite missing significant time in the past with knee problems. "They will just repeat the cycle,” one rival executive speaking with Rosenthal commented. “No young players ready, need to win now, blow everyone out of the water (financially) and hope in three years they have young talent.” Let's take a look at the rest of Rosenthal's excellent column:
- Though the Red Sox have responded to the Yankees' spending spree with smaller deals for players such as Edward Mujica and Mike Napoli, Rosenthal writes that Boston holds a major advantage over the Yanks in scouting and player development, as the Ellsbury signing shows. While the Sox are unlikely to target Shin-Soo Choo, GM Ben Cherington may also have a surprise in the works, as Boston has considered trading for Matt Kemp and could also deal one of its starters.
- Choo may receive a deal that's nearly as large as Ellsbury’s $153MM pact, some executives believe. The Rangers, Mariners, Tigers and Reds appear to be likely landing spots, though some officials tell Rosenthal that the Giants and Astros could also get involved.
- Clubs that fail to land Choo will shift their attention to Nelson Cruz, who could also draw interest from the Orioles and Royals.
- The Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Mariners appear to be best-positioned among clubs looking to acquire David Price from the Rays. The Mariners in particular are expected to try and surround new acquisition Robinson Cano with impact talent in the early phase of his 10-year deal, when he'll be the most productive. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are indicating they're shifting their focus to player development, and are unlikely to offer up elite prospects like Corey Seager. While the Cardinals have the prospects to get Price, they've yet to indicate major interest in doing so.
- To trade Kemp now would be selling low on the outfielder, who missed significant time in 2013 with injuries. However, if the Dodgers are willing to absorb some salary, Kemp will look attractive in comparison with 2015's weak class of free agent outfielders.
- Some baseball sources tell Rosenthal that they think Rakuten Golden Eagles President Yozo Tachibana might follow through on a threat to not post Masahiro Tanaka. Tachibana is considered "something of a maverick" by MLB execs, and Tanaka's value is set to plummet for Rakuten under a posting system in which the maximum fee is $20MM, Rosenthal says.
The Astros have brought reliever Chad Qualls back to Houston with a two-year deal with a club option for 2016, the team announced in a press release. The vet gets $6MM over the first two years with a potential $3.5MM for the option season, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
Qualls, 35, was drafted by the Astros in the second round in 2000 and was a quality set-up man for the team from 2005-07. After the '07 season he was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Jose Valverde trade, and the righty went on to pitch for the Rays, Padres, Phillies, Yankees, Pirates, and Marlins.
Qualls pitched to a 2.61 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 66 outings last season for the Marlins. The well-traveled veteran hasn't spent two consecutive seasons in the same city since 2008/09, but the multi-year pact might keep him in one place for a little while longer.
The Astros have shown a willingness to take a step forward early on in the offseason, striking a three-year, $30MM deal with Scott Feldman and trading for Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler earlier this week.
For his career, Qualls owns a 3.79 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 across ten big league seasons. Qualls is represented by Jim Murray of Excel Sports Management, according to the MLBTR Agency Database.
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."