Houston Astros Rumors
The Rangers could become serious contenders for Carlos Beltran's services, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. The Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Royals and Mariners have also been mentioned in whispers about Beltran, but rumors about Beltran and the Rangers really seem to be gathering steam. The Rangers can use the help in their outfield and/or at their DH position, particularly if Nelson Cruz ends up leaving. Here are more notes about the Rangers and Astros.
- The Rangers will not pursue Masahiro Tanaka or Matt Garza this offseason, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. "We’re not right now looking to give out a big multiyear deal for a starter," says GM Jon Daniels. Starting pitcher Matt Harrison, who missed most of the 2013 season due to injury, tells Wilson he "feel[s] good" about returning to the Rangers' rotation in 2014. If he's healthy, the Rangers don't have a pronounced need for a starting pitcher, with Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Alexi Ogando and Nick Tepesch all in the fold.
- The Astros don't expect to trade catcher Jason Castro, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. "I’m never going to say someone is untouchable. But we fully expect Jason to be on our club for a long time to come," says GM Jeff Luhnow. "He’s reaching his peak. He was our All-Star last year. He’s a team leader." Earlier today, it emerged that other teams had been asking the Astros about Castro, who hit .276/.350/.485 in 2013.
- The Astros don't expect to make a big move in free agency this winter, McTaggart writes. Given that the Astros still aren't a contender, they're reluctant to part with the draft pick they would lose if they signed a free agent who received a qualifying offer. They also don't want to commit to long contracts at this point.
The Astros are receiving significant interest in catcher Jason Castro, and interest could pick up once big free agents like Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia go off the board, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Their interest in trading Castro isn't known, but Houston is said to like catching prospect Max Stassi very much. Heyman sees the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Rockies, and Twins as teams that could possibly have interest if Castro is on the block. Here's more out of the AL West..
- The Mariners are more immersed in the Carlos Beltran-Jhonny Peralta-Kendrys Morales market than Jacoby Ellsbury at this point, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
- Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (Twitter link) doesn't see the Astros trading Castro. Even though Castro is starting to make some money - the catcher is projected to earn $2.2MM in arbitration this year - they're not deep enough at catcher to lose him and the club needs to take a step forward.
- Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com examined Carlos Ruiz as a possible fit for the Rangers if they don't land top catcher Brian McCann.
- More from Durrett, who believes that Jurickson Profar's trade value hasn't decreased much despite a down year in 2013.
- The Angels' best bet for acquiring quality pitching via trade would be to part with Mark Trumbo, even though losing him would hurt, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.
The Astros might not aim on contending in 2014, but don't be surprised if Houston is one of the offseason's busier teams as the team continues its extensive rebuilding project. Evan Drellich of the Houstron Chronicle has the latest from Astros GM Jeff Luhnow...
- The Astros will look to add some pop to their lineup, Luhnow said, with the outfield being the most logical spot given that most of their infield is set.
- The club could also add a hitter to the first base/DH mix, which is why Luhnow said the Astros were contenders for Jose Dariel Abreu, who ended up signing a six-year, $68MM deal with the White Sox. “We pursued that player and we came up short,” Luhnow said. “That particular case was interesting because the player’s never played in the United States, but the track record in Cuba is pretty impressive, and we had done our homework and felt like that player should produce immediately.”
- The Astros intend to raise their 2014 payroll, and Luhnow said this allows the team to pursue some new avenues. “We have the resources to sign players and agents reach out no matter what,” Luhnow said. “(The level of communication has) not changed. We’re able to engage in a lot more conversations that we weren’t the past couple years. It opens up a different caliber of pool of players for us.”
- The Astros' first overall draft pick is protected but the team would still have to give up its second round pick if they signed a free agent who has rejected a qualifying offer. Luhnow said the Astros would "have to think hard" about giving up such a valuable young asset for such a veteran who could help immediately but would come at a high price. There have been rumors that Houston is willing to make a big splash this winter by pursuing Shin-Soo Choo.
- Whle the Astros are still focused on adding young talent, they could be open to trading some of that young talent if they feel they have a surplus in a certain area. "So we’re not going to do anything to block any of our players or disrupt their development. But you can argue that we’re in a position where we have some areas of excess in terms of future talent, and we could potentially use some of that to get something," Luhnow said.
- The team hasn't begun talks with Jason Castro's representatives about a long-term extension and none are expected until around January when arbitration decisions are nearing, Luhnow said. Castro is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is Houston's lone remaining arb-eligible player. MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Castro to receive a $2.2MM salary for 2014.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick checked in with 21 general managers, assistant GMs, player personnel people, and scouts to get their take on some of the biggest storylines of the winter. Here's a look at some of the highlights..
- Almost everyone sees Robinson Cano staying put with 19 votes for the Yankees, one vote for the Dodgers, and one for the Cubs. Nearly everyone sees Cano getting a seven- or eight-year deal worth $160MM-$230MM and no one expects him to approach the $300MM figure he was asking for from the Bombers earlier this year. It should be noted that the GM that picked the Cubs said that he has no inside info to support that pick.
- Nine execs see Masahiro Tanaka landing with the Dodgers while six chose the Yankees. All but a handful of those surveyed think his payout will exceed the $60MM Yu Darvish got from the Rangers. Tanaka is ranked as the top available pitcher by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes.
- Seventeen of the 21 participants in the survey say David Price will get traded this winter. Where will he land? The Rangers got nine votes and the Dodgers got four nods with one vote each for the Nationals, Cardinals, Angels, and Astros.
- Opinions were somewhat split on whether Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo fChoo will provide better value over the course of their next deals. Twelve execs said Ellsbury, eight voted for Choo, and one GM declined to vote, saying that neither one will match what they get.
- When asked to pick the best pitcher between Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Ubaldo Jimenez, ten execs chose Garza. Most seemed to agree that the lack of quality starting pitching available will lead to all three being overpaid. One American League scout seemed to like Jimenez on some level but was skeptical of him long-term. "Ubaldo has the best chance to give you impact in the short term, but I am not buying him over the course of 3-4 years," the scout said.
- When asked which former Yankees prospect has a better chance of succeeding elsewhere with a change of scenery, Phil Hughes was the overwhelming choice over Joba Chamberlain.
- Crasnick asked the execs which aging pitcher had the most left in the tank between Roy Halladay, Hiroki Kuroda, and Tim Hudson. Kuroda had the backing of 12 people surveyed, Hudson got eight votes, and Halladay had just one exec in his corner. "Maybe the chances of [Halladay] coming back aren't real good if you look at it objectively," a scout said. "But if the guy wants to [keep pitching] and be successful, I wouldn't put it past him."
Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, Athletics bench coach Chip Hale, former White Sox and Marlins bench coach Joey Cora and Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach appear to be the finalists for the Mariners' open manager position, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. The team is currently deciding whether to give Padres bench coach Rick Renteria a second interview, since Renteria's recent hip surgery would cause logistical difficulties for the Mariners. Former Mariners catcher Dave Valle is also still a possibility. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart has a long list of potential free agent targets for the Astros, who plan on raising their payroll signficantly, maybe to the $60MM range, this offseason. To name just a couple players from each category, the list includes outfielders (Marlon Byrd, Nate McLouth), relievers (Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez) and starters (James McDonald, Roy Halladay). McTaggart notes that the Astros won't want to commit to long contracts, and the fact that they lost 111 games last year may diminish interest from marquee free agents.
- Brad Ausmus' departure to become manager of the Tigers will leave a hole in the Padres' front office, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Bill Center writes. "Brad spent some time with me on Major League issues and personnel issues," says GM Josh Byrnes. "He was on the field for spring training and assisted in player development decisions during the season. He was a valuable sounding board when we talked about teaching philosophies or various topics behind the scenes." The Padres could also lose Renteria this offseason, should he win a managerial job with the Mariners or Cubs.
The Marlins announced that they have claimed infielder/outfielder Jimmy Paredes off waivers from the Astros. Miami's 40-man roster now stands at 33 players.
Paredes, who turns 25 at the end of this month, batted just .192/.231/.248 with a homer and four steals in 135 plate appearances for Houston this season but was much better in the minor leagues. In 86 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City, Paredes slashed .287/.345/.462 with eight home runs and 16 stolen bases. Paredes spent most of his time in right field, but he graded out poorly at the position per UZR and DRS. He also has experience at second base and third base.
The Astros issued a press release to announce that they have claimed left-hander Darin Downs off waivers from the Tigers.
Downs, 29 in December, posted a 4.84 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 45 percent ground-ball rate. He held opposing lefties to a .624 OPS and posted solid marks in FIP and xFIP, each of which liked him at 3.53.
The Mariners interviewed Dave Valle for their managerial opening this week, Ted Keith of SI.com reports. Valle played in ten seasons for the Mariners, primarily at catcher, but has no prior coaching experience. As Keith notes, teams appear to value prior managing experience, at least, less than they once did, with Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura, Bryan Price, Don Mattingly and John Farrell all winning jobs without prior managing experience in the Majors or the minors. Valle has recently worked in broadcasting. Here's more on the AL West.
- The Angels aren't likely to extend a qualifying offer to free agent Jason Vargas, but they might sign him to a multiyear deal anyway, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. Vargas would likely decline the Angels' qualifying offer, DiGiovanna says, but the Angels don't want to offer one because the $14.1MM commitment if Vargas were to accept would move them close to the $189MM luxury tax threshold.
- The Angels' luxury-tax issues will likely mean they'll attempt to upgrade their rotation primarily through trades, explains Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. If they bring Vargas back, it would appear to be for less on a yearly basis than the $14.1MM qualifying offer. In the meantime, they'll hope to acquire young pitching by dealing players like Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar or Peter Bourjos. Doing so might also help them shed salary.
- The Astros' payroll could rise to $50MM or $60MM next year, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. That doesn't sound like much, but it's a huge increase over the team's $13MM 2013 payroll. "If you add three or four key positions and bring in a couple of guys [from the Minor Leagues] that are ready, this team is pretty competitive pretty quickly with the starting pitching we've got," says owner Jim Crane. "We're deep in pitching." McTaggart writes that the Astros will look for bullpen help, but they could also in a power hitter (perhaps a corner outfielder) and a starting pitcher.
United States Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur is considering an order to allow the Astros (and the Houston Rockets) to negotiate with other parties to see if another business model with a new partner could make a Houston sports network profitable, according to David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. Those partners include FOX Sports, and Astros owner Jim Crane disclosed in the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings for CSN Houston that he spoke with FOX executives earlier in the year about returning to FOX Sports Southwest. Crane has previously expressed concern about CSN Houston's impact on his team's ability to compete within the division. Here's more out of the AL West...
- There's mutual interest between the Athletics and Bartolo Colon, agent Adam Katz told Joe Stiglich of CSN California. Colon "loved his time" with the A's and would be open should they wish to make an offer, Stiglich elaborates (Twitter links). Colon recently told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he thinks he can pitch three more seasons.
- Speaking of Slusser, her latest column has a host of info on the decisions facing the A's early in the offseason. A qualifying offer seems too steep a price for Oakland to offer Colon, though she feels that he's likely to seek a deal similar to the one-year, $15MM contract Hiroki Kuroda signed this past offseason. Echoing earlier reports, Slusser feels that Grant Balfour is likely to leave as a free agent.
- MLB.com's Greg Johns looks at the unlikely path that right-hander Danny Farquhar took to become the Mariners closer. The 26-year-old went from the Blue Jays to the A's to the Yankees to the Mariners in a span of 12 months and entered 2013 as an afterthought before finishing the regular season with one of the most dominant stretches of any AL reliever this year.
There's been quite a bit of managerial buzz around the league with the large number of new openings, but all has been fairly quiet on the Mariners front until now. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Mariners will interview Athletics bench coach Chip Hale for their managerial vacancy. Hale hit .277/.346/.363 in 652 plate appearances over parts of seven Major League seasons (with all but 14 of his PAs coming in a Twins uniform). His impressive coaching background includes two years with the A's, two with the Mets and six seasons of minor league managerial experience with the D-Backs. Here's more out of the AL West...
- The Athletics are "almost certain" to let Grant Balfour depart via free agency, writes MLB.com's Jane Lee in her latest Inbox column. The A's typically don't spend big money on relievers, believing them to be too volatile a commodity. The door remains slightly open due to heavy competition for Balfour on the open market, as Joe Nathan, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson will all be free agents as well. In profiling Balfour last week, I pegged his market value at a two-year, $18MM deal.
- Within his own MLB.com Inbox column, T.R. Sullivan writes that the Rangers don't think as highly of Masahiro Tanaka as they did of Yu Darvish when they acquired his services two years ago.
- The thumbprints of Astros GM Jeff Luhnow are all over the Cardinals, writes Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. Luhnow says that he still has a bond with several of the Cardinals players he selected in the draft and tends to root for them, but he's currently focused on and excited for the Astros' future. Houston owner Jim Crane has repeatedly said that the Cards are the model franchise for the Astros.