- Brewers To Re-Sign Francisco Rodriguez
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Jed Lowrie Rumors
For those who need further convincing that the Marlins are serious about extending Giancarlo Stanton, president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo (Twitter link), that teams aren’t even bothering to call and ask about Stanton’s availability anymore. Joel Sherman of the New York Post expands on that quote from Hill, noting that there are some indications that the team is willing to break its policy of not giving out no-trade clauses in order to lock up Stanton. Hill wouldn’t directly state that the team is willing to give Stanton a no-trade clause, but that could certainly be inferred from his comments: “It’s been an organizational policy, but you are talking about a star talent. You look at the marketplace and what other stars have gotten. It will be a topic of discussion.”
More from the NL East…
- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn’t envision an extension for Jason Heyward this offseason (Twitter links). That’s not due to a lack of interest on Atlanta’s behalf, but rather due to Heyward’s proximity to free agency. With Heyward set to hit the open market next winter, Hart said that his assumption is it’s “probably the wrong time,” though he said the team could still try to sign Heyward as a free agent.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged to James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s been in contact with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s agent as the team looks at all options on the second base market (Twitter link).
- Wagner also tweets that the Nationals and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann aren’t engaged in any form of extension talks at the moment. The ace righty is slated to hit the open market next winter after pocketing a $16.5MM salary in 2015.
- Marc Carig of Newsday provides a breakdown of where the Mets are in their pursuit of a shortstop. The Mets aren’t big on the idea of multi-year deals for either Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera, and looking to the trade market has been difficult thus far. Arizona’s asking price on Didi Gregorius is high — GM Dave Stewart said the return would need to be “earth-shattering” in terms of controllable pitching — and the Cubs haven’t given indication they’ll part with Starlin Castro. The Mets are concerned about Alexei Ramirez‘s declining range, and while they briefly floated the idea of pursuing Jimmy Rollins, that notion went nowhere when they learned that Rollins wouldn’t waive his no-trade rights to go there. A trade for Troy Tulowitzki is considered an extreme long shot, he adds.
- Matthew Cerrone of SNY.tv’s Metsblog has some highlights (and the audio) from the Mets‘ conference call announcing Michael Cuddyer‘s signing today. Within, he notes that GM Sandy Alderson admitted to being caught off guard by the Rockies’ qualifying offer, but they ultimately decided that they’d prefer to sacrifice a draft pick rather than sacrifice a current minor league prospect in a trade for an outfielder. That makes some sense, considering they figure to do so in order to acquire a shortstop at some point.
- The Phillies are willing to trade anyone, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, but they may have to wait until the free agent market pans out a bit further before seeing some big deals come to fruition. If they’re able to find a taker for Ryan Howard, it may not come until big bats like Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera are off the market. The same could be said regarding Cole Hamels in relation to Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester; GM Ruben Amaro Jr. might find teams more willing to part with a significant prospect package when there are no longer ace-caliber alternatives in free agency.
The Rays will wait until tomorrow to make their option decision on reliever Joel Peralta, the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin tweets. They’ll also soon be making other 40-man decisions, since they need to reinstate Matt Moore and Jerry Sands from the 60-day disabled list, and their roster is currently full. Peralta’s option comes at $2.5MM, and if the Rays exercise it, they’ll have options at the same price for 2016 and 2017 as well. Peralta is 38 and is coming off a season in which he posted a 4.41 ERA, and the Rays could decide to let him go to save a bit of money and clear a roster spot for a younger player. In general, though, $2.5MM would seem to be a reasonable price for a reliever who had 10.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 last season. Here’s more from the American League.
- Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is excited for free agency, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star writes. After a poor second half (perhaps due in part to coming down with food poisoning at the All-Star Break), Janssen isn’t sure how he’ll be valued, but he points to the Royals’ excellent bullpen and the Tigers’ playoff struggles as evidence that good relievers are valuable. “It just shortens the game when you can confidently hand the keys to the ’pen in the sixth or seventh inning,” he says.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Athletics do not plan to extend a qualifying offer to Jed Lowrie, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lowrie has said that he’s unlikely to give the A’s a significant hometown discount to return, and the team isn’t likely to want to make a longer commitment. They also don’t have an obvious internal replacement (particularly after sending Addison Russell to the Cubs), so they could be on the hunt for a shortstop this offseason. Slusser notes that someone like Stephen Drew, who they might be able to sign to a shorter deal, might be a candidate. The A’s could also trade to acquire a shortstop from a team like the Cubs or Diamondbacks. Slusser writes that the Athletics will likely lose their other six free agents as well — Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Luke Gregerson, Jonny Gomes, Alberto Callaspo and Geovany Soto.
Deciding how to frame Jed Lowrie’s entry to the free agent market depends heavily upon one’s perspective: did his failure to match his excellent 2013 campaign constitute a disappointment, or was 2014 another solid year as a regular that cements Lowrie’s status as an everyday player? After all, the CAA client had never made more than 387 plate appearances in a season until last year, yet now steps onto the market as one of the best available shortstops.
Lowrie had a strong 2013 season, posting a .290/.344/.446 slash with 15 home runs. And he did it while playing shortstop, making him a well-above-average everyday player. Though Lowrie did not have an extensive history before that, his full-season result seemed to confirm what his earlier numbers had suggested. Over the 2008-2012 campaigns, Lowrie never even made 400 trips to the plate over a single season, but averaged a roughly league-average OPS of .743 while providing solid defense at short, second, and third. He also swatted 16 long balls over just 387 plate appearances in 2012 before succumbing to an ankle injury.
In a sense, then, 2014 was an affirmation. Injury-free except for a freak bruised finger that cost him 16 games, Lowrie showed that he could be a viable everyday shortstop for a first-division club. Even with a significant power drop-off, Lowrie was worth 1.9 fWAR, though Baseball-Reference had him at one less win in value based on its differing defensive calculations.
And last year’s power outage ultimately looks like an outlier: Lowrie had never before posted an ISO of less than .142 in a season (minimum 300 plate appearances) until his .106 mark last year. Indeed, even with that season in the books, Lowrie owns a lifetime .150 ISO and seems a good bet to return to that level of power production. His 3.2% HR/FB rate, after all, landed at half his career average and seems more likely to go up than down.
A return to form at the plate more generally seems a fair probability. Lowrie suffered a bit from a .281 BABIP, though he has never posted high numbers. His walk rate (9.0%) and strikeout rate (14.0%) compare favorably to his career marks. And he upped his line-drive rate for the fifth-straight season while hitting groundballs at his career rate.
On the defensive side of the equation, Lowrie saw improved marks from defensive metrics. By measure of UZR, in fact, Lowrie was just above average for the position last year. Though Lowrie is not a base stealer, and did not rate well in the department in 2014, he has generally been about average on the paths.
It is worth noting as well that Lowrie brings a switch-hitting presence to the middle of the infield. Interestingly, despite career splits that favored his work against lefties, Lowrie flipped those splits last year, continuing to put up roughly league-average work against right-handed pitching. If he can recapture his former excellence when batting from the right side, particularly in the power department, Lowrie looks like a great add.
While a qualifying offer is at least theoretically possible, it seems highly unlikely that the A’s would be willing to risk $15.3MM in salary space.
Of course, the above account ignores some real issues. Lowrie’s first full season of regular action came in his age-29 year, and he simply did not match it last season. For a player known largely for his bat, Lowrie was below-average at the plate.
As for the power numbers, there are reasons to believe that his fall-off was not simply an aberration. After all, Lowrie had put up double-digit home run tallies in just one year as a professional prior to this 2012-13 breakout: a 13-home run campaign in the upper minors back in 2007. And his batted ball distance on fly balls and line drives is down to a career-low 252.5 feet (via Baseball Heat Maps; compare to career marks within this post).
Then, there is the question of defense. While it is true that Lowrie saw improvements by measure of defensive metrics, Defensive Runs Saved still placed him at a troubling -10 mark on the year. As he moves toward his decline phase, it is fair to wonder how much longer he will stick at short.
Likewise, Lowrie moved in the wrong direction last year in terms of baserunning. Never a threat to take a bag, Lowrie nevertheless generally maintained average marks in terms of overall value on the basepaths. But he cost the A’s 3.4 runs last year, by measure of Fangraphs.
While Lowrie has now been healthy for two straight years, we are not far off from a time when he dealt with significant injuries on a regular basis. Nerve damage has accompanied several injuries, including ankle, shoulder, and wrist ailments.
Lowrie finished his bachelor studies at Stanford after leaving early to begin his professional career, according to this profile from Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle. He also met his future wife during his time in college, and the family welcomed its first child last December.
Between her time working in international politics and his own moves across the country from team to team, the Lowries are familiar with changing residences, so geographical ties may not mean much in his situation. Looking ahead to free agency before the season, Lowrie said it would not change his approach to the game while also acknowledging its importance. “Every player wants to test the free-agent market,” he said. “What you ultimately strive for is to have people come to you and say, ‘We want you to work for us.’ It’s exciting.”
With J.J. Hardy locked up, the middle infield market is filled with question marks. Hanley Ramirez obviously promises the highest upside, but he has his warts and could be viewed by many clubs as a third baseman at this point (or in short order). Asdrubal Cabrera was once seen as a premier talent, but has not been inspiring at the plate or in the field. And Stephen Drew fell off of a cliff in terms of offensive production last year.
Viewing the sum of Lowrie’s work over the last two years, when he has served as the A’s regular shortstop, paints an image of a solid option in this year’s market. A generally above-average hitter with power upside and a switch-hitting bat, a serviceable glove, and experience around the infield, Lowrie has plenty of appeal – even if he is far from a sure thing.
Looking around baseball, there are plenty of clubs that might have interest in Lowrie, though some may prefer a shorter commitment. In addition to the Athletics, clubs like the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Tigers, Astros, Mets, Nationals, Marlins, Reds, and Dodgers could all conceivably consider employing Lowrie in some kind of capacity.
Lowrie has earned just over $10MM in his playing career, far from a pittance but also perhaps a low enough number that maxing out a guarantee seems appealing. Given his preferable market placement, I think he will easily find enough interest to score a significant two-year deal and could well reach three.
While MLBTR’s Zach Links predicts that Cabrera will find three years and $27MM as a younger option, Lowrie seems to offer a slightly more appealing overall package at this point. Ultimately, I predict that Lowrie will be able to land a three-year $30MM contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With J.J. Hardy off the market, teams looking for a pure shortstop suddenly lack an obvious potential solution. Sure, Hanley Ramirez still hits like an All-Star corner outfielder, but he also accumulated the second-most negative defensive value of any shortstop in 2014 (per Fangraphs) and has put his 20’s in his rearview. Any club signing him will have to expect a move to third at some point over the life of his deal, if not from the get-go.
Teams that simply want a new field marshal up the middle will have three primary options to choose from, each of whom brings somewhat different strengths, downsides, and expected contract terms.
As we sit here today, the Indian-turned-National Asdrubal Cabrera has yet to turn 29 years old. He has never quite met his promise, but has put up several well-above-average years both at the plate and in overall value. Defensive metrics have never been fans of the glove, but Cabrera is pretty solid at the plate and is a good bet to deliver 15 homers and 10 steals. And while he’s had his share of bumps and bruises, Cabrera has not missed any significant stretches since a forearm fracture back in 2010. But Cabrera was shifted to second after his mid-season trade to the Nationals, and some think that’s where he should stay.
Stephen Drew, most recently of the Yankees, is the oldest of the bunch, and he is coming off of a disastrous, qualifying offer-shortened 2014 season. Drew was worth over one win below replacement, thanks to an abysmal .162/.237/.299 slash over 300 plate appearances. But he has otherwise been pretty good when healthy, and had a good enough 2013 that he spurned the one-year, $14MM QO in hopes of finding a longer deal on the open market. And there’s an argument to be made that Drew is the best defender of this group. Given his depressed value, he could be a popular buy-low candidate.
The Athletics’ Jed Lowrie, meanwhile, is just one year removed from posting a .290/.344/.446 slash with 15 home runs. But that was his first season of full-time action, and his age-30 follow-up year was not nearly so sterling (.249/.321/.355, 6 home runs). He did see improved defensive marks, but UZR is much more favorably inclined to his work up the middle than is Defensive Runs Saved, which saw him as a -10 defender. But if you believe he can stay at short, in some ways, Lowrie could end up being the safest bet of this bunch while also delivering a bit of power upside.
Let’s go ahead and take a poll. It will not ask you to pick the best player, or the one who’ll get the largest contract. Rather, it asks for which player — given their likely expected contract situation — is likely to provide the best value. For instance, given his age and durability, Cabrera is the best bet of this bunch for a lengthy deal — but that could make him the most expensive to acquire. And a rebound from Drew could make him an incredible bargain.
Four of California’s five teams reached the postseason and two are still alive, as the Dodgers and Giants both play Game 3 of their respective NLDS series tonight. The Dodgers will send Hyun-jin Ryu to the mound to try and take a 2-1 lead over the Cardinals, while Madison Bumgarner and the Giants can sweep away the Nationals with a victory.
Here’s some news from around the Golden State…
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez) that his team will focus on adding bench and pitching depth this offseason. Dipoto doesn’t forsee any big moves since he’s pleased with the team’s core players, saying “We feel we’re tweaks and turns from being a very good team again.”
- As several members of the Angels‘ core get deeper into their 30’s, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times wonders if the team’s window of contention might only last for another season or two.
- The Angels will likely address their depth by being active on the minor league free agent market, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes in a recap of the Halos’ 2014 season and a look ahead to their winter. Axisa suggests the team could sign a mid-tier free agent starter like Brandon McCarthy and/or Francisco Liriano, and then trade C.J. Wilson to free up some payroll space (while eating maybe half the $38MM still owed on Wilson’s contract). Dealing Wilson could be easier said than done given his partial no-trade clause (covering eight teams) and since Wilson is coming off a tough season.
- The Athletics will “be stuck on this treadmill” of early postseason exits “until the team is sold” due to a lack of payroll support from ownership, Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle opines. Jenkins also criticized Billy Beane’s recent defense of the Jon Lester trade, as Jenkins felt it didn’t show much faith in the rest of the A’s roster.
- Jed Lowrie is open to playing second base rather than shortstop, just as long as he has a stable everyday spot and not switching between the two middle infield positions, he tells MLB.com’s Jane Lee. Lowrie will be a free agent this offseason and is “certainly open to hearing what the A’s have to say” about re-signing him, as he enjoys playing with his teammates and for Bob Melvin.
- The Giants aren’t usually mentioned in discussions of baseball’s best farm systems, yet homegrown players are the backbone of both this year’s roster and the club’s recent World Series winners, Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News writes. Fourteen of the players on the Giants’ roster were drafted or signed by the team, the second-most homegrown products of any of the eight Division Series clubs.
Former Rangers cornerstone Michael Young has joined the team’s front office, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link), although Heyman does not include specifics on Young’s role with the club. While he was once speculated as a candidate to fill the team’s managerial vacancy, he’s now helping with the search, Heyman adds.
More from the AL West…
- Rival executives don’t expect Athletics GM Billy Beane to stand pat following the team’s late collapse and elimination in last night’s one-game playoff, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive speculated that Jeff Samardzija could be an offseason trade candidate, while a second threw out the possibility of trading Josh Donaldson. While I can personally envision the Samardzija scenario — he’s a free agent after 2015 and could $10MM+ via arbitration — the Donaldson suggestion is tough to picture. As Rosenthal notes, he’s arb-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled through 2018, so there’s no reason to think Oakland would feel pressure to trade him.
- Among the players whom the A’s could potentially lose to free agency is Jed Lowrie, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Lowrie about the situation (All Twitter links). Slusser notes that Lowrie is one of the few players who was honest about his free agency by admitting that money will be a driving factor behind his decision. Lowrie adds that he’s looking for a good fit for him and his family, and he says he’s be willing to play second base on a full-time basis. Asked about the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, Lowrie said he’d have to give consideration to accepting. A qualifying offer to Lowrie seems unlikely, in my view.
- MLB.com’s Richard Justice calls the Astros‘ hiring of A.J. Hinch a bold move and revisits former Diamondbacks/Padres GM Josh Byrnes’ decision to give Hinch his first managerial gig back in 2009. The move was controversial, to say the least, as Byrnes had to dismiss the popular Bob Melvin to bring the 34-year-old Hinch into the picture. Hinch had never coached or managed, but as Byrnes explains to Justice, Hinch brings a number of desirable qualities to the table.
- Justice’s colleague, Brian McTaggart, writes that Astros players appear to be on board with the move. Chad Qualls spoke highly of Hinch, who was his manager with the D’Backs in 2010, and Gregorio Petit called him “a real honest guy” after getting to know him a bit while in the Padres organization. Dallas Keuchel is excited after meeting Hinch and hinted that there were communication problems not only between previous manager Bo Porter and the front office, but also between Porter and the players. “I think we need to have better communication than we’ve had in the past couple of years,” said Keuchel.
For weeks now, the baseball world has been waiting for the Cubs to line up trades for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Last night, Theo Epstein & Co. killed two birds with one stone and packaged both together in a deal with the A’s. In return for two of the most talked about pitchers on the trade block, the Cubs received top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily. Here’s a look at some of the reactions to the blockbuster deal.
- MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (on Twitter) says the Cubs are taking an interesting approach by stockpiling top position player prospects and putting off acquiring pitching. Dierkes can see Straily providing Travis Wood-like value for the Cubs since teams pay big money for innings from a No. 4 type (link). Meanwhile, the deal makes the rest of the trade season kind of anticlimactic for Cub fans after their two best trade chips were moved on the Fourth of July (link).
- Before pulling the trigger on the deal with the Cubs, the A’s discussed a swap involving Russell with the Rays for David Price, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. However, nothing ever materialized on that front.
- The Yankees exchanged proposals with the Cubs on both Samardzija and Hammel, but could not compete with Russell’s inclusion, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
- In a separate tweet, Rosenthal reports the A’s don’t intend to flip Hammel because they will need him to win the AL West.
- ESPN’s Keith Law writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the A’s and Cubs both significantly impacted their franchise, albeit with different timelines in mind.
- The early word is the Cubs are not looking to make any moves from their shortstop stockpile as the Mets have nothing brewing with Chicago and the Yankees have checked but to no avail, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links).
- Moneyball isn’t about on-base percentage or any one statistic, it’s about exploiting what is over- or under-valued and prospects are over-valued at present, writes Sherman. However, he notes (link) Javier Baez and Russell are big guys who might not stay at shortstop, so Starlin Castro may still be the Cubs’ long-term guy.
- The A’s may have made themselves the favorites for 2014, but the Cubs ultimately may have won the deal, writes CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. “He’s Barry Larkin with power,” one rival baseball executive said of Russell.
- The loss of Russell, in particular, could end up haunting the A’s, whose current shortstop Jed Lowrie is a free agent after this season, but GM Billy Beane has never been afraid to take an unconventional route, writes Rosenthal.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle echoes Rosenthal and adds the trade may point towards an extension for Lowrie and this wouldn’t be a bad time to do it.
- The trade demonstrates Beane’s burning desire to win now and now could be his only window for winning a World Series, according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee.
- Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com calls this trade fascinating because of the guts it took to swing such a deal between two men (Epstein and Beane) who defy convention for the way the game of baseball changes.
- The Cubs signed Hammel to a one-year, $6MM deal in late January and in July he has netted them one of the five best prospects in baseball, notes Passan (via Twitter).
- Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (via Twitter) is usually against trading great young talent, but likes the trade for the A’s since present wins have so much value to them right now. Of course, he likes the swap from the Cubs‘ perspective, too.
- Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes the trade is a win-win for both the A’s and Cubs, but the real winner could be the Rays, who just saw two of the top available starting pitchers dealt while only one contender benefited increasing the demand for Price.
- Addison Russell (Twitter link) is excited to be joining forces with Kris Bryant.
- Billy McKinney called the A’s an “amazing and classy organization” and is “excited to start and (sic) new chapter in the Cubs organization” (Twitter links).
- Dan Straily also tweeted his appreciation of the A’s organization, but is looking forward to beginning the next chapter of his career with the Cubs (Twitter links).
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Acquired from the Astros in exchange for Chris Carter, Max Stassi and Brad Peacock prior to the 2013 season, Lowrie is entering his second season with the A's. He's eligible for free agency following this year and had been projected to earn $4.8MM by Swartz.
11:52am: The A's have dodged arbitration with righty Luke Gregerson by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal worth $5.065MM, per the New York Post's Joel Sherman (on Twitter). Gregerson is a client of O'Connell Sports Management.
Gregerson was acquired from the Padres this offseason in a one-for-one swap for Seth Smith. One of the game's premier setup men, he's likely next in line behind Jim Johnson for saves in Oakland. The right-hander was projected to earn $4.9MM, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Gregerson is eligible for free agency following the 2014 season.
The Athletics have a "meaningful interest" in Nelson Cruz, a source tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, though no deal is imminent between the two sides. The A's were noted as one of the clubs interested in Cruz (along with the Mariners, Rangers, Mets and possibly the Phillies) earlier this week by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. As Slusser notes, Cruz's demands for a four-year/$75MM contract seem well out of Oakland's price range and the team already has a set outfield. Signing Cruz would also cost the A's a first round draft pick as compensation, so I'd have to say that a Cruz/Oakland connection seems like a long shot.
Here are some more items from around both the AL and NL West divisions…
- Also from Slusser, "nothing is imminent" between the A's and Bartolo Colon, though the team is still interested in the veteran right-hander. Jed Lowrie is drawing "significant interest" from other teams but the A's need him at shortstop and are "highly unlikely" to pursue trade talks.
- The Diamondbacks aren't interested in Cruz or any player connected to PED usage, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Ken Kendrick, the D'Backs' managing general partner, is a key figure behind this unofficial policy, though a few exceptions have been made on the roster and on the coaching staff. As Piecoro notes, D'Backs reliever Brad Ziegler was openly critical of the Cardinals' recent signing of Jhonny Peralta, another player who missed time with a PED suspension last season.
- Justin Morneau is the Rockies' "primary target," Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes. Renck reported yesterday that Colorado was "aggressively pursuing" Morneau, and he feels the former AL MVP could thrive at Coors Field.
- Mariners chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that the team's payroll budget will be higher than last season's $95MM mark (of which around $84MM was spent). "It’s certainly going to be above what we budgeted last year,” Lincoln said. “How much? For competitive purposes, I’m not prepared to say. But it certainly is not going to go down.” Lincoln also talks about the search to replace retiring president/COO Chuck Armstrong.
- For more from the West divisions, check out Jeff Todd's collection of NL West Notes from earlier today on MLBTR.
The Astros may not have a realistic shot at winning next season, but they can offer playing time and have a bright future, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. "Someone looking to win a World Series title next year may not think about the Astros as the first place to go sign," says GM Jeff Luhnow. "But having said that, we also have an opportunity."
Luhnow also says the Astros could make a major move if the right opportunity presented itself. "If it’s the right situation for the right player, the right length of years. Houston’s a big city," he says. "We’ve got the capacity to compete with the big boys ultimately, and whether or not we start this year or next year after that, I think eventually it’s coming." Whether a top-notch free agent would be willing to come to Houston at this point is an open question, however. Here's more from around the big leagues.
- The Astros aren't likely to acquire first baseman Ike Davis in a trade with the Mets, Drellich writes. Drellich also notes that the Astros did not have interest in Marlon Byrd, who recently signed with the Philles. Still, the Astros are hoping to add a power bat at first base or in the outfield, and they're open to finding one via free agency or trade.
- The Athletics' signing of Nick Punto doesn't mean they're likely to deal Jed Lowrie, writes the New York Post's Joel Sherman. Punto "has nothing to do with Jed Lowrie. Jed is our starting shortstop," says A's assistant GM David Forst. Lowrie is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.
- Brian Wilson wouldn't mind returning to the Dodgers as something other than a closer, as long as they pay him like one, Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times tweets. Wilson was excellent down the stretch for the Dodgers last season, but they already have a very good closer in Kenley Jansen.
- Free agent Jamey Carroll is attracting interest, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. The infielder will be 40 in February, but he does not want to retire. Carroll hit .211/.267/.251 in 249 plate appearances with the Twins and Royals last season.
- Lefty Randy Wolf is on the comeback trail after sitting out the 2013 season, and he plans to audition for MLB teams later this month, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets. Wolf posted a 5.65 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 157 2/3 innings with the Brewers and Orioles in 2012.