Jose Veras Rumors

Astros To Sign Jose Veras

The Astros have agreed to sign right-hander Jose Veras to a minor league deal, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.  Veras will report to Kissimmee, Florida to gear up before heading to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Veras, 33, was designated for assignment by the Cubs earlier this month and subsequently released.  The veteran was signed to serve as Chicago’s closer after the Tigers declined to pick up his club option, but things did not work out as planned.

The Cubs gave Veras a $4MM guarantee (between this year’s salary and a $150K buyout for a 2015 club option at $5.5MM) and in return he gave the club a 8.10 ERA across 13 1/3 innings with 8.8 K/9 against 7.4 BB/9 and missed 17 games with an oblique strain.

The deal brings Veras back to where he did some of the best work in his career.  In 42 outings in 2013, Veras posted a 2.93 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 as the team’s closer.


Cubs Release Jose Veras

June 10: Veras has been released, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.

June 3: The Cubs have designated reliever Jose Veras for assignment, tweets Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. The 33-year-old veteran was signed to serve as Chicago’s closer after the Tigers declined to pick up his club option.

Veras represents a fairly significant miss for the Cubs front office. He was given a $4MM guarantee, including this year’s salary and a $150K buyout for a 2015 club option at $5.5MM. In addition to putting a consistent presence at the back of the bullpen, the Cubs no doubt considered the possibility of dangling Veras at the trade deadline.

But that was not to be. Across 13 1/3 innings on the season, Veras has worked to a 8.10 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 7.4 BB/9. Adding injury to insult, he then missed 17 games with an oblique strain. But Veras was actually much better upon his return from the DL. Since May 15, he has thrown 7 2/3 innings and allowed just two earned runs and a walk while setting down eight batters on strikes.


Cubs Notes: Trades, Veras, Draft

Here’s the latest out of Wrigleyville …

  • At this early stage of the year, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says that there is very little action in terms of trade discussion, tweets Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. As Miles writes in another piece, Hoyer also said that the club “should be better than [its] record,” but has suffered through some tough losses. Of course, barring a big surprise, the expectation all along has been that Chicago would shop several of the veterans on its roster, and the team’s current nine-game division deficit only increases that likelihood. Pitcher Jason Hammel, the versatile Emilio Bonifacio, and of course staff ace Jeff Samardzija are all off to starts that make them look like attractive trade targets.
  • One other player that seemed destined to be a July mover was reliever Jose Veras, who the Cubs inked to take over the closer role. But his struggles on the mound and with an oblique injury have clouded both his outlook as a trade chip and the team’s closer situation, as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes. The team will look to “develop a closer from one of the guys we have on the roster,” says Hoyer. The GM added that Veras’s struggles “show[] you the perils of free agency,” though he added that he hopes the 33-year-old veteran will sort himself out.
  • The draft is no doubt the focus of the Chicago front office at the moment, as the team holds the fourth overall choice. While we heard recently that the club would take the best player available, it will surely be enticed by the possibility of adding a top-flight pitching prospect in a draft that has several at the top of the board. As Muskat writes, aiding Hoyer and president of baseball ops Theo Epstein in breaking down the young arms will be former Cub standouts Kerry Wood and Ted Lilly“The plan is to have those guys in the draft room when we convene,” said Hoyer. “It’s good for us to hear their opinions, and it’s good for their development to go out and see these guys.”

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Cubs Sign Jose Veras

The Cubs caught lightning in a bottle with a revitalized Kevin Gregg for much of the 2013 season, but they'll have a more consistent option in place next season in the form of Jose Veras. Chicago officially announced the signing of Veras to a one-year deal with a club option for the 2015 season today. The Praver/Shapiro client will reportedly earn $3.85MM and has a $150K buyout on a $5.5MM option, making a total guarantee of $4MM. Veras, who will serve as Chicago's closer, can also earn $750K worth of incentives based on games finished.

Veras

The 33-year-old posted a 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with a 41.8 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers, collecting a career-high 21 saves along the way.  The right-hander drew interest from multiple clubs this offseason including the Rockies and Astros.

Veras spent the first four months of the season as Houston's closer before being shipped to the Tigers in July for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later who turned out to be right-hander David Paulino.  Detroit turned down a $4MM option on the veteran, but he would up getting the same guaranteed money out of the Cubs, plus a $150K buyout from Detroit, $750K of incentives from Chicago and a chance at a healthy raise in 2015.

Though Gregg served as Chicago's closer for much of the season, the team relied on a number of late-inning options that did not fare well. Carlos Marmol struggled once again, Shawn Camp was unable to replicate his 2012 magic and found himself released and Japanese acquisition Kyuji Fujikawa wound up requiring Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings with the Cubs. Veras will join Pedro Strop, James Russell, Blake Parker, Wesley Wright and presumably Carlos Villanueva in the Cubs' bullpen. Other internal options include Arodys VizcainoHector Rondon, Brooks Raley and Justin Grimm. Fujikawa should return at some point this season as well.

The Astros were said to be pushing hard to get Veras back in the organization and the fondness seemed mutual.  "It feels like family there," Veras said of Houston.  "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."  Alas, Veras will be moving on to a new club, his eighth team in the past six seasons.

Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com first reported the $4MM guarantee and the $5.5MM club option (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Veras' exact 2014 salary, the additional incentives and his 2015 buyout. Heyman also reported that Veras will serve as Chicago's closer (All Twitter links).

Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL West Notes: Wilson, Young, Angels, Morrison

The Rangers made headlines today by selecting Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft.  Before going on to NFL stardom, Wilson was selected by the Rockies as a second baseman in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and Colorado retained its rights to Wilson until this morning. Wilson will report to Spring Training and talk to the Rangers' minor leaguers in a motivational capacity.  "We decided if he ever wanted to play again, he'd be a guy that we'd want with us," Texas assistant GM A.J. Preller told reporters, including MLB.com's Richard Justice.  The Wilson selection isn't a gimmick,  ESPN's Richard Durrett writes, and Jon Daniels is excited to have Wilson's winning qualities in the organization, though Daniels stressed that the club isn't trying to distract Wilson from his NFL goals.  Here's more out of the AL West…

  • Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz remain unsigned, which is good news for the Rangers, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes.  The Rangers like both players and are hoping that their asking prices drop the longer they stay on the market.  Daniels said that his team's pursuit of Choo was "unchanged" from yesterday.
  • There is a chance that Michael Young could rejoin the Rangers if both parties see a fit, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez tweets.  Texas dealt its longtime franchise staple to the Phillies last offseason and Young was subsequently dealt to the Dodgers in August.
  • Despite recent rumors linking the Angels to Matt Garza and Raul Ibanez, general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times) that his team doesn't have any outstanding offers to free agents.
  • In a special piece for FOX Sports, new Mariners first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison wrote about the experience of being traded to a new team. Morrison's piece is particularly fascinating in that it was written prior to the trade that sent him to Seattle. LoMo says he doesn't have any ill feelings toward the Marlins organization, adding that contrary to public opinion, owner Jeffrey Loria was "great and generous" to Morrison and his family. Loria allowed Morrison and his family to use his personal plane to get to Kansas City for the funeral of Morrison's father.
  • The Astros spoke to the Marlins about Morrison and also pursued Corey Hart and Mike Morse, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports.  Jose Veras rejected the Astros' initial contract offer but the two sides still share a mutual interest in a reunion.
  • The YankeesIndiansBravesPhilliesBlue JaysTwins and Indians were all involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson before the Athletics sent the right-hander to the Rockies, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post


Astros Pushing Hard For Jose Veras

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.


Astros Interested In Morse, Crain, Gaudin; Veras Would Like To Return

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.


Lucas Harrell Drawing Trade Interest

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.


NL West Notes: Kemp, Veras, Crain, Padres

Dave Stewart, Matt Kemp's agent, has a "strong feeling something could happen" involving his client at the Winter Meetings, the former pitcher tells ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes.  "This is the first time we've experienced this," Stewart said. "This is the first time we've heard it this much, and the first time we really believe something could happen."  The Dodgers have been listening to offers for Kemp, and the Mariners, Rangers and Red Sox have all been linked to the outfielder, plus other teams.

Here's the latest from around the NL West…

  • The Rockies are still looking for bullpen help and have maintained their interest in Jose Veras and Jesse Crain, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports (Twitter links).  The club's interest in Crain, of course, hinges on whether he is healthy following the shoulder injury that prematurely ended his 2013 season.
  • The Rockies had interest in Corey Hart and Mike Morse but both players profiled better as first basemen, Renck notes, a position that Colorado has since addressed by signing Justin Morneau.  The Rockies have a hole in left field, with Carlos Gonzalez shifting to center and Michael Cuddyer remaining in right.
  • The Padres had some interest in David Murphy and Nate McLouth, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets.  With Murphy and McLouth respectively signed by the Indians and Nationals, however, San Diego's search for a left-handed hitting outfielder may have ended with their trade for Seth Smith.
  • Ichiro Suzuki seems relegated to the bench in New York, so John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links) thinks the Giants should try to acquire the veteran address their outfield depth.  Shea notes that Suzuki and Giants manager Bruce Bochy share an agent, plus Suzuki could be cheaply acquired from the Yankees.  San Francisco had some interest in Ichiro when he was a free agent last winter.

Rockies Pursuing Wilson, Ruiz, Veras, Smith

4:25pm: In addition to Ruiz, Veras and Smith, the Rockies are also pursuing Brian Wilson, Renck reports in a new article. Colorado is prioritizing power arms to serve as a safety net for Rex Brothers or in order to use Brothers in a setup role where he could match up against lefties in tough situations.

Wilson returned on a $1MM contract with the Dodgers late in the season and totaled 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and the playoffs, allowing just one run and posting a 21-to-6 K/BB ratio. Earlier today it was reported that the Rockies are also interest in Grant Balfour.

9:10am: With Matt Belisle back in the fold after both he and the Rockies exercised their half of his $4.25MM option, the Rockies are eyeing right-handers Jose Veras and Joe Smith as pieces to help fix what was the worst bullpen in the NL last season, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Perhaps more interestingly, Renck adds that the Rockies are continuing their pursuit of backstop Carlos Ruiz and plan to offer him a multiyear contract this week.

The Rockies currently have Wilin Rosario at catcher, but bringing in Ruiz would allow them to give Rosario some additional at-bats at first base and perhaps in right field, writes Renck. The team considers Ruiz to be a clear defensive upgrade over Rosario, although one would imagine that Rosario wouldn't exactly be a swift defender in the outfield should be find playing time out there (then again, neither is incumbent Michael Cuddyer).

Smith, who turns 30 next March, is likely appealing to the Rockies due to his career 57.2 percent ground-ball rate. That number dropped much closer to the league average in 2013, checking in at 49.1 percent, but Smith compensated to an extent by topping his career rates in strikeouts (7.7 K/9) and walks (3.2 BB/9). Overall, his ERA sat at 2.29 in 63 innings of work the the Indians.

The 33-year-old Veras posted a career-best 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers. Detroit made the surprising decision to buy out his club option last week, making an eighth team in nine seasons a very real possibility for Veras.

The Rockies' 4.23 bullpen ERA in 2013 was the worst in the National League and the third-worst in all of Major League Baseball. The team has already lost former closer Rafael Betancourt to Tommy John surgery, and last offseason's acquisition of Wilton Lopez didn't work as planned, as the former Astro pitched to a 4.06 ERA with a career-low 5.7 K/9 rate in 75 1/3 innings. Lopez figures to return along with Belisle, Adam Ottavino and likely closer Rex Brothers.