Jose Veras Rumors

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.


Tigers Decline Option On Jose Veras

TODAY, 11:18am: The value of the option declined by the Tigers was actually $4MM, tweets FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Because Veras finished 42 games, he added $750k to the base $3.25MM option price.

Veras finished 45 games last year, seven of which came with Detroit. Though only two of those game-finishing appearances for the Tigers resulted in saves, it does not appear that he was the last man on the hill for any true blow-outs. However, the $750k bump probably could have been avoided: the escalator-triggering appearance came the day after the Tigers clinched the division. In his final outing of the regular season, Veras came on in the eighth with a one-run deficit and earned the GF when the Tigers failed to score in the ninth. 

YESTERDAY, 1:45pm: The Tigers announced that they have declined their $3.25MM option on right-hander Jose Veras in favor of a $150K buyout.

The decision to buy out Veras' option is somewhat of a surprise, given his solid overall numbers on the season and the Tigers' prolonged bullpen struggles over the season. Veras enjoyed the finest season of his career in 2013, pitching to a 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.8 percent ground-ball rate. He signed a one-year deal with the Astros to be their closer but found himself traded to the Tigers in a deadline deal that netted the Astros outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and hard-throwing but injured relief prospect David Paulino.

For the Tigers, Veras excelled in 19 2/3 innings, totaling a 3.20 ERA with 16 strikeouts against seven unintentional walks. He was solid in his lone ALDS appearance but also has the dubious distinction of being the pitcher who came in with the bases loaded and surrendered a crushing grand slam to Shane Victorino in Game 6 of the ALCS.

With Veras (somewhat surprisingly) on the market, there are now eight relievers available who saved at least 21 games in 2013: Veras, Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit Chris PerezEdward Mujica and Kevin Gregg, not to mention longtime closer Brian Wilson, who returned with the Dodgers and dominated in a setup capacity.


Astros Acquire David Paulino To Complete Veras Trade

The Astros have acquired right-hander David Paulino from the Tigers as the player to be named later from the July trade that sent Jose Veras to Detroit, tweets MLB.com's Jason Beck. The Astros received outfield prospect Danry Vasquez as the centerpiece of the trade.

Paulino, 19, made four starts for the Tigers' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate this season and was very impressive in the process. The Dominican native allowed six runs in 20 innings for a 2.70 ERA with an impressive 22-to-2 K/BB ratio. In a separate pair of tweets, Beck notes that Paulino last pitched in mid-July and is currently on the 60-day disabled list in the GCL after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Astros like Paulino's power arm and feel the injury is worth the risk. The trade will separate David from his older brother, Brenny Paulino, who has yet to pitch this year after missing 2012 with arm problems and undergoing shoulder surgery last June.

Since joining the Tigers, Veras has posted a 2.76 ERA with 12 strikeouts and six walks in 16 1/3 innings of relief. Vasquez, meanwhile, continued a solid season in the Class-A Midwest League after moving from Detroit's affiliate in West Michigan to Houston's affiliate in the Quad Cities. The 19-year-old posted very similar batting lines for each club, slashing .283/.334/.400 in the Tigers organization and .288/.323/.398 in the Astros organization.


Trade Reactions: Jose Veras, Scott Downs

We've seen three relievers get shipped off to new teams already today, with the Tigers acquiring Jose Veras for Danry Vasquez and a PTBNL, the Braves landing Scott Downs for Cory Rasmus and the Rays making a play for the injured Jesse Crain. The Crain deal will remain an unknown as the two sides are still working out "future considerations" to be sent to the White Sox due to Crain's DL status, but the baseball world is already weighing in on the Veras and Downs deals. Let's take a look…

Jose Veras

  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs calls the trade a win-win move. He notes that over the past year, Veras has been statisically similar to Jonathan Papelbon but comes at a fraction of the price. The Astros, meanwhile, cashed in on an asset for which they had little need and received someone with notable upside in the process.
  • ESPN's Keith Law also likes the move for both sides (ESPN Insider required and recommended), noting that Vasquez's prospect status has slipped this season, but he's still a nice lottery ticket for the Astros, who have little need for a solid closer in a likely 100-loss season.
  • Houston GM Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he's been following Vasquez since he was an international free agent and is excited to add him to the team's Class-A affiliate: "And he's at the A ball level, and you plug him into Quad Cities with [Rio] Ruiz, [Carlos] Correa and the pitchers there, it's a pretty formidable group there and pretty exciting. He's young and has a tremendous upside. He has the potential to be hit in the middle of the lineup."
  • The move was bittersweet for Veras, who told McTaggart that he considers Houston his home but is excited to be going to a team with a chance to make the playoffs. He also has friends such as Omar Infante, Brayan Pena and Ramon Santiago in Detroit.

Scott Downs

  • Cameron offers his take on the Downs trade as well, noting that Downs shouldn't face righties anymore but can still provide a boost in the playoffs against tough lefties like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez. The Angels didn't get much back in return, in Cameron's mind, as most organizations have plenty of relief prospects who can throw 93 mph and miss bats with questionable command. However, getting "something just north of nothing" was better than simply letting Downs leave at season's end.
  • Downs "[has] a place in any modern day bullpen," given his dominance over lefties, writes Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Eddy provides a scouting report on Rasmus, whose biggest weakness is his control. Eddy points out that Rasmus is capable of retiring both lefties and righties if he can reign in the walks.
  • One scout told Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that Downs has lost the "turbo-sink" that prompted Anaheim to sign him to a three-year, $15MM contract but wondered if joining a playoff contender will revitalize the 37-year-old lefty.
  • The Braves got Downs "for virtually nothing" writes Law (ESPN Insider required). Rasmus profiles as a generic right-handed reliever whose main value is that he's cost-controlled. Rasmus' high fly-ball rates will play better in Angel Stadium and with Anaheim's defense though, Law adds.

Tigers Acquire Jose Veras

The first-place Tigers augmented their bullpen, at a time the back end finally seemed to have stabilized.  Detroit acquired reliever Jose Veras today from the Astros for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later, which will be decided on or before September 15th.

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Veras, 32, has successfully served as the Astros' closer this year after signing a one-year, $2MM free agent deal in December.  In a big benefit to his trade value, Veras' contract includes a $3.25MM club option for 2014.  "We are pleased to add an experienced arm to our bullpen," Tigers' president, CEO, and GM Dave Dombrowski said in a statement.   "Jose can pitch in a variety of roles, provides depth in the bullpen, and complements the roles of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly."  Veras has a 2.93 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9, and 45.3% groundball rate in 43 innings this year.  He's always thrown hard and racked up strikeouts, but this year he's been able to trim his walk rate significantly.  In November, the Brewers outrighted Veras rather than retain his rights for 2013 through the arbitration process.

The Tigers add Veras at a time their larger bullpen concerns seemed behind them.  They entered the season with uncertainty at closer, and re-signed Jose Valverde to a minor league deal in April.  Valverde saved nine games for the club, but was removed from the closer role in late June and ultimately replaced by Benoit.

Vasquez "adds to an already formidable group of prospects at the A ball level," Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said in a statement.  The 19-year-old left fielder was hitting .281/.333/.390 in his second stint for the Tigers' Low-A club.  Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked Vasquez sixth among Tigers prospects, noting that the offensive-minded Venezuelan "projects as a solid hitter with plus power potential."  Baseball America's Matt Eddy has more on Vasquez.  The Veras trade is Luhnow's second this month, as he acquired Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs for international bonus pool money.  "There's nothing else close at this point," McTaggart quotes Luhnow as saying this morning.  Starter Bud Norris is thought to be the Astros' other major trade chip this month.

The Astros and Tigers haven't hooked up for a trade in over a decade.  Back in June 2001, Tigers GM Randy Smith sent Dave Mlicki to Houston, with Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker acquiring Jose Lima.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Brian McTaggart of MLB.com first broke news of the trade.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Bullpen Notes: Papelbon, Nathan, Tigers, Padres

Closer Jonathan Papelbon is dissatisfied with the Phillies' current direction, MLB.com's Todd Zalecki reports. In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Philadelphia has fallen to seven games below .500, and that's not what Papelbon anticipated when he signed with the Phils. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he says. He also doesn't sound optimistic when asked about the Phillies' future. "Oh man," he says. "We could be here all day."

Papelbon is of the opinion that the Phillies need to undergo an overhaul, similar to that of his former team, the Red Sox (whose overhaul, ironically, included losing Papelbon to free agency). He says he does not want to be traded, but adds that he does not want to stay in Philadelphia if his team continues on the same path.


Cafardo On Morneau, Blue Jays, Veras, Ramirez

The Rays might be the only contending team that doesn't need to do anything at the deadline, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  As for the other 13 clubs that are still in the hunt, Cafardo runs down each of their needs in advance of Wednesday's deadline.  The Cardinals would like to add a starter and perhaps a middle infielder, but are good to go with what they have.  The Rangers got their big fish in Matt Garza, but they'll still be on the hunt for a right-handed hitting outfielder as their concern grows over Nelson Cruz.  Meanwhile, not every club has the resources to make the upgrades that they'd like to.  The Reds have three top arms on the shelf in Johnny Cueto, Jonathan Broxton, and Sean Marshall, but they might not have enough to obtain another.  Here's more from today's column..

  • Contrary to some reports, the Twins have received “numerous calls” on Justin Morneau, according to a major league source.  The Blue Jays are one team that has expressed interest in the Canadian.
  • Scouts and executives are split on whether the Blue Jays could sell off Mark Buehrle and/or Josh Johnson.  Buehrle, 34, isn’t the same pitcher he used to be, but he shows that he has value for a contender with performances like Thursday against the Astros. 
  • Jose Veras has done well as the Astros' closer and he’s receiving a lot of attention from teams looking for a late-inning reliever.  However, teams are wary of the fact that Veras hasn't had to deal with real pressure and the Astros' high asking price.  “I don’t think you can make a blanket statement like he pitches for the Astros so there’s no pressure,” said an American League GM. “If you look at his performances, he comes in when there’s pressure and he handles it well.” 
  • Manny Ramirez was getting rave reviews in his first week for the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, but he's now slumping.  Texas isn’t bringing him up any time soon, and the Rangers remain focused on acquiring a bat.
  • Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey is an under-the-radar guy whose performance is peaking and he's available since he'll be a free agent at season's end.  It's a small sample size for sure, but Pelfrey has a 2.28 ERA in four July starts.