Jose Veras Rumors
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.
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.
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.
- The Tigers and Rangers have discussed the possibility of a deal that would send Joe Nathan to Detroit, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Right now, though, the Rangers are asking a lot, and Morosi says there is "no momentum toward a deal." As MLBTR's Aaron Steen noted yesterday, Joakim Soria could close for the Rangers if Nathan were to depart. The Rangers could target the Tigers' current setup man, Drew Smyly, if they were to deal Nathan, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
- The Tigers are not trying to trade for Papelbon, Morosi tweets, but Luke Gregerson of the Padres is a possibility (Twitter links).
- The Padres and Brewers are the top sellers for bullpen arms, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports. The Padres can offer Gregerson and Joe Thatcher, while the Brewers have John Axford and Mike Gonzalez. The Astros, meanwhile, could deal Jose Veras or Wesley Wright, while the Angels could move Scott Downs.
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.
Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris and reliever Jose Veras are drawing considerable interest and it's likely that both players will be traded, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Astros have said that they don't need to move Norris as his $3MM salary is affordable, but that also increases his value on the market.
The Orioles are one of the clubs that realize the value of Norris and other Astros hurlers. Even though they've already been aggressive on the trade market by acquiring Scott Feldman from the Cubs and Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that they're likely not done and are speaking with Houston about acquiring more arms. Baltimore likely would balk at the trade price for Norris - one report earlier this month said they're seeking two top prospects - but they could zero in on former O's lefty Erik Bedard or right-hander Lucas Harrell, sources told Rosenthal.
Meanwhile, one might guess that the Tigers would be among the leading suitors for Veras, but Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) hears that the Detroit front office is split on him. Knobler's best guess is that the Tigers don't make a play for the reliever, but there are some within the organization that are fans.
Heyman notes that the Red Sox, Pirates, Phillies, Rangers, Giants, and Dodgers have also shown interest in Norris at some point, which should make for some competitive bidding. Meanwhile, just about every contending team is considering relief help and the Pirates could be in that group after Jason Grilli was put on the shelf with a forearm issue.
Veras has a 3.12 ERA on the season with 9.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 on the season. Norris is also enjoying a solid campaign, posting a 3.91 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 through 20 starts.
Here are a few trade notes from around the American League:
- As we approach the trade deadline with the Mariners looking more like sellers than buyers, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times took a look back at GM Jack Zduriencik's recent history at the deadline. Beginning with an ill-fated swap of a young Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans and featuring the retrospectively painful Doug Fister deal, the net return to Seattle has not been terribly productive.
- This year, the Mariners could be in a position to deal some relievers. Last night, we took a look at FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal's breakdown of potentially available NL relievers. Tonight, let's look at the AL crop. From the M's, Rosenthal says that veteran lefty Oliver Perez is the most likely to be dealt, with Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen also prime candidates. The latter two, however, will likely command a high price given that Furbush may just be reaching arbitration after this season as a Super Two, while Wilhelmsen will not reach arbitration until after the 2014 campaign.
- Rosenthal also pegs the White Sox and Astros as sellers with attractive bullpen pieces. Chicago could swing a trade for stud reliever Jesse Crain if he can return in time to prove his health; otherwise, both Matt Thornton and Matt Lindstrom could hold some appeal. (Both of the latter two pitchers come with club options for 2014.) For Houston, meanwhile, the prime trade chip among its relief corps is unquestionably closer Jose Veras, who is cheap, strikes out a lot of hitters, and has been solid in late-inning work this year.
- One other team that should look to the future, according to FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, is the Blue Jays. With the club again fading after its recent resurgence, Morosi says Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos faces a "virtually impossible" task to right the ship before the trade deadline. Rather than selling out for this season, says Morosi, the Jays should look to shore up the team's rotation to make a run in 2014 and 2015.
- Sticking with the Jays, Morosi says that Josh Johnson -- occasionally noted as a potential trade candidate earlier in the year -- has been "perhaps the team's greatest disappointment this year." Johnson currently carries a 4.89 ERA in 53 1/3 innings; his walk rate is below his career average at 3.4 BB/9, though he is striking batters out at a strong 9.1 K/9 clip. At this point, Morosi suggests, Toronto may be best served by shipping Johnson back to the National League rather than looking to try and bring him back next year.
Since the beginning of the 2011 season, there are only 14 relievers who have posted a K/9 greater than 10.0 with a ground-ball rate of 40 percent or better. It's not surprising to see established relief aces like Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Sergio Romo on that list, but some might be surprised to see Jose Veras' name in the mix.
Not only is Veras in the mix, he's second in the group in terms of innings pitched with 169 (John Axford ranks first with 172). Veras has generated little fanfare in recent years, but he's shown the capability to maintain an elite strikeout rate over an extended period of time.
Though his ERA is an uninspiring 4.06, Veras' other numbers look strong. He's punched out 36 hitters in 31 innings (10.5 K/9) while showing the best ground-ball and walk rates of his career. FIP feels that his ERA should be 3.96, xFIP suggests a 3.74 ERA going forward and SIERA is even more bullish at 3.02.
The biggest red flag with Veras has typically been his control, but he's posted a respectable 3.8 BB/9 thus far in 2013, and his 60.3 percent first-pitch strike rate is the highest of his career. It's probably no coincidence that by getting ahead in the count more often, he's been able to up his swinging-strike rate to 10.2 percent.
The 32-year-old Veras signed a one-year deal with the Astros this winter that calls for an affordable $1.85MM base salary and also contains a club option for $3.25MM. His contract also carries incentives based on games finished that could raise this year's salary by $500K and push the option's value north of $4MM.
Veras' control problems have kept him from reaching the elite status among relievers, but his mix of strikeouts and ground-balls is a desirable skill set nonetheless. Add to the mix a contract that is significantly more affordable than that of marquee trade candidates like Jonathan Papelbon and an extra year of team control, and it's logical to expect that Veras will be wearing a new uniform come August 1.
The Astros have made no effort to hide the fact that they're willing to move just about any player on their roster as they completely re-tool the franchise, and Veras should be no exception. He won't fetch an elite prospect in return, but a contending team looking to shore up the eighth or even ninth inning could view Veras as an upgrade, particularly if he has a strong few weeks leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. The Royals were able to nab Cincinnati's No. 12 and No. 27 prospects (per Baseball America) in exchange for a few months of Jonathan Broxton last season. Broxton had better superficial stats at the time, but a prospect in the middle of a team's Top 30 doesn't seem out of the question for Veras.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
4:10pm: The Astros plan to give Veras the chance to close, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The right-hander’s contract includes significant incentives based on games finished that could increase his $1.85MM salary by $500K. Depending on Veras’ games finished total next year, the value of the 2014 option could increase to the $4-5.5MM range, Rosenthal reports.
1:17pm: The Astros announced that they have signed right-handed reliever Jose Veras to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $2MM, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes, who first reported the agreement (on Twitter). The deal includes a 2013 salary of $1.85MM and a 2014 option worth $3.25MM with a $150K buyout. Praver/Shapiro represents Veras.
Veras, 32, elected to become a free agent last month after the Brewers outrighted him off of their 40-man roster. The move amounted to an early non-tender for Veras, who had a projected salary of $2.6MM.
In 72 appearances for Milwaukee in 2012, Veras posted a 3.63 ERA with 10.6 K/9, 5.4 BB/9 and a 43.8% ground ball rate in 67 innings. The seven-year veteran has a career ERA of 4.01 with 9.4 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and a 39.4% ground ball rate. He averaged 93.8 mph with his fastball this past season, generating swings and misses 9% of the time.
Jason Giambi was a surprise candidate to become the Rockies' next manager, but now that the job has gone to Walt Weiss, the team has offered Giambi the job of hitting coach, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Giambi had said he would continue playing if he wasn't hired as manager, though he's taking a few days to consider Colorado's offer. If he turns it down and wants to keep playing, agent Joel Wolfe tells ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that "several teams" have shown interest in his client, who will be 42 years old on Opening Day.
Here are some more items from a very busy day around baseball...
- Robinson Cano believes he has already signed one team-friendly contract with the Yankees and will look for market value in his next deal, a "confidant" of the second baseman tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Cano's last contract with the Yankees ended up paying him $57MM over six years once New York exercised its two club options for 2012 and 2013.
- The Blue Jays' waiver claim of Bobby Wilson as catching depth "suggests J.P. Arencibia is in play on the trade market," writes Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi.
- Also from Davidi, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said that Mike Aviles drew "pretty good demand...the Indians weren't the only team that asked about him," before the infielder was traded to Cleveland last weekend.
- Though Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said earlier today that he preferred signing players to making trades this offseason, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News thinks the trade market might be the best way for the Phils to solve some roster problems.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto likes his core of position players, leaving Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times to conclude that the Halos will pursue rotation depth through free agency, not trades.
- Jose Veras has switched agents, going from Bryce Dixon to the Praver Shapiro agency, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The veteran righty chose to become a free agent after he was outrighted off the Brewers' 40-man roster.
- Minor league free agent Collin Balester is "in demand," reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter). Balester, 26, had a 6.50 ERA in 11 relief outings for the Tigers last season but posted strong numbers at Triple-A Toledo.
It was on this day in 1962 that Joe Morgan signed his first pro contract, joining the Houston Colt .45s as an amateur free agent. Morgan spent his first nine seasons in Houston before being traded to the Reds and establishing himself as arguably the best second baseman in baseball history.
Here's the latest from the NL Central...
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer confirmed to ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla that the team had made "contact and it was preliminary" with Ryan Dempster, though Hoyer was quick to minimize the importance of the meeting, saying "it was sort of a bump-into thing." It was reported earlier today by MLB.com's Carrie Muskat that the Cubs had been in touch with Dempster's agent.
- "We’ve got the connection with (hitting coach) Johnny Narron but we don’t have the connection with U.S. Bank,” Brewers GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the chances of the Brewers splurging on Josh Hamilton this winter. Melvin noted that he would like to acquire relief pitching this offseason but was wary given the rising prices of quality bullpen arms.
- Also from Haudricourt, he hears from Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash that the club has no plans to re-sign either right-hander Jose Veras or outfielder Nyjer Morgan, both of whom were outrighted off Milwaukee's 40-man roster over the last two days.
- The Cardinals have signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Henry Alvarado to a $150K contract, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. Alvarado is described as being best suited to left field or possibly first base, and he "stands out for his righthanded bat, sound approach and occasional power."
The latest outright assignments...
- The Astros announced that Fernando Abad, Sergio Escalona, Edgar Gonzalez, Jose Valdez, Kyle Weiland and the recently-DFA'ed Matt Downs have been outrighted to Triple-A. All will become free agents except Weiland, who has been placed on the Triple-A roster.
- The Brewers have outrighted Nyjer Morgan to Triple-A, the team announced. Morgan was a key part of the Brewers' NL Central-winning team in 2011 but struggled last season, hitting .239/.302/.308 and getting less playing time in the Milwaukee outfield. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently projected Morgan as a non-tender candidate.
- The Brewers also confirmed that Jose Veras has elected to become a free agent after being outrighted off the 40-man roster yesterday.
- The Braves outrighted right-hander Erik Cordier to Triple-A, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports (Twitter link). The 26-year-old pitched at three levels this past season, posting a 5.85 ERA with 7.5 K/9 in 32 1/3 total innings. He walked 32 of the 155 batters he faced, however. The Braves announced that they also outrighted catcher J.C. Boscan and left-hander Robert Fish off of the 40-man roster. Boscan elected free agency, according to the team.