Lucas Harrell Rumors

Diamondbacks Release Lucas Harrell

The Diamondbacks have released starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, according to the PCL transactions page. Arizona acquired Harrell from the Astros for a PTBNL in April, and he’s spent most of the season with Triple-A Reno, posting a 5.15 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 6.5 BB/9 in 106 2/3 innings.

Harrell was an Astros rotation staple as they struggled through the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and once seemed to have a fair amount of trade value. (The Astros reportedly asked the Nationals for top prospect Lucas Giolito for him in 2013.) Harrell pitched well in 193 2/3 innings in 2012, posting a 3.76 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and plenty of ground balls. He went way downhill in 2013, however, leading the American League in walks. The righty made three starts for the Astros this April before being designated for assignment.


Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.

Diamondbacks Acquire Lucas Harrell

The Diamondbacks announced that they have acquired right-hander Lucas Harrell from the Astros in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Harrell will be assigned to Triple-A Reno.

Harrell, 28, was designated for assignment by the Astros last week. Formerly a key member of Houston’s rotation that was considered to have at least somewhat comparable trade value to Bud Norris, Harrell has seen his stock tumble since the beginning of the 2013 season.

After posting a 3.76 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 57.2 percent ground-ball rate in 193 2/3 innings in 2012, Harrell slumped to a 5.86 ERA in 153 2/3 innings last season. Command issues were central to Harrell’s decline, as the 88 walks he issued (5.2 BB/9) led the American League and fell just one shy of the amount of strikeouts he picked up (89). Harrell’s ground-ball rate also dropped (51.5 percent), and neither problem seemed to be corrected in his brief 2014 sample of work. Harrell walked nine batters in 12 1/3 innings en route to a 9.49 ERA with Houston this season.

Should the D’Backs be able to restore Harrell’s command, his ground-ball ways would be an excellent fit for the homer-friendly Chase Field. Arizona’s need for pitching depth has been well documented already, as the team has lost top starter Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery and received an unacceptable 6.15 ERA from its starting rotation to date.



Astros Outright Lucas Harrell

Righty Lucas Harrell has been outrighted by the Astros after clearing waivers, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter). Harrell had been designated for assignment a week ago.

Once viewed as a useful piece with valuable control, Harrell has seen his stock plummet since the start of the 2013 season. He notched a solid in 2012 — 193 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA ball with a 57.2% ground ball rate and 6.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 — but has been ineffective since. Last year, Harrell’s control faded (5.2 BB/9) even as he missed less bats (5.2 K/9, career-low 5.1% swinging strike rate).

Houston finally moved him off of the club’s 40-man roster after Harrell stumbled out of the gates in 2014. The good news for the Astros is that the out-of-options hurler managed to pass through waivers, meaning that the club will have the chance to let him try to rediscover his form in the upper minors. Depending upon whether and when he makes it back to the bigs this year, Harrell will come with three or four years of team control still in place.


Astros To Designate Lucas Harrell For Assignment

The Astros will designate pitcher Lucas Harrell for assignment, reports Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). With Scott Feldman set to return from bereavement leave on Thursday, Houston apparently decided to remove the out-of-options righty from the active roster.

It has been quite a fall from grace for the 28-year-old, who this time last year was being named as a solid trade target for contenders. Indeed, in 2012, he threw to a 3.76 ERA in 193 2/3 innings, with a 57.2% ground ball rate and 6.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9. But last year was a struggle, as Harrell managed only a 5.86 ERA in 153 2/3 innings, and both struck out and walked 5.2 batters per nine. He has had a rough start to the current season as well.

With less than three years of service on his clock, Harrell will come with future control, which is certainly attractive. One major issue, however, is the fact that he is out of options, meaning that any club that trades for or claims him would need to let him work out his issues at the MLB level.


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.


Astros Pitchers Drawing Major Interest

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.


Quick Hits: Cardinals, Braves, Starting Pitching Market

With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.

  • The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells — all of whom are 34 or older — the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
  • The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
  • The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
  • The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
  • Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.

Stark On Wilson, Stanton, Price, Phillies, Utley, Norris

In his latest edition of Rumblings & Grumblings, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark looks at what we've learned around the 30-game mark of the season.  The Red Sox have spent their money better than any team in baseball as Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, and Shane Victorino (before his back issues) have gotten off to excellent starts.  Meanwhile, it looks like the Braves have made the best trade of anyone so far as they landed Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado and four players that aren't currently in the majors.  Here's more from today's column..

  • Teams that have checked in on Brian Wilson have been told that his target date to throw for interested clubs should be around the All-Star break.  Wilson wants to ensure that he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery before auditioning again.
  • Giancarlo Stanton's hamstring injury should probably put any talk of a July trade to rest.  "If they trade him in-season, they probably wouldn't get any major league talent," said one exec. "So given everything that's happened with their team and their attendance, are they really in a position to make a deal for him where they just get back prospects?  Probably not."  The exec concluded that the Marlins are better off waiting until the offseason and getting big league ready talent back for their star.
  • The Rays may be the most closely-watched team in the league by contenders over the next few months.  Teams know the Rays will keep David Price in July if they're alive in the AL East, and will listen hard if they're out of contention. If they're caught in between, one exec believes that the Rays still might move him if they feel like they're not good enough to win it all.  The hurler's price tag is expected to by skyhigh if he hits the open market after the 2015 season.
  • The buzzards are already starting to circle over the Phillies, Stark writes, but club officials have told teams that have checked in that they still expect their club to contend and won't even think about selling for another two months.  
  • If a Phillies sell-off happens, the biggest buzz would include impending free agent Chase Utley.  One exec who has checked into things says his impression is that the Phillies would approach Utley first and get a feel for whether he wants to go elsewhere.  Utley, who will be just short of 10-and-5 rights at the deadline – can block trades to 21 teams. 
  • Execs say they'd rather trade for Lucas Harrell than Bud Norris if they had a choice between the Astros pitchers.  Harrell has two more years of control and one scout says that the big knock on Norris is that he's still basically a "two-pitch guy".  Quite a few teams also think he profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender even though he's the Astros' ace.
  • The Yankees want a right-handed bat, but one scout feels that they don't have enough pieces to land an impact deal.  The Bombers added one right-handed hitter when they traded for Chris Nelson earlier this week.  

Astros Willing To Listen On Players

12:04pm: About a half-dozen teams have inquired on Norris but Houston has yet to engage in serious talks, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).

THURSDAY, 9:10am: Astros GM Jeff Luhnow suggested a trade involving Norris or Harrell doesn't seem likely, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. "I've always maintained that there's no such thing as an untouchable, but at the same time, Harrell and Norris are such an important part of this club right now it would take a significant offer to even consider something," Luhnow said.

WEDNESDAY: The Astros are still telling teams that they'll listen on anyone if they get two or more players back in a deal, rival clubs tell Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter).  Lots of scouts are eyeing right-hander Lucas Harrell in particular.

Recently, we learned that the Cardinals have interest in Harrell and fellow hurler Bud Norris.  Last season was Harrell's first full big league season and the 27-year-old looked strong as he posted a 3.76 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 32 starts.