Matt Dominguez Rumors

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.

West Notes: Arenado, Rangers, Giants, Astros, A’s

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado left this evening’s game with a left mallet finger fracture, the club announced on Twitter. The injury occurred to his left middle finger, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Team trainer Keith Duggers said that the best case is a four to six week layoff, though he’d be out longer if surgery is necessary, tweets Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Last year, Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro was able to play through a similar injury after missing just six games, but his featured only tendon damage and was not accompanied by a fracture. (Moreover, as Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News notes on Twitter, Scutaro still required surgery, and playing through the pain contributed to an injury to another finger.) For now, at least, Colorado will call up Josh Rutledge to take Arenado’s place on the active roster.

Here’s more out of the game’s western divisions …

  • The Rangers‘ incredible injury difficulties are no reason to panic, argues MLB.com’s Richard Justice. While the Athletics are well out in front of the division, Texas is hovering around .500 and is far from out of the Wild Card race. The team is fortunate to have an obvious replacement on the open market in Kendrys Morales, says Justice, and should seriously consider signing him. Otherwise, the club can still look for help from a series of young players — Justice mentions Luke Jackson, Alec Asher, and Alex Gonzalez — who can be asked to make the jump to the bigs earlier than expected.
  • That opinion is not shared by a pair of ESPN.com writers. Keith Law (Insider piece) says that the club should be able to acquire Morales for a song, but would be better suited by cutting their losses on the year. In addition to pending free agent relievers Joakim Soria, Neal Cotts, and Jason Frasor, Law says that the club could consider shopping Alex Rios and even star third baseman Adrian Beltre. Buster Olney joins with that general sentiment, writing (via Insider) that deciding to retool for next year would give the club a chance to free up some payroll space and add some young talent back into the system.
  • In the same piece, Olney suggests that the Giants could potentially make sense as a trade partner with the Cubs for pitcher Jeff Samardzija. San Francisco has been aggressive in dealing prospects for veterans in the past, notes Olney, and could add Samardzija with the hoping of eventually extending him (much as they did with Hunter Pence).
  • In a lengthy piece on the Astros‘ front office, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle provides details on the contract discussions that took place with third baseman Matt Dominguez and outfielder Robbie Grossman. The club offered Dominguez $14.5MM over five years in a contract that would have given the team two option years. Meanwhile, Grossman was made an offer of $13.5MM over six years, again with two options tacked on.
  • The key to the Athletics‘ success this year has been achieving true depth, assistant GM Farhan Zaidi said in an interview with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca“Whether it’s fatalistic or not you always think two injuries ahead,” said Zaidi. “You have a five-man rotation, but we always like to have seven or eight starting pitchers that we feel we could put in the mix if we needed to and still be able to compete.” The club builds in injury risk into its internal projection model, says Zaidi, who notes that manager Bob Melvin plays a role by maintaining contact with players at Triple-A throughout the season. Discussing the team’s propensity for exchanging players, Zaidi said that Oakland “tend[s] to be pretty targeted in players that we go out and try to trade for.” That means the club must also be willing to see a player find success in his new destination. “When you’re really targeting specific guys, rather than having teams approach you about players, you have to be willing to be aggressive and maybe overpay talent-wise to get the guy that fits your specific need,” he explained. Be sure to read the piece for plenty more great information.

Astros Near Extension With Matt Dominguez, Discuss Extension With Robbie Grossman

FRIDAY: Drellich now indicates (via Twitter) that Passan was correct, meaning that Dominguez and the Astros are close on an extension.

THURSDAY: The Astros are nearing agreement on a five-year extension with Matt Dominguez, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweets. (A source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that a deal is not close, however, and that the two parties are not currently in the midst of extension talks.) The deal will be worth around $17MM and will contain two club options worth about $8MM and $10MM. Dominguez is represented by Elite Sports Group.

Dominguez currently has one year and 62 days of service time, which means he would be arbitration-eligible following the 2015 season and eligible for free agency following the 2018 season. A five-year deal would control Dominguez's salary for all of those five seasons through 2018, and the club options would give the Astros control over 2019 and 2020 as well. Dominguez hit .241/.286/.403 in 589 plate appearances last season while playing roughly average defense at third base.

Extensions for average or slightly-below-average players with so little service time are relatively rare, so it's hard to find appropriate precedents for a five-year extension for Dominguez. The Pirates' six-year, $15MM extension with Jose Tabata, signed all the way back in 2011, might be a start. The extension market has obviously changed dramatically since then, but Tabata's case shows how harmless an inexpensive long-term deal can be — Tabata hasn't met expectations and will likely become a fourth outfielder after the Pirates promote Gregory Polanco, and his contract still doesn't seem to be much of an issue for the Bucs.

Passan also tweets that the Astros have also talked to Robbie Grossman, who is represented by LSW Baseball, about an extension. Grossman would seem to fit into a similar category as Dominguez, in that he has little service time (less than a year) and isn't generally perceived as having superstar upside (although he kept his head above water in his rookie season in 2013, hitting .268/.332/.370 in 288 plate appearances). As with Dominguez, the Astros would presumably aim for a low-cost deal that includes at least one team option. The Astros also recently offered an extension to prospect George Springer.



Prospect Rumor Roundup: 2012 Trade Deadline Review

If you're a fan of Major League Baseball and of reading sports tickers on the television, then July is the perfect month for you. More than 20 trades occurred in July 2012 as playoff-hopeful clubs looked to position themselves for strong second halves of their seasons and robust drives for the postseason.

For just about every veteran player on the move to a contending club in July, there is a prospect or two heading back in the other direction — towards a rebuilding club desperate for a cost-controlled building block. Close to 80 players changed jerseys last July prior to the looming trade deadline at the end of the month, and the 2013 season is expected to be no different.

But just how many of those young players that changed allegiances have maintained their values with their new organizations? Below is a list of the Top 10 young players who were traded last July. Only players who had not exceeded their MLB rookie eligibilities (50 IP for pitchers, 130 AB for hitters) at the 2012 trade deadline were considered for the article, and the list is in alphabetical order.

Rob Brantly, C (Tigers to Marlins): Given the Marlins' starting catcher gig at the beginning of the 2013 season, the offensive-minded backstop's bat has wilted under the pressure, and he has a .587 OPS in 49 games. The good news is that his defense has improved noticeably — perhaps thanks to the guidance from veteran second-string receiver Jeff Mathis, an excellent defensive player, and manager Mike Redmond, a former catcher. Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looked at Brantly's inconsistent season.

Matt Dominguez, 3B (Marlins to Astros): It's been an inconsistent season for the young third baseman — both at the plate and in the field, despite his reputation as a strong defender. Just 23, Dominguez has time on his side as he looks to breathe new life into his withering bat, but questions about his offensive abilities have been floating around since his amateur days. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle penned a piece about Dominguez' focus on the future rather than the past.

Robbie Grossman, OF (Pirates to Astros): Grossman earned a shot at a starting outfield gig in Houston after a hot April in Triple-A. Unfortunately, he posted an OPS of just .553 and was returned to the minors after 28 games. His offensive struggles followed him back to Oklahoma City and he managed a measly .512 OPS in June.

Johnny Hellweg, SP (Angels to Brewers): Hellweg's raw ability is undeniable but command and control issues have haunted him throughout his pro career. Tall pitchers are considered late bloomers in those areas, and the 6'9'' right-handed hurler definitely fits into that category. He recently received his first big league promotion, but he was roughed up during his first two appearances in The Show. Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel spoke to the rookie, as well as his manager, after his first outing.

Tommy Joseph, C (Giants to Phillies): Joseph has experienced a major setback with the bat in 2013. After beginning the year in Triple-A, he hit just .209 before a concussion knocked him out of action. Now healthy again, Joseph is getting back into playing shape while at the A-ball level. The struggles and injury helped to ensure that he missed an opportunity to fill in at the big league level when both Carlos Ruiz and Erik Kratz went down in Philadelphia. Jeff Schuler of The Morning Call wrote a piece on Joseph's return from the disabled list.

Jean Segura, SS (Angels to Brewers): Perhaps the biggest success story on this list, Segura is currently in the hunt for a batting title in the National League. He also has surprising pop and an outside chance at eventually becoming a 20-20 (HR-SB) hitter. Originally a second baseman, the sturdy but diminutive hitter was relocated to the left side of the infield, but it remains to be seen how long he'll stick there. Either way, he could be a mainstay in the middle of the diamond for years to come. Mike Woods of the Sheboygan Press recently spoke to Segura who admitted to being surprised by his success in 2013.

Jacob Turner, SP (Tigers to Marlins): Turner's value has taken a hit over the past year or two as his stuff has regressed. Scouting forecasts focus more on the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter now, rather than that of the No. 1 or 2 starter ceiling from the early days of his pro career. Despite that, Turner has had an excellent start to the 2013 season at the big league level by posting a 1.76 ERA and holding hitters to a .229 batting average in six starts.

Christian Villanueva, 3B (Rangers to Cubs): The emergence of Mike Olt in the Rangers system made Villanueva expendable. The Cubs third baseman has the chance to develop into a multifaceted player, albeit one without any true standout tool. He's showing solid gap power at the Double-A level but both his batting average and his on-base percentage are down in 2013.

Arodys Vizcaino, SP (Braves to Cubs): Vizcaino, 22, hasn't pitched since 2011, but he's been the property of three organizations thanks to his power arm. The right-hander injured his elbow early on in his career with the Yankees and finally underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of the 2012 season. He looked ready to return in 2013 before undergoing a second surgery on his throwing elbow.

Asher Wojciechowski, SP (Blue Jays to Astros): One of the most unheralded acquisitions of 2012, Wojciechowski was a supplemental first round selection from the 2010 amateur draft. He didn't respond well at all when the Jays attempted to rework his delivery and his results suffered. He has rediscovered his prospect value with the Astros, although inconsistency continues to haunt him. It remains to be seen if his future lies in the starting rotation or the bullpen.

Honorable Mentions: Colton Cain, SP (Pirates to Astros); Kevin Comer, SP (Blue Jays to Astros); Kyle Hendricks, SP (Rangers to Cubs); Marc Krauss, OF (Diamondbacks to Astros); Ethan Martin, SP (Dodgers to Phillies); Carlos Perez, C (Blue Jays to Astros); David Rollins, SP (Blue Jays to Astros).

2012 Trade Deadline Winners: Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers

2012 Trade Deadline Losers: Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays