Nelson Figueroa Rumors

Astros Notes: Pence, Rodriguez, Figueroa

Wandy Rodriguez's contract extension is the big news out of Houston today, but here are some other Astros-related items of note…

  • The Astros set a 5pm deadline today to reach agreements with any remaining arbitration-eligible players, according to a team press release.  The club beat the deadline with Rodriguez, but not with Hunter Pence, so the Astros and the 27-year-old outfielder will go to an arbitration hearing.  As MLBTR's ArbTracker shows, Pence is Houston's last unsigned arb-eligible player.  The club offered $5.15MM, while Pence is asking for $6.9MM in his second arbitration year.  Pence is a Super Two player, so he still has two more arb years left after this one.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post has the breakdown of Rodriguez's contract (Twitter link).  The southpaw will earn $7MM next season, $10MM in 2012 and $13MM in 2013.  There is a vesting option worth $13MM in 2014 that has a $2.5MM buyout.  Rodriguez also receives a $1.5MM signing bonus.
  •'s Brian McTaggart notes that Houston now has its top four starters (Rodriguez, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ and Bud Norris) all under team control through at least 2012.
  • Nelson Figueroa talks to Astros senior director of social media Alyson Footer about how relieved he is to be on a guaranteed contract for the first time in his eight-year Major League career.

Astros Avoid Arbitration With Nelson Figueroa

The Astros announced that they avoided arbitration with Nelson Figueroa, signing the 36-year-old righty to a one-year deal worth $900K plus incentives. He posted a 3.22 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 67 innings as a swingman last year.

After avoiding arbitration with Humberto Quintero yesterday, the Astros now have six remaining arbitration eligible players:  Hunter PenceMichael BournMatt LindstromJeff KeppingerWandy Rodriguez, and Clint Barmes

Odds & Ends: Dipoto, Figueroa, Papelbon, Greinke

Links for Friday, before all eyes turn to Clayton Richard and Matt Cain

  • The D'Backs will likely bring interim manager Kirk Gibson back in 2011, according to Jon Heyman of (on Twitter).
  • The D'Backs are close to an agreement with Jerry Dipoto that would keep the exec in Arizona as director of scouting and player development, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
  • Astros GM Ed Wade told Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle that he can see Nelson Figueroa being the team's fifth starter in 2011. The 36-year-old goes to arbitration this winter, assuming the Astros offer a contract.
  • Jonathan Papelbon would like to set the market for closer contracts when he hits free agency after next season, according to Rob Bradford of Papelbon has his doubters after a tough season, but he says he's looking forward to a dominant 2011 campaign.
  • Some MLB executives are convinced that the Royals will dangle Zack Greinke as trade bait this winter, according to's Buster Olney.
  • Adam Rubin of reminds us of some of Omar Minaya's best and worst moves, since it looks like the Mets may soon replace their GM.
  • Free agent pitching prospect Barret Loux will start accepting offers today, according to Kendall Rogers of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).

Five Difference-Making Waiver Claims

No one can compete with Cesar Carrillo when it comes to waiver claims. The former first rounder was claimed three times within two weeks this month, so he's approaching waiver claim Hall of Fame territory. Here are five other waiver claims that made a difference this season:

  • White Sox Claim Manny Ramirez, August 31st, 2010 – Ramirez has been getting on base, but he has just one extra base hit since joining the White Sox. GM Kenny Williams was hoping for a repeat of Manny's 2008 surge, but he didn't get it and Chicago won't make the playoffs.
  • Dodgers Claim Rod Barajas, August 22nd, 2010 – Barajas has an .882 OPS since joining the Dodgers, but it won't be enough to lead the team back to the playoffs. The catcher did his part when the team was in contention, hitting three homers in his first five games as a Dodger.
  • Pirates Claim Chris Resop, August 4th, 2010 – The Pirates bought low on Resop and he has responded with 17.2 solid innings; he has walked 5.1 batters per nine, but also has a 2.04 ERA and 10.7 K/9 in Pittsburgh.
  • Astros Claim Nelson Figueroa, July 21st, 2010 – The 36-year-old Figueroa pitched 54.1 innings for the Astros after GM Ed Wade claimed him from his former team, the Phillies. The right-hander posted a 3.98 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 for Houston.
  • Indians Claim Jayson Nix, June 24th, 2010 – Nix has played second, third and left for the Indians and though he doesn't get on base much, he has hit 11 homers for the Tribe.

Astros Claim Anderson Hernandez, Nelson Figueroa

The Astros claimed infielder Anderson Hernandez off waivers from the Indians and pitcher Nelson Figueroa off waivers from the Phillies, tweets Alyson Footer.  She adds that pitchers Polin Trinidad and Gary Majewski were designated for assignment.

Hernandez was designated for assignment by the Indians three days ago, the second time they'd done so this year.  He's struggled mightily with the bat in the Majors and minors.  Figueroa cleared waivers and accepted a Triple A assignment in June, so I'm not sure what happened there.  The 36-year-old was excellent in the minors and decent in the bigs.

Trinidad, a 25-year-old southpaw, has a 4.55 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, and 12 home runs allowed in 97 Triple A innings this year.  Heading into the season Baseball America ranked him 26th among Astros prospects, saying he "profiles as a No. 5 starter or long reliever."  Majewski, 30, spent most of the season at Triple A where he posted a 4.04 ERA, 5.3 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9 in 35.6 relief innings.

Nelson Figueroa Clears Waivers

THURSDAY: Figueroa cleared waivers and accepted a Triple A assignment, according to's Todd Zolecki (via Twitter).

MONDAY: The Phillies designated pitcher Nelson Figueroa for assignment to make room for Brad Lidge, reports's Todd ZoleckiMatt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Figueroa isn't sure whether he'll accept a minor league assignment if he clears waivers.  Figueroa, 36, was claimed off waivers from the Mets on April 7th and tallied nine games for the Phils.

Last year for the Mets Figueroa compiled a 4.09 ERA, 7.5 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9 in 70.3 innings.  Figueroa has spent most of his second career Phillies stint in the bullpen, and the strikeouts disappeared.

Marlins Interested In Willis; Mets Are Not

11:32pm: The Marlins have "mild interest" in Willis and are debating bringing him back to Miami, according to Capozzi.

9:00pm: Don't expect the Marlins or Mets to pursue Dontrelle Willis. As Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post (via Twitter) and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News report, neither NL East team is interested in the former Rookie of the Year. The Mets have an expensive, struggling left-hander of their own in Oliver Perez, so it's not a surprise to hear that they aren't interested in Willis.

Martino reports that the Mets are not interested in the recently-designated Nelson Figueroa, either. The team apparently prefers its own pitchers to Figueroa or Willis. The D'Backs, however, are looking for pitching depth and are interested in Willis.

Checking In On The Atlantic League

Of the major independent leagues, play begins earliest in the Atlantic League, which often serves as a halfway house for players who eventually return to affiliated baseball. Making that jump has become increasingly common, with 11 former Atlantic Leaguers logging major league time in 2009. Former stars like Ruben Sierra and Juan Gonzalez have played in the Atlantic League and others, like Nelson Figueroa, have used the league to induce organized baseball to give them second chances.

It is hard to find a group more worthy of fan appreciation than those in the Atlantic League. These players earn small salaries and hope that with enough strong play, they can return to one of the 30 major league organizations.

So with the 2010 Atlantic League season more than 20 games old, let's take a look at some of the players there who could make that jump this year:

  • Kennard Jones currently leads the circuit for the Newark Bears with a .403 average, 13 extra-base hits in his first 77 at-bats, and nine walks against ten strikeouts. Jones was a third-round pick of the San Diego Padres back in 2002, and played all three outfield positions in their organization, though he's been primarily in right field with Newark. Just 28, it seems far from impossible to imagine him helping a big league team. Jones' big limitation during his time with the Padres was a lack of power, something he clearly doesn't suffer from in Newark.
  • Daryle Ward is a name familiar to many baseball fans, and he is remaking a name for himself with Newark as well, leading the Atlantic League with six home runs. Ward played with six major league teams, most notably with the Houston Astros, and could be a source of power for a team short at first base or designated hitter. Two notes of caution: Ward is turning 35 next month, and has three walks in his first 78 at-bats, a sign he has become an all-or-nothing hitter.
  • Rene Rivera, who played briefly with the Seattle Mariners and now plays with the Camden Riversharks, is tied with Ward for the league home run lead. Rivera plays catcher, a position where power is scarce, particularly this season, so he may be the best bet to find his way back to the major leagues. What works against Rivera is that he's never hit with anything close to this kind of power- in 259 plate appearances last season with Triple-A Buffalo, Rivera had nine home runs. Still, Rivera was a second round pick of the Mariners back in 2001, and is just 26. Catchers often develop later offensively, so perhaps Rivera has figured it out.
  • Another potential late bloomer is right-hander Ben Fritz, a first round pick of the Athletics back in 2001. The 6'4" hurler has been nothing short of dominant for the Lancaster Barnstormers so far this season, with 23 strikeouts against seven walks in his past three starts. Fritz never put it together for Oakland, but still just 29, perhaps Fritz is ready to shed his first-round bust label once and for all.

Some difference-makers were signed this past winter, and others will be acquired at the trade deadline, but don't discount the possibility that one could come from independent league baseball, either.

Phillies Claim Nelson Figueroa

Pitcher Nelson Figueroa was claimed by the Phillies, reports ESPN's Adam Rubin.  The Phils' interest in Figueroa was revealed Monday by ESPN's Jayson Stark after the Mets placed him on waivers Friday.  Figueroa had the ability to elect free agency if he cleared waivers.  According to Stark, Figueroa was considering Japan if a big league opportunity didn't surface.

In 70.3 innings last year, Figueroa posted a 4.09 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 for the Mets.  This marks his second stint with the Phillies, as he tossed 89 innings for the '01 club after coming over as part of the Curt Schilling deal.  The Phillies are dealing with a handful of pitching injuries, with Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, and J.C. Romero on the shelf.

Phillies Have Interest In Nelson Figueroa

The Phillies have interest in Nelson Figueroa of the Mets, according to Jayson Stark of The 35-year-old righty is out of options, and has been outrighted before, so he can choose to become a free agent instead of reporting to the minor leagues if he clears waivers. Figueroa, whose waivers expire Wednesday, pitched for the Phillies in 2001.

The Mets cut Figueroa, but the Phillies could use pitching depth now that Joe Blanton, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge are on the disabled list. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported last week that the Phillies were interested in adding pitching. In 70.1 innings last year, Figueroa posted a 4.09 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 for the Mets.