Robbie Grossman Rumors

West Notes: Grossman, Keuchel, Masset

The Astros have recalled Robbie Grossman, who will serve as their everyday left fielder, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. The Astros also optioned fellow outfielder L.J. Hoes to Triple-A Oklahoma City. “We’ll get [Alex Presley] some at-bats here and there, but the regular three outfielders will be Grossman, [Dexter] Fowler and [George] Springer,” says manager Bo Porter. Grossman was disappointing in an earlier stint with the big club this season, but the 24-year-old then hit .299/.373/.453 in 153 plate appearances at Triple-A. Grossman was the key player the Astros received when they traded Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates. (They also received Rudy Owens, who recently made his big-league debut, and Colton Cain.) The news that Grossman will be promoted comes a few days after the Pirates designated Rodriguez for assignment. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel tops Jon Heyman of CBS Sports’ list of players who have started the season hot. Yesterday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros would not trade Keuchel, who could be emerging as one of baseball’s better young starters. Keuchel, 26, pitched a four-hit complete game against the Mariners on Sunday and now has a 2.55 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 so far this season.
  • Reliever Nick Masset is with the Rockies after missing two years to injury, and Adrian Dater of the Denver Post chronicles Masset’s return to the big leagues. Masset signed a two-year, $5.5MM extension with the Reds prior to the 2012 season but never pitched for them after signing, instead falling victim to shoulder trouble and, ultimately, thoracic outlet syndrome. Masset wondered if his career might be over. The Rockies scouted him this winter as he made his comeback, and they signed him to a minor-league deal, finally promoting him May 5. He’s pitched well in 8 1/3 innings for them since then.

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.

Quick Hits: Lester, Grossman, Moylan, White Sox

Very early this morning, the 2014 MLB regular season will officially begin, as Wade Miley and the Diamondbacks host Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers at 3:00am Central at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia. Here are a few notes from around the Major Leagues.

  • Considerations regarding the luxury-tax threshold will not affect the timing of potential extensions for David Ortiz and/or Jon Lester, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com. In the past, the Red Sox might have waited to announce extensions until after Opening Day, because the average annual value of those extensions might have caused the team to go over the luxury-tax threshold that year. Now, however, the CBA stipulates that new extensions that begin in the future will not affect current contracts as long as the terms of those contracts remain the same. So, for example, if the Red Sox were to sign Lester to an extension, he would still only count his current $9.37MM against the luxury-tax threshold for 2014 as long as the extension did not change his 2014 salary.
  • Lester could allow extension negotiations to continue into the regular season under the right circumstances, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. "If you’re at the 5-yard line and you’re closing in on the thing, yeah, let’s spill it over (into the season)," he says. "But if we’re so far apart that it doesn’t matter, then no. That’s something you discuss when you get to that point."
  • Outfielder Robbie Grossman won't say whether he and the Astros are working on an extension, but he does tell the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich that he would have interest in one. "I’m from Houston. I want to be able to play for the Astros my whole career if possible, and that’s all I have to say." On Thursday, a report indicated that the Astros had discussed an extension with Grossman.
  • Astros NRI Peter Moylan has been diagnosed with a high-grade tear in the UCL in his elbow, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Moylan pitched 15 1/33 innings for the Dodgers last season.
  • The White Sox' farm system is on the rise, MLB.com's Jim Callis writes. That's thanks in part to an increase in draft spending in the past two seasons. Callis notes that their 2013 class, topped by first-round shortstop Tim Anderson, is "one of its most promising in recent memory." The White Sox have also increased their efforts to sign Latin American amateurs.


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


AL Notes: Carp, Overbay, Grossman

The Red Sox's offseason trade for Mike Carp appears to be paying dividends, the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson reports. Carp is currently hitting. 455/.500/.864 in a very small sample after joining the Red Sox from the Mariners in February. "We've always liked him as a hitter," says Sox GM Ben Cherington. "There's a history of getting guys out of Seattle, the tough hitting environment. It was a combination of a pretty strong minor-league track record and some big-league success and, subjectively, our scouts have always liked his swing and approach." MacPherson says Carp is part of a recent trend in which the Red Sox cheaply acquire former prospects (like Jeremy Hermida, Andrew Miller, Mike Aviles and Franklin Morales) with the idea that they might take steps forward that they didn't with their previous organizations. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • Lyle Overbay didn't know where he would be headed at the end of spring training before ending up with the Yankees, Vince Z. Mercogliano of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. The Red Sox had released Overbay, but he quickly found a home with the injury-ravaged Yanks. "My agent was on the line from the get-go. He obviously thought that this might be a fit, and Milwaukee," says Overbay. "Realistically, I think this and Milwaukee were the only chances that I had in that short amount of time."
  • The Astros' main objective this year is to see which of their young players can be long-term contributors, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. One of those young players is outfielder Robbie Grossman, the main piece the Astros acquired when they traded Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates last July. Grossman made his big-league debut last week after a strong start for Triple-A Oklahoma City.