Here’s the latest from Minute Maid Park…
- Three different executives tell Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that the Astros are a team to watch on Yoenis Cespedes. It seems as if Cespedes’ market is picking up a lot of steam, though there’s still little in the way of solid information about which teams are most ardently pursuing the free agent outfielder. At first glance, Houston doesn’t seem to have a spot for Cespedes with Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez in left and center, plus George Springer in right field and Evan Gattis at DH. Then again, the Astros were also recently connected to Ender Inciarte in trade talks with the Braves, indicating that they might not be entirely satisfied with their current outfield mix. Signing Cespedes would either shift Rasmus to a DH time-share with Gattis, or perhaps one of Houston’s current outfielders would be traded. Of the trio, Rasmus can’t be dealt without his permission until June 15 since he accepted the Astros’ one-year qualifying offer.
- After avoiding arbitration with Dallas Keuchel on his 2016 contract, GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters (including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart) that he still hopes to lock Keuchel up on a multi-year deal. “If we can get additional control beyond [2018,] we’re certainly going to attempt to do that,” Luhnow said. “The allure of free agency as players get closer gets more and more attractive. It gets more difficult the more success a player has and the closer he gets to free agency [to sign him]. We’re going to keep trying.” Keuchel’s agent, Darek Braunecker, said in early January that the two sides hadn’t yet had any extension talks this winter.
- The Astros don’t adhere to a strict “file-and-go” strategy with players who don’t come to an agreement before the arbitration filing deadline, though the club plans to indeed go to a hearing with catcher Jason Castro, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. “It’s perfectly clear that Jason’s arbitration case is 100 percent file and go,” a source familiar with the negotiations told Drellich. “Given that fact, I see no way this case could settle at this point.” The Astros offered Castro a $5MM salary for 2016 while Castro filed for $5.25MM. (MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected Castro for a $4.6MM salary.) It isn’t yet clear if Houston is also intent on going to a hearing with Evan Gattis, the team’s only other arb-eligible player who is still without an agreement.
- In another piece from Drellich, he looks at what could be next for the Astros and Cardinals in the data breach scandal involving the two clubs once former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa is sentenced in April. (For a refresher on this unusual situation, click here and here.) More information about what was accessed from the Astros’ proprietary data network could come to light at Correa’s sentencing hearing, and Drellich speaks to several attorneys and security sources about what the next steps could be for both teams, Correa and Major League Baseball. While the league could punish the Cards with a fine or taking away draft picks, it may be harder for the Astros to claim they should be compensated themselves.