Astros owner Jim Crane said Friday that the team’s still interested in re-signing free agents Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez, and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow addressed that Saturday. The Astros “would, of course, love” to have those two back, Luhnow admitted, though he declined further comment on their futures. Luhnow did, however, reveal “there is a decent likelihood” the Astros will make another move, perhaps to pick up starting pitching, relief or position player help, and that he wouldn’t hesitate to trade top prospects to improve the Astros’ rotation. “I did it twice already. And I’m prepared to do it again,” said Luhnow, who swung blockbuster trades for right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole from 2017-18 and whose club has lost fellow starters Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. since last season ended. The Astros haven’t made any significant trades yet this offseason, though it hasn’t been for lack of effort. They’ve finished second or third in multiple deals, according to Luhnow, who noted, “We’ve tried and we’ll continue to try” (Twitter links via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle).
The latest on a couple of Houston’s division rivals…
- The Rangers have spent big in the past, and 26-year-old superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain free agents as February approaches, potentially making either a fit for the club. However, Texas is not in position to make a splash on the open market this winter, general manager Jon Daniels told TR Sullivan of MLB.com and other reporters Saturday. “We are probably a year away from adding cornerstone-type pieces,” Daniels said. “Our plan all along has been to get the staff in place, get this young group in place, develop them, put in our new systems and as we move into the new ballpark, kind of change the focus.” The “young group” Daniels referenced includes Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and Jose Leclerc, among others, Sullivan reports. While any of those players could be trade chips, it seems the current plan is to keep them around as the Rangers gear up for their move to Globe Life Field in 2020.
- Even after signing Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada in free agency, the Athletics may land another starter before spring training, according to general manager David Forst (via Melissa Lockard of The Athletic; subscription required). The A’s were quite reliant on utilizing the opener strategy in 2018, though Forst suggested both Fiers and Estrada will continue as traditional starters. As of now, those two are projected to join any of Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks, Frankie Montas or even high-end prospect Jesus Luzardo in the A’s season-opening rotation, per Forst. Oakland also has several rehabbing hurlers – including the trio of Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk – and they’re all making progress, as Lockard details. When healthy, some of those pitchers might factor into the A’s bullpen, a group that could pick up another left-hander, Forst revealed. The only southpaw reliever on their 40-man roster is Ryan Buchter, who excelled in 2018. Securing further catching depth is on the team’s radar, too, executive vice president Billy Beane stated (via Chris Haft of MLB.com). While the A’s do have a quality catcher prospect in Sean Murphy, who could debut in 2019, their behind-the-plate situation at the major league level is uninspiring. Their only 40-man catchers are Josh Phegley and free-agent signing Chris Herrmann, and those two haven’t done much in the majors.
- Meanwhile, although Athletics outfield prospect and ex-Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray declared for the 2019 NFL Draft earlier this month, the A’s expect him to report to camp. “There’s been nothing from their side that suggests otherwise,” Beane said Saturday (via Haft). Murray, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, may end up as a first-round pick in the NFL, which would seem to make it a long shot that he’d ever suit up for the A’s.