The White Sox are primed to open the season with top starter and well-known trade candidate Jose Quintana in their rotation, notes Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter). Chicago has been shopping Quintana over the past few months, but it still hasn’t found a proposal to its liking and likely won’t by Opening Day. Few teams, if any, have drawn more connections to Quintana than the Astros since he has been on the block, though they’re “not budging” from their offer, Nightengale hears.
- The White Sox do not seem likely to deal Jose Quintana now when interest in him could ramp up at the deadline, but the Astros, with their strong farm system and rotation needs, seem likely to eventually acquire Quintana or another good starter.
- The Astros’ last remaining roster spot comes down to righty relievers James Hoyt and Jandel Gustave, writes Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Collin McHugh is likely to begin the season on the DL due to a dead arm, which means both Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove will make the Astros’ rotation and Brad Peacock (who is out of options) will be on the team in long relief. Peacock’s presence on the roster will keep the Astros from having to use Chris Devenski (who was quietly terrific as a rookie in 2016) in as many multi-inning outings, allowing him to pitch in higher-leverage spots. Hoyt or Gustave will pitch one-inning stints. Gustave has struck out ten batters in 8 2/3 Spring Training frames, but Kaplan notes that Hoyt profiles better against lefties, a potential factor since lefty Tony Sipp has struggled this spring (and he recently missed an outing due to back trouble, although that issue appears minor).
Here are the latest minor moves from around baseball, with the newest transactions at the top of the post…
- The Brewers have acquired catcher Tyler Heineman from the Astros, as per the Crew’s official Twitter feed. Houston receive cash or a player to be named later in return. Heineman, 25, was an eighth-round pick for the Astros in the 2012 draft and he has a .283/.361/.399 slash line over 1543 career minor league plate appearances. Heineman has been assigned to the Brewers’ minor league camp, and he looks slated to provide the Crew with some extra catching depth while Andrew Susac is on the DL with a trapezius issue. Manny Pina and Jett Bandy look to form Milwaukee’s catching corps on the Opening Day roster.
- “The Astros seem to be the team most engaged” on Quintana, though Houston didn’t budge when the White Sox asked for a trade package of Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove earlier this offseason. Cafardo notes that Martes is the specific stumbling block in talks, as the Astros are naturally unwilling to give up one of the sport’s most highly-touted pitching prospects.
- The Astros released left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser, as per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Riefenhauser signed a minor league deal with the Astros in December. The southpaw has been part of two rather notable trades in his career, going from the Rays to the Mariners as part of the five-player deal that saw Brad Miller and Nate Karns switch teams, and then joining Mark Trumbo in a trade to the Orioles for Steve Clevenger. Riefenhauser has a 6.30 ERA over 20 career MLB innings (with Tampa in 2014-15) and he spent 2016 in the Cubs’ farm system.
- Thanks to the “dead arm” that slowed Astros righty Collin McHugh earlier this spring, he likely won’t be ready for the beginning of the season, manager A.J. Hinch informed Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). McHugh’s absence will deprive the Astros of a quality starter, though they do have a promising No. 6 on hand in Joe Musgrove, who looked like a major league-caliber rotation piece in his 62-inning debut last season (4.06 ERA, 7.98 K/9, 2.32 BB/9).
Pittsburgh has pursued a trade for White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana over the past several months, but Pirates general manager Neal Huntington found the asking price to be “well above where it made sense for us” (via ESPN’s Jim Bowden). With the Bucs seemingly out of the picture for Quintana, the Astros and Braves are the “best possibilities,” per Bowden, who notes that the White Sox “continue to work hard” to trade the 28-year-old. No deal is imminent, though, according to Bowden, who adds that the Astros would have to part with both right-hander Francis Martes and outfielder Kyle Tucker, two of Baseball America’s top 20 prospects, to acquire Quintana (all Twitter links). Houston balked at giving up a package of Martes, Tucker and righty Joe Musgrove for Quintana during the Winter Meetings.
The Pirates, Astros and Braves are among multiple teams still showing interest in White Sox lefty Jose Quintana, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports. Pittsburgh and Houston have been widely linked to Quintana on the rumor mill all winter long, while connections between Quintana and the Braves have been largely quiet since December, when Atlanta reportedly balked at Chicago’s very high asking price for the southpaw. Several evaluators tell Passan that the Braves aren’t a great trade fit for the Sox, as while Atlanta’s farm system is very deep, its top prospects (Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Kevin Maitan) are all middle infielders, and Chicago already has Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada slated as their up-the-middle combo of the future. In short, not much has really changed on the Quintana front, as the Sox are in no rush to make a deal unless someone meets their price. “The White Sox have dispatched more scouts than usual” to minor league camps, Passan writes, in a sign of due diligence should a good trade offer suddenly emerge.
Stassi, who just turned 26, had seemed destined to play a significant role for Houston last year before an injury delayed his start to the year. He ended up seeing just nine games of MLB action, representing his fourth-straight season of minimal major league time.
At Triple-A, Stassi again struggled to boost his offensive performance. All said, he has produced at just a .231/.290/.379 clip with 29 long balls in 1,019 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors.