- Carlos Correa told reporters today that while he’s not yet certain exactly when he’ll embark on a minor league rehab assignment, he thinks he’ll need about a week’s worth of at-bats in the minors before he’s ready to return (Twitter link via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle). Correa cited a target of 20 to 30 at-bats before he’d be back up to speed. It’s been just under five weeks since the Astros announced that Correa would miss six to eight weeks with a torn thumb ligament.
Astros superstar shortstop Carlos Correa is progressing toward a return from the torn left thumb ligament he suffered July 18. Correa will take batting practice on the field Tuesday for the first time since succumbing to the injury, and he could then embark on a rehab assignment, manager A.J. Hinch told reporters, including Ben DuBose of MLB.com. Teammate Lance McCullers, who has been on the shelf for three weeks with back discomfort, threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday, but there’s no timetable for the right-hander’s return. Hinch informed Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter) and other reporters that McCullers will need to make multiple rehab appearances before coming back.
The Dodgers have claimed right-hander Jordan Jankowski off waivers from the Astros, per an announcement from Los Angeles. The hurler had been in limbo since the Astros designated him for assignment this past Monday.
A 34th-round pick of the Astros in 2012, Jankowski made his major league debut earlier this year and fared poorly across 4 1/3 innings, surrendering six earned runs on seven hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. Jankowski hasn’t produced great results in 40 1/3 Triple-A frames this season, either, with a 5.13 ERA, 5.13 BB/9 and a 36.8 percent ground-ball rate. The 28-year-old has averaged nearly 12 strikeouts per nine at that level this season, however, adding to his impressive bat-missing history in the minors. In 174 1/3 lifetime Triple-A innings, Jankowski has fanned exactly 12 hitters per nine, against 4.5 BB/9, and posted a 3.87 ERA.
Jankowski, who has three minor league options remaining, will report to the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City.
There remains an outside chance that Houston will trade for Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander this month, as the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo hears from major league sources that the Astros haven’t closed the door on acquiring the fireballer. There have been a slew of reports since last month on the possibility of Verlander going to the Astros, including one from FanRag’s Jon Heyman earlier this week. A source told Heyman that negotiations between the two teams had been “put to bed.” For his part, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow doesn’t expect to make a big acquisition before the month’s out. To land Verlander, who’s still due around $7MM this season and another $56MM from 2018-19, the Luhnow-led Astros would need to take on the majority of his contract and “give up a few prospects,” Cafardo writes. Not all prospects are created equally, of course, and the Tigers want legitimate young talent in return for the longtime ace and franchise icon, per various reports.
- The Astros recently fired at least eight scouts, as Peter Gammons tweeted yesterday. These firings are a bit surprising coming from an organization whose big-league team is currently thriving thanks to the contributions of a number of young, homegrown players. GM Jeff Luhnow, though, says the team’s scouting division will remain about the same size going forward, and that the area is being realigned, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle writes. “This is not a cutback in scouting,” says Luhnow. “We are reconfiguring within and across the three scouting departments – international, domestic and pro.” Luhnow added that he expects the team will make new scouting hires.
- The Astros and Mariners have both showed plenty of interest in right-hander Ervin Santana this summer, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports in his latest podcast (audio link, Twins talk starts up around the 45:00 mark). However, Minnesota has never shown any real willingness to deal him, and there’s no reason to expect that they’d change that mentality now with a Wild Card spot still in the crosshairs.
In his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag takes a look at the tightly packed AL Wild Card race. He also provides some notes from both the American League and National League. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of relevance to the transactional landscape:
- While the Astros could still conceivably renew their pursuit of Tigers righty Justin Verlander, it may be that the talks are over barring a significant change of heart from one or both of the organizations. Heyman cites a source who said he felt negotiations were “put to bed last week.” In other news regarding Houston, Heyman says the club “never got serious” in their apparently limited pursuits of Jose Quintana, Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish in July, and one source indicated to Heyman that it never even made an offer for Quintana this summer. The Astros, of course, pursued Quintana extensively this offseason, so the front office was likely already well aware of Chicago’s lofty asking price for Quintana.
- It seems the Giants have yet to place righty Jeff Samardzija on waivers, with Heyman suggesting it’s seen as unlikely he’ll be claimed when he does go on the wire. But the belief is that the starter could be targeted if he does clear waivers. Samardzija has carried compelling strikeout (160) and walk (23) numbers through his 155 2/3 innings on the year, though he has also allowed 22 home runs and owns a 4.74 ERA. He has turned in four-straight quality outings, it’s worth noting.
- The Rays are interested in finding a right-handed hitter, according to Heyman, though it’s unclear just what the club might realistically look to do. Tampa Bay has not performed as had been hoped when the team reshaped its roster over the summer, which surely also alters the picture. Reserves such as Trevor Plouffe, Daniel Robertson, and Peter Bourjos have all struggled with the bat, though finding upgrades will be challenging at this stage. (As mostly goes without saying, the decision to part with Tim Beckham has not looked good thus far.)
- After striking a variety of deals already, the Mets are “still working hard” to deal away more players this August, Heyman writes. Veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson still seems like the most obvious possible trade piece, though perhaps infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, lefty Jerry Blevins, catcher Rene Rivera, or even recently-acquired reliever A.J. Ramos could be moved.
- The Braves are considering exercising their $8MM club option over knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for the 2018 season, per Heyman. That option comes with a $500K buyout, effectively making it a $7.5MM decision. The Braves are pleased with the 42-year-old’s durability, innings and leadership. Through 141 frames this season, Dickey has a 3.89 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 49.5 percent ground-ball rate. Realistically, the club would be hard pressed to find better value on the open market and will need the innings next year.
- Some clubs believe that the Angels are the team that placed the claim on Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, per Heyman, who notes that Anaheim is still in the market for a second base upgrade. However, the Halos have only “limited” interest in Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has reportedly cleared revocable waivers and is having a solid season at the plate.
AUG. 16: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the Astros sent $1MM to the White Sox in the trade, which covers the bulk of Clippard’s remaining contract. (Clippard was owed a total of roughly $1.14MM at the time of the trade.)
AUG. 13: The Astros have acquired reliever Tyler Clippard from the White Sox for a player to be named later or cash considerations, according to announcements from both teams.
This is the second trade of the season involving the 32-year-old Clippard, who went from the Yankees to the White Sox last month in a deal that saw major leaguers David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier head to New York. Clippard struggled to prevent runs this year as a Yankee, with whom he pitched to a 4.95 ERA over 36 1/3 innings, in part because of a bloated walk rate (4.77 per nine). Clippard did post a 10.44 K/9 with the Yankees, though, and allowed just two earned runs in 10 frames with the White Sox. The right-hander also added 12 strikeouts against five walks during that span.
The Astros have been quiet this summer in terms of trades, with longtime starter and now-reliever Francisco Liriano serving as their most prominent in-season acquisition. And while the Astros possess the best record in the American League, 72-45, and a bullpen that ranks fifth in the majors in fWAR (4.9), their relief corps has scuffled of late. Over the past 30 days, Houston’s bullpen has logged the league’s sixth-worst ERA (4.96).
Considering he has been successful with multiple teams as both a setup man and a closer since debuting in 2007, Clippard may help the Astros overcome their recent issues. However, as someone who generates a lot of fly balls (his 52.1 percent FB rate ranks fourth worst among relievers), Clippard might not be a great fit for home run-friendly Minute Maid Park. Nevertheless, he’ll slot into a bullpen that currently features a few other proven options – Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Luke Gregerson – and has seen youngster Joe Musgrove dominate. The team could also be close to welcoming back Will Harris, who has been on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation since July 28.
For the White Sox, parting with Clippard likely wasn’t an especially difficult decision. The rebuilding club has been selling off veterans dating back to last winter, after all, and Clippard’s an impending free agent whom Chicago acquired in large part to help balance out money in its trade with the Yankees. Clippard is on a $4.25MM salary and is due roughly $1.14MM of that through season’s end.
Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network first reported that the Astros were trying to acquire Clippard (Twitter link). Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweeted that a trade was close. FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweeted that Clippard was indeed on his way to the Astros. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow suggested today that he doesn’t anticipate making another significant acquisition this month. In an appearance on the Josh Innes Show on SportsTalk 790, the Houston executive said in particular that the team isn’t likely to add a starter.
“Right now I would set expectations very low that anything happens between now and the end of the month,” Luhnow said when asked about the possibility of bolstering the rotation. While he noted that the club will “continue to monitor” the market, Luhnow indicated there are no ongoing talks to pick up another arm.
While we heard yesterday that the ’Stros have had some recent chats with the Tigers about Justin Verlander, it also seemed that there was no real momentum toward a deal. The longtime Detroit ace is just one of many players to have cleared waivers this month, though he’s actually the only starter to have reportedly done so to this point.
Despite Luhnow’s understandably cautious comments, perhaps it’s still possible something could come together. Houston and Detroit have “a good understanding of the other’s position” in trade talks, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). That situation, he suggests, could yet set the stage for a late-breaking deal later this month.
Beyond Verlander, it’s tough to identify a plausible target for Houston during the August trade season. An unknown organization has placed a claim on Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada, though there’s no indication it was the Astros or that any deal is likely. A variety of other hurlers could also conceivably make for August trade candidates, though none have been tied to Houston.
While the Astros would surely like to upgrade their overall pitching mix, the team has made clear it won’t reach on a valuation to do so. And there’s little reason for the club to add an arm for depth purposes, with the division in hand and plenty of viable rotation pieces on the staff. If anything, it would seem the organization would have potential interest in adding a hurler worthy of taking the ball to start a postseason game.
It’s worth your time to give a listen to the remainder of the interview as well. Luhnow discussed a variety of topics, including the recent acquisition of Tyler Clippard — a pitcher the team has “had [its] eye on for a couple years” — and the outlook on young contributors Derek Fisher and Francis Martes.
11:31am: The clubs have not been in touch “for a few days” and remain “apart,” Heyman now tweets.
10:31am: The Astros remain engaged with the Tigers about a possible deal that would send star righty Justin Verlander to Houston, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. Verlander has cleared revocable waivers, meaning he can be freely dealt — so long as he is willing to waive his no-trade rights.
Verlander, 34, is among the many players that have reportedly cleared waivers in recent weeks. While several organizations surely had interest in him at the trade deadline, his large contract — which includes about $7MM in remaining salary this year, $56MM in guaranteed money for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and a 2020 vesting option — remains an evident obstacle.
Prior reports had suggested that talks between these organizations had failed to gain traction, though obviously the picture is always susceptible of change. There’s still “a decent gap” between the teams at present, Heyman adds, though it remains notable that there’s ongoing dialogue.
Even assuming Houston and Detroit can work out the money and agree upon a prospect return, there remains the wild card of the no-trade protection. It’s not clear whether Verlander would demand any consideration for accepting a deal, though there has been some discussion of that possibility — including the potential that he could seek to pick up an opt-out opportunity.
While there are obviously still significant barriers to a deal, there’s also clear motivation for both teams. The Astros will easily win their division, but their rotation has shown cracks over the course of the season and they missed on their top targets at the trade deadline. Verlander, meanwhile, has turned things around of late after a middling performance to open the year. In his last seven outings, he carries a 1.91 ERA over 47 frames, racking up a 50:16 K/BB ratio while holding opposing hitters to a paltry .187/.258/.327 batting line.
That surge has helped to boost the near-term and long-term outlook on Verlander. After showing some signs of slowing down in prior campaigns, he turned in a monster 2016 season in which he ran up a 3.04 ERA over 227 2/3 innings — though he was also aided by a .255 BABIP-against. While it’s fair to temper expectations given Verlander’s age, he is carrying a 95.7 mph average fastball velocity that sits above his career average and a 9.8% swinging-strike rate that lands just below his overall mean.