Houston Astros – MLB Trade Rumors https://www.mlbtraderumors.com Sun, 14 Oct 2018 17:12:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Quick Hits: Muncy, Voit, O’Hearn, Spin Rates, Astros https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/quick-hits-muncy-voit-ohearn-spin-rates-astros.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/quick-hits-muncy-voit-ohearn-spin-rates-astros.html#comments Sat, 13 Oct 2018 21:53:34 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134736 In one of the most statistically improbable turnarounds in recent memory, Dodgers 1B/2B/3B/OF Max Muncy, he of the .195/.290/.321 line across 245 plate appearances in parts of two seasons for Oakland, broke out in the biggest of ways for Los Angeles this season, slamming 35 home runs in just 395 AB and posting a .263/.391/.582 mark that stood as one of the National League’s best.  Yankees 1B Luke Voit, a footnote trade deadline acquisition in ’18, posted an even more impressive (albeit in a much smaller sample) 187 wRC+ in 161 PA down the stretch for the Bombers this season.  And Royals 1B Ryan O’Hearn, who’d slumped badly in parts of two seasons at Triple-A Omaha before his promotion this summer, shocked the organization by dropping a .262/.353/.597 mark across 170 PA for Kansas City in the second half.  In a fascinating look at their respective backgrounds, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper (subscription required) revisits the trio’s unheralded prospect days, when the three seemed to register only mildly on the wide-ranging radar of professional scouts.  All three, it appears, were hampered by the 2011 NCAA-mandated switch from aluminum bats to composite, with Voit in particular banging just 19 career HR across four seasons at Missouri State (a school which, notably, has produced a glut of big leaguers, including Ryan Howard, over the last two decades).  Though none of the three were highly regarded in their respective organizations prior to the breakouts, and sustained production at their 2018 levels seems virtually impossible, it should be noted that a number of players have shown immediate power spikes upon their promotion to MLB of late, and both Muncy (.392) and Voit (.440, best in the league among players with at least 150 PA) rate quite favorably in Statcast’s xWOBA metric.

In other bits of interest from around the league . . .

  • FiveThirtyEight’s Travis Sawchik launches far into the spin-rate galaxy in a delightfully data-heavy piece packed with informative bits.  Though the spin-rate data is still young, and ever-conservative analysts caution against drawing too heavily from its many layers, certain teams appear to be drilling in earnest: Sawchik cites the Astros, Yankees, and Dodgers as teams who’ve seen significant jumps in the four-seam fastball version of the metric since the advent of the data, taking particular care to address the case of Gerrit Cole, whose resurgent season coincided with a jump of over 200 rpms in his four-seamer from 2017.  Still, traditional analytic bastions Oakland and Tampa Bay have each seen a decrease in overall spin-rate on the fastball over the same frame, so perhaps the aforementioned uptick is little more than coincidence.  The article, which also features a good deal of commentary and speculation from outspoken Indians hurler Trevor Bauer, is well worth a full read for all.
  • The Astros, who revamped their organization with a heavy emphasis on raw data and wall-to-wall granularity, also care deeply about the team’s culture, writes Jayson Stark of The Athletic. GM Jeff Luhnow came to Houston from St. Louis, which Stark describes as ’obsessed’ with the culture of the team, and has apparently taken great strides to ensure the Astros “operate as a cohesive unit.” “We spend a lot of time,” Luhnow said. “Clubbies [clubhouse men] talk to clubbies. Trainers talk to trainers. Front offices talk to front offices. Players talk to players. You can always find a player who was with that team last year who is no longer with them, who somebody with the organization knows. Information crosses boundaries very rapidly.”  The piece is rife with further quotes from Luhnow and analysis from Stark, who cites Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann as players who were acquired for more than just their on-field abilities.
Gerrit Cole A Hit With Astros https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/al-west-links-cole-angels-rangers-showalter-washington-ms.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/al-west-links-cole-angels-rangers-showalter-washington-ms.html#comments Fri, 05 Oct 2018 23:50:33 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134163 The Astrosacquisition of Gerrit Cole last offseason has been a clear win for the team, as The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd (subscription required) writes in an analysis of how well Cole has both performed on the mound and fit into the team’s clubhouse culture.  In Houston, Cole said, “you’re not asked to conform to a system.  You’re asked to use the system to make yourself better. So, from an analytic standpoint, from a scouting report standpoint, from teammates and instructors, there’s just a high level of quality here that’s ahead of quite a bit of other teams….They’re really forward thinking.”  Cole’s biggest start in an Astros uniform comes tomorrow in Game 2 of the ALDS, and a victory would give the Astros a huge 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five series.

Angels Interested In Astros Bench Coach Joe Espada https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/managerial-notes-snitker-espada-blue-jays-orioles.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/managerial-notes-snitker-espada-blue-jays-orioles.html#comments Thu, 04 Oct 2018 16:07:31 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134049
  • The Angels have interest in Astros bench coach Joe Espada as a managerial candidate, ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera reports.  The 43-year-old Espada previously worked as a third base coach for the Marlins and Yankees before taking his current position in Houston last winter, and Espada has also been a coach for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and a manager in the Puerto Rican winter league.  Espada has ties to Angels GM Billy Eppler, as both worked together with the Yankees in 2014-15, plus Espada briefly played in the Rockies’ minor league system in 2001 when Eppler was a scout in the Colorado organization.
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    Astros Face Numerous ALDS Roster Decisions https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/al-west-notes-paxton-buttrey-laureano-astros-roster.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/al-west-notes-paxton-buttrey-laureano-astros-roster.html#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2018 19:45:33 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133631
  • The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan takes a look at six questions facing the Astros as the gear up for the American League Division Series against the Indians, including a pair of questions they’ll face in setting their roster (subscription link). If Lance McCullers Jr. is ready to go as a piece in the bullpen, Houston brass will have to decide between a hard-throwing multi-inning option, Josh James, and Joe Smith, a seasoned veteran who could be a matchup specialist against Cleveland sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. The ’Stros also need to weigh whether Max Stassi should be carried as a third catcher, thus freeing up more pinch-hitting opportunities, or if Myles Straw and his blazing speed should command the final bench spot.
  • Ramon Laureano’s brilliant play with the Athletics since debuting in early August has earned him the team’s everyday center fielder role moving forward, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. That spot had been earmarked for Dustin Fowler, a more high-profile prospect acquisition in last summer’s Sonny Gray blockbuster with the Yankees, but he now looks like a corner option for the foreseeable future. Oakland added Laureano in a trade that barely went noticed last November, sending minor league righty Brandon Bailey to the Astros in return. Since debuting, though, Laureano has posted a .295/.364/.486 batting line with terrific center field defense and a perfect seven steals in seven attempts. A’s EVP Billy Beane tells Slusser that the “job is [Laureano’s],” adding that the 24-year-old “has played that position just about as well as anyone we’ve ever had here.”
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    Carlos Correa Set To Return https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/injury-notes-altherr-correa-hicks-bryant-swanson-harvey-walker.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/injury-notes-altherr-correa-hicks-bryant-swanson-harvey-walker.html#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2018 05:14:33 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133492
  • Astros star Carlos Correa will be ready to DH tomorrow night after taking 30-40 swings today, per the Athletic’s Jake Kaplan via Twitter. Houston skipper A.J. Hinch will be looking to see “freedom in his swing,” according to Kaplan. Getting Correa healthy is surely a priority for the Astros as they prepare to defend their World Series title, starting with a matchup against the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. Battling through back troubles for much of the year, Correa owns only a .238/.323/.400 slash on the season. When he’s right, though, Correa is a game-changer.
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    Roberto Osuna Agrees To Peace Bond; Assault Charge Withdrawn https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/roberto-osuna-peace-bond-assault-charges-withdrawn-astros.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/roberto-osuna-peace-bond-assault-charges-withdrawn-astros.html#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2018 18:32:04 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133454 Astros right-hander Roberto Osuna appeared at a court hearing and agreed to a one-year peace bond, as Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter links). With that agreement, the assault charge from the alleged victim in his pending domestic abuse case was withdrawn. Under the terms of the peace bond, Osuna will not be permitted to contact the alleged victim for one year without written consent and must avoid any further criminal charges.

    Per the Canadian Department of Justice’s web site, peace bonds are generally used when “an individual (the defendant) appears likely to commit a criminal offence, but there are no reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has actually been committed.” The Canadian Department of Justice further adds that peace bonds are obtainable by “any person who fears that another person may injure them, their spouse or common-law partner, or a child, or may damage their property,” and violation of a peace bond can result in up to four years of prison time. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi tweets that according to the Crown Prosecutor, the complainant is in Mexico with the couple’s three-year-old and wishes to continue co-parenting. She chose not to testify.

    Osuna declined to speak with the media upon leaving the courthouse, instead only releasing the following statement via his lawyer (Twitter links via Rome and via Shi Davidi of Sportsnet):

    “Now I can begin to put these alegations behind me and focus on baseball. I want to thank my family, teammates and fans for believing in me. I am grateful to the Astros for providing me with the opportunity to play baseball and compete for a World Series championship. I will make no further comments about this matter, as I plan on moving past this and look only to the future.”

    The Astros, meanwhile, released their own statement on the proceedings:

    “Today, the Ontario Court of Justice withdrew the assault charge against Roberto Osuna. The Houston Astros look forward to Roberto continuing his commitment to be a productive and caring part of our community. The Astros remain committed to increase our support rearding the issues of dometic violence and abuse of any kind. We have engaged with a number of local, state and national organizations — and we look forward to working with them in the short term and over the long term.”

    Past, Present & Future: American League Closer Turnover https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/mlb-closer-changes-2018-american-league.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/mlb-closer-changes-2018-american-league.html#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2018 17:01:58 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133145 By the end of the 2017 season, the list of pitchers closing out games for their respective teams included Matt Belisle, Alex Claudio, Juan Minaya and Mike Minor. Three of them were without a career save coming into the season—Belisle had five in 13 MLB seasons—and none had been expected to fill a significant late-inning bullpen role. By way of injuries, trades or ineffectiveness from those ahead of them on the depth chart, they were given a chance to record the final out in a close win and proved themselves capable.

    Things haven’t changed much this year. Raise your hand if you thought Wily Peralta would have one save in 2018. He has 13! Of the 15 American League teams, only four currently have a closer situation that mirrors what they had on Opening Day. When it comes to closers, uncertainty is the only certainty. And that’s why Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are Hall of Famers and the relief pitchers who will join them in Cooperstown in the future are few and far between.

    Here’s a look back at each American League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (Click HERE to view the National League.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Baltimore Orioles Orioles Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens
    September 2018: Mychal Givens

    Future Outlook: Brach got the majority of the committee’s save chances prior to Zach Britton reclaiming the job shortly after returning from the disabled list in late June. Soon after, Givens was the last man standing following a series of July trades (Brach to the Braves; Britton to the Yankees). O’Day, meanwhile, suffered a season-ending hamstring surgery and was later traded to Atlanta in a separate deal.

    A valuable setup man for most of the past three seasons, Givens has done a fine job since taking over ninth-inning duties. In his last 19 appearances, he has a 2.18 ERA and eight saves in 10 chances. With so many holes to fill on the roster, upgrading at the closer position is probably low on the Orioles’ priority list. Givens, therefore, likely enters 2019 with the job — if he isn’t traded himself this offseason as the O’s continue their rebuilding efforts.

    Boston Red Sox Red Sox Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Craig Kimbrel
    September 2018: Craig Kimbrel

    Future Outlook: Kimbrel, who recently became the fourth pitcher in MLB history to record at least 40 saves in five different seasons, has been a huge part of Boston’s historic season. As a free agent following the 2018 campaign, the 30-year-old will command a contract that rivals the highest-paid relievers in the game. Can the Red Sox afford to let him walk? Just in case he does, they’ll have to plan accordingly.

    With Joe Kelly also set to become a free agent, Matt Barnes is the logical choice to inherit the closer’s gig. He’s earned the opportunity with a 3.28 ERA and 25 holds while serving as the primary setup man on the best team in baseball. The 28-year-old also has an impressive 13.9 K/9 in 60.1 innings of work, an increase from 10.7 K/9 in ’17 and 9.6 K/9 in ’16. The only question is whether a team capable of winning over 100 games will entrust the role to someone with two career saves. If Kimbrel signs elsewhere, it seems likely that the Sox would pursue alternatives in free agency and/or trades.

    Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Joakim Soria
    September 2018: Committee — Nate Jones, Jace Fry, Minaya, etc.

    Future Outlook: Soria was as good as he’d been in years, posting a 2.56 ERA with 16 saves and 11.4 K/9 in 40 appearances. The White Sox cashed in by sending him to the Brewers for two pitching prospects in late July. Since then, they’ve handed off the closer’s job to a committee that included just about any relief pitcher on their active roster—seven different pitchers have recorded saves since the Soria trade.

    The next step for the rebuilding White Sox is to put together a roster that can, at the very least, be a .500 team and potential playoff contender. Having a reliable closer would be an important part of that plan. Jones looks the part, but he’s missed most of the last two seasons recovering from elbow surgery and still might not be ready to take on the workload of a primary closer. A healthy Zack Burdi, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016 and one time “closer of the future,” could also be in the mix at some point, though he spent 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. They’ll likely play it safe, however, and add at least one veteran with closing experience this offseason.

    Cleveland Indians | Indians Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Cody Allen
    September 2018: Co-Closers – Allen and Brad Hand

    Future Outlook: Allen has a lot of mileage on his arm, averaging 71 relief appearances per season since 2013, and it’s showed at times during the current season. With Andrew Miller on the disabled list and Allen’s ERA creeping up near 5.00, the Indians’ acquisition of Brad Hand from the Padres on July 19th was a no-brainer.

    Not only has it helped them down the stretch—Hand has a 2.45 ERA and eight saves while Allen has 10 consecutive scoreless appearances—it also gives the Indians a very good closer option for 2019. Allen and Miller are both headed for free agency while the 28-year-old Hand is under contract through 2021. The job should be his moving forward.

    Detroit Tigers Tigers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Shane Greene
    September 2018: Shane Greene

    Future Outlook: With a 5.20 ERA and six blown saves in 37 chances, Greene is probably lucky to have held on to the job for the entire season. But on a rebuilding Tigers team, who is going to close out games for them is the least of their worries. With that said, Greene probably fits best as a setup man. Even if they don’t upgrade this offseason, All-Star Joe Jimenez (11.2 K/9, 22 holds, 3 saves, 2.88 FIP) could supplant Greene in 2019.

    Houston Astros Astros Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Co-Closers – Chris Devenski and Ken Giles
    September 2018: Roberto Osuna

    Future Outlook: Despite a drop in strikeout rate—8.0 K/9 in ’18; 11.7 K/9 in ’17—Osuna has continued to perform at a high level amid abuse allegations that led to a 75-game suspension under MLB’s domestic abuse policy. The Astros still decided to acquire him in a trade with the Jays despite the ongoing investigation.

    Barring any struggles during the team’s playoff run — he’s postseason eligible in spite of that suspension — or any further off-the-field troubles, the 23-year-old Osuna seems likely to enter 2019 as the Astros’ closer. He’s under club control through the 2020 season.

    Kansas City Royals Royals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kelvin Herrera
    September 2018: Wily Peralta

    Future Outlook: Soon after Herrera was traded to Washington in mid-June, Peralta emerged from the closer committee to become one of the unlikeliest ninth-inning success stories of 2018. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the 29-year-old has 13 saves in 13 chances and a 9.5 K/9 rate.

    After getting booted from the Brewers’ rotation last May, he had a disastrous 11-appearance stint as a relief pitcher (17 1/3 innings, 23 ER, 28 H, 15 BB) before getting designated for assignment in late July. He signed a Major League deal with Kansas City this offseason, only to be designated for assignment again and outrighted to Triple-A. He returned to the Majors one day before the Herrera trade and picked up his first MLB save eight days later.

    Peralta has a $3MM club option in 2019, which could very well be exercised. Even if it’s not, he’s remain under team control for one more season via arbitration. While he’s been better than anyone could’ve anticipated in his current role, his 22 walks in 31 1/3 innings serve as a red flag that will likely keep the Royals from locking him into the job next season without some form of competition.

    Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Keynan Middleton
    September 2018: Ty Buttrey

    Future Outlook: Blake Parker, who finished 2017 as the closer, picked up the team’s first save of 2018 after finishing last season in the role. But it was Middleton who got the call for the next six save chances, all successful, making it clear that he was manager Mike Scioscia’s preferred choice in the ninth inning. A few weeks later, however, Middleton had undergone season-ending Tommy John surgery and it was back to the drawing board for the Angels.

    Parker got the majority of save chances with Middleton out. And as was the case in 2017, he got the job done with a 3.21 ERA and 13 saves in 16 chances from May 14th—the day after Middleton’s last game— through September 3rd. But Buttrey, acquired from the Red Sox in the July deal for Ian Kinsler, is getting a chance to show what he can do as of late. In six appearances from September 7th through September 18th, the 25-year-old tossed seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and four saves. He has failed to convert his last two save chances, though.

    Regardless, there probably wasn’t enough time for Buttrey to seal the job for 2019. He will be a candidate alongside Parker, though, unless the Angels acquire a closer this offseason.

    Minnesota Twins Twins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Fernando Rodney
    September 2018: Trevor Hildenberger

    Future Outlook: After saving 25 games and solidifying the ninth inning for Minnesota over the first four months of the season, Rodney was traded to Oakland in AugustRyan Pressly, who would’ve been the logical choice to succeed him, was traded to Houston in late July. A closer committee appeared likely, but Hildenberger has been the go-to guy with seven saves in eight chances since Rodney’s departure. Taylor Rogers, while serving mostly in a setup role, has not allowed a run over his last 23 2/3 innings while logging two saves and 11 holds over that span.

    Between Hildenberger, Rogers, Addison Reed and Trevor May, who has five walks and 31 strikeouts in 23 innings in his first season since Tommy John surgery, the Twins have some decent late-inning options for 2019. It’s probably not enough to keep them away from the offseason closer’s market, though.

    New York Yankees Yankees Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Aroldis Chapman
    September 2018: Co-Closers – Zach Britton and Dellin Betances

    Future Outlook: Chapman might not have enough time to reclaim the closer’s job before the end of the regular season—he returned from the disabled list last Wednesday—or even the playoffs for that matter. But there’s no reason to think a change is on the horizon in 2019. The 30-year-old lefty, who is 31-for-33 in save opportunities and is striking out 16.1 batters per nine innings, will be entering year three of a five-year, $85MM contract.

    Oakland Athletics Athletics Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Blake Treinen
    September 2018: Blake Treinen

    Future Outlook: Treinen has been one of the breakout stars in 2018, saving 37 games while posting an 0.80 ERA and striking out 11.1 batters per nine innings for a playoff-bound A’s team. The 30-year-old is still under team control for two more seasons, although he’s in line for a significant raise from the $2.15MM he made in ’18. Barring injury, there’s no doubt that he’ll retain the job in 2019.

    Seattle Mariners Mariners Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Edwin Diaz 
    September 2018: Edwin Diaz

    Future Outlook: No other closer, arguably, has contributed more to his team’s success than the 24-year-old Diaz, who has 14 more saves (56) than any other pitcher in baseball and 13 more save chances (60). The Mariners play a lot of close ballgames—they are 36-21 in one-run games—and Diaz rarely gives his opponent a chance in the ninth inning. He has held his opponent scoreless in 59 of his 71 appearances and hitless in 44. He also has 41 multi-strikeout games.

    The 24-year-old is going to get paid once he reaches arbitration, although he could fall just short during the upcoming offseason. The Super Two cutoff has not fallen under 2.122 (two years, 122 days) since 2009. Diaz will be one day shy of that total.

    Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Alex Colome
    September 2018: Co-Closers – Sergio Romo/Jose Alvarado

    Future Outlook: When Colome was traded to Seattle on May 25th, the Rays were two games under .500 and 10 games out in the division. It’s not clear whether they were throwing in the towel or whether they just had enough confidence in Romo, who had 84 career saves coming into the season, and the remaining group of young arms. In any case, it’s worked out just fine.

    Since the trade, the Rays are 64-44 with Romo as the primary closer (3.38 ERA, 23-for-28  in save chances) and Alvarado, a 23-year-old lefty, also playing an integral role (1.98 ERA, 7 saves). Not that you can count on the Rays to do anything conventional like name a closer prior to the season or at any point during the regular season, but Alvarez and the hard-throwing Diego Castillo would be the leading in-house candidates if they did. Tampa Bay could also look to bring Romo back into the fold.

    Texas Rangers Rangers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Keone Kela
    September 2018: Jose Leclerc

    Future Outlook: No relief pitcher has boosted their value more in the second half of the season than Leclerc, who spent the first four months in a setup role. Once Kela was traded to the Pirates on July 31st, it was the 24-year-old Leclerc’s chance to shine. It’s hard to imagine a more convincing way to show that he wouldn’t be relinquishing the job anytime soon.

    Aside from converting each of his 11 save opportunities, Leclerc has allowed just two hits and six walks over 17 scoreless innings while striking out 28. The Rangers will look to bolster their bullpen this offseason, but finding a new closer isn’t likely to be on the agenda. Leclerc is controlled through 2022.

    Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Roberto Osuna
    September 2018: Ken Giles

    Future Outlook: Despite being the primary closer on the World Champion Astros, it was clear  that Giles was not trusted with the game on the line. The trade to Toronto in late July gave the 28-year-old a chance to re-establish himself, out of the spotlight, as a reliable late-inning reliever. So far, so good.

    After a few shaky appearances to begin his Blue Jays tenure, Giles has settled into the closer’s role with 1.29 ERA over his past 15 appearances with 12 saves in 12 chances. It might not be enough to prevent the Jays from pursuing another option this winter, but Giles should at least be in the mix.

    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
    Astros Activate Lance McCullers Jr. https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/astros-activate-lance-mccullers-jr.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/astros-activate-lance-mccullers-jr.html#comments Mon, 24 Sep 2018 21:55:03 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133397 The Astros announced that right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. has been reinstated from the disabled list. He’d been sidelined since Aug. 5 due to a right elbow injury, but he’ll be active for the season’s final handful of games and for the postseason. Houston also recalled lefty reliever Reymin Guduan for the final stretch of play.

    [Related: Houston Astros depth chart]

    McCullers, 24, was cruising to arguably the best season of his big league career but hit a rough patch in mid July that saw him surrender 14 runs on 18 hits and a dozen walks in a span of 17 2/3 innings before landing on the disabled list. He’s currently sporting a 3.93 ERA with 9.9 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 through 126 innings. That’s the largest regular-season workload McCullers has tallied at the MLB level to this point in his career, though he tossed 137 innings last year when including his postseason work and a brief minor league rehab assignment. He also logged 155 2/3 innings between the Astros and Triple-A back in 2015.

    McCullers will be available for the ’Stros in relief for the time being — a role in which he shined while closing out the final game of last season’s American League Championship Series. If McCullers is to remain in the ’pen for the Astros’ postseason endeavors, Houston can still lean on Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton as rotation options.

    As for the 26-year-old Guduan, he’ll give manager A.J. Hinch another southpaw option in matchup situations. He’s yet to find much in the way of big league success, but Guduan did notch a 3.74 ERA and average 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 55 1/3 Triple-A frames this year — albeit against an unpalatable average of 5.2 walks per nine innings.

    Ken Giles Discusses Astros Tenure https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/blue-jays-notes-martin-braves-kemp-giles-bullpen.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/blue-jays-notes-martin-braves-kemp-giles-bullpen.html#comments Mon, 24 Sep 2018 00:45:20 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133353
  • I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston,” Ken Giles tells The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno about his first eight weeks in a Blue Jays uniform.  Giles came to the Jays as part of the controversial deadline deal that sent Roberto Osuna to the Astros, and continued his season-long trend of excelling in save situations but pitching poorly in non-save appearances.  While his results may not have differed, Giles said his comfort level is much higher in Toronto than in Houston, as “it was like the communication was lost” this year with the Astros.  “I just felt trapped there. I didn’t feel like myself there. Overall, I felt out of place,” Giles said.  The Blue Jays, by contrast, “stayed patient with me. I said, hey, I want to work on this thing till I’m comfortable….Pitching, you can’t just try to fix everything at once.  For me, I had to take baby steps to get my groove back.  The Jays allowed me to do that.
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    Injury Notes: Morton, Gregorius, Marte, Valera https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/injury-notes-morton-marte-valera-gregorius.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/injury-notes-morton-marte-valera-gregorius.html#comments Sun, 23 Sep 2018 21:32:51 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133342 Astros hurler Charlie Morton departed from today’s contest against the Angels after pitching just one inning. As Brian McTaggart of MLB.com was among those to tweet, the cause for his exit was discomfort in his right shoulder. Shoulder inflammation was what sent Morton to the DL earlier this season, and the situation is particularly concerning considering Morton was already pitching on seven days’ rest. We’ll await further news from Houston’s camp on Morton’s situation, but needless to say, this is an unfortunate development for a team hoping to begin its title defense in under two weeks. Morton’s been a force for the Astros this season, posting a 3.15 ERA with 195 strikeouts in just 163 innings, and they can scarce stand to lose him for any stretch of the playoffs with Lance McCullers Jr.’s ability to pitch deep into games still an uncertainty.  [UPDATE: A.J. Hinch told McTaggart and other reporters that Morton was only supposed to throw three or four innings, and was removed for precautionary reasons after Morton’s velocity dropped.  The righty is still expected to make a start next weekend against the Orioles.]

    A few more unfortunate injury developments from around baseball…

    • Another AL playoff team will be white-knuckling it today, as Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his wrist on a slide home yesterday and may not return this season (h/t Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). He’s since received a cortisone injection, and while there’s no definitive word on his status for October, the news is ominous and unwelcome to a Yankees ballclub that would definitely like to be at full strength as they attempt to secure home field advantage over the A’s in a return to the one-game Wild Card playoff.
    • Add Orioles infielder Breyvic Valera to the list of players whose status for the season’s final weeks is in doubt. X-rays showed a fracture of the second metacarpal in his left index finger, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Valera was one of five players to join the Orioles as a component of the trade that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers. He’s collected nine hits (all singles) in 38 plate appearances since coming to Baltimore, chipping in a stolen base along the way.
    • Pirates outfielder Starling Marte departed today’s game with left calf tightness. The two-time Gold Glove award winner has hit .277/.322/.452 with 19 homers and 33 steals in 576 plate appearances in 2018, and while the Pirates were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss in that game, they’ll surely be hoping the injury to Marte isn’t serious. Needless to say, he’s a vital component in their contention plans for the 2019 season, and as we await further word on the details, the Pittsburgh fan base will surely be hoping that a late-season calf issue doesn’t disrupt that.
    West Notes: Kershaw, Pressly, Diamondbacks https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/west-notes-kershaw-pressly-diamondbacks.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/west-notes-kershaw-pressly-diamondbacks.html#comments Sat, 22 Sep 2018 21:47:58 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133276 “There is no finality in Clayton Kershaw’s future. There is uncertainty,” Bill Shaikin writes in an article for the LA Times. While he’s hardly the first to think along those lines as the future Hall of Famer approaches a decision about his opt-out clause, Shaikin’s words do an excellent job of setting the tone for a conversation that’s likely quite uncomfortable for a large chunk of the fan base: Did Clayton Kershaw just make his last regular season start at Dodger Stadium?

    For Kershaw’s part, he was transparent about his feelings on the mound. “I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind,” Kershaw said. When asked whether or not he’d decided to opt out of the remaining $65MM on his contract, the lefty simply said “no”. Dodgers chairman Mark Walter reportedly confirmed on Friday that he still hopes to make Kershaw a Dodger “for life”. The city of Los Angeles will probably be monitoring any rumors and hints about the situation quite closely in the coming weeks as the deadline for their franchise icon’s decision advances.

    More news from out west…

    • An interesting piece by Ron Wolschleger at Beyond the Box Score details the success of Astros deadline acquisition Ryan Pressly, and opines that he might be their best reliever. Highlighted in the piece are Pressly’s 0.90 ERA and 36.6% strikeout rate since joining the Astros. His 1.60 FIP also ranks second in the majors since the deadline. Mentioned in the piece as one potential catalyst for Pressly’s production surge after coming to Houston are changes in his pitch selection and sequencing, particularly the ditching of his two-seam fastball.
    • With the Diamondbacks having plummeted out of the postseason picture, Zach Buchanan of The Athletic looks ahead to the offseason and lists the club’s 11 pending free agents and ranks them in order of how good a fit they are to be re-signed by Arizona. Interestingly enough, Buchanan opines that 35-year-old catcher Jeff Mathis is the best bet to be kept, in no small part due to his defensive prowess, game-calling abilities and positive clubhouse presence. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Buchanan doesn’t expect the Diamondbacks to keep right-hander Randall Delgado in the fold for 2019, citing his poor overall results on the season.
    2019 Vesting Options Update https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/2019-vesting-options-update-2.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/2019-vesting-options-update-2.html#comments Sat, 22 Sep 2018 14:59:47 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133263 Near the end of May, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk provided readers with an update on all the known 2019 vesting options. As he mentioned at that time, some options of this kind go unreported, so we’ll examine the list below with the caveat that it could potentially be incomplete.

    A vesting option is a clause in a player’s contract that can change the structure of the deal by guaranteeing him an additional year under contract; these are usually triggered when a player meets certain plate appearance thresholds and/or is healthy at season’s end.

    Here’s where those six players stand…

    Will Vest

    Seunghwan Oh: The South Korea native is just one relief appearance away from triggering the clause in his contract that’ll turn his $2.5MM club option (with a $250K buyout) into a guarantee. Oh, 36, originally signed his contract with the Blue Jays, where he began the season strong and was ultimately flipped to the Rockies prior to July’s non-waiver trade deadline. On the whole, he’s whiffed 10.19 batters per nine while walking just 2.34 per nine en route to a tidy 2.76 ERA. With the Rockies in the midst of a pennant chase, Oh is sure to get his 70th appearance on the season at some point in the coming days.

    Will Not Vest

    Hanley Ramirez: HanRam started the season hot, but after posting a .874 OPS in April, he mustered just a .500 OPS the month following en route to being designated for assignment on May 24th (just four days after out last vesting options update). What was once an intriguing situation to watch had the mystery taken out of it abruptly, and Ramirez hasn’t played in the bigs since.

    Cole Hamels: The resurgent lefty has been a welcome sight for a Cubs rotation that didn’t get any semblance of what they hoped for from Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Since being acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline, he’s tossed 63 1/3 innings of 2.42 ERA ball. That brings him to just 177 2/3 IP on the season, however, which will fall well short of the towering 252 figure he needs for his vesting option to trigger. Per the terms of a deal he originally signed with the Phillies, Hamels’ $20MM club option ($6MM buyout) would have morphed into a one-year, $24MM pact if he managed to throw 200 innings this season and 400 total from 2017-2018, all while ending the season without any shoulder or elbow injuries requiring a DL placement. Hamels took the mound for just 148 innings last season, so while he’s been pretty good in Chicago, hopes of achieving his vesting option threshold were little more than a pipe dream to begin with.

    Brian McCann: McCann was already fighting an uphill battle in his attempts to reach his 1,000th plate appearance across the 2017-2018 season (a threshold which would have triggered his vesting option). At the outset of 2018, he needed a career-high 601 PA, and after undergoing knee surgery that knocked him out of the lineup for all of July and August, his chances of achieving that lofty goal were squelched entirely.

    Ervin Santana: We had already written off any chance of Santana’s option vesting all the way back in May, when he hadn’t yet taken the field due to finger injury issues. While he did manage to get back to the mound for five starts, he’d have needed 200 innings in order to qualify for a $14MM guarantee in 2019. That was never going to happen for a pitcher who made his season debut on July 25th.

    Logan Morrison: After a promising 2017 season that saw Morrison launch a career-high 38 bombs, the lefty-hitting first baseman was unable to find a team willing to buy into his newfound success. The Twins, however, gave him a one-year pact with a $8MM club option for 2019 ($1MM buyout) that would vest if he took 600 trips to the plate. Unfortunately, Morrison’s performance has taken a considerable downturn this season; that dive can largely be attributed to nagging hip issues that ultimately necessitated season-ending surgery. During that procedure, he had a torn labrum repaired and a bone spur removed. That, of course, took the possibility of triggering his vesting option off the table, as his plate appearance total sits at just 359 on the year.

    Astros Notes: Fast, Correa, McCullers https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/al-west-notes-fast-correa-mccullers-sipp-simmons-rangers.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/al-west-notes-fast-correa-mccullers-sipp-simmons-rangers.html#comments Sat, 22 Sep 2018 05:21:25 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133260 Astros director of research and development Mike Fast has left the organization, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart was among those to cover (via Twitter). The former Baseball Prospectus scribe joined the organization well in advance of its rise to prominence, forming a key part of the front office team assembled by GM Jeff Luhnow. Fast tells Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription link) that he’s hoping “to latch on with another team” in some capacity, though he did not otherwise offer any clues as to the reason for his departure or his expectations in pursuing a new opportunity.

    • The postseason-bound Astros are getting ready for the ALDS, which means a focus on health. As Kaplan reports (Twitter links), star shortstop Carlos Correa will get some time off to rest his back before ramping back up next week. Meanwhile, Lance McCullers Jr. will throw from the pen upon returning to action early next week. Ensuring that Correa is at full strength is obviously of critical importance to the organization’s hopes of repeating as World Series champs. Though he hasn’t hit to his typical standards this year, Correa undeniably possesses the talent to be a force in October. Likewise, getting back McCullers, who has been sidelined with a forearm strain, would also be notable. Though it may not be likely that he’ll shoulder anything approaching a starter’s workload in the playoffs, McCullers would represent another high-quality arm on a staff that’s already loaded with them.
    • Astros southpaw Tony Sipp is flipping the script in 2018, as Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle writes. The veteran reliever discusses his tough moments over the last two seasons with candor. It came as a wake-up call, he suggests, when he found himself “having to answer questions about making a team when your contract is guaranteed,” as occurred this spring. As it turns out, the 35-yer-old has bounced back from a pair of homer-plagued seasons, posting a 2.06 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 over 35 frames in 2018. He’ll return to the open market this winter, but first will play an important role in the ’Stros postseason pitching mix.
    Astros, Round Rock Express Announce Triple-A Affiliate Agreement https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/astros-round-rock-set-to-announce-affiliate-agreement.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/astros-round-rock-set-to-announce-affiliate-agreement.html#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2018 00:23:21 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133003 THURSDAY: The organizations have announced a four-year player development contract.

    TUESDAY: The Triple-A Round Rock franchise has scheduled a press conference on Thursday night. While there’s still no official word, every indication has been that the Astros will be moving their top affiliate to Round Rock. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart was among those to tweet that the Houston organization will indeed be formalizing an arrangement to bring its highest-level minor-leaguers into the state of Texas.

    Previously, of course, both of these outfits had alternative affiliations. The Rangers had utilized Round Rock for eight seasons, but now find themselves among three MLB teams and three Triple-A sites still engaged in match-up negotiations. And the ’Stros had spent four seasons with the Fresno Grizzlies, who are now looking for a new mate.

    Though the Astros-Round Rock connection wasn’t inevitable, it certainly long stood out as a strong possibility. The Triple-A outfit is, after all, owned by the Ryan family. Legendary hurler Nolan Ryan, whose nickname on the mound inspired the club’s “Express” moniker, is presently an executive advisor to the Astros. His son, Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, is another fellow owner of the minor-league club. Both rank high atop the Houston org chart.

    Thus, Round Rock CEO Reese Ryan (son of Nolan and brother of Reid) was acknowledging the obvious yesterday when he said an agreement between these organizations was an “absolute no-brainer.” (Via Mark Berman of FOX 26, on Twitter.) Details of the new pact remain to be announced.

    AL West Notes: Manaea, Keuchel, Felix https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/al-west-notes-manaea-keuchel-felix.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/al-west-notes-manaea-keuchel-felix.html#comments Thu, 20 Sep 2018 19:32:28 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133147 There’s a bit of surprisingly good news for an Athletics team that has weathered a withering run of injuries to young pitchers. As MLB.com’s Jane Lee was among those to report (Twitter links), the Oakland organization says it was actually rather encouraged by the outcome of Sean Manaea’s shoulder procedure yesterday. Though the team likely won’t be able to rely on him as a contributor in 2019, it seems there’s some hope that Manaea could be ready to return late in the season. And the long-term outlook is generally good, which is particularly promising for a hurler who is only just reaching arbitration eligibility.

    More from some other prominent AL West hurlers …

    • Astros southpaw Dallas Keuchel is headed for free agency in less than two months, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to think about it. As Mark Berman of FOX 26 was among those to convey (video link on Twitter), the lefty says he isn’t interested in pondering his future, preferring instead to “enjoy this team and this year.” That’s surely a sensible position to take for a variety of reasons. The 30-year-old and his teammates are, after all, trying to ramp up for a second consecutive World Series run. And he can best increase his market options and earning power by continuing to throw the ball well. Through 196 2/3 solid frames this year, Keuchel carries a 3.71 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 along with a 53.3% groundball rate. That last figure, while still strong, is well under Keuchel’s established levels, though he is compensating in some regards by holding opposing hitters to less home runs (11.2% HR/FB, 0.78 HR/9) than he has typically.
    • The Mariners shouldn’t worry about the $27MM they owe Felix Hernandez in deciding his future with the club, veteran journalist Bob Dutton writes on the KLAY 1180 blog. Simply put, that’s a sunk cost. And Dutton says the M’s ought to ignore it — at least, perhaps, unless they are able to arrange some kind of trade scenario utilizing the contract. That’s not to say that the end ought to come before the start of the 2019 season, but Dutton argues it’s not a possibility the organization should shy from considering.