Houston Astros – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-03-18T04:42:57Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Tony Sipp Could Be Odd Man Out Of Houston's Bullpen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117210 2018-03-17T23:02:02Z 2018-03-17T23:01:14Z
  • The Astros may head into the season with an all-righty bullpen, thanks to the struggles left-hander Tony Sipp has endured in recent years, Oliver Macklin of MLB.com relays. Sipp, whom the Astros re-signed to a three-year, $18MM deal heading into 2016, posted back-to-back subpar seasons entering this year and hasn’t fared well this spring. Manager A.J. Hinch conceded that going with an all-righty relief corps is “an option,” though he suggested he’d rather see Sipp rebound to his pre-2016 ways. Sipp, who’ll turn 35 in July, is due to earn $6MM in the final year of his contract.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Poll: Grading the Jose Altuve Extension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117193 2018-03-17T21:53:46Z 2018-03-17T21:53:46Z Yesterday, it was reported that the Astros have agreed to a five-year, $151MM extension with Jose Altuve that’ll keep him in Houston through his age-34 season. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd mentioned yesterday, the deal will be by far the largest extension ever given to a second baseman, handily topping the $110MM given to Dustin Pedroia by the Red Sox in 2013.

    It’s also just the sixth deal in MLB history that comes with an average annual value greater than $30MM. A win above replacement is widely believed to be worth around $8MM, so it seems likely that Altuve could still provide the 4-ish WAR per year necessary to provide the Astros with surplus value on this new deal. Indeed, the reigning AL MVP and three-time batting champ has been worth 14.3 fWAR across the past two seasons alone.

    Of course, it’s not a given that Houston’s star second baseman can maintain that level of production through the age of 34. Although his strongest and most notable skill is his penchant for making good contact (with an astonishingly low swinging strike rate) and racking up hits, a large part of his value is tied up in his baserunning. Though last season Altuve stole 32 bases and managed a .339 BABIP on grounders, history says that his speed isn’t likely to stick around past age 30, at least not to that level.

    Even as his speed starts to go, however, contact ability and plate discipline (Altuve carries an incredible 10.7% career strikeout rate) are skills that typically tend to age well. And there’s something to be said for the Astros keeping the face of their franchise around through 2024.

    It’s not unreasonable to think that Altuve could have earned a larger guarantee if he’d waited to hit the free agent market following the 2019 season. But as with his first extension with the Astros, he’ll essentially sacrifice earnings upside for added financial security… and a whole lot of it, too. The contract ranks as the 31st-largest guarantee in MLB history. He’s now guaranteed life-changing money, with a chance to earn even more when he hits the free agent market again six and a half years from now.

    At this point, we want to know your opinion. What do you think of the second Altuve deal from the Astros’ perspective? (Poll link for app users)

    What about from Altuve’s perspective? (Poll link for app users)

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Agree To Extension With Jose Altuve]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117140 2018-03-17T00:12:27Z 2018-03-16T21:55:23Z The Astros have reached a massive extension with star second baseman Jose Altuve, according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. If completed, the deal would promise Altuve $151MM over five seasons.

    Altuve is already under contract through 2019, a season the Astros control through a $6.5MM club option under the incredibly team-friendly deal the sides struck back in 2013. Of course, at the time, the second baseman was nowhere near the top-line performer he is today. Altuve has since changed representation, joining the Boras Corporation.

    The new contract will begin at the conclusion of his existing deal, meaning the five-year term will begin with the 2020 campaign. This pact, then, will give Houston control over Altuve through the 2024 season, which will be his age-34 effort.

    Houston is wrapping up a historic season in which the organization broke through with a World Series title. Altuve was a central component of that undertaking. He qualified for his fourth-straight All-Star game, won his third batting title in four seasons, and capped things off by taking home honors as the Most Valuable Player in the American League.

    Despite his diminutive stature, Altuve has developed into an offensive force. He put up high-quality campaigns in 2014 and 2015 before going to another level over the past two seasons. Since the start of 2016, Altuve carries a .341/.403/.539 batting line with 48 home runs. He doesn’t walk all that much and has traded just a bit of his impeccable contact ability for some additional pop, but Altuve still maintained a quality K/BB ratio (12.7% strikeout rate vs. 8.8% walk rate) in 2017.

    That’s rare air for a middle infielder, making Altuve all the more valuable. While he has generally graded out as an average performer at second, there’s also value in his legs. He has already swipe 231 bags in his career and was credited with creating four runs on the bases in 2017 by Fangraphs’ BsR measure.

    The new contract rewards one of the game’s best players with a significant new payday, and does so two full seasons before he’d have reached the open market. As McTaggart notes, this will easily be the largest deal ever struck in team history, handily topping the $100MM Carlos Lee contract.

    Though the deal only covers five additional seasons, it does so at a top-level rate of pay. This contract is just the sixth in MLB history that includes an average annual value of over $30MM and is easily the largest extension for a second baseman cataloged in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker.

    Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeted that the agreement was in place and added financial details.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros To Use Brad Peacock As Multi-Inning Reliever?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116777 2018-03-13T08:49:34Z 2018-03-12T00:09:13Z
  • Brad Peacock may also be ticketed for a multi-inning relief role, as The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan writes that the Astros have used Peacock in two-inning stints in each of his three Spring Training appearances.  Houston places a high value on multi-inning relievers and could theoretically deploy several of their bullpen arms in that fashion, though Kaplan feels Chris Devenski could be in line for more one-inning outings after appearing to tire in the second half of the 2017 season.  Peacock has extra durability as a former starting pitcher and his stuff lends itself well to such a relief role.  He held hitters to just a .420 OPS during his first time through the lineup last season, easily the lowest OPS of any pitcher who made at least 20 starts.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Return Rule 5 Pick Anthony Gose To Rangers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116591 2018-03-09T19:48:08Z 2018-03-09T19:26:46Z The Rangers announced today that they received Rule 5 pick Anthony Gose back from the Astros and assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock. He’ll join the Rangers in big league camp as a non-roster player. The Astros reportedly placed the left-hander/outfielder on outright waivers earlier this week.

    Gose, a former big league outfielder, had been hoping to make a stacked Astros roster as a reliever. The former top outfield prospect converted to the mound last season after several years of difficulties at plate. Gose was a two-way star as an amateur but was drafted and developed solely as an outfielder. His arm strength from the outfield and his former pitching prowess have translated to the mound to an extent, as he’s reportedly been able to touch triple digits with his fastball.

    Gose pitched 10 2/3 innings in Class-A Advanced in the Rangers organization last season and posted a 14-to-6 K/BB ratio in that time. It’s possible that the Rangers will continue to give him a look on the mound, though the team’s exact plans for him remain unclear. Rangers EVP of communications John Blake referenced Gose as an outfielder/left-handed pitcher in announcing the move, so perhaps he’ll continue to work on both elements of his game.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Renew Carlos Correa’s Contract At $1MM]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116520 2018-03-08T23:10:52Z 2018-03-08T23:10:52Z The Astros have renewed the contract of star shortstop Carlos Correa at $1MM, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). That comes in just shy of the record for a pre-arbitration player, set by Kris Bryant last offseason when the Cubs agreed to a $1.05MM salary. Correa’s $1MM mark ties the previous record holder, Mike Trout, who earned $1MM in 2014 as a pre-arb player before agreeing to his $144MM contract extension the following offseason.

    It’s worth noting, though, that the Astros renewed Correa’s contract. That indicates that, in spite of the near-record-setting nature of Correa’s pre-arbitration salary, the two sides did not see eye to eye on his 2018 earnings. Teams can negotiate with their pre-arb players, and the two sides will often agree to terms on a salary — typically within the vicinity of the league minimum for most players but sometimes a few hundred thousand or so greater for higher-profile players that have not yet reached salary arbitration.

    However, if the two sides cannot agree to a negotiated salary, then the team can renew the player’s contract at any amount at or above the league minimum. In this instance, the fact that Correa’s contract was renewed could mean that he and his representatives at the Legacy Agency were hoping to set a new record and simply elected to let the team renew the contract.

    Certainly, though, it’s nothing new for this player and team. A renewal also occurred in each of the past two seasons. Most notably, the ’Stros gave Correa only the league-minimum salary for the 2017 campaign. Of course, there’s still no real indication whether the failure to agree could hint at underlying discord that might impact future contractual matters.

    The deal isn’t a straight MLB contract, it’s also worth noting, per a tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). Houston elected instead to make it a split deal, providing a $267,500 rate of pay in the exceedingly unlikely event that Correa is optioned down. Clearly, as with Correa’s own decision not to agree to the offered amount, the sides have elected to stand on their rights — even if there’s no reasonably anticipated practical difference.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Place Anthony Gose On Outright Waivers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116325 2018-03-05T23:55:21Z 2018-03-05T23:55:21Z The Astros have placed lefty Anthony Gose on outright waivers, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (Twitter link). That will ultimately open a 40-man spot, though it’s not clear whether the organization has immediate plans for utilizing it.

    Gose was taken in the Rule 5 draft back in December, meaning any claiming team would need to retain him on the active roster for all of 2018 in order to keep him permanently. Given his prior MLB experience as an outfielder, he would be arbitration-eligible after the season were that to occur.

    If Gose clears waivers, he’ll be offered back to the Rangers, who had signed him to a minors deal last fall. The Texas organization took a low-risk shot despite the fact that Gose had only previously thrown 10 2/3 High-A innings, over which he allowed nine earned runs and six walks but also recorded 14 strikeouts.

    Despite the limited track record, the 27-year-old Gose has shown a powerful throwing arm on the hill and could also bring value on the bases and in the outfield. But it seems his interesting time in Astros camp did not make the desired impression. Gose failed to record an out in his only Grapefruit League appearance, issuing walks to all three hitters he faced.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Yuli Gurriel To Undergo Hamate Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115976 2018-02-28T15:14:11Z 2018-02-28T14:34:48Z Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is undergoing surgery today to remove the hook of his left hamate bone, skipper A.J. Hinch told reporters including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (Twitter link).

    Houston GM Jeff Luhnow says the team expects to be without Gurriel for about five to six weeks, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (Twitter links). Clearly, then, the rehab period will delay Gurriel’s start to the 2018 season. In this case, says Luhnow, it was a years-old injury that only just became symptomatic.

    While injuries to the hamate — a hand bone near the wrist — are common for hitters, that doesn’t mean they aren’t reasonably significant. Those interested in learning more should check out this detailed examination of the subject from Michael Jong of SB Nation.

    That limited recovery time is obviously promising, though hamate injuries have a reputation for sapping a hitter’s power upon his return to action. This interesting look from of SB Nation’s Stuart Wallace suggests, though, that any shorter-term loss of pop does not generally turn into a long-term impediment.

    For the ’Stros, it’s perhaps at least preferable for the injury to occur now rather than during the season. Gurriel will still need to serve a five-game suspension, though the injury situation may allow the team to manage that more easily.

    Regardless of the specifics, Houston will have to create a fill-in plan. An open-market option seems unlikely with so many internal possibilities. Marwin Gonzalez could step in at first, with the team also giving some opportunities to Tyler WhiteA.J. Reed, or J.D. Davis.

    Though clearly the preference would be for the 33-year-old Gurriel to pick up where he left off in 2017, the Astros likely won’t mind the idea of getting a longer look at some of those players. And any hit to the team’s expectations will be minimal. While Gurriel produced a strong .299/.332/.486 slash line with 18 home runs last year, he’s not exactly a top-end hitter as a first baseman. (A third bagger by trade, Gurriel has been pushed to the other corner by Alex Bregman.)

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Gurriel, Frazier, Gausman, Stroman, Thornburg, Eaton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115908 2018-02-28T04:47:58Z 2018-02-27T19:13:14Z The Astros have shipped first baseman Yuli Gurriel to Houston so his injured hand can be evaluated, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). At this point, the situation is more or less a mystery, with no real indication how the issue arose or just what the club is concerned about. Clearly, though, the team’s training staff has found cause to get a closer look from a specialist.

    Here’s more on some injury situations from around the game:

    • Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier has been diagnosed with a concussion, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Frazier made a leaping catch in yesterday’s Grapefruit League game against the Pirates and stumbled a bit before falling backwards and hitting his head against the base of the left-field wall (video link). Manager Aaron Boone said Frazier will be down for “a few days” and acknowledged the seemingly optimistic nature of that timeline. Frazier is far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster in New York with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Jacoby Ellsbury all on the roster, but he remains a key potential long-term piece for the Yanks.
    • It seems that Orioles righty Kevin Gausman has largely shaken off a home-plate collision yesterday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. The young starter, who is a key factor in the team’s hopes for the coming season, says he “feel[s] pretty good” on the whole despite slamming into Tigers youngster Jeimer Candelario. For the time being, at least, Gausman is expected to take the ball for his next scheduled spring outing.
    • The outlook is at least a bit more worrisome for Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman. Per MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, shoulder inflammation is holding Stroman back. Though he has already been cleared by an MRI of structural concerns, Stroman will rest up in hopes of moving past a problem that has evidently been going on for a few weeks. The key Jays hurler says he’s hoping to be fully ramped up for “the very beginning of the start of the season,” even if it’s not Opening Day, though surely the organization will proceed with caution.
    • The Red Sox will welcome reliever Tyler Thornburg back to the hill for the first time since he underwent surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. A bullpen session is just one of many steps back, of course, and Thornburg still has some hurdles to clear. He has yet to pitch competitively for the Boston organization (excepting brief spring action last year) since coming over in a trade in advance of the 2017 season.
    • Indications are that Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton is largely progressing well after a long layoff for a torn ACL. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes, though, Eaton has yet to appear in game action. That appears to be less a reflection of Eaton’s surgically repaired joint than it is a planned effort to build him up deliberately. “We’re going to take it and be methodical and do it right for the first time and make sure I’m overcooked, so to speak, before I go out there.” While it’s surely tempting to max out Eaton’s reps after a lost season, skipper Davey Martinez emphasized the primary goal is to have Eaton at full speed come Opening Day.
    • The rival Mets are reporting shoulder and back soreness for Yoenis Cespedes and Jacob deGrom, respectively, but those don’t seem to be real concerns at this point, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. However, the New York organization is likely to hold back first baseman Dominic Smith for a while after he was diagnosed with a strained quad. He already seemed to face a difficult task of cracking the Opening Day roster, so this setback is not likely to help the cause. (New reliever Anthony Swarzak just left his relief appearance with an apparent calf injury, as Mike Puma of the New York Post was among those to tweet, though details are sparse at this time.)
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Prospect Forrest Whitley Suspended For 50 Games]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115414 2018-02-21T17:21:25Z 2018-02-21T16:00:03Z Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley has been suspended for fifty games, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The ban is drug-related, per the report, though it is not clear just what improper substance Whitley was deemed to have used.

    Whitley, a 20-year-old right-hander, greatly elevated his stock in 2017. Indeed, many outlets now consider him one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball, with only the uniquely situated Shohei Ohtani drawing greater plaudits. Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN.com, and Fangraphs all rated Whitley within the top ten overall pre-MLB players in the game in their most recent rankings.

    Typically, fifty-game bans are handed out for drugs of abuse or amphetamines rather than performance-enhancing substances. In this case, Chuck Miketinac of FOX San Antonio says (Twitter link) a source told him that Whitley took an “unknown stimulant” to help keep him awake on a drive. The youngster intends to challenge the suspension, per that report. JJ Cooper of Baseball America notes (Twitter links) that the official release on the suspension does not follow the typical template utilized either for drugs of abuse or PED bans and also stands out because it does not state there was a positive test.

    Clearly, there’s still quite a lot that is not known about the situation. Whitley himself released a statement through his agent (via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, on Twitter) in which he accepted responsibility and apologized. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says he’s disappointed in what has transpired but also says he believes Whitley will learn from the situation. (Video via Twitter, also from McTaggart.)

    Whitley, a 2016 first-rounder, reached the Double-A last year, compiling 92 1/3 innings of 2.83 ERA ball with 13.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 across three levels of the minors. He will be eligible to return around the end of May and will likely work out in the meantime at the organization’s spring facilities, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (Twitter links).

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Injury May Have Decided Colin Moran's Astros Future ]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115057 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z
  • Colin Moran suffered a concussion and a facial fracture after a fouling a ball into his left eye last July, and it is quite possible that the injury changed the course of the young infielder’s career.  Moran was dealt to the Pirates last month as part of the Gerrit Cole trade, and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Moran might still be an Astro today had he gotten a longer chance to perform last summer, rather than being sidelined just two games into a midseason call-up.  “I think he would have hit .300, I think he would have hit for power,” Luhnow said.  “We might not have traded him because we might have wanted to figure out a way to keep him on our club.”  Interestingly, it’s also possible to speculate that a healthy and productive Moran would’ve been traded from Houston much sooner, as Moran was reportedly involved in the Astros’ talks with the Orioles about Zach Britton at the July trade deadline (though an injured Houston pitching prospect was the primary reason the Britton deal was scuttled).
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Collin McHugh Wins Arbitration Hearing]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114814 2018-02-15T20:05:12Z 2018-02-15T18:50:55Z Right-hander Collin McHugh won his arbitration hearing against the Astros, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (on Twitter). He’ll earn the $5MM salary that he filed as opposed to the $4.55MM sum that was submitted by the team (as can be seen in MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker). McHugh, a client of Moye Sports Associates, receives a $1.15MM raise on last year’s $3.85MM salary after an injury-shortened 2017 campaign.

    The 30-year-old McHugh may have lost his rotation spot when the Astros acquired Gerrit Cole earlier this winter, but he’ll still work as a starter this spring. If each of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Cole, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton remain healthy, then McHugh could open the year as a well-compensated long reliever/spot starter. He’d also be the team’s first line of defense in the event of an injury to one of the top five starters.

    Of course, there’s also the possibility that McHugh opens the season in a rotation other than Houston’s. McHugh has seen his name pop up in trade rumors in recent weeks as clubs like the Orioles, Twins and Brewers continue to hunt for rotation upgrades before Opening Day.

    McHugh missed much of the 2017 season on the disabled list but worked to a 3.55 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 1/3 innings when he was healthy enough to take the field. Since being acquired by the Astros, he’s logged a solid 3.70 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate through 606 1/3 innings (102 starts).

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[No Extension Talks Yet Between Astros, Dallas Keuchel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114765 2018-02-15T04:26:56Z 2018-02-15T04:26:56Z There have yet to be any extension negotiations between the Astros and Dallas Keuchel, the ace left-hander told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and other reporters today.  If a long-term deal is struck between the two sides, Keuchel said that it would have to happen by Opening Day — like most players, Keuchel doesn’t want to create a potential distraction for himself and his team by having talks drag into the season.

    Keuchel and the Astros did work out a $13.2MM salary for 2018, avoiding arbitration in the southpaw’s final year of arb eligibility.  He’ll hit free agency next winter going into his age-31 season and has already lined up some new representation, hiring the Boras Corporation last December.  While some high-profile Scott Boras clients (i.e. Stephen Strasburg, Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gonzalez) have worked out major long-term extensions to stay with their teams, Boras generally advises his clients to test the open market, so it remains to be seen if a deal could be struck to keep Keuchel in Houston.  The lack of negotiations to this point shouldn’t be seen as a major red flag, as most teams usually wait until later in the spring to fully delve into extension talks with pending free agents.

    After winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, Keuchel battled some injuries in both 2016 and 2017, posting a 3.79 ERA, 2.83 K/BB rate, 7.7 K/9 and a league-best 61.2% grounder rate over 313 2/3 IP in those two seasons.  That 3.79 ERA generally matched his ERA predictors in 2016-17, with the big swing in actual ERA (4.55 ERA in 2016, 2.90 ERA in 2017) likely due to a healthy difference in BABIP (.304 in 2016, .256 in 2017), which naturally has a big impact on a pitcher with so reliant on inducing ground balls.  His home run rate has steadily risen in each of the last three seasons, though Keuchel’s hard-hit ball rate also dropped back to his career average after a spike in 2016.

    The Astros’ trades for Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole created some speculation that the team was guarding itself against Keuchel’s possible departure, bolstering the rotation with two front-of-the-rotation arms that are under contract through at least the 2019 season.  Talks between Keuchel and the Astros, as well as any other negotiations between teams and impending free agents, will be particularly interesting to monitor this spring in the wake of this offseason’s unusual lack of free agent activity.  It could be that players are more open to extensions if they’re worried about being stuck without teams next winter, particularly since next year’s market will several huge stars (such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or Josh Donaldson) sure to soak up many of the available dollars.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Chris Devenski Switches Agencies]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114477 2018-02-13T03:07:21Z 2018-02-11T21:32:38Z Astros right-hander Chris Devenski has changed his representation and is now a client of MVP Sports Group, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports on Twitter. The switch for the 27-year-old Devenski comes on the cusp of his final pre-arbitration season.

    Since making his debut in 2016, Devenski has been an incredible bargain for the Astros, having established himself as one of the game’s premier relievers. Across 110 appearances, including five starts, Devenski has racked up 189 innings of 2.38 ERA ball and posted 9.71 K/9 against 2.19 BB/9. Only one reliever, Brad Hand of the Padres, totaled more frames from the bullpen than Devenski’s 164 1/3 from 2016-17. He also ranked fifth among relievers in ERA (2.41), ninth in K/BB ratio (4.82) and 18th in infield fly rate (14 percent) during that span, thanks to a lethal fastball-slider-changeup combination.

    While Devenski isn’t a closer, which could tamp down his value in arbitration, his penchant for effectively eating innings and amassing holds will help his cause when he first goes through the process next year (barring an extension, of course). He’s coming off a year in which he tied for 11th in holds (24), which helped the Astros run away with the AL West en route to their first World Series title.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Orioles Interested In Collin McHugh]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114442 2018-02-11T14:47:30Z 2018-02-11T14:47:30Z The Orioles have inquired about the availability of Astros right-hander Collin McHugh, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com hears. Although McHugh could be the odd man out of a loaded Houston rotation this year, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported earlier this week that the reigning champions aren’t in a rush to trade him. Nevertheless, with multiple holes in their rotation and a reported unwillingness to spend big to address their staff, it makes sense that the Orioles are interested in McHugh. After all, the 30-year-old has been a quality starter with the Astros since 2014 and is under arbitration control at affordable prices through 2019. He’ll earn in the neighborhood of $5MM this season.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Twins Interested In Collin McHugh]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114418 2018-02-11T01:24:20Z 2018-02-11T01:21:19Z
  • The small-market Twins aggressively went after Darvish this winter, even meeting with him in Texas at some point, per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. Their offer to Darvish was for at least five years and $100MM, according to Heyman (Twitter link). The Twins’ courtship of Darvish went for naught, though, perhaps thanks to their dislike for opt-out clauses and a wariness toward giving him a sixth year, writes Berardino, who adds that they could now look to top available starter Jake Arrieta. On the trade front, Rays righties Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi remain on Minnesota’s radar, relays Berardino, though he suggests the Twins would have to give up too much for the former. Meanwhile, Rosenthal reports that there’s a belief among rival executives the Twins could still add a starter via both free agency and the trade market. Along with Odorizzi, he lists free agent Alex Cobb and Astros righty Collin McHugh as hurlers who have drawn Minnesota’s interest.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Marlins, Astros Discussing J.T. Realmuto]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114415 2018-02-11T13:17:41Z 2018-02-11T00:05:04Z Count the reigning World Series champion Astros among the most serious suitors for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Houston and Miami have discussed the backstop, according to SiriusXM’s Craig Mish, who adds that the Marlins have requested high-end outfield prospect Kyle Tucker in return. The Astros haven’t ruled out dealing Tucker, Mish reports (Twitter link).

    Realmuto would be the second major trade acquisition of the winter for the Astros, who previously dipped into their pool of young talent to pick up right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Despite that move, the Astros’ farm system remains in the majors’ top 10, according to Baseball America, which regards the 21-year-old Tucker as their second-best prospect and the majors’ 15th-ranked farmhand. MLB.com (No. 8) FanGraphs (No. 10), Baseball Prospectus (No. 20) and ESPN’s Keith Law (No. 21) also think highly of the lefty-swinging Tucker, who ascended to the Double-A level in 2017 and slashed .265/.325/.512 across 318 plate appearances.

    Should the Marlins land Tucker, he’d become arguably the premier prospect in a system that has climbed from dead last to 19th in Baseball America’s rankings since the beginning of the offseason. Of course, the Marlins’ improved farm is the result of an aggressive major league teardown that has come during a payroll-slashing campaign by new owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter. The Marlins have already dealt star outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, not to mention second baseman Dee Gordon, leaving Realmuto as the face of a team that seems unlikely to contend in the near future.

    The 26-year-old Realmuto, sensing Miami is more likely to compete for the No. 1 pick than a playoff berth in 2018, has made it known he’d like to follow Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna and Gordon out the door. Given that he wants to play for a contender, going to Houston would surely satisfy Realmuto, and it would give the club a potential long-term solution behind the plate. While the Astros got solid production from catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis in 2017, the two 30-somethings could become free agents next winter. Moreover, Gattis will primarily occupy the DH spot this year, leaving the unproven, out-of-options Max Stassi as the Astros’ projected No. 2 catcher.

    Unlike Stassi, Realmuto has done plenty to establish himself in the majors. He truly broke out in 2016 and has since accounted for 7.2 fWAR, trailing only the Giants’ Buster Posey and the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez in that category among catchers. Most of Realmuto’s value has come from his bat, as the righty-swinger combined for a quality .290/.337/.440 line across 1,124 plate appearances from 2016-17.

    While there have been questions about Realmuto’s defense (his reviews as a pitch framer have been mixed), both his bat and long-term affordability combine to make him extremely valuable, which has led to offseason interest from contenders such as the Astros and Nationals. Realmuto is set to play his first of three potential arbitration-eligible seasons in 2018, during which he’ll make a relatively modest $2.9MM.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jake Odorizzi, Collin McHugh Reportedly Drawing Trade Interest]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114268 2018-02-11T13:34:34Z 2018-02-08T14:38:40Z Starters Jake Odorizzi of the Rays and Collin McHugh of the Astros continue to draw trade interest, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes, though he adds that neither is evidently close to being dealt.

    With all the top free agent starters still unsigned, some teams are surely still waiting to see whether they can land a bigger fish before turning to these sturdy hurlers. Still, both are certainly accomplished enough to believe that they could be targeted as more than mere fallback options.

    Odorizzi has not even yet turned 28 but already has compiled 705 1/3 innings of 3.83 ERA pitching in his career. On the other hand, he’s coming off of a homer-prone season in which he surrendered a personal-high 4.14 earned runs per nine. McHugh, 30, posted strong results last year after a somewhat tepid 2016 effort, but only after missing a major chunk of the season due to injury. He ended up posting a 3.55 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 63 1/3 frames over a dozen starts.

    Importantly, both Odorizzi and McHugh are still playing out their final two seasons of arbitration eligibility, making for a favorable financial situation. Their 2018 salaries remain unresolved, but neither will break the bank. As MLBTR’s 2018 MLB Arbitration Tracker shows, the former will play for somewhere at or between $6.3MM and $6.05MM while the latter will land in the range of $5MM and $4.55MM. In both cases, there’s no commitment for 2019; potential acquirers will no doubt value the chance to pick up what’s effectively a floating-price option for an added campaign.

    All things considered, it seems clear that there’s excess value in the rights to each player. Just how much — and how much it’ll fetch on the trade market — is an open question. As Rosenthal notes, both teams are looking for something in return in dangling these established starters.

    At the same time, of course, the Rays and ’Stros have reasons to move the players in question, largely due to the presence of other pitchers. In that regard, their availability has long been evident. Tampa Bay has long been said to be looking for ways to trim payroll and reallocate some resources; Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a few days ago that a trade is almost inevitable to take place at some point. In Houston’s case, the club simply doesn’t have an open rotation spot after dealing for Gerrit Cole earlier in the offseason.

    Rosenthal pegs the Orioles as a team with interest in Odorizzi and perhaps also McHugh. That’s not surprising, as Baltimore continues to hunt for multiple starters. The Twins have long been tied to Odorizzi, and Rosenthal suggests that remains the case. Previously, too, the Nationals have been connected to Odorizzi.

    It’s not difficult to imagine quite a few other organizations having interest in both of these starters, particularly when one considers what it might cost to acquire free agents such as Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and Andrew Cashner. Certainly, the ongoing availability of Odorizzi and McHugh could continue to weigh down interest in those open-market options to some extent.

    There are other plausible trade candidates that could factor in the overall picture, it’s worth bearing in mind. Beyond top targets such as Odorizzi’s teammate, Chris Archer, organizations looking for solid but affordable rotation pieces could try to acquire hurlers such as Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks, Dan Straily of the Marlins, or Danny Salazar of the Indians.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Sign George Springer To Two-Year Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114053 2018-02-05T18:13:47Z 2018-02-05T17:15:30Z 11:15:am: The Astros have announced the signing.

    8:48am: The Astros have agreed to a two-year, $24MM contract with outfielder George Springer, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Springer, a Super Two player who was in his second trip through the arbitration process, will earn $12MM in each year of the deal. Springer is represented by the Legacy Agency.

    George Springer | Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    Springer and the Astros had yet to resolve their arbitration case and were scheduled to head to a hearing this month. He’d filed for a $10.5MM salary, while Houston had countered with a figure of $8.5MM (as shown in MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker). Instead, the two-year pact will buy out Springer’s second and third years of arbitration eligibility, though he’ll have one remaining year of arbitration left upon completion of this deal given the aforementioned Super Two status.

    The 28-year-old Springer is coming off the finest season of his big league career to date, having posted a sensational .283/.367/.522 batting line with 34 homers and 29 doubles through 629 plate appearances. Springer logged a career-high 643 innings in center field this past season and graded well there per both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, although those two metrics, which are usually bullish on his corner-outfield work, didn’t regard his defense in right field very favorably in 2017. (With Josh Reddick, Derek Fisher and Marwin Gonzalez all in the mix for corner outfield time in 2018, Springer figures to once again spend more time in center field than in right field this coming season.)

    Overall, Springer was a driving force not only behind the Astros’ romp of the American League West but the team’s first World Series championship in franchise history. Springer went 7-for-17 with a homer, two doubles and two walks in 19 ALDS plate appearances, and after an ice-cold ALCS showing against the Yankees, he laid waste to Dodgers pitching in the World Series en route to MVP honors. Springer belted five homers in seven games and hit .379/.471/1.000 through 34 PAs in the Fall Classic.

    Now that Springer has agreed to a two-year deal and Ken Giles has won his arbitration hearing, the Astros’ lone remaining arbitration case if that of Collin McHugh. The right-hander filed for a $5MM salary for the upcoming season, while the Astros countered with a $4.55MM sum.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Ken Giles Wins Arbitration Case Over Astros]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113946 2018-02-03T19:31:39Z 2018-02-03T18:38:21Z Reliever Ken Giles has won his arbitration case against the Astros, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports tweets. The Astros filed at $4.2MM, but Giles will take home the $4.6MM that he and his agent filed for instead. That salary falls $400K shy of the $5MM projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz, and represents a raise of about $4MM in his first trip through the arbitration process.

    Though a bad taste may still linger in the mouths of Astros fans due to Giles’ poor postseason performance (11.74 ERA with 5 walks and 3 homers allowed in 7 2/3 innings), the fact remains that Houston’s 27-year-old closer has posted some eye-popping numbers across his first four seasons in the big leagues. Among qualifying relief pitchers, the right-hander ranks 7th in xFIP, 10th in K/9, 13th in ERA, and 16th in Win Probability Added since the start of the 2014 campaign. His 65 saves probably figured into his arbitration win as well.

    Giles was drafted by the Phillies back in 2011. The righty made his big-league debut on June 12th of 2014, allowing a home run to the first major-league hitter he faced but striking out the next in a game the Phillies would eventually win over the Padres. Following the 2015 season, the Astros acquired him (along with shortstop Jonathan Arauz) in a trade that brought back former number one overall pick Mark Appel, Vince Velasquez and three others. Since coming to Houston, Giles has struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings thanks in part to a fastball that’s averaged a whopping 98.3 MPH during that time.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros, Giles Have Arbitration Hearing Today]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113795 2018-02-01T19:16:45Z 2018-02-01T19:16:45Z The Astros’ arbitration hearing with right-hander Ken Giles is taking place today in Phoenix, reports Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The team submitted a $4.2MM salary figure for Giles, who countered with a $4.6MM proposal. While the $400K difference between those sums will likely seem trivial to most fans, it’s worth remembering that the salary set today will impact the raises that Giles receives in his next two trips through the arb process. Furthermore, teams are ever cognizant of not inflating the future arbitration market by making too many concessions and often feel a responsibility to take a firm negotiation stance. I spoke with a few different assistant GMs and GMs on the matter a few years back in a lengthier exploration of arbitration from the team vantage point, for those interested in some of the intricacies of the process.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mark Appel Stepping Away From Baseball]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113791 2018-02-01T15:59:36Z 2018-02-01T15:53:32Z In a candid, must-read interview with Bleacher Report’s Joon Lee, former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel reveals that he’s stepping away from professional baseball at the age of 26. Appel didn’t use the word “retirement” and suggested that perhaps, somewhere down the line, he’d give baseball another shot. However, for the time being, he won’t be reporting to Spring Training with the Phillies (who will retain his rights, tweets Matt Gelb of The Athletic).

    “I’m 26, I have a Stanford degree, I have many interests beyond baseball, which I still love, but I have a lot of things I care about,” Appel tells Lee. “I enjoy challenging my mind. My last four years in baseball have challenged my mind.”

    Appel, clearly, has dealt with his share of disappointment in professional baseball. The former Stanford ace was twice projected to be the top overall pick in the draft, falling to the Pirates at No. 8 in 2012 and then ultimately being selected No. 1 overall by Houston the following year after returning to Stanford for his senior season. As Joon explores in detail, Appel posted respectable numbers in his debut season but never really hit his stride after the fact, struggling through injuries and oftentimes inexplicable ineffectiveness from 2014-17.

    Appel bluntly states that he was “maybe the worst pitcher in professional baseball” in 2014 and recalls a story where, after arguably the worst start of his career, frustration boiled over to the point that he destroyed a particle-board panel in the clubhouse by throwing upwards of 80 baseballs through it. (Appel purchased supplies to repair the damages at Home Depot out of his own pocket and handled the project himself the following day.) The right-hander obviously feels some disappointment about never reaching the Majors and says he would “absolutely” have loved to be pitching in the World Series alongside his friends and former Astros teammates.

    As Lee points out, if Appel never makes the decision to return to pro ball, he’d become just the third No. 1 overall pick ever to retire without logging a single game in the Majors. Appel is aware of that unflattering context but seems to be at peace with the fact.

    “I had high expectations,” says Appel, who is still rehabbing from his 2017 shoulder troubles. “I didn’t live up to those for a number of reasons. If you want to call me the biggest draft bust, you can call it that. … If I never get to the big leagues, will it be a disappointment? Yes and no. That was a goal and a dream I had at one point, but that’s with stipulations that I’m healthy, I’m happy and doing something I love. If I get to the big leagues, what’s so great about the big leagues if you’re in an isolated place, you’re hurt and you’re emotionally unhappy? How much is that worth to you?”

    For the time being, Appel says he’s planning on pursuing an internship and attending business school, perhaps at Stanford but also with several other prospective universities in mind. He speaks with a certain level of excitement about the opportunity to spend more time with friends and family, as well as the possibility of traveling. Perhaps most important of all, Appel sounds like a man with an unexpected and impressive level of perspective on the struggles he’s had in professional baseball: “Some people have real struggles. I played baseball. I thought I was going to be great, and I wasn’t.”

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Jon Singleton Receives 100-Game Suspension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113145 2018-01-23T22:22:58Z 2018-01-23T22:22:58Z Astros minor league first baseman Jon Singleton has received a 100-game suspension after a third positive test for a drug of abuse, the league announced today. Right-hander Dean Deetz, also in the Astros system, has received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance enhancing substance (dehydrochlormethyltestosterone). As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets, Deetz is ranked 22nd on BA’s unreleased ranking of the Astros’ top 30 prospects.

    It’s been nearly four years since the Astros signed the now-26-year-old Singleton to a five-year, $10MM contract extension before the former top prospect had played a single day in the Majors. Singleton, viewed as a potential everyday first baseman at that point, was widely panned for selling himself short, though it now looks as if he made the correct call in taking the money when presented with the opportunity.

    Singleton was called up to the Majors immediately upon signing the deal and homered in his big league debut, but that highlight proved to be one of the few he’d experience in the big leagues. The slugger went on to hit .168/.285/.335 with 13 homers in 362 plate appearances as a rookie, and he’s tallied just 58 plate appearances in the Majors since.

    Singleton spent the 2016 season in Triple-A and the 2017 season back in Double-A, narrowly keeping his average above the Mendoza Line but still showing some pop and a penchant for drawing walks. Singleton is owed $2MM on that contract in 2018, though, he will not be paid during the 100-game term of his suspension. Houston had already outrighted Singleton in the 2016-17 offseason, so his suspension won’t free up a spot on the 40-man roster.

    Deetz, 24, was Houston’s 11th-round pick back in 2011. He appeared in 25 games between the Astros’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last season, totaling 84 2/3 innings with a 4.25 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in that time. Unlike Singleton, he was on the Astros’ 40-man roster, so his placement on the restricted list will create an opening for Houston. Deetz has formally issued a statement denying any knowing use of a PED:

    “Let me say first and foremost that I have never knowingly taken a performance enhancing substance of any kind. I come from a small town, and know how fortunate I am to call myself a professional baseball player. I would never jeopardize that opportunity, or betray those who have supported me along the way, by trying to cheat in order to gain an advantage. As I explained to the arbitrator in my appeal, I have no idea how I could possibly have tested positive and although I am disappointed with the outcome, I will abide by his decision. I would like to apologize to my family, friends, the Houston Astros organization, coaches teammates and fans that have been impacted by this situation. I will continue working diligently to clear my name and, in the meantime, rebuild the trust of those who have been affected by this result.”

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Claim Buddy Boshers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113070 2018-01-22T20:08:38Z 2018-01-22T20:08:38Z The Astros have claimed left-handed reliever Buddy Boshers off waivers from the Twins, per a team announcement from Houston. Boshers was designated for assignment by the Twins in order to clear a roster spot for Addison Reed. Boshers pushes Houston’s 40-man roster up to a count of 39.

    Set to turn 30 in May, Boshers parlayed a minor league deal with the Twins in the 2015-16 offseason into 71 innings of work and more than a year of service at the big league level. In parts of his two seasons with Minnesota, the southpaw turned in a 4.56 ERA. Boshers impressed with an 8.2 K/9 rate against 2.2 BB/9, but he’s also been somewhat homer-prone (1.3 HR/9). He’s also been clobbered by right-handed opponents in that time; while Boshers limited lefties to a lowly .231/.262/.345 batting line through 122 plate appearances, righties knocked him around at a .268/.330/.485 clip in 183 PAs.

    He’ll add some much-needed depth to the Astros from the left side, as Tony Sipp currently projects to be the only southpaw in Houston’s big league bullpen. Boshers has a minor league option remaining, so the Astros can freely send him to the minors even if he doesn’t break camp with the club. Other options on the 40-man include outfielder-turned-pitcher Anthony Gose (a Rule 5 pick) and Reymin Guduan.

    Certainly, there’s room for the Astros to further strengthen this area either on the trade or free-agent market before Opening Day. Tony Watson is the top lefty reliever remaining on the free-agent market, and he’s joined by the likes of Jorge De La Rosa, Fernando Abad, Xavier Cedeno and Kevin Siegrist (among others), as can be seen in MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Grading The Gerrit Cole Swap]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112627 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z Gerrit Cole is a highly visible player — a former first overall pick who landed fourth in the National League Cy Young vote in 2015 — so it’s natural there will be strong opinions about the return he drew in the recent swap between the Pirates and Astros. We have already seen a variety of industry opinions pour in (see here, here, here, and here), but I thought it’d be worth taking the temperature of the MLBTR readership.

    There’s little reason to full describe the elements of the agreement. (MLBTR’s Conny Byrne discussed all relevant elements in detail in his post on the Cole trade.) But here’s a brief account for purposes of facilitating today’s poll:

    Astros receive:

    • 2 years of control over SP Gerrit Cole ($6.75MM for 2018; arbitration for 2019) — following aforementioned 2015 season, Cole was limited by injury in 2016 and pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in a healthy 2017 season

    Pirates receive:

    • 4 years of control over RP Michael Feliz — carries 5.13 ERA (allowing 1.5 HR/9) through 121 MLB innings, but has averaged 12.8 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9
    • 5 years of control over SP/RP Joe Musgrove — former first-round pick has been tagged for a .288/.339/.506 slash and 5.37 ERA over 25 MLB starts, but worked to a 1.26 ERA with 39:6 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 innings last year after moving to the bullpen
    • 6 years of control over 3B Colin Moran — former sixth overall draft pick slashed .308/.373/.543 with 18 home runs in 338 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, but has yet to receive significant time in the majors
    • 6 years of control over OF Jason Martin — 22-year-old reached Double-A for first time in 2017, slashing .273/.319/.483 with 11 home runs in 320 plate appearances

    Since there are two teams involved with their own set of needs, we’ll ask for grades from each organization’s perspective. For Pittsburgh, clearly, the move was designed to add multiple assets that can deliver value over a longer time frame. If even one of these players really succeeds, it could end up standing as a win. Also of note: the Bucs are said to have passed up a chance at gaining one higher-grade prospect (Clint Frazier of the Yankees) in order to add several contributors.

    (Poll link for app users.)

    On the Houston side, it’s all the more clear. The team resisted parting with its own blue-chip prospects, but gave a variety of useful pieces up to acquire just two seasons of Cole. If one views him as even a quality and durable mid-rotation starter, and does not think the assets parted with will come back to haunt the ’Stros, then this could be seen as a bargain. On the other hand, there are some questions surrounding Cole and it is not difficult to imagine one or more of the more controllable assets sent to Pittsburgh delivering greater value than will Cole’s final two arb years.

    (Poll link for app users.)

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[More Reaction & Fallout To The Gerrit Cole Trade]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112544 2018-01-14T15:26:56Z 2018-01-14T15:26:56Z The Astros and Pirates swung a major trade yesterday, with the World Series champions acquiring Gerrit Cole in exchange for a package of four players (Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, Jason Martin).  We’ve already published one batch of reactions to the deal, and now here are some additional details about the trade talks and further analysis about what this deal means for Houston, Pittsburgh, and other clubs…

    • The Astros were able to land Cole without giving up any of their top prospects, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Houston wasn’t willing to offer Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, or Yordan Alvarez.  Musgrove and Moran were seen as the top two pieces of the trade by the Pirates, and they pulled the trigger on the deal since Pittsburgh felt no other team was offering two top prospects of better quality in exchange for Cole.  Musgrove, Feliz, and Moran give the Bucs 15 years of controllable talent, which was also a factor in their decision.
    • Also from Crasnick, the Yankees were willing to include one of Clint Frazier or Chance Adams in a potential Cole trade, but not both.  New York was also intent on holding onto its top minor leaguers, as Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, and Estevan Florial were considered off-limits in trade talks.
    • The Yankees’ unwillingness to move its best prospects could be due to a belief that Yu Darvish could be signed for a “reasonable” price, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes.  This could be a contract in the range of five years and $80MM-90MM, which would represent a stunning discount from the six-year, $160MM deal MLBTR predicted for Darvish at the start of the offseason.  Even with the unprecedentedly slow nature of this winter’s free agent market, it’s hard to believe Darvish would settle for such a relatively small deal, especially with at least five other teams known to be vying for his services.  Harper also notes that even a five-year/$80MM pact would put the Yankees over the luxury tax limit, unless they were to move another big contract to create payroll space.
    • The Pirates’ return was “more one of quantity than of impact,” ESPN.com’s Keith Law writes, though Cole may only be “a soft upgrade” for the Astros rotation if he replicates his 2017 numbers.  Law feels that Cole’s 2016-17 performance curtailed some of his trade value, and while Houston is obviously hoping that Cole returns to his 2015 form, the trade also could’ve been a way of keeping him away from a chief AL rival like the Yankees.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Reactions To The Gerrit Cole Trade]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112498 2018-01-14T02:16:48Z 2018-01-14T02:16:48Z The baseball world is still reeling from the big news earlier today regarding the Astros’ acquisition of Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Here are a few of the early takes…

    • What better place to start the Cole reactions than with that of Cole himself? The right-hander seems to be incredibly excited to join his new organization. “I’m ecstatic. I got the phone call not too long ago and I was shocked. I couldn’t have been more happy. I’m familiar with a few people on the organization and the team,” Cole said to reporters (hat tip to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart). Cole also used the words “flat-out elated” to describe the “unbelievable opportunity” (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In addition to his giddiness over his trade to the Astros, Cole also spoke highly of the Pirates organization and expressed a fondness for his years with the team.
    • Cole isn’t the only player expressing excitement about the trade, however. Many of his new teammates have reacted strongly on social media as well. New rotation mate Justin Verlander wrote a tweet with the hashtag #backtoback, while Alex Bregman simply tweeted a gif of himself screaming.
    • Grant Brisbee of sbnation.com notes that although the Astros are young and unburdened by large contracts, the team may have acquired Cole in part because they need to consider their window. Brisbee argues that “there isn’t a team in baseball that knows with metaphysical certitude how they’ll look in three years,” so it was beneficial for Houston to act now in order to create a superteam for 2018. While the notion that Cole’s presence makes the Astros a superteam is debatable, he notes that he may just be one of the best pitchers in baseball if last year’s spike in homers allowed turns out to be a fluke.
    • Pirates GM Neal Huntington describes the trade as “the balance of immediate and moderate and longer-term.” (hat tip to Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “We felt this was the right move to get these players that are major-league ready with 15 years contribution combined,” Huntington adds.
    • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow offers a timeline of events in reference to his team’s talks with the Pirates about Cole, via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Apparently, the two teams were in discussions about the righty as early as last July, but talks were shelved after they couldn’t reach an agreement. During the winter meetings, however, discussions picked up steam again, and after that the teams talked at least once a week until a deal was ultimately agreed upon this morning.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Acquire Gerrit Cole]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112469 2018-01-14T03:01:14Z 2018-01-14T00:05:47Z The Astros have acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates for righties Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin, according to announcements from both teams.

    MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

    Houston and Pittsburgh nearly reached an agreement on a Cole trade earlier this week, but reports of a done deal proved premature. The two sides continued to negotiate, however, and have now come together on one of the most noteworthy trades of the offseason. Cole is the second potential front-end starter the Astros have acquired since last August, when they landed longtime Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who ultimately helped pitch them to their first-ever World Series title a couple months later.

    With Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh among their starters on hand, the Astros didn’t exactly have a desperate need for Cole heading into next season. But adding Cole should nonetheless increase their chances to finish atop the major league mountain again in 2018, and with two years of team control remaining, he figures to help their cause through 2019. Neither Keuchel nor Morton is under contract past 2018, which helps explains why the Astros have been in on Cole and other high-end starters this offseason. The Astros’ addition of Cole should affect top free agents like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, both of whom have been on their radar this winter, as it seems to remove a potential suitor for them.

    Cole, who settled on a $6.75MM salary for his penultimate year of arbitration control on Friday, is coming off a somewhat disappointing season. Although the 27-year-old racked up 203 innings and continued to serve as one of the majors’ hardest-throwing starters, a bloated home run-to-fly ball rate (15.9 percent, well above his career figure of 10.0) helped lead to a personal-worst 4.26 ERA/4.08 FIP.

    Given his down 2017, the Pirates weren’t in position to sell high on Cole. However, as a Scott Boras client nearing free agency, the low-payroll club knew its chances to extend him weren’t good. Consequently, the Bucs shopped Cole around the league – including to the Yankees, Twins and Cubs – before sending him to the Astros. Cole had been with the Pirates since they selected him first overall in the 2011 draft, and he looked like an ace with them at times after debuting in 2013. All told, Cole registered a 3.50 ERA/3.27 FIP with 8.44 K/9, 2.34 BB/9 and a 47.4 percent groundball rate across 782 1/3 innings in Pittsburgh.

    Parting with Cole could begin a rebuild for the Pirates, who finished under .500 for the second straight year in 2017. However, acquiring three major league-ready players for him in Musgrove, Moran and Feliz may also help them compete next season. The headliner is arguably the 25-year-old Musgrove, a former top 100 prospect who has worked as both a starter and reliever since debuting in 2016. While Musgrove scuffled as a starter last season, he was utterly dominant in his first big league action out of the bullpen. Moving to a relief role enabled Musgrove to ramp up his velocity, and it helped lead to a 1.44 ERA with just under nine strikeouts per nine and a paltry 1.44 BB/9 across 31 1/3 innings. It’s unclear whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever going forward, but with five years of control, the Pirates will have time to find an ideal role for him.

    Moran was a first-round pick of the Marlins in 2013 who topped out as Baseball America’s 61st-ranked prospect after that season, though he hasn’t seen much action in the majors to this point (37 plate appearances). And with the emergence of third baseman Alex Bregman, there simply wasn’t a path to playing time in Houston. The 25-year-old Moran held his own in 2017 at Triple-A – his second season at that level – with a .308/.373/.543 line in 338 PAs. Moran ranked as the Astros’ fifth-best prospect prior to the trade, according to MLB.com, which lauds “his pure left-handed swing and his ability to barrel balls easily while controlling the strike zone.” Defensively, Moran has the hands and arm to handle third, though he lacks range, per MLB.com.

    Feliz, 24, amassed significant experience out of the Astros’ bullpen over the previous two seasons, during which he combined to make 98 appearances and throw 121 innings. While Feliz brought high-90s heat, posted a sky-high 13.14 K/9 and a passable 3.5 BB/9 along the way, he only managed a 4.94 ERA – owing in part to a low groundball percentage (37.1 percent) and a lofty home run-to-fly ball rate (16.5 percent). ERA indicators have been bullish on Feliz, who owns a career 3.67 FIP and 3.17 xFIP. He comes with four years of control, including his final pre-arbitration season in 2018.

    Martin, an eighth-round pick in 2013, brings the least fanfare of anyone in this trade, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic noting on Twitter that he may end up as a reserve outfielder down the line. MLB.com agrees that he won’t turn into a regular option in the corner outfield, though it rated Martin 15th in Houston’s system and suggested he has a chance to develop into a starting center fielder. The 22-year-old spent most of last season in Double-A, where he slashed .273/.319/.483 in 320 PAs.

    Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported the Astros would acquire Cole, and he added that the Pirates would receive Musgrove and Moran. Jon Heyman of FanRag reported the Pirates would get four total players. Rosenthal reported that Feliz and Martin were in the deal (Twitter links). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Arbitration Updates: 1/13/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112430 2018-01-13T22:22:30Z 2018-01-13T22:22:30Z Here are the arbitration numbers we’ve learned thus far today — all of them coming via the Twitter feed of Jon Heyman of Fan Rag unless otherwise noted:

    • The Giants’ previously known deals with two righty relievers now have dollar values attached. Sam Dyson is slated to earn $4.425MM, while the team will pay righty Cory Gearrin $1.675MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM award for Dyson and a $1.6MM salary for Gearrin.
    • Diamondbacks infielder Chris Owings settled out at $3.4MM, just a shade over the $3.3MM the team will pay outfielder David Peralta. Swartz had both Owings and Peralta at $3.8MM.
    • Right-hander Nick Vincent will take down a $2.75MM payday from the Mariners, coming in just north of his $2.7MM projection.
    • Astros righty Lance McCullers Jr. is set to receive $2.45MM (a bit shy of his projected $2.6MM) in his first season of arb eligibility, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
    • Infielder Hernan Perez receives $1.975MM from the Brewers, falling short of a $2.2MM projection.
    • The Athletics agreed yesterday with righty Liam Hendriks at $1.9MM, matching his projection, and catcher Josh Phegley for $905K. Swartz had Phegley at $1.1MM.
    • White Sox third baseman Yolmer Sanchez has filed at $2.35MM while the team countered at $2.1MM – the same as his projection.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Jeff Luhnow: "We're In A Good Spot Because We Don't Have To Do Anything"]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112453 2018-01-13T21:26:59Z 2018-01-13T21:11:31Z
  • Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters Saturday that he’s “very happy” with his current roster, one he thinks is capable of winning a second straight championship in 2018, and added that “we’re in a good spot because we don’t have to do anything.” Luhnow also noted that, although things have been slow to develop across the majors this offseason, free agents and possible trade acquisitions who would improve the Astros would still require “a significant investment.” It seemed earlier this week that Luhnow was set to make such an investment in Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole, but a deal still hasn’t materialized. Luhnow has addressed the Astros pitching in other ways this offseason, though, having added Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to their bullpen (Twitter video via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com).
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Unresolved 2018 Arbitration Cases]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112362 2018-01-13T03:05:53Z 2018-01-13T00:02:01Z We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)

    Some situations could even be dealt with in short order. As things stand, though, these unresolved arbitration cases could turn into significant hearings. (As always, MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration projections can be found here; you will also want to reference MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration tracker.)

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Avoid Arbitration With Dallas Keuchel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112349 2018-01-12T21:58:47Z 2018-01-12T21:57:39Z The Astros have settled with starter Dallas Keuchel, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle first tweeted. Keuchel will earn $13.2MM, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter).

    Notably, the Astros have not been able to work out agreements wit a few other important players. Outfielder George Springer, reliever Ken Giles, and starter Collin McHugh will file figures, Kaplan tweets, though of course it’s still possible they will settle before going to a hearing.

    Keuchel, 30, posted a strong 2.90 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 on the year in 2017, though he was limited by injury to 145 2/3 innings. That tamped down on his earning power somewhat, though Keuchel still earns a healthy raise on his $9.15MM salary from 2017. He had been projected to earn $12.6MM by MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz, but tops that figure by $600K.

    As things stand, this’ll be Keuchel’s final season in Houston. He’ll hit the open market after the 2018 campaign unless the sides are able to work out a longer-term agreement at some point.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Avoiding Arbitration: American League]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112296 2018-01-13T05:52:28Z 2018-01-12T21:00:23Z The deadline for MLB teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with their arbitration-eligible players is today at 1pm ET. As such, there will be a veritable flood of arb agreements piling up in the next few hours — especially in light of a more universal approach to the “file and trial” method for teams. (That is to say, those teams will no longer negotiate one-year deals after arb figures are exchanged and will instead head to a hearing with those players, barring an agreemenr on a multi-year deal.)

    Note that you can keep an eye on all of today’s deals using MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker, which can be filtered to show only the results of the team you follow and is also sortable by service time and dollar value of the agreement. All projections that are referenced come from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s annual compilation of projected arbitration salarie

    American League West

    • The Astros and Evan Gattis agreed to a $6.7MM deal for 2018, per FanRag’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). A free agent next season, Gattis lands within $100K of his $6.6MM projection. The club also has deals (for values unknown) with starters Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Brad Peacock, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
    • The Rangers agreed to a $1.05MM deal with infielder Jurickson Profar, tweets Murray. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, meanwhile, tweets that lefty Jake Diekman landed a $2.7125MM deal and righty Keone Kela will earn $1.2MM. Profar had been projected at $1.1MM and is controllable another three seasons. Diekman, a free agent next winter, was projected at $2.8MM. And Kela, still controlled for three more years, matched his $1.2MM projection on the dot.
    • The Athletics and closer Blake Treinen agreed to a $2.15MM deal for next year, tweets Murray. The A’s can control Treinen for another three years. He was projected at $2.3MM. Shortstop Marcus Semien has settled for $3.125MM, Heyman tweets; his $3.2MM projection was nearly spot-on. Oakland has announced that it has avoided arbitration with Liam Hendriks and Josh Phegley as well, but their salaries have yet to be reported.
    • The Angels have a one-year, $7.3MM agreement in place with right-hander Garrett Richards, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link). Richards, a free agent next offseason, tops his $7MM projection by a margin of $300K. The Halos have also avoided arb with first baseman C.J. Cron ($2.3MM) and left-hander Tyler Skaggs ($1.875MM), tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Cron’s total falls a ways shy of his $2.8MM projection, while Skaggs comes in just $25K south of his $1.9MM projection. Both are controllable through the 2020 season. Lastly, Murray tweets that Matt Shoemaker agreed to a $4.125MM deal. He’s controlled through 2020 and projected at $4.4MM. Fletcher also tweets that the club has agreed with righty J.C. Ramirez ($1.9MM salary vs. $2.6MM projection) and lefty Jose Alvarez ($1.05MM salary vs. $1.1MM projection). Finally, righty Cam Bedrosian has agreed at $1.1MM, Flecher tweets, which represents a payday close to his projection of $1.2MM.
    • Left-hander James Paxton will earn $4.9MM with the Mariners in 2018, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Murray tweets that the Mariners and David Phelps agreed to a $5.55MM deal. Paxton, controlled through 2020, projected to earn $5.6MM, while Phelps was pegged at $5.8MM. He’s a free agent next winter. Righty Erasmo Ramirez took a $4.2MM deal, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. That’s half a million shy of what the model suggested. Fellow right-hander Nick Vincent also has an agreement, but the terms aren’t yet known.

    American League Central

    • New lefty Luis Avilan has agreed to a $2.45MM deal with the White Sox, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports via Twitter. The recent trade acquisition came with a projected $2.3MM price tag. Fellow southpaw Carlos Rodon will receive $2.3MM, a bit of a bump over the $2MM he projected to receive. Also, utilityman Leury Garcia gets $1.175MM, which is just $25K short of his projected value.
    • The Royals and righty Nate Karns agreed to a $1.375MM deal for 2018, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports (on Twitter). That lands within $25K of his $1.4MM projection for the coming season. Kansas City controls Karns through 2020. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports (via Twitter) that Kelvin Herrera will earn $7.9375MM in 2018, landing a bit shy of his $8.3MM projection. Herrera is a free agent next winter.
    • The Indians have a $5MM agreement with righty Danny Salazar, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. He had projected to earn just $200K more, this falls right in line with expectations. Cleveland also agreed with Lonnie Chisenhall on a $5.5875MM deal, tweets Nightengale. The third baseman-turned-outfielder, who was projected to earn $5.8MM, will be a free agent following the 2018 season.
    • Trevor May has a $650K agreement with the Twins for the 2018 season, according to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. May, who missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery (and did some writing for MLBTR during his rehab process), had been projected at $600K. The Twins also agreed to a $1MM deal with infielder Ehire Adrianza, per La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. Meanwhile, righty Ryan Pressly has agreed to a $1.6MM deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Both deals are identical matches with their projections. Adrianza has three years of team control remaining, while Pressly has two. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that outfielder Robbie Grossman settled at $2MM, leaving him $400K shy of his projection. Grossman is controlled for another three seasons.
    • Tigers third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos will earn $6.05MM, per Heyman (via Twitter). He had projected at a much heftier $7.6MM in his second-to-last season of arb eligibility. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports (Twitter links) that the Tigers and right-handed reliever Alex Wilson settled at $1.925MM, while fellow righty Shane Greene will earn $1.95MM. Wilson was projected to earn $2.1MM, while Greene was at $1.7MM. Wilson is controlled through 2019, while Greene is under control through 2020.

    American League East

    • The Yankees have knocked out some of their biggest arb cases, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter links). Shortstop Didi Gregorius receives $8.25MM and righty Sonny Gray checks in at $6.5MM. The former had projected to earn $9.0MM while the algorithm was just $100K high on the latter.Backstop Austin Romine will earn $1.1MM, Heyman also tweets, which is also $100K below the projection. Righty Adam Warren and the Yankees have a $3.315MM deal, per Murray (Twitter link). This is Warren’s final season of eligibility before hitting the open market next winter. He’d been projected at $3.1MM. Meanwhile, fellow right-hander Dellin Betances has agreed to a $5.1MM deal, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). That’s just $100K more than Betances had sought last year, when he took his case to a hearing that he ultimately lost. But it’s quite a bit more than the $4.4MM he projected to receive after a subpar season in which he played at a $3MM salary.
    • The Red Sox have agreed to pay $8.5MM to southpaw Drew Pomeranz, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). That’s short of the $9.1MM that had been projected after Pomeranz turned in a productive 2017 season. Boston and Jackie Bradley Jr. settled at $6.1MM, tweets Murray. That’s a bit north of the $5.9MM at which he’d been projected for the upcoming season. Bradley Jr., a Super Two player, has another three seasons of club control remaining. Nightengale tweets that righty Joe Kelly ($3.6MM projection) agreed to a $3.825MM deal. He’ll be a free agent next winter. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez ($2.375MM salary vs. $2.7MM projection) and righty Brandon Workman ($835K salary vs. $900K projection) are two other Sox hurlers that have agreed to terms, Speier reports (Twitter links). On the position player side, catcher Sandy Leon falls a bit under his projection $1.95MM (via Speier, on Twitter) while utilityman Brock Holt just beats expectations at $2.225MM (per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, on Twitter). The team also agreed with shortstop Xander Bogaerts for $7.05MM, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston tweets, which comes in a bit shy of his $7.6MM projection. Boston also announced agreement with backstop Christian Vazquez, who’ll earn $1.425MM, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne (via Twitter). That’s just under the projection of $1.5MM.
    • The Blue Jays and righty Aaron Sanchez agreed to a $2.7MM deal for 2018, according to Nightengale (Twitter link). That crushes his $1.9MM projection, which was likely suppressed due Sanchez’s lack of innings (just 36) in 2017. He’s under Jays control through 2020. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, meanwhile, tweets that second baseman Devon Travis will make $1.45MM next year, falling a bit shy of his $1.7MM forecast. Other Toronto players agreeing to terms include Kevin Pillar ($3.25MM vs. $4.0MM projection) and Dominic Leone ($1.085MM vs. $1.2MM projection), MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets.
    • The Rays and closer Alex Colome settled at $5.3M, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (on Twitter). He’d been projected at $5.5MM and is controllable for three more years. They also settled at $5.95MM with outfielder/DH Corey Dickerson ($6.4MM projection) and $4.5MM with infielder Brad Miller ($4.4MM projection), per Murray (all Twitter links). Steven Souza, according to Murray will earn $3.55MM, placing him right in line with his $3.6MM projection. Dickerson and Miller are controlled through 2019. Souza is controlled through 2020.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Avoid Arbitration With Jake Marisnick]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112191 2018-01-12T05:20:00Z 2018-01-12T05:12:47Z
  • The Astros have settled at a $1.9MM rate with outfielder Jake Marisnick, Heyman tweets. That’s just shy of his $2.0MM projection. The 26-year-old earned $1.1MM last year as a Super Two. Marisnick turned in a stunning year at the plate, slashing .243/.319/.496 slash and launching 16 home runs in only 259 plate appearances. Of course, that limited playing time also limited his earning potential.
  • ]]>
    Matt Swartz <![CDATA[Arbitration Breakdown: George Springer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111636 2018-01-12T03:53:26Z 2018-01-12T03:53:26Z Recently, I have been discussing some of the higher-profile upcoming arbitration cases as part of MLBTR’s Arbitration Breakdown series. I rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong. Full arbitration projections for 2018 are also available.

    George Springer enters his second year of arbitration eligibility (as a Super Two player) having compiled a solid .283 average to go along with 34 home runs and 85 runs batted in in 2017. As a result, he is projected for a $5MM raise to take him up to an $8.9MM salary in 2018.

    George Springer | Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    One thing complicating Springer’s case is something that could affect a great number of cases this year—the high home run level throughout the league. This past season set a league record with 6,105 total home runs, which represented a 26 percent increase over the league average from the previous five seasons. As such, when examining players with similar totals over that five-year span, there’s no way of knowing whether an arbitration panel (or teams and agents that are negotiating in the shadow of what an arbitration panel would say) would treat home runs from Springer the same as they would in an environment when home runs were less prolific.

    My model does not adjust for league run environment in this way; rather, the data has shown that run environment has not historically been a significant component in the arbitration process. Hitters in high-scoring years benefit from being compared to hitters in lower-scoring years, and pitchers in low-scoring years benefit from being compared to pitchers in high-scoring years. Springer could potentially be treated by a panel (or negotiated with in the shadow of what such a panel would say) as someone who hit closer to 26 home runs than someone with 34. But even still, his list of comparables shows solid earning potential.

    There have only been a couple players entering their second year of eligibility with averages north of .275 and at least 25 home runs in the past five years, and both are from last year. Manny Machado got a $6.5MM raise after hitting .294 with 37 homers and 96 RBIs. Charlie Blackmon got a $3.8MM raise after hitting .324 with 29 home runs and knocking in 82 runs.

    Machado is a more obvious ceiling because his numbers are not inflated by Coors Field, and he hit substantially more home runs than Blackmon in 2016. Blackmon might serve as a floor in Springer’s case due to the fact that he hit fewer balls into the seats, despite playing in Coors. However, his high batting average could make him more favorable at the same time. In the end, I think Springer might be closer to Blackmon than he is to Machado.

    Few other players really show up as decent comparables, especially when limiting the field to those who did not sign multi-year deals. Looking to a statistical comparable that did sign a multi-year deal, J.D. Martinez signed a two-year contract covering 2016-17 which included a $3MM raise in the first year of the pact. It also was preceded by an exchange of figures in which Martinez asked for a $4.25MM raise, while the Tigers countered with an offer of a $2.25MM raise. Considering Martinez’s .282, 38 homers and 102 RBIs in the platform season for that two-year deal, this could suggest a lower number for Springer.

    I am guessing Springer ends up closer to a $4MM raise than $5MM based on the cases of Blackmon and Martinez. But with little comparability and the uncertainty of how a panel will consider the relevance of Coors Field or Martinez’s multi-year deal, Springer may be able to land closer to that $5MM raise. This would still be south of Machado’s $6.5MM raise but would safely beat the other two players.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yu Darvish Choosing Among Six Teams]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112159 2018-01-11T06:12:59Z 2018-01-11T05:34:03Z Yu Darvish is widely considered to be the top starting pitcher available in free agency, and while his market — like the market of nearly every other top free agent this winter — has been slow to progress, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Darvish has whittled the decision down to a handful of teams: the Rangers, Cubs, Astros, Twins and Yankees. Darvish himself has hardly been shy about stirring the pot on social media this winter, though, and he created an additional layer of intrigue tonight when he responded to the report by tweeting: “I know one more team is in.” The Dodgers may very well be the sixth team to which Darvish alluded, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times tweeted tonight that Los Angeles “remains in the mix” to bring Darvish back to L.A.

    In his column, Wilson once again cautions that the Rangers aren’t a prime suitor for Darvish. The right-hander, according to Wilson, would prefer to return to Arlington were all things equal, but the Rangers aren’t expected to pursue top-tier free agents, as has reportedly been the case for the entire winter. Wilson reported three months ago that Texas was aiming to trim payroll by about $10MM for the coming season, which would leave them around $155MM overall. A backloaded contract for Darvish could technically still make that goal possible, but Wilson strongly suggests that the Rangers won’t be making any moves of the “all-in” variety this winter. The Rangers’ payroll projects to check in around $144MM as things presently stand.

    Both the Yankees and Astros have been prominently linked to another high-end rotation candidate recently, as both have been said in recent weeks to be in talks for Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow earlier today shot down a report that his team had struck an agreement to acquire Cole, but both New York and Houston appear to have some level of interest more cost-effective trade candidates.

    The Yankees, of course, have been hard at work trying to bolster their 2018 roster while simultaneously remaining south of the luxury tax barrier (to great success thus far), while Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported just yesterday (subscription required and recommended) that Houston prefers to trade for a pitcher like Cole rather than shell out a massive contract to Darvish or another free-agent starter. If the Yankees can find a way to shed a significant portion of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract (which seems unlikely) or if the Astros ultimately deem all of their trade targets too expensive in terms of prospects, then perhaps on of those clubs will take a more serious look at Darvish.

    Minnesota, meanwhile, has long been reported to be one of the more aggressive teams on Darvish, who knows Twins GM Thad Levine quite well from the pair’s time with the Rangers. Of all the teams in the mix, the Twins’ payroll outlook is by far the most open (zero dollars on the books beyond the 2019 season). As for the Cubs, they’ve been tied to Darvish, Jake Arrieta and fellow righty Alex Cobb as they seek to round out their rotation and remain atop a competitive NL Central division.

    The Dodgers, like the Yankees, are facing some self-imposed financial restrictions. Both clubs are trying to reset their luxury tax penalty level, and the Dodgers look to have done so in the Adrian Gonzalez/Scott Kazmir/Brandon McCarthy/Matt Kemp trade. Bringing Darvish back into the fold would once again push them north of the tax line, L.A. is also looking for ways in which to shed Kemp’s contract. As is the case with the Yankees and Ellsbury, finding a taker for a notable portion of that deal could create additional flexibility.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Luhnow Refutes Report That Astros Have Deal For Gerrit Cole]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112073 2018-01-10T20:45:50Z 2018-01-10T20:44:53Z 2:44pm: The Astros are still engaged with the Pirates on Cole but are also still looking at alternatives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

    11:15am: Recent chatter of a possible trade that would send right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates to the Astros intensified early today, with multiple reports indicating the sides were gaining momentum. And Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter) reported that a deal was in place between the organizations that would send Cole to Houston.

    Ensuing reports, though, cast doubt and then fully refuted that agreement had been reached. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said that there was “nothing imminent” in any of the team’s trade talks, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). And Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported (Twitter links) first that the deal had not yet fully been completed and ultimately that the apparent news of an accord was simply a “false rumor.”

    All told, it seems there’s no reason at this time to believe a deal is particularly close to coming to fruition, beyond the fact that the sides have evidently engaged in serious discussion. Passan says a trade “is not happening” right now, while noting “talks could pick back up quickly.” And Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter) suggests a trade “isn’t necessarily close.” Indeed, he also hears of another suitor being involved beyond the Yankees (the organization that once seemed likely to land Cole before those talks fizzled). With the necessary proviso that the situation can always change, then, it appears we’re mostly back to the status quo ante on Cole’s trade status.

    Cole, now 27, remains a top trade candidate. He was the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. He ascended quickly to become Pittsburgh’s top pitcher, though he has not exactly been at his peak of late. In 2017, he worked to a 4.26 ERA in 203 frames. While that represented a promising return to full health after some limitations in 2016, it also was hardly the output that had come to be expected.

    In 2015, after all, Cole had fully emerged as a staff ace, turning in 208 frames of 2.60 ERA ball with 8.7 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. While his velocity and key peripherals have largely held steady, Cole was tagged for 1.37 home runs per nine — over twice the rate he had maintained previously. As Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs explains, Cole’s heater surrendered quite a bit of added pop in 2017, but there’s reason to believe he can refine his offerings to regain his standing. Cole will cost a projected $7.5MM in 2018 with one more season of arbitration control thereafter.

    For the ’Stros, we’ve seen clear indication of late that the organization wishes to boost an already-strong rotation unit that was already boosted late last year with the addition of Justin Verlander. With Dallas Keuchel, youngster Lance McCullers, and the increasingly interesting Charlie Morton already on hand, along with breakout righty Brad Peacock, it seems Houston’s interest in starters is a want moreso than a need.

    On the Bucs’ side, it’s still hard to know how things will play out this winter. Even if the team deals away Cole and other veteran trade candidates (most notably Andrew McCutchen), it may still have some designs on competing in ’18. But parting with Cole would unquestionably mean delivering a major blow to the team’s expectations for the coming season.

    More broadly, questions persist about just when and how the player market will get moving in earnest. A deal involving Cole might have given some clarity to the outlook for free agent starters, while perhaps leaving the Astros free to dedicate financial resources to other needs (most notably, the bullpen). But with this prospective swap not occurring — at least at this time — we’re left with the same overall market landscape.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros, Pirates Gaining Momentum Toward Gerrit Cole Swap]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112066 2018-01-10T17:49:55Z 2018-01-10T16:52:24Z 10:51am: A deal is “imminent,” Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets.

    10:29am: Whitley is likely to be considered “untouchable” by the ’Stros, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter), though it seems the two young outfielders could still be in play in discussions.

    10:17am: The Astros and Pirates appear to be “picking up steam” in talks involving Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Negotiations on Cole were reported recently, as Astros owner Jim Crane has made clear his organization is interested in adding a major starter.

    Cole, 27, has long been seen as a front-line power starter, though he has had some stumbles in the past two seasons. While he topped two hundred innings and threw as hard as ever in 2017, he only managed a 4.26 ERA.

    As always, contract rights are a key component of value. Cole is controllable for two more seasons via arbitration. MLBTR’s arbitration projections suggest he could earn $7.5MM for the 2018 season after a $3.75MM salary in 2017.

    It remains unclear just what kind of trade package would suffice to pry Cole free from the Bucs, who originally selected him with the first overall pick of the 2011 draft. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan has suggested (Twitter link) that Pittsburgh is holding out for a headliner such as outfielder Kyle Tucker or righty Forrest Whitley, while the ’Stros are understandably hoping to hold on to their two top-rated prospects. The sides are also said to have discussed young outfielder Derek Fisher.

    Also of note is the fact that, per Sanchez, Cole “was Houston’s top target last summer” when the organization was searching to bolster its rotation. It seems the prior interests has carried into the offseason. Of course, other organizations may also still be involved. At one point, the Yankees were said to be gaining momentum toward a deal for Cole, though that chatter evidently cooled down. Other organizations surely also have interest in the righty.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros “Actively Pursuing” High-End Starters, Have Discussed Gerrit Cole With Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111969 2018-01-10T16:12:44Z 2018-01-08T18:27:16Z 12:27pm: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Astros have had talks with the Pirates about a trade that would send Cole to Houston. Young outfielder Derek Fisher’s name has come up in negotiations, though Passan notes that the Pirates “almost certainly would need Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley” to headline the deal.

    The 24-year-old Fisher entered the 2017 season as a well-regarded outfield prospect and elevated his status with a .318/.384/.583 batting line in 384 Triple-A plate appearances. That led to Fisher’s first MLB promotion, though he struggled to a .212/.307/.356 slash in a small sample of 166 PAs with Houston.

    Tucker and Whitley, by most accounts, two of the top prospects in Houston’s system (if not the two very best). Each is a former first-round pick, with Tucker going fifth overall in 2015 and Whitley being tabbed with the 17th selection in the 2016 draft. Both reached Double-A in 2017 despite being four to five years younger than the league average in the Texas League. Whitley displayed some of the most intriguing strikeout numbers of any starter in the minors, while Tucker posted a composite .874 OPS between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.

    11:25am: The Astros have been connected to Yu Darvish at various points throughout the offseason, and owner Jim Crane confirmed to reporters today that his club is in the market for a top-shelf pitching addition (Twitter links, with video, from MLB.com’s Alyson Footer). Crane didn’t suggest that his front office is zeroed in on one particular target, instead suggesting that an upgrade could come either via free agency or trade.

    “[General manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and his team are actively pursuing a high-end starter,” said Crane. “We don’t have anything done yet, and it may not come to be, but we’re constantly looking to improve the team. … We’re always trying to upgrade the team, so it would have to be a significant upgrade. We’re happy where we’re at. I’ve been told that on paper we have the best team in baseball, but paper doesn’t win titles.”

    Darvish has been the most prominently mentioned name in connection with the Astros, though the free-agent market also features Jake Arrieta while the trade market could bear names such as Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer (among other, potentially yet unforeseen candidates).

    Houston, of course, already boasts a stacked starting rotation. Justin Verlander looked arguably better than ever following an Aug. 31 trade from Detroit to Houston, and he’ll return to front a rotation that includes 2015 AL Cy Young Winner Dallas Keuchel, high-upside young righty Lance McCullers, and 2017 breakout stars Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. The ’Stros also have veteran Collin McHugh on hand as a solid back-of-the-rotation option and a number of high-end prospects waiting in the upper minors (including Francis Martes and David Paulino, each of whom has already made his MLB debut).

    However, the Astros could also be on the verge of losing Keuchel and Morton to free agency, as each has just one year of team control remaining. While the development of Martes and/or Paulino could lead to the emergence of some internal replacements, Houston could very well see Verlander depart after the 2019 season. As such, adding a top-end starter right now would not only give the Astros an even more formidable collection of starters, it’d also serve as insurance against the possibility of losing arguably their top three starters over the course of the next two years (although Cole, it should be noted, only comes with two years of team control himself).

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Still Considering Move For Closer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111801 2018-01-06T07:31:58Z 2018-01-06T04:23:21Z
  • Heyman also checks in on the closer market. The Astros, he notes, remain interested in adding a high-end, late-inning arm. It’s not entirely clear if they are a realistic suitor for Greg Holland, but in theory he’d be an option. Holland is said to have set out in search of five years in free agency. That never really seemed likely, as he’s 32 years of age and had at least a few late-season stumbles in his first campaign back from Tommy John surgery. Of course, Holland is still expected to secure a significant contract, though a three-year arrangement may be likeliest at this point.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Remain In Darvish Mix]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111598 2018-01-04T02:12:33Z 2018-01-04T02:12:33Z
  • The Twins are “still trying to match schedules” to schedule a sit-down with free agent Yu Darvish, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). That’s somewhat odd to read at this stage of the winter; Darvish has already met with other teams, Minnesota has long labeled him a “priority,” and spring camp is just six weeks away. Nevertheless, at this point it seems little has changed in the situation: the Twins are still interested in the top-flight righty, though it’s difficult to determine a favorite in the Darvish sweepstakes. To that end, it’s worth noting that Jim Bowden of The Athletic wrote today that Minnesota “appears … prepared to offer a market deal” for Darvish (though it stands to reason that an in-person meeting would precede such an offer). Bowden also notes that the Astros are still in the Darvish mix, in part due to concerns over their ability to sign Dallas Keuchel long term, and he cites multiple sources in reporting that the Rangers are still alive in the bidding for Darvish as well.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Could Astros Still Add Left Fielder, Starting Pitcher?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111320 2017-12-29T00:12:31Z 2017-12-29T00:12:31Z
  • The signings of Joe Smith and Hector Rondon may end up being the Astros’ biggest moves of the offseason, though MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart feels the team could still add another starter or a left field candidate.  It isn’t out of the question that Houston makes a big play for Archer or the Marlins’ Christian Yelich, especially if the team could do so without moving either of Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley, McTaggart feels.
  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Astros, Machado, Hamilton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111242 2017-12-28T00:35:27Z 2017-12-27T22:28:44Z In a dramatic and suspenseful article, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic chronicles the recent harrowing life-or-death race to get Astros first base coach Rich Dauer to Houston Methodist Hospital. On the day of the Astros’ championship parade, Dauer was present at the official ceremony to honor the team. He began to stagger as if drunk, and stepped to the back of the stage. From there, a panicked attempt to get Dauer to the hospital amidst a crowd of millions of people unfolded behind the scenes. The piece is incredibly well-written, and thankfully has a happy ending. It’s definitely worth a full read.

    More from around MLB as we approach the end of December…

    • Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun wonders if this offseason’s drama surrounding Orioles star Manny Machado could have been avoided. Meoli takes a look at the chances the Orioles had to explore trades or a contract extension with their prized third baseman, but he ultimately comes to the conclusion that there was never a reason to trade him until now. It also seems as though by the time Machado was a safe fixture in the O’s lineup, his value was sky-high, and he was close enough to free agency that an extension didn’t make sense for him (or his agent). While it remains to be seen whether Baltimore will actually end up dealing Machado, Meoli’s piece sheds some light on a tough set of circumstances for the Orioles.
    • The Giants and Reds have remained active in talks about a trade that would send Billy Hamilton to San Francisco, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The Reds have reportedly shown interest in Heliot Ramos, who is largely considered to be the Giants’ best prospect (he credits The Athletic with first report of this news). Hamilton, of course, is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game, and also creates a lot of runs with his speed alone. His career .298 on-base percentage is widely regarded as his achilles heel, but he could still provide plenty of value as an elite center fielder in AT&T Park’s spacious outfield. A couple months back, I wrote about the trade market for Hamilton, noting that the Giants were the best match for his services.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Update On Brady Rodgers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111147 2017-12-25T05:48:44Z 2017-12-25T05:48:44Z
  • After undergoing Tommy John surgery last May, Brady Rodgers hopes to be finished with his rehab by June, the Astros right-hander tells Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle.  A third-rounder in the 2012 draft, Rodgers made his MLB debut in 2016, tossing 8 1/3 innings for the Astros.  He owns a 3.98 ERA, 4.56 K/BB rate and 7.4 K/9 over 575 career frames in the minors, with particularly strong results coming in the last two years at the Triple-A level.  Once recovered, Rodgers will provide more upper minors depth for the Houston rotation.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros, Rangers Reportedly Set To Meet With Yu Darvish]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=110716 2017-12-24T17:48:37Z 2017-12-24T17:48:04Z DEC. 24: The Rangers remain in contact with Wolfe, writes Wilson, who adds that Darvish hasn’t ruled out a reunion with the club. However, it’s up in the air whether Rangers ownership would pay the necessary amount to bring back Darvish, Wilson suggests.

    DEC. 19, 10:35pm: Wilson reports that Darvish and Daniels are planning to have dinner this week, but Darvish’s agents will not be in attendance and the two do not plan to discuss business. The two are simply having dinner, per Wilson, adding that Daniels has continually maintained the stance that Texas will not play at the top of the free-agent market. The dinner was actually planned for November but was pushed back to this point. Darvish himself confirmed as much by quote-tweeting Wilson and adding the comment, “Tomorrow night!”

    Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports the same sentiment, noting that Daniels and Darvish never had much of a chance to have a conversation when Darvish was traded to the Dodgers. Grant likens the meeting to an “exit interview” and emphasizes that Darvish’s lead agent, Joel Wolfe, will not be present.

    All of that said, it’s still a bit of an eyebrow-raiser to see Daniels, whose rotation is rife with uncertainty, meet with the top free-agent pitcher on the market under the guise that no business will be discussed.

    6:41pm: Darvish is set to meet with the Rangers after he sits down with the Astros, a club source tells Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link). That seemingly runs counter to what GM Jon Daniels told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram earlier today, as Wilson tweeted that Daniels said there was no meeting planned with Darvish at that point.

    Obviously, the Rangers are more familiar with Darvish than any other club, and there’s certainly a need in their rotation. Texas has added Mike Minor as a potential starting option this winter and has also swung a trade for Matt Moore and signed Doug Fister. Still, there’s room for improvement among a shaky group of Texas starters.

    What remains to be seen, though, is exactly how much payroll capacity the Rangers have remaining. Texas is reportedly aiming for its 2018 payroll to come in around the $155MM mark, and signing Darvish would almost certainly take them beyond that point, barring a heavily backloaded deal.

    The Rangers could see a substantial amount of cash come off the books after the 2018 season, depending on Cole Hamels’ option and Elvis Andrus’ opt-out provision, but a long-term Darvish deal would likely mean boosting their commitments for 2020 season north of $85MM. Certainly, finding a taker for Shin-Soo Choo’s albatross contract would alleviate some of that crunch, though that’s a daunting proposition for the Texas front office.

    5:00pm: One day after Yu Darvish reportedly met face-to-face with the Cubs, he’s sitting down for a similar meeting with the Astros, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Houston joins the Cubs and Twins as teams that have now been prominently linked to Darvish, who topped MLBTR’s free agent rankings at the beginning of the offseason. The Rangers, Heyman writes, are “monitoring” the Darvish market.

    The Astros, of course, got an up-close look at Darvish for years when he fronted the division-rival Rangers’ rotation and when they clobbered him in a pair of World Series starts. Though that rough pair of outings was obviously a sour note upon which to end an otherwise solid season, the tiny sample of two starts against a powerhouse offense isn’t likely to alter his perception much among big league teams. (Notably, one unnamed Astros player revealed to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci that Darvish was tipping his pitches in both World Series outings.)

    Houston isn’t exactly in dire need of a rotation upgrade, as their current group of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock is already strong. Houston also still has Collin McHugh as an option for the back end of the rotation as well as a number of upper-level prospects (e.g. Francis Martes, David Paulino) that could eventually emerge as rotation options.

    That said, adding Darvish to a rotation that already includes Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers and Morton would make for a potent starting five. Peacock thrived in a multi-inning relief role on multiple occasions in 2017 and could function in a similar capacity in 2018, should the ’Stros ultimately elect to add a significant arm to their rotation. Picking up Darvish could also bode well for the club in the long term, as both Keuchel and Morton are set to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

    From a pure payroll standpoint, Houston can certainly absorb a significant multi-year deal. The Astros do have just shy of $150MM committed to the 2017 payroll (including projected arbitration salaries), but that number plummets to $56MM on the books for 2019 when Keuchel, Morton, Evan Gattis, Tony Sipp and Marwin Gonzalez are all eligible for free agency.

    [Related: Houston Astros depth chart and payroll outlook]

    The ’Stros will no doubt look to lock up Jose Altuve beyond the 2019 campaign, when their control over the 2017 AL MVP runs out, though, and they probably want to keep George Springer around beyond 2020 as well. Those will be considerations when deciding whether to offer a long-term deal to any high-priced free agent, though it’s worth pointing out that Houston only has $21.5MM committed to the 2020 roster at present and does not have a single guaranteed contract for the 2021 season on its current books.