MLB Trade Rumors » » Houston Astros 2017-12-17T15:10:42Z Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Interested In Chris Archer]]> 2017-12-17T01:21:29Z 2017-12-17T01:18:02Z The Astros and Phillies have interest in Rays right-hander Chris Archer, joining a slew of previously reported clubs, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays clearly wouldn’t have any trouble finding a taker for Archer, thanks to his track record, age (29) and team-friendly contract (four years, $34MM). Teammate and face of the franchise Evan Longoria, the Rays’ longtime third baseman, is three years older than Archer and costs far more (a guaranteed $86MM over a half-decade). But that doesn’t seem to be a prohibitive price tag, as the three-time All-Star is drawing some interest from the division-rival Yankees as well as the Giants, Mets and previously reported Cardinals, according to Topkin.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Designate Preston Tucker]]> 2017-12-15T20:55:24Z 2017-12-15T20:45:23Z The Astros have designated outfielder Preston Tucker for assignment, per a club announcement. His roster spot will go to just-signed reliever Hector Rondon.

Tucker, a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft, has generally posted strong numbers during his rise through the Houston system. He reached the majors in 2015, hitting for enough power (including 13 home runs in 323 plate appearances) to produce at just over the league-average rate despite carrying only a .297 on-base percentage. But Tucker struggled badly in the following season and has not been back to the big leagues since.

In 2017, playing exclusively at Triple-A, Tucker posted a .250/.333/.465 batting line with 24 home runs over 569 plate appearances. On the promising side, he boosted his walk rate to a career-best 11.4% and struck out just 17.9% of the time. But his overall output was not much better than the mean in the hitter-friendly PCL. Tucker’s .263 batting average on balls in play no doubt had an impact, though he has typically generated a low BABIP.

All told, it seems reasonable to expect that another organization will be glad to risk a 40-man spot on Tucker, who has one more option year remaining. His younger brother, Kyle Tucker, remains in the Astros system and is considered one of the team’s top prospects.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Sign Hector Rondon]]> 2017-12-16T04:07:50Z 2017-12-15T20:11:06Z The Astros have inked free-agent righty Hector Rondon to a two-year, $8.5MM pact. Rondon, an Octagon client, was non-tendered by the Cubs earlier this month. Now, he’s lined up for successive $4MM and $4.5MM salaries in Houston, where he’ll represent an arm with closing experience to help fortify the back of the bullpen.

Hector Rondon | Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Rondon, 30 in February, saved 77 games with a 2.44 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 with the Cubs fro 2014-16. He initially lost the closer’s role in Chicago through little fault of his own, as he was bumped from that spot when Chicago acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees prior to the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline.

The 2017 season was Rondon’s worst since the 2013 campaign (when he was a Rule 5 pick out of the Indians organization), as he turned in a 4.24 ERA with a 3.1 BB/9 mark — both his highest levels since that rookie season. However, Rondon also logged a career-high 10.8 K/9 and 29.1 percent overall strikeout rate in 2017 while maintaining excellent fastball velocity (average of 96.4 mph) and an above-average ground-ball rate (48.3 percent).

Like many pitchers throughout the league, Rondon has become increasingly susceptible to home runs across the past two seasons, averaging 1.5 HR/9 despite being extremely stingy in that regard throughout the first three seasons of his career. His increased vulnerability to the long ball obviously made the uptick in walks this past season all the more damning, though metrics like xFIP (3.43) and SIERA (3.20) remained generally bullish on his abilities.

Houston has already reportedly added to its supply of late-inning arms by striking a deal for sidearm righty Joe Smith, and Rondon will give them another option to pair with the likes of Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris in the late innings. Giles, who served as the team’s closer throughout the season, struggled in the playoffs, though the addition of Rondon wouldn’t seem to supplant him from that ninth-inning role. If Giles’ struggles carry over into the 2018 campaign, though, Rondon would certainly be a plausible alternative for manager A.J. Hinch to get the final few outs of a game, given his extensive experience in Chicago.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the signing on Twitter. Rosenthal (in a tweet), SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter), and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter) had contract details.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Sign Joe Smith]]> 2017-12-14T22:36:57Z 2017-12-14T22:36:53Z 4:36pm: Smith will earn $7MM in 2018 and $8MM in 2019, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.

6:20am: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the two-year deal actually guarantees Smith $15MM.

THURSDAY, 2:32am: Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports that Smith will be paid $14MM over his two-year pact (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY, 8:18pm: Smith passed a physical in Houston on Wednesday, Kaplan tweets, and the team has announced the agreement. Financial details aren’t yet available.

5:13pm: The Astros have agreed to a deal with free agent reliever Joe Smith, pending a physical, Brian McTaggart of tweets. It’s a two-year pact, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Smith is a client of Excel Sports Management.

Joe Smith

Houston will be the sixth team for the 33-year-old Smith, who has served as a more-than-capable reliever since making his major league debut in 2007. The sidearming, soft-tossing right-hander has racked up a combined 624 2/3 innings of 2.97 ERA pitching and posted a 55.7 percent groundball rate with the Mets, Indians, Angels, Cubs and Blue Jays.

While Smith’s success has come in spite of modest strikeout and walk rates (7.88 K/9, 3.17 BB/9), he found another gear in both departments last season. Across 54 innings divided between Toronto and Cleveland, Smith logged 11.83 K/9 against 1.67 BB/9 and recorded an 11.4 percent swinging-strike rate – a vast improvement over his lifetime mark of 8.4. He joins Bryan Shaw, now with the Rockies, as the second proven reliever to depart the Indians via free agency this winter.

While the World Series-contending Indians have seen their bullpen weaken since last season ended, Smith should step in with aplomb for Luke Gregerson, who left the reigning champion Astros for the Cardinals. Along with Smith, Houston has a host of other quality pieces in the fold in Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Joe Musgrove and, if he doesn’t start, Brad Peacock, with Michael Feliz and James Hoyt also in the mix.

All of those hurlers are righties, which could lead the Astros to reel in a southpaw at some point this winter, though their relievers did limit lefty-swingers to a .231/.306/.395 line last season. Smith, meanwhile, has typically been effective against lefties, having held them to a .242/.336/.369 mark during his career.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Interested In Carlos Gonzalez]]> 2017-12-14T01:46:20Z 2017-12-14T01:46:20Z
  • In addition to a host of other teams, the Astros have some interest in outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, according to Heyman (Twitter links). The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have checked in not only on Gonzalez but also fellow free agent oufielder Carlos Gomez.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pitching Market Chatter: Phils, Yanks, Greinke, Cole, Archer, Duffy, CC, Jays]]> 2017-12-14T00:51:51Z 2017-12-14T00:51:51Z With a pair of relief signings being wrapped up, the Phillies seem to feel good about that aspect of their roster. Per’s Todd Zolecki, via Twitter, the team will turn its gaze to improving the rotation. Both they and the Yankees checked in with the Diamondbacks regarding right-hander Zack Greinke, Robert Murray of FanRag writes. Greinke ending up with either club is unlikely, however, sources informed Murray. With the Rangers also having shown interest in Greinke, we now know at least three teams have inquired about the expensive 34-year-old this offseason.

    Greinke is the latest hurler to land on the radar of the Yankees, who have also eyed Pirates righty Gerrit Cole. Consequently, the Bucs “are gathering names of young, controllable” Yankees they could acquire in a Cole deal, though there’s “nothing close,” Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (on Twitter). Notably, Brink adds that the Yankees are also “looking at” Rays righty Chris Archer. The 29-year-old has drawn significant interest this winter, but it’s unclear whether the Rays will move him.

    Plenty more pitching rumors…

    • The Royals are giving serious consideration to dealing southpaw Danny Duffy, who’s “extremely popular” on the trade market, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. Duffy suggested on Twitter that he doesn’t want to go anywhere, for what it’s worth. “Bury me a Royal,” he declared.
    • As the Blue Jays look for pitching reinforcements, they are giving real consideration to veteran CC Sabathia, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of writes. Though manager John Gibbons suggested his own priority is to add bats, he also said he’d welcome the addition of the veteran Sabathia — who has a lengthy history with the Jays’ current front office leadership stemming from their time in Cleveland together.
    • Teams have given up on trying to acquire Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, Heyman reports on Twitter. The Reds understandably want an enormous haul back for the 27-year-old star, who’s under affordable control for the foreseeable future.
    • The Twins and Rays have chatted about veteran righty Jake Odorizzi, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter), who adds that Tampa Bay was not interested in Minnesota’s initial offer.
    • Although they’re at the beginning of a full, cost-cutting rebuild, the Marlins aren’t feeling any urgency to deal righty Dan Straily, per Joe Frisaro of (Twitter link). Miami’s de facto ace will play his first of three arbitration-eligible seasons in 2018. He’s projected to earn a $4.6MM salary, which even the Marlins can afford.
    • The Mets are not likely to sign another free agent reliever, at least in the near term, according to GM Sandy Alderson and as’s Anthony DiComo tweets. Instead, after landing Anthony Swarzak, the organization expects to begin looking to fill its other needs.
    • Brewers GM David Stearns discussed his organization’s situation with reporters including’s Adam McCalvy (Twitter links). He said the team was willing to go to two years to get Swarzak, but wasn’t willing to match the dollar amount he ultimately took. The club still has open payroll capacity, which Stearns says he’ll put to good use. “We have spending power this offseason,” he said. “I’m confident we are going to find places to use that effectively.”
    • Before the Astros agreed to a deal with Joe Smith on Wednesday, Brian McTaggart of hinted on Twitter that the team could have interest in free agent righty Hector Rondon. Whether that still stands remains to be seen, but the Astros are already chock-full of righty relievers as it is.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pitching Rumblings: Twins, Darvish, Cishek, Cole, Mariners, Liriano, Watson]]> 2017-12-13T22:14:17Z 2017-12-13T19:21:28Z While the market for starters is still fairly slow to develop, relievers have been flying off the board at the Winter Meetings. Here’s the latest chatter on some hurlers from around the game:

    • The Twins are sending signals that they’re serious about their pursuit of free agent righty Yu Darvish. As LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune writes, skipper Paul Molitor says the organization has “targeted [Darvish] as somebody we have tremendous interest in.” That follows prior public indications of interest from GM Thad Levine, who, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press examines, has a longstanding relationship with Darvish. That piece is well worth a full read, if only for Berardino’s enjoyable chat with catcher Chris Gimenez, who worked closely with Darvish with the Rangers and has played most recently with the Twins.
    • Meanwhile, the Twins are also among the teams looking into righty Steve Cishek, according to Berardino (via Twitter). The sidearmer has been left as one of the top remaining free-agent setup men after a spate of signings at the Winter Meetings. He finished the 2017 season on a strong run with the Rays.
    • The Orioles have at least checked in on Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Certainly, Baltimore isn’t the only organization that would love to add Cole, whose name has arisen in chatter a few times in recent days. Whether the Bucs are really ready to deal him isn’t entirely clear; neither is it certain just what the club would seek in return. Yesterday, though, Buster Olney of gave perhaps the clearest indication yet that Pittsburgh may be prepared to strike an agreement, tweeting that there’s a belief from some around the game that Pittsburgh would pull the trigger if the right deal came across its desk.
    • Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto says his team is in the “red zone” on a deal, likely for a reliever, in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio tweets that Juan Nicasio is a “strongly rumored possibility,” though clearly that’s not a firm connection at this point. And it’s certainly worth noting that the M’s have, in fact, struck agreement on a trade since Dipoto went on the air — though it’s not clear whether the minor acquisition was the one he was referring to. Perhaps Dipoto was giving a nod to that swap, but it’s also possible there’s a more significant move still in store. Regardless, the M’s are clearly focused on pitching, as Dipoto has made clear and TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports.
    • The Astros are weighing a reunion with lefty Francisco Liriano, according to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Long a starter, the 34-year-old was added by the ’Stros at the 2017 trade deadline and moved into a relief role. He did not exactly thrive in that job initially, allowing seven earned runs and posting an ugly 11:10 K/BB ratio in his 14 1/3 frames over twenty appearances. Liriano will presumably also draw some looks from organizations that would propose to give him a shot at rediscovering his form as a starter.
    • Another lefty, Tony Watson, is a possible target for the Athletics, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 32-year-old has plenty of late-inning experience and finished strong after a mid-season swap to the Dodgers. In twenty innings with L.A., Watson posted a 2.70 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Carlos Gonzalez]]> 2017-12-12T20:52:51Z 2017-12-12T20:47:22Z 2:47pm: Other clubs with some level of interest include the Astros, Orioles, and Rockies, per’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Colorado GM Jeff Bridich has previously indicated a desire to “continue conversations” with CarGo, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post tweeted yesterday, though he did not commit to anything beyond that.

    12:46pm: Though Carlos Gonzalez hasn’t drawn a huge amount of headlines coming off a down season in the final campaign of his seven-year deal with the Rockies, he’s generating a fair bit of interest from clubs looking to take a flyer on the former MVP candidate, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Gonzalez is likely to sign a short-term deal to rebuild his value, and Crasnick notes that the A’s, Blue Jays, Rays, Giants and Royals are among the clubs that are “believed” to be keeping tabs on him.

    Gonzalez, 32, struggled to a ghastly .221/.299/.338 slash in the season’s first half before erupting with a .314/.390/.531 slash, 21 doubles and eight homers in the second half. That surge was fueled largely by a mammoth spike in CarGo’s BABIP (.390 following the All-Star break). While that level isn’t sustainable over a full season, the fact that Gonzalez’s hard-contact rate spiked by nearly eight percent from the first half to the second half suggests that there was more than mere good fortune at play in his late rebound.

    Defensively, Gonzalez hasn’t graded out as an elite right fielder by any means in recent years, but he’s been a bit above average per Defensive Runs Saved and a bit below average in the estimation of Ultimate Zone Rating. Statcast rated him one out above average in the outfield this past season.

    Of the teams listed, the A’s are a bit of a surprise, given their desire to add a controllable right-handed-hitting corner bat. However, they do have outfield space to spare, and Gonzalez could be a nice value play for them on a short-term deal. From a hitter’s standpoint, the Coliseum isn’t necessarily a great place to go try to put up big numbers, though Gonzalez is plenty familiar with the setting from his days in Oakland early in his career.

    The Rays are an even more curious fit given their payroll crunch, though if the team sheds a significant amount of salary and looks to rebuild, they could reallocate some resources to a one-year pact for Gonzalez with the intent to flip him at the nonwaiver deadline. It’s a similar story in Kansas City, where they have space in the outfield but are reportedly on the path to a rebuild.

    The Jays have been eyeing left-handed bats and some outfield help, so there’s certainly a reasonable match there. San Francisco, of course, just missed out on Giancarlo Stanton and will be looking to bolster its offense in other manners now. Depending on the price point at which Gonzalez and agent Scott Boras ultimately settle, other teams could well jump into the mix and hope to sign the Gonzalez that hit 65 homers from 2015-16 as opposed to the one that struggled in 2017 and 2014.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Marwin Gonzalez Hires Scott Boras]]> 2017-12-12T03:33:12Z 2017-12-12T03:33:12Z Astros utilityman Marwin Gonzalez has switched representation and is now a client of Scott Boras, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports (on Twitter). Gonzalez’s hiring of Boras comes on the heels of teammate Dallas Keuchel’s decision to join up with baseball’s most famous agent. Both players are scheduled to hit free agency next offseason.

    The 28-year-old Gonzalez, a standout with last season’s World Series winners, took an indirect route to prominence. The Venezuelan signed with the Cubs in 2005 and later had an extremely brief stint with the Red Sox, who selected him in the 2011 Rule 5 draft before trading him to the Astros that day. Gonzalez debuted in Houston in 2012 and struggled over his first two major league seasons, batting a miserable .227/.266/.323 in 441 plate appearances as part of a pair of 50-some-win teams.

    The rebuilding Astros began making real progress in the win-loss column during a 70-victory 2013 season, when Gonzalez started showing he could be a legitimate contributor. Since then, the switch-hitter has slashed a solid .271/.321/.432 in 1,935 plate appearances, including an excellent .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs in 515 PAs last season. Gonzalez has added to his value by logging between 78 and 252 appearances at second base, left field (his spot during the Astros’ title run), third base, first base and shortstop.

    Both the Astros and Gonzalez and will try to replicate their 2017 success next season, though there’s some skepticism about the latter’s chances. Good fortune on batted balls was a key factor in Gonzalez’s impressive offensive outburst, as Statcast indicates his actual weighted on-base average (.387) far surpassed his expected wOBA (.320). Gonzalez’s lifetime wOBA happens to be .320, and returning to that level next season certainly wouldn’t be an ideal outcome in a contract year. The Astros could attempt to extend Gonzalez before then, but for now, he’s slated to make a reasonable $5.125MM in 2018.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Had Interest In Giancarlo Stanton]]> 2017-12-12T02:41:58Z 2017-12-12T02:35:29Z
  • The reigning World Series champion Astros at least made an effort to acquire 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). The two sides never came close to a deal before the Yankees landed Stanton, however, Heyman adds. Notably, the Astros were one of four teams to whom Stanton would’ve accepted a trade. He also would’ve added another terrifying force to an all-world lineup headed by AL MVP Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Considering Pursuit Of Top Starters]]> 2017-12-11T18:31:16Z 2017-12-11T17:43:19Z As the Astros prepare for a World Series title defense, they are at least weighing the possibility of adding a significant rotation piece, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link). Per the report, the club has “shown interest” in top free agents Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. Possible trade targets such as Chris Archer could also be considered.

    At this stage, it seems, that interest is mostly exploratory in nature. That’s not to diminish the importance of the report, though: the involvement of the ’Stros at the top of the rotation market could certainly have a significant bearing on how things shake out.

    Though Houston’s payroll has continued to climb northward in recent years, the team’s successes have perhaps freed up some additional financial flexibility. Rosenthal also notes that the organization could find a taker for Collin McHugh — who’s projected to earn $4.8MM by MLBTR — should they make a big strike in the rotation.

    On the one hand, this news hardly rates as a surprise. While the ’Stros staff has plenty of talent, particularly with Justin Verlander now on hand, it also comes with some questions. Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton have had some health concerns at times and Brad Peacock will need to prove his 2017 breakout is sustainable. Plus, with Dallas Keuchel slated for free agency next winter, there’s room to consider a long-term addition.

    On the other, this is a bit of an interesting development. The unfortunate incident involving Yulieski Gurriel mocking Darvish during the World Series is one factor with regard to that particular possibility, though both players’ responses in the aftermath suggest it’s not an insurmountable barrier. Of greater importance, perhaps, is the fact that the Astros were so careful even when deciding to add Verlander out of concern for over-burdening their future payroll. Darvish and Arrieta are each already 31 years of age.

    Then there’s the fact that the bullpen remains the obvious area to target. What’s most interesting about this report may be the possibility that the Astros would consider a major rotation upgrade to be a means of answering needs on the relief side — at least in part. With top youngsters such as Francis Martes and David Paulino climbing the ladder, there are plenty of avenues for creativity. Adding another quality starter would leave the organization with significant depth and flexibility to keep arms fresh through the season and, perhaps, enter a hypothetical postseason run with loads of interesting possibilities for handling a staff.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 12/11/17]]> 2017-12-11T16:56:17Z 2017-12-11T16:56:17Z We’ll use this post to track the day’s minor signings:

    • The Astros have signed catcher Tim Federowicz to a minors pact, the club announced (per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, on Twitter). Righty Matt Ramsey is also on board with a minor-league deal. Federowicz, 30, could join the competition for a reserve role in Houston if the club does not make a bigger strike for a backstop to pair with Evan Gattis. He has taken 318 total MLB plate appearances over parts of six seasons, slashing just .196/.245/.313 in sporadic action. As things stand, the depth chart projects Max Stassi as the primary reserve. As for Ramsey, the 28-year-old finished the 2017 season with a 3.65 ERA and 11.8 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 in 44 1/3 Double-A frames, but was knocked around in brief action at the highest level of the minors.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Hires Scott Boras]]> 2017-12-10T22:24:55Z 2017-12-10T22:24:33Z Set to enter his final year of team control in 2018, Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel has switched representation and is now a Scott Boras client, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports (Twitter link).

    Keuchel is projected to earn $12.6MM via arbitration next year, which could be his last season with the organization that used a seventh-round pick on him in 2009. Now 29, Keuchel blossomed into one of the game’s premier starters in 2014 and went on to earn the American League Cy Young Award the next season. Keuchel was a 200-plus-inning workhorse in each of those two seasons, but injuries limited him to a combined 313 2/3 frames from 2016-17.

    While Keuchel struggled in 2016, he returned to his front-line ways last season (albeit over just 145 2/3 innings), with a 2.90 ERA, 7.72 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a major league-best 66.8 percent groundball rate. Keuchel’s regular-season output helped the Astros rack up 101 wins and roll to an AL West title, and he was also an instrumental member of the team’s first-ever championship-winning run in October. Keuchel was at his best in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, firing seven scoreless, 10-strikeout innings in a win over the Yankees, whom the Astros ultimately defeated in seven games.

    In the midst of the Astros-Yankees series, Keuchel said that his hope is to remain in Houston for the long haul. It’s unclear whether there has been progress toward that goal, though, and it’s obvious that the Astros are going to have to fork over a significant contract in the coming year if they’re serious about extending Keuchel before he reaches the market next winter. As of now, Boras’ newest high-profile client is on track to be a key part of a class that could feature a slew of other stars, including fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Wearing Walking Boot After Ankle Sprain]]> 2017-12-05T06:38:41Z 2017-12-05T05:31:41Z
  • Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel is currently sporting a walking boot after suffering a foot sprain,’s Brian McTaggart writes. Keuchel told TMZ Sports that he was banged up in the team’s World Series parade. Fortunately, the expectation at the moment is that the injury won’t prove to be much of a hindrance to Keuchel as he begins to prepare for the 2018 campaign.
  • In other coaching news, the Mariners announced that Brian DeLunas has been hired as the team’s bullpen coach. Per the club, DeLunas has most recently worked for private entities CSE Baseball and Premier Pitching and Performance (P3) and previously served as a pitching coach at a variety of levels, including at the University of Missouri. Meanwhile, the Athletics have added Al Pedrique as the club’s new first base coach while shifting Mike Aldrete to assistant hitting coach and Marcus Jensen to bullpen coach. Pedrique, a former big leaguer, was most recently the manager for the Yankees’ top affiliate and has previously coached in the majors for the Diamondbacks and Astros.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Jeff Luhnow On Astros' Bullpen]]> 2017-12-03T04:20:55Z 2017-12-03T04:20:55Z
  • With the unreliable Tony Sipp representing their only established left-handed reliever, there’s an argument that the Astros could stand to add another southpaw to their bullpen. But, as he looks to improve the reigning champions’ relief corps, general manager Jeff Luhnow isn’t discriminating based on handedness (Twitter links via Brian McTaggart of “It’s really about finding the best upgrades to our pitching staff we can find to give us depth and quality we need to get through long season,” said Luhnow, whose team’s righty-heavy bullpen actually held its own against lefty-swingers in 2017. Luhnow noted, though, that the market is currently “stalled,” which suggests nothing is imminent on Houston’s end.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Shohei Ohtani Rumors: Saturday]]> 2017-12-03T02:00:28Z 2017-12-03T00:54:57Z The latest on game-changing Japanese ace/slugger Shohei Ohtani, whom the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters posted on Friday and who’s at the beginning of a three-week window to work out an agreement with a major league team:

    • The Ohtani sweepstakes is seemingly on the verge of picking up in earnest, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the 23-year-old CAA Sports client will meet with various teams in Los Angeles next week (Twitter link). The Mariners are among those clubs, suggests Passan, who relays that team brass has asked multiple members of its roster to clear their schedules for a potential meeting with Ohtani. That comes on the heels of general manager Jerry Dipoto’s revelation last week that the Mariners are preparing an aggressive push press for Ohtani. “We’re not joking around. We’re bringing the big guns,” declared Dipoto (Twitter link via Greg Johns of
    • Ohtani’s camp will notify certain teams this weekend if they’ll remain in the mix to sign him, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Padres are hopeful they’ll advance to the next round. “As a group, we’re prepared, and I think he’s a player that obviously we’ve scouted and have history with,” GM A.J. Preller told Lin. “You try to see what the fits are and why he’s a good fit for us and why we’re a good fit for him. We’re kind of down the path of doing that work.”
    • The Red Sox will also chase Ohtani, per president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald via text: “Would acknowledge our interest. Beyond that, all would be confidential.” Ohtani joining Chris Sale and David Price would make for a rather enticing top of the rotation, needless to say, and he could also factor in as a designated hitter for a Boston club that received uninspiring production there last season in the first year of the post-David Ortiz era.
    • Count the World Series-winning Astros as yet another team that will court Ohtani. Owner Jim Crane told Brian McTaggart of that the Astros will “put a full-court press on” to sign Ohtani, adding that they’ll “probably send the A-team out there.” He also noted that the Astros “need a left-handed DH, so there you have it.” In addition to having the ability to demonstrate his offensive prowess in Houston, Ohtani would add another potential front-end starter to a rotation that already includes past Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel.
    • While the Rays are obvious long shots to land Ohtani, they have an advantage over other teams with the presence of two-way prospect Brendan McKay, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times observes. McKay, the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, could be both a pitcher and a hitter in the majors. “We’re hopeful (McKay) can do it,” Rays GM Erik Neander said. “We want to give him the opportunity to do it because he’s shown he deserves that opportunity and we don’t want to take that away from him prematurely.” Citing McKay’s presence, the Rays will emphasize to Ohtani that they’re open-minded about developing and employing a two-way player, per Topkin, who also expects them to pitch Tampa Bay’s “relaxed” lifestyle during the recruiting process.
    • The Marlins, MLB’s other Florida-based organization, are unlikely to make an effort for Ohtani, Tim Healey of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. The cost-cutting Marlins are wary of the financial commitment it would take to reel in Ohtani, who won’t require much from a salary standpoint but will cost a $20MM posting fee. While that looks like a relatively minor amount for a possible franchise face like Ohtani, the Marlins simply aren’t in position to fork it over in their current financial state, Healey explains.
    • While the Indians only have $10K in international bonus pool space, they’re expected to partake in the Ohtani derby, per Paul Hoynes of He’d slot into an already loaded rotation, one which features two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco; additionally, Ohtani could DH for a team at risk of losing Carlos Santana in free agency.
    • All things considered, the Yankees may be the favorites for Ohtani. There’s a general “fear” coming from other franchises regarding the Bronx Bombers, tweets Passan, given the talent on hand, the market they’re in and their strong relationship with CAA Sports. They also have the second-biggest international bonus pool.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Non-Tender Mike Fiers]]> 2017-12-02T02:23:40Z 2017-12-02T01:09:26Z The Astros have non-tendered righty Mike Fiers, per a team announcement. The team has tendered contracts to all other eligible players, while Fiers will head to the open market.

    This move was widely expected, though there seemed to be some possibility that the team would instead find another organization interested in Fiers via trade. Fiers was projected by MLBTR and Matt Swartz to earn $5.7MM in his second (and second-to-last) season of arbitration eligibility.

    Fiers, 32, has had some dazzling high points — including a 2015 no-hitter — but has been increasingly prone to the long ball over the past three seasons. He surrendered 1.88 home runs per nine in 2017 while also posting a career-high 3.6 BB/9 walk rate. Perhaps it isn’t surprising, then, that he ended the year with an ugly 5.22 ERA over 153 1/3 innings.

    While Fiers had a nice stretch of good outings in the middle of the year, briefly losing his rotation spot before being pushed back in due to injuries, he finished poorly and did not earn a chance to play in the Astros’ successful run through the postseason. Of course, in other ways Fiers was much the same pitcher as ever. He posted typical velocity and swinging-strike (9.1%) numbers along with a 42.9% groundball rate that sits above his personal average.

    It still seems likely that there’ll be fairly robust interest in Fiers in free agency. Even if expectations aren’t all that high, he has turned in 88 starts over the past three seasons and seems a reasonable bet to help stabilize the back of a rotation.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Likely To Tender Evan Gattis]]> 2017-12-01T06:49:57Z 2017-12-01T00:32:12Z
  • Also on the topic of non-tenders, Crasnick notes in the above column that the Astros are likely to tender a contract to slugger Evan Gattis tomorrow. MLBTR listed Gattis as a potential non-tender/trade candidate due to his projected $6.6MM salary, some diminished productivity and the fact that backup catcher/designated hitter are among the few clear areas for improvement on a stacked Astros roster.’s Brian McTaggart suggested the same this week, but Crasnick and Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle both report that indications are that Gattis is not at risk of a non-tender.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Likely To Shop Mike Fiers]]> 2017-11-30T00:29:36Z 2017-11-30T00:29:36Z With the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players looming, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros will “surely attempt to trade” right-hander Mike Fiers between now and that 8pm ET deadline on Friday.

    MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected the 32-year-old Fiers to take home a $5.7MM salary in what would be his second trip through the arbitration process. Any club that acquired Fiers would be picking up his rights not only for the 2018 campaign but also for the 2019 season, as he’ll be arbitration-eligible once more next offseason. Of course, the fact that Fiers is already a non-tender candidate speaks to the fact that he’s coming off a down season, and he’d need to enhance his stock with a solid 2018 performance for those 2019 rights to even come into play.

    Fiers served as a useful rotation piece for the Astros and Brewers in 2015-16, working to a combined 4.07 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 with a roughly 40 percent ground-ball rate in 349 innings. The righty traded some of his 2015 strikeouts for improved walk and ground-ball tendencies in 2016 and experienced generally useful results in both years. The 2017 campaign saw the return of Fiers’ ability to miss bats (8.6 K/9) but also some control issues (3.6 BB/9) — this time paired with a best-yet 42.9 percent grounder rate.

    Home runs have long been an issue for Fiers, a righty who works with a four-seamer that averages just under 90 mph, but that issue was more pronounced than ever in 2017, as Fiers yielded an average 1.88 HR/9 in this past season’s 153 1/3 innings. The resulting 5.22 ERA wasn’t pretty, though an uptick in home runs plagued pitchers across the league this season as pundits and players alike speculated on the possibility of some alterations to the composition of the baseball.

    For a team that believes Fiers’ homer spike can be managed in 2018-19, he could represent a durable option to fill out the back of a rotation. Fiers has made at least 28 starts per season in each of the past three seasons and has never been on the Major League disabled list. While Fiers isn’t teeming with upside, he’s been a solid two-win pitcher in seasons past and could provide solid value if he can return to that form.

    Considering the fact that reclamation projects on the free-agent market are oftentimes priced similarly to Fiers’ arbitration projection — Tyson Ross and Derek Holland each made $6MM on one-year deals last offseason, for instance — and the fact that Fiers has a remaining year of control beyond ’18, it’s not hard to see a club rolling the dice on a low-cost trade. If Houston isn’t able to find a taker, Fiers could be non-tendered and join what has been a bizarrely stagnant free-agent market to date.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Interested In Mike Minor]]> 2017-11-30T04:51:21Z 2017-11-29T20:41:44Z
  • The Astros can now be added to the list of teams with some interest in Mike Minor, according to a report from’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle previously explained that the southpaw would make for an interesting target for the ’Stros; we have also heard of prior interest from the Mets, who Olney also names. There’ll likely be quite a few other teams poking around on his market, too, after a high-quality season in which Minor bounced back from shoulder problems. As a lefty with a starter’s arsenal, Minor could be awfully handy on plenty of rosters, though his contractual upside will likely be limited by his health history.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Notes; Rotation, Marisnick, Gattis]]> 2017-11-29T05:25:40Z 2017-11-29T05:16:21Z In his latest Astros inbox,’s Brian McTaggart explores a number of topics pertaining to Houston’s 2018 roster and their current offseason plans. McTaggart suggests that left-handed relief will be a top priority for the ’Stros this winter and that Jake Marisnick will return for the 2018 season as the team’s primary fourth outfielder even with Derek Fisher also in the picture. McTaggart fields multiple questions on a loaded Astros rotation that will be anchored by Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton, leaving just one spot for Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes. Of the bunch, he suggests that Peacock and McHugh could both see time in the fifth spot, while Musgrove could be shifted to a more permanent ’pen role and Martes could return to Triple-A to continue developing as a starter.

    More on the Astros and the division…

    • With Evan Gattis projected to earn $6.6MM in 2017 and reported interest from the Astros in Jonathan Lucroy, McTaggart also notes within that inbox column that Houston could either non-tender Gattis or try to trade him in advance of Friday’s 8pm ET non-tender deadline. Gattis posted a quality .263/.311/.457 slash in 325 PAs this season but also threw out just four of 39 potential base thieves this season (though he was 13-for-28 in that regard in 2016). With few obvious areas for an upgrade, Houston could conceivably look to add a more significant bat at DH and pursue a backup catching option that is cheaper and/or comes with a better defensive reputation. MLBTR listed Gattis as a potential non-tender candidate this week.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rangers Claim Juan Centeno From Astros]]> 2017-11-27T20:45:36Z 2017-11-27T20:39:15Z The Rangers announced that they’ve claimed catcher Juan Centeno off waivers from the Astros. Centeno was placed on outright waivers last week.

    The 28-year-old Centeno spent some time as a backup catcher with Houston this past season and logged more significant time with the Twins a year prior. Overall, he’s batted .254/.306/.382 with five homers, 12 doubles and a triple in his past 249 big league plate appearances. Centeno has struggled to throw out runners in his career (just 13 percent in the Majors) and has graded out as a poor pitch-framer, per Baseball Prospectus.

    That said, the Rangers have a thin catching corps at the moment, with Robinson Chirinos and Brett Nicholas representing the only two catchers on the 40-man roster with big league experience. Well-regarded youngster Jose Trevino was added to the 40-man roster last week as well. Centeno is out of minor league options, so he’ll have to either break camp with the club as the primary backup to Chirinos or once again be exposed to waivers if the Rangers hope to keep him in the organization.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Place Juan Centeno On Outright Waivers]]> 2017-11-22T17:50:17Z 2017-11-22T17:41:22Z The Astros have placed catcher Juan Centeno on outright waivers in order to remove him from the team’s 40-man roster, according to a report from Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle.

    Centeno is still on the waiver wire, but Kaplan writes that Houston is hoping he’ll clear and remain with the organization at Triple-A. It’ll be his choice whether to do so, as he was previously outrighted by the Twins in 2016.

    With a fully-stocked MLB roster, the ’Stros were likely always going to need to clear some space before potentially adding players from outside the organization. The 28-year-old Centeno was particularly vulnerable given the presence of Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, and Max Stassi.

    Centeno has seen big league action in each of the past five seasons, carrying a composite .235/.289/.339 slash line through 315 plate appearances with four different organizations. The left-handed hitter spent most of 2017 at Triple-A, hitting .311/.354/.383 in hist 257 plate appearances

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Added To The 40-Man Roster]]> 2017-11-21T01:48:28Z 2017-11-21T00:47:42Z As detailed earlier this morning at MLBTR, the deadline for Major League clubs to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft is tonight. Because of that, there will be literally dozens of moves between now and 8pm ET as teams make final determinations on who to protect and who to risk losing in next month’s Rule 5 draft. This process will lead to smaller-scale trades, waiver claims and DFAs, but for some clubs the only necessary moves will simply be to select the contracts of the prospects they wish to place on the 40-man roster. We’ll track those such moves in this post…

    Click to check in on other teams that have selected players to their 40-man rosters …

    Read more

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Athletics Acquire Ramon Laureano, Outright Bobby Wahl]]> 2017-11-20T23:31:55Z 2017-11-20T23:19:03Z The Athletics have acquired outfielder Ramon Laureano from the Astros, per’s Jane Lee (via Twitter). Houston will receive right-hander Brandon Bailey in return.

    Oakland additionally outrighted right-hander Bobby Wahl off of its 40-man roster. That move will create space for Laureano to be added to the A’s roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft — the same consideration that no doubt created the circumstances of this swap.

    Laureano, 23, ranked 11th on’s most recent prospect list for the ’Stros. But he failed to follow up on a breakout 2016 season. Over 513 plate appearances at Double-A in 2017, he slashed just .227/.298/.369 with 11 home runs and 24 stolen bases.

    The 23-year-old Bailey is still a ways off from needing his own 40-man spot. He split the 2017 season between the Class A and High-A levels, pitching to a cumulative 3.26 ERA over 91 frames. Though he allowed a few more runners to cross the plate after his promotion, Bailey did impress with 12.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in his 34 innings at the higher tier.

    Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Wahl made it to the majors for the first time in 2017, allowing four earned runs in 7 2/3 frames. Much of his prior time has been spent at the Double-A level, where he owns a 3.08 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 73 total frames.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Plan To Look For Backup Catcher, Use Gattis As Primary DH]]> 2017-11-20T00:29:53Z 2017-11-20T00:29:53Z
  • Evan Gattis logged more time at catcher than designated hitter in 2017, but it’s very likely to be the other way around next season, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. The Astros plan to use Gattis almost exclusively at DH (replacing the departed Carlos Beltran) and find a more traditional No. 2 catcher to place behind Brian McCann. Houston could go outside the organization to find McCann’s next backup, but the team may like in-house option Max Stassi enough to give him the role, Kaplan relays. Both Stassi and fellow reserve catcher Juan Centeno will be out of options next season, and Kaplan suggests that the Astros will try to keep the latter in the organization by sending him through outright waivers in the coming months.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jose Altuve Wins American League MVP Award]]> 2017-11-17T00:00:38Z 2017-11-16T23:53:43Z Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was the clear favorite among Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters for the American League Most Valuable Player award, as he took 27 of 30 first-place votes en route to his first MVP nod.

    Altuve, a diminutive but dominating figure, led the American League in hits for the fourth-straight season and finished with a .346/.410/.547 slash with 24 home runs and 32 steals. While the Astros’ postseason success did not weigh in the balloting, the team’s 101-win regular season campaign surely did not hurt Altuve’s candidacy.

    Some thought it would be a tighter race between Altuve and the towering Aaron Judge, who was an easy choice for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Judge topped fifty homers while also pacing the A.L. in walks (as well as strikeouts). While he rebounded from a late-summer swoon to post a monster month of September, finishing with an excellent .284/.422/.627 campaign at the plate, Altuve’s steady excellence earned him the award.

    Third and fourth place went to Jose Ramirez of the Indians and Mike Trout of the Angels, respectively. Ramirez doubled down on his breakout 2016 season, delivering a .318/.374/.583 batting line and stellar defense to the team with the American League’s best record. All of the three finalists — worthy though they were — have Trout’s torn thumb ligament to thank for opening the award to other contenders. He racked up nearly seven wins above replacement in just 114 games and could well have been an easy choice in his own right in a full season of action.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Kaplan On Astros' Rule 5 Decisions]]> 2017-11-16T20:30:58Z 2017-11-16T20:30:58Z
  • Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle runs down some of the decisions the Astros will face as they look to set their roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft, noting that outfield prospect Ramon Laureano could prove one of the most difficult calls to make. The 23-year-old Laureano elevated his prospect stock with a huge 2016 campaign (.319/.428/.528 between Class-A Advanced and Double-A) but faltered significantly in his first full season in Double-A. Kaplan notes that lefty Cionel Perez “is certain to be protected” and also lists some other candidates that could land on the 40-man roster by next Monday’s deadline.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Free Agent Rumblings: Walker, Cobb, Chatwood, Minor, Lucroy, Bautista]]> 2017-11-15T20:19:46Z 2017-11-15T20:19:46Z As major league organizations compete to bring home the shiniest new cars in Playoffville (Copyright Scott Boras), let’s check in on the latest rumored connections:

    • The Pirates have at least “some interest” in old friend Neil Walker, Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets. Morosi cites uncertainty surrounding Jung Ho Kang as driving the possibility of a reunion, though as’s Adam Berry writes, there’s another perspective on that subject, too. GM Neal Huntington says there’s still some hope that Kang will be able to return and finish his contract. If not, though, he feels the team is in good shape in the infield without him, due in part to the acquisition of Sean Rodriguez over the summer.
    • It seems there’s some mutual interest between the Cubs and righty Alex Cobb, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. That’s not a surprising connection, given the common roots with the Rays of Cobb and several key Cubs figures. The sides have engaged in preliminary discussions, though Wittenmyer’s sources tell him that contract particulars haven’t yet been broached.
    • Another starter getting a bite is Tyler Chatwood, in whom the Orioles have shown interest, per Morosi (via Twitter). That’s a connection that comes as little surprise. Baltimore is going to have to take some chances to fill out its staff, and Chatwood looks to be one of the market’s more interesting possibilities to provide value. He won’t turn 28 until December and has posted solid results outside of Coors Field, prompting MLBTR to predict a three-year deal (albeit at a relatively modest annual value). While Camden Yards and the AL East are an intimidating prospect for many pitchers, Chatwood at least has plenty of experience dealing with similar challenges.
    • The Mets are among the teams with interest in free agent southpaw Mike Minor, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. We’ve heard recently about New York’s desire to pursue impact relief pitching, and Minor certainly fits that mold. Given his past history as a starter and dominance against southpaws last year, the 29-year-old would provide quite a bit of functionality.
    • The Astros are showing some interest in free agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Lucroy could make for an interesting fit in Houston, though adding a backstop of that quality no doubt would represent a luxury for the team that already has most everything. Presumably, the ’Stros could plan to split time between Lucroy and fellow veteran Brian McCann, with the other spending quite a lot of time at DH (if not also some first base). Signing Lucroy could mean non-tendering Evan Gattis, though he might also be retained and also utilized in the same rotation. There are certainly some intriguing possibilities here, though Lucroy should also be pursued by others that might offer him significant time as a primary catcher.
    • It seems the Rays could again be a suitor for veteran slugger Jose Bautista, per Morosi (Twitter links). Talks haven’t really progressed to this point, but that’s hardly surprising — particularly since Tampa Bay’s entire offseason approach remains largely unclear. For his part, Bautista is said to be willing to spend time at DH or the corner infield, per agent Jay Alou.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Seeking Left-Handed Relievers]]> 2017-11-14T23:09:44Z 2017-11-14T23:09:44Z
  • Fresh off a World Series victory, the Astros would like to supplement their bullpen with a left-handed reliever, reports Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Kaplan lists Mike Minor and Jake McGee as two potential targets for the ’Stros, noting that Minor’s frequent outings of more than one inning in 2017 could appeal to Houston. So, too, could the fact that he thrived in his limited time as a closer and has no discernible platoon split, thus giving Houston a possible safety net in the event that Ken Giles’ struggles carry over into the 2018 season.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Orioles Willing To Entertain Offers On Zach Britton]]> 2017-11-13T23:56:45Z 2017-11-13T23:56:45Z The Orioles are willing to listen to trade scenarios involving closer Zach Britton, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. While prior signals were that the organization would hold on to the southpaw this winter, it seems there’s now at least some possibility of a swap coming together.

    Baltimore engaged in chatter involving Britton last summer and nearly dealt him to the Astros. But talks sputtered at the last minute and he ended up remaining on hand. MLBTR projects that Britton will earn a hefty $12.2MM in arbitration.

    As Heyman notes, the O’s could find it advantageous to reallocate that payroll space to a rotation that’s badly in need of attention. Plus, with Britton slated for free agency after the season, this would be an opportune time to cash him in for young talent.

    Houston is not presently among the organizations engaged on Britton, per the report. But the Dodgers and Cubs have already engaged in some chatter surrounding the 29-year-old hurler.

    It remains unclear just how strong the market will be for Britton. Prior to the 2017 season, he had established himself as one of the game’s most dominant relievers. But the campaign didn’t quite go as hoped, as he fell short of his own lofty standards while dealing with elbow issues.

    Britton ended the year with 37 1/3 innings of 2.89 ERA ball, posting 7.0 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 while inducing grounders on more than 70% of the balls put in play against him for the fourth-straight season. While his swinging-strike rate dropped off to 11.5% after topping out at 17.2% in 2016, Britton kept his monster sinker at over 96 mph and was obviously still able to use it to draw quite a few worm-burners.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Carlos Beltran Announces Retirement]]> 2017-11-13T21:19:23Z 2017-11-13T16:34:53Z Carlos Beltran will retire after spending parts of 20 seasons in the Majors, he announced today via The Players’ Tribune. The former AL Rookie of the Year and nine-time All-Star won his first World Series championship with the Astros in 2017 and will end a likely Hall of Fame career on that high note.

    Carlos Beltran | Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

    Beltran made his Major League debut at the age of 21 with the Royals in 1998 and made a strong first impression in a small sample of 14 games. He burst onto the scene a year later with a .293/.337/454 batting line, 22 homers, 108 RBIs and 112 runs scored en route to American League Rookie of the Year honors. A knee injury limited Beltran to just 98 games in 2000, but he cemented himself as one of the game’s top young stars with a brilliant, healthy campaign in 2001.

    Beltran remained in Kansas City until the 2004 season when the Royals sent him to the Astros in a three-team trade that netted them Mark Teahen and John Buck. Beltran, who had earned his first career All-Star nod that season, starred for the ’Stros down the stretch before delivering one of the most incredible postseason performances in MLB history that year. Houston topped Atlanta in the NLDS and took the Cardinals to Game 7 of the NLCS, and in those 12 games Beltran put the Astros’ offense on his back; in 56 trips to the plate, he batted a ridiculous .435/.526/1.022 with eight home runs, three doubles, 21 runs scored and 14 RBIs.

    That offseason, Beltran inked a seven-year, $119MM contract with the Mets — the largest in franchise history at the time — where he continued to build on his Cooperstown resume. Beltran made the All-Star team in each of his first three seasons with the Mets (and five of his seven overall), and he turned in yet another memorable playoff performance  in 2006. While many remember Beltran being frozen at the hands of an Adam Wainwright curveball to close out Game 7 of that NLCS, Beltran’s greater contributions to that outstanding series came in the the form of a 1.054 OPS and three homers in just 31 plate appearances. Overall, he batted .280/.369/.500 in six and a half seasons with the Mets before being traded to the Giants in exchange for Zack Wheeler.

    Beltran went on to sign a two-year, $26MM contract with the Cardinals that offseason, making two more All-Star teams and two more excellent postseason appearances. He parlayed his .282/.343/.493 triple slash in two St. Louis seasons into a three-year, $45MM contract with the Yankees. With the Yankees, he received one final All-Star nod (in 2016) and appeared in the 2015 Wild Card game before being flipped to the Rangers a 2016 trade that sent former first-rounder Dillon Tate to New York. Beltran remained an above-average hitter all the way through that run in Texas, hitting a combined .271/.327/.468 over the life of that three-year deal.

    The 2017 season was Beltran’s least-productive offensive campaign since that injury-shortened 2000 season, but he still clocked 14 home runs in 509 plate appearances and served as a leader and mentor for much of Houston’s impressive young core. While Beltran served as the postseason engine on many of his teams during his peak years, he played the role of a vocal leader and wise elder statesman in his final postseason run. An emotional Beltran dedicated his team’s World Series victory to his hurricane-ravaged home island of Puerto Rico and to the city of Houston, which was also devastated by Hurricane Harvey earlier this year

    Beltran and his wife, Jessica, started a fund to aid in Puerto Rico’s recovery and made an initial donation of $1MM, and he also founded the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico back in 2011 — a bilingual high school emphasizing education in addition to athletics.

    All told, Beltran’s remarkable career will come to a close with a lifetime .279/.350/.486 batting line, 435 home runs, 1582 runs scored, 1587 RBIs, 312 stolen bases, nine All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, a Rookie of the Year trophy and a World Series ring. In addition to a superlative body of work in the regular season, he batted .307/.412/.609 with 16 home runs in 65 playoff games (256 plate appearances), making him one of the most decorated postseason batters of all time. He should have one more accolade let to add to the ledger when his name is immortalized among the all-time greats in Cooperstown.

    Beltran earned roughly $222MM, per Baseball-Reference, over the life of a career that both B-Ref (69.8 WAR) and Fangraphs (67.2 WAR) consider to be among the absolute best of the past of the past two generations (before even attempting to value his considerable postseason accomplishments). Congratulations to Beltran — one of the best we’ll have the privilege of watching in our lifetimes — on an exceptional career.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Jay Bruce Interested In Signing With Astros, Rangers]]> 2017-11-13T03:16:13Z 2017-11-13T03:16:13Z
  • Beaumont native Jay Bruce would like to sign with one of his home-state teams (the Astros or Rangers), NJ Advance Media’s Abbey Mastracco writes.  A return to the Mets is also a possibility, though Bruce’s top priority is to play for a contender.  Bruce isn’t a perfect fit on either the Houston or Texas rosters, though the Astros could use another left-handed bat and the DH spot is opening up with Carlos Beltran’s likely departure.  The Rangers could also have DH or right field at-bats open depending on where Shin-Soo Choo plays, or if the team wants to give top prospect Willie Calhoun a look.  What doesn’t seem likely, however, is that either Texas club signs Bruce at his initial five-year, $80-$90MM asking price.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Poll: Which Of These Prospects Is Most Likely To Be Traded?]]> 2017-11-12T02:35:31Z 2017-11-11T22:22:57Z During the offseason, rumors about major league players dominate the headlines. Fans and analysts alike discuss potential landing spots for major league free agents and trade candidates. With so much of the focus on big name MLB players, the subject of which top prospects could change hands falls into the background.

    The players below are some of the most valuable trade assets in the game who have not yet lost their rookie eligibility. MLB Pipeline considers each of them to be among the top 25 prospects in baseball. They all play for teams that are firmly in “win now mode”. Indeed, all five of them belong to teams that finished with a top four record in baseball last season. It’s safe to say that, were they to dangle their respective prospects as trade bait, each of those teams could fill nearly any need on their big league roster.

    Victor Robles, OF (No. 2 Overall Prospect): Nationals

    The Nationals signed Victor Robles out of the Dominican Republic at age 16, and he’s met little resistance throughout his development. The Nats promoted him to the majors for the first time in September of 2017; he even made the club’s NLDS roster. In his 24 regular season at-bats, Robles managed six hits, including three for extra bases. The Nationals are in need of another starting pitcher, and the 20-year-old outfielder could easily bring back an elite arm. Washington’s outfield picture for 2018 seems reasonably clear, with Adam Eaton, Michael Taylor and Bryce Harper all under contract and Brian Goodwin as a solid fourth outfielder option. However, Robles is practically major league-ready right now, so it might not make much sense to trade him when he could easily contribute this season. eIt’s especially important to note that Eaton, Taylor and Harper all dealt with injuries last season. With that in mind, the Nationals might prefer to deal their second-best prospect, outfielder Juan Soto, instead.

    Kyle Tucker, OF (No. 7 Overall Prospect): Astros

    Houston took Tucker out of H.B. Plant High School in Tampa, FL with the fifth pick in the 2015 draft. The young outfielder proceeded to rocket through the club’s minor-league system, reaching the Double-A level midway through 2017. Tucker’s hit tool is one of the best among minor-leaguers, but the Astros already have other left-handed outfield options at the major league level. Josh Reddick and Derek Fisher both bat primarily from the left side, while George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Marisnick figure to be ahead of Tucker on the depth chart heading into 2018 as well. That’s not to say that Tucker isn’t more talented than those players, but it seems like a lot would have to happen for him to stumble into significant playing time next season. On the other hand, the Astros don’t have a clear hole on the major league roster outside of the bullpen, and Tucker is far too valuable to trade for a reliever. The organization has also reportedly been stingy about trading any of their top prospects lately, so perhaps it’s unlikely we’ll see him moved.

    Francisco Mejia, C (No. 13 Overall Prospect): Indians

    Mejia’s development has been a somewhat slow process; the Indians signed him out of the Dominican Republic all the way back in 2012. However, he’s vaulted up prospect lists after incredible success across the past two seasons, including a 50-game hit streak during the 2016 campaign. The best catching prospect in baseball is only 21 and has an elite hit tool from both sides of the plate. Cleveland decided to give him a bit of seasoning at the major league level this past September, which seems to imply that they think he could be close to MLB-ready. The Indians already have catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez under contract for the foreseeable future, so Mejia could be a good candidate to be exchanged for help at first base if Carlos Santana signs elsewhere. But the Indians are also testing Mejia out at third base in the Arizona Fall League, a position he could more easily claim on the Tribe’s roster at some point in 2018.

    Triston McKenzie, RHP (No. 20 Overall Prospect): Indians

    After McKenzie struck out 157 batters in 91 innings during his senior year in high school, Cleveland selected the right-hander in Competitive Balance Round A of the 2015 draft. The lanky 20-year-old stands at 6’5″ and throws his fastball in the low 90s, though most scouts believe he could pick up even more velocity as he grows stronger. McKenzie struck out double-digit batters in six different games at the High-A level in 2017, including a 14-strikeout effort on May 9th. Overall, the Royal Palm Beach High School product pitched to a 3.45 ERA (and a 2.67 FIP) while punching out 11.71 batters per nine innings. With the Tribe’s window of contention seemingly at its peak, and McKenzie highly unlikely to reach the majors in 2018, the righty could potentially end up being an excellent trade chip. Even if the young righty were MLB-ready, the Indians already have a stacked rotation that will include Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and two of Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger. McKenzie could be dangled for help at first base (should Santana depart), or elite bullpen help such as Brad Hand or Felipe Rivero.

    Alex Verdugo, OF (No. 23 Overall Prospect): Dodgers

    The Dodgers took Verdugo in the second round of the 2014 draft, and the left-handed outfielder has done well at every level of the minors. His power isn’t prolific and his speed is average, but his hit tool is excellent. Verdugo is patient at the plate and is great at hitting to the opposite field. While fellow Dodgers prospect Walker Buehler is excluded from this list due to his proximity to the majors and a fairly clear opening in LA’s rotation, Verdugo could be more of a luxury than a vital asset. Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig are set to man center field and right field, respectively, and it’s unclear whether the Dodgers are ready or willing to give up on Joc Pederson yet, especially following a strong postseason performance. Verdugo could potentially be used to land a strong second baseman. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that he could be used to acquire a more proven outfielder, either. Still, the Dodgers have four other top 100 prospects outside of Buehler and Verdugo. Even if they attempt to make a blockbuster trade during the offseason, they might prefer to move someone a bit further away from the majors.

    What do you think? Which of these top 25 prospects is most likely to be with another organization by the time spring training rolls around? (Poll link for app users)

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 11/7/17]]> 2017-11-07T14:36:10Z 2017-11-07T14:36:10Z After a busy transactional day yesterday, let’s catch up on some of the latest minor moves:

    • Catcher Bryan Holaday and outfielder Alex Presley have elected free agency from the Tigers, Evan Woodberry of reports on Twitter. Each of the veterans was outrighted recently, though Woodberry hints that Detroit has interest in bringing both back on minors deals. Holaday will enter the pool of catchers that are looking for opportunities to compete for reserve jobs in camp. The 32-year-old Presley should also draw attention from other organizations; he turned in 264 plate appearances of .314/.354/.416 hitting in 2017.
    • The Rockies selected the contract of outfielder Noel Cuevas, per a club announcement. Acquired from the division-rival Dodgers in the trade that sent Juan Nicasio to Los Angeles, Cuevas blossomed at Triple-A Alburquerque in 2017. Across 528 plate appearances, he posted a .312/.353/.487 slash with 15 long balls and 16 steals.
    • Two players were also added to the Yankees 40-man roster, the club announced. Outfielder Jake Cave is one of them; the one-time Rule 5 pick won’t be eligible for the draft again this year. He turned in a compelling season in the upper minors, including a robust .324/.367/.554 batting line with 15 long balls in 297 Triple-A plate appearances. Joining him is righty Nick Rumbelow, who returned from Tommy John surgery with aplomb last year. Over 40 1/3 innings, he allowed just five earned runs on 21 hits while racking up a 45:11 K/BB ratio.
    • The Indians selected the contract of Eric Haase, per the transactions page. The 24-year-old backstop knocked around Double-A pitching to the tune of a .258/.349/.574 batting line and 26 homers through 381 plate appearances.
    • Cuban catcher Lorenzo Quintana is joining the Astros for a $200K bonus, per’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The 28-year-old is not subject to international signing restrictions. Quintana was long one of the most productive receivers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, carrying a lifetime .310/.377/.438 batting line, but he last played there in the 2014-15 season.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[AL Notes: Cora, Tigers, Astros]]> 2017-11-06T05:33:18Z 2017-11-06T04:56:45Z There are many reasons that Alex Cora is the right man to manage the Red Sox. As Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald points out, the fact that he’s Latino only adds to that list. Cora is the 47th manager in the history of the Red Sox franchise, and, up until now, every single one of them had been white. The former middle infielder will be involved with a front office that is mostly white while managing a team on the field that has often been predominantly black and hispanic. Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy has stressed that Cora’s minority status is “a bonus rather than impetus”, but regardless, it looks great for a franchise that took 12 years longer to integrate their roster than the first MLB team to do so. Interestingly, Silverman notes that in 2017, 43 percent of major league baseball players were players of color, while only three of 30 managers were non-white.

    More from around the AL…

    • While Tigers are unlikely to make any significant additions to their major league roster this winter, Evan Woodbery of says that the organization will be very active on the minor league free agent market. Detroit will focus on making moves to bolster their depth at Triple-A Toledo and will hope to “find a diamond in the rough or lightning in the bottle”, according to GM Al Avila. Woodbery lists 23 players in the Tigers’ system who are eligible to become minor league free agents, and while many of those will probably re-sign with the organization, it seems likely there will be some shuffling of their Double- and Triple-A rosters this winter.
    • Three and a half years ago, an article appeared in Sports Illustrated with a prediction that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series. This past Thursday, Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated explains why he’s predicting a repeat for the Astros in 2018. Although only two teams have been able to win back-to-back championships since the 70’s, Reiter cites a powerhouse offense that will only lose Cameron Maybin and Carlos Beltran as a big reason the Astros can accomplish the feat next year. He also points out that more young reinforcements are on the way in five-tool left-handed outfielder Kyle Tucker and towering right-handed pitcher Forrest Whitley. While Reiter cites the bullpen as an area of need, he concludes that the Astros are “unusually well-positioned to hang onto the crown”.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Revisiting Astros' Charlie Morton Signing]]> 2017-11-05T22:16:58Z 2017-11-05T22:16:58Z
  • The Astros made one of the savviest signings of last offseason when they inked right-hander Charlie Morton to a two-year, $14MM contract, but they may have been able to land him for less, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. When discussing the Astros’ offer with his agent, Morton inferred that their proposal was worth a total of $7MM – an amount he was “thrilled with,” Olney writes. Morton was “astounded” to find that the Astros were willing to give him twice that figure, and he jumped at the chance to sign with the club. A year later, the Astros are World Series champions, thanks in no small part to Morton’s contributions.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Houston Astros]]> 2017-11-06T19:45:31Z 2017-11-05T02:17:25Z MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams.  Click here for the other entries in this series.

    MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

    On the heels of their seven-game World Series triumph over the Dodgers, the Astros have finally entered an offseason with the rest of Major League Baseball aspiring to surpass them. It took until the 55th year of the franchise’s existence to win a championship, but the team and its fans might not have to wait much longer to celebrate another title.

    Thanks largely to general manager Jeff Luhnow, whom Houston hired in December 2011 and who executed an arduous rebuilding effort to perfection, the Astros have the makings of a club that will contend for more World Series in the near future. And while professional sports teams that win titles often see key players defect in free agency in the ensuing offseason, the Astros are in the luxurious position of having all of their top contributors under control for at least another year. Luhnow won’t face much pressure to make improvements this winter, then, but he’ll nonetheless look to upgrade a roster that finished the regular season with the American’s League’s second-best record (101-61) and third-ranked run differential (plus-196).

    Guaranteed Contracts

    Contract Options

    Arbitration-Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

    Free Agents

    [Astros Depth Chart; Astros Payroll Information]

    As you’d expect, not much went haywire for the Astros during a successful postseason run that saw them upend the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers. One glaring exception was their bullpen, whose struggles forced manager A.J. Hinch into some unconventional maneuverings this fall. Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Joe Musgrove offered elite-caliber production across a combined 172 1/3 innings during the regular campaign, but they were anything but reliable in the postseason. As a result, Hinch turned to three members of his regular-season rotation – Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock (who functioned solely as a reliever in the playoffs) and Charlie Morton – for multi-inning, win-preserving appearances during the Astros’ series against the Yankees and Dodgers.

    Although Giles was one of baseball’s premier closers in 2017, he was dreadful on the sport’s biggest stage, and his Game 4 blowup against LA went down as the last time he took the mound this year. While Giles’ track record indicates he should remain the club’s closer in 2018, it’s worth noting that the Astros zeroed in on a couple other established late-game options – the Orioles’ Zach Britton and then-Tiger Justin Wilson – in advance of this past summer’s trade deadline. The fact that Houston tried to significantly fortify its bullpen even before Giles’ issues cropped up suggests its relief corps may be an area of focus this offseason. MLBTR colleagues Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams, Jeff Todd and Jason Martinez expect that to be the case, evidenced by their prediction that the Astros will sign free agent closer Wade Davis to a four-year, $60MM contract.

    Davis is one of many proven relievers the Astros might go after in free agency (Greg Holland and Addison Reed are other high-end possibilities), or they could subtract from their rich farm system to make a splash on the trade market by landing someone like Britton (he’s likely to stay put, however), Brad Hand (Padres) or Raisel Iglesias (Reds). Britton, Hand or a free agent such as Jake McGee or Mike Minor would give the Astros a southpaw reliever who’s capable of handling both lefty- and righty-swingers, which is something they currently lack. The Astros’ lone left-handed reliever is Tony Sipp, who has been a bust during his two-year tenure with the club and wasn’t even on its playoff roster. The only lefty in the Astros’ bullpen during the postseason was longtime starter Francisco Liriano, a July trade pickup who made five playoff appearances and is now headed for free agency.

    Luke Gregerson and late-season addition Tyler Clippard are the other two 2017 Astros relievers without contracts. Gregerson was third among Astros bullpen options in innings in 2017 (61), but his regular-season output was uncharacteristically mediocre and he was barely a factor in the playoffs (3 2/3 frames). Clippard, meanwhile, failed to pitch his way into Houston’s postseason plans after coming over in an August deal with the White Sox.

    Liriano, Gregerson and Clippard may be on the way out, but the Astros still have Giles, Devenski, Musgrove, Will Harris, James Hoyt and Sipp (barring a release or trade) as locks or strong bets for their bullpen next year. Like most of those hurlers, Michael Feliz and Francis Martes had substantial relief roles in 2017. Feliz was somewhat of a disappointment, though, and Martes figures to open 2018 in Triple-A Fresno’s rotation.

    Given his experience as a reliever, Peacock may return to the bullpen if the Astros don’t trade Collin McHugh, who has worked exclusively as a starter during his four-year tenure with the club and may slot in behind Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, McCullers and Morton at the outset of next season. Alternatively, the Astros could shift Peacock to the bullpen, trade McHugh, jettison Mike Fiers and use a large portion of their available payroll space on one of the two front-end starters on the open market. Yu Darvish, whom the Astros tormented in the World Series, and Jake Arrieta will easily collect the largest deals among starters this year. The Astros don’t need either of those two, though the idea of adding one of them to an already strong rotation is enticing. Plus, as good as Houston’s starters look on paper, Keuchel, McCullers and Morton have each had their share of injury issues during their careers, and Morton is only under contract for another season.

    No matter which pitchers comprise the Astros’ staff in 2018, their hurlers will again have the benefit of working with a group of all-world position players. The foundational trio of AL MVP front-runner Jose Altuve, World Series MVP George Springer and Carlos Correa will be back, as will a supporting cast that consists of budding star Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis. That group of nine did nearly all of the damage for an Astros offense that laid waste to the opposition in 2017, topping the majors in position player fWAR (33.0), runs (896), wRC+ (121) and strikeout rate (17.3 percent).

    The sole regular who was a weak link for the Astros was potential Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran, who was among the worst designated hitters in the league during a season in which he raked in a pricey $16MM. While Beltran didn’t live up to his deal from a statistical standpoint, Astros management, coaches and players would likely argue that the revered 40-year-old justified the pact behind the scenes. Either way, the impending free agent’s second tenure with the Astros is probably over. As such, finding a new DH figures to be on the agenda for the Astros, whose free agent targets could include two-way Japanese sensation Shohei Otani (who would also beef up Houston’s rotation), Carlos SantanaJay Bruce, Logan MorrisonCarlos Gonzalez and Lucas Duda, to name several. Any of those six would add a lefty-capable bat to a lineup whose only left-handed regulars are Reddick, McCann and the switch-hitting Gonzalez. Santana, in particular, would give the Astros yet another hard-to-strike out offensive weapon.

    As for Marwin Gonzalez, it’s unclear whether he’ll be the Astros’ regular left fielder, which he was in the playoffs, or revert to a super-utility role next year. It’s also up in the air just what Houston will get from Gonzalez, whose .303/.377/.530 line in 515 regular-season PAs may not be a harbinger of what’s to come. According to Statcast (via Baseball Savant), Gonzalez’s actual weighted on-base average (.387) far outdid his expected wOBA (.320), which suggests that his career season was largely the product of good batted-ball fortune. If the Astros agree with that, and if they allow August acquisition Cameron Maybin to leave in free agency, it could put them in the market for outfield help (though free agency won’t offer many clear solutions).

    If Luhnow is in an especially bold mood, he could try to swing a trade for on-the-block Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who would make the Astros’ offense all the more video game-like. Granted, the $295MM remaining on Stanton’s contract through 2028 – not to mention his right to opt out of the deal after 2020 – may render that idea wholly unrealistic. Teammates Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich would be more pragmatic possibilities for the Astros, but the Marlins reportedly aren’t looking to part with either. The Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, with a year and $14.5MM left on his contract, seems like a more practical target. The 31-year-old would be a solid stopgap for a Houston club with two touted young outfielders, Kyle Tucker and Derek Fisher, waiting in the wings.

    After constructing a championship-winning roster in 2017, Luhnow could make any number of headline-grabbing transactions this offseason to better the Astros’ chances of repeating next year. However, considering the overwhelming amount of talent in the fold and the paucity of integral free agents set to leave Houston, no one would blame Luhnow for taking a modest approach this winter. In the end, his most important moves may come in the form of extensions for core players such as Altuve, Springer and Keuchel, who each have three or fewer years of team control remaining.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Notes: Keuchel, Springer, Correa, Altuve]]> 2017-11-04T17:19:08Z 2017-11-04T17:19:08Z The Astros’ enviable core of talent has already delivered one World Series title and set them up as contenders through at least next season.  The big-picture question facing Houston, however, will be which members of the roster are kept over the long term.  Here are some notes from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman on the state of any Astros contract extensions…

    • Dallas Keuchel is currently in the process of switching his representation.  The ace southpaw has one final year of arbitration eligibility (MLBTR projects him to earn $12.6MM) before hitting the open market as part of the star-studded 2018-19 free agent class.  The agency change “and timing could suggest he’s thinking about change,” Heyman writes, though Keuchel has been willing to discuss an extension with the Astros in the past.  Previous talks didn’t result in a long-term deal, however — Heyman notes that one of the team’s initial offers was similar to the early-career extensions signed by Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale.
    • There haven’t been any extension talks with George Springer in “at least a year and a half.”  Houston also made an early-career extension offer to Springer, and then a significantly larger offer around two years ago.  Springer is in line for extra money as a Super Two player, as he earned $3.9MM in 2017 and is projected for a big raise up to $8.9MM in 2018.  Since the Astros have Springer under team control through the 2020 season, there isn’t any immediate need for an extension, unless the Astros want cost-certainty over his arb years or want to establish Springer as a long-term cornerstone player into the next decade.
    • Some interesting details are provided on Jose Altuve’s representation history, as the second baseman initially parted ways with Scott Boras in 2013 when Boras advised Altuve against signing an extension with the Astros.  Altuve went on to indeed sign that extension in July 2013, and Altuve’s subsequent rise to superstar status made that four-year, $12.5MM deal with two club option years into a major bargain.  (Houston exercised the first of those club options for 2018, netting Altuve another $6MM in guaranteed money.)  Altuve re-hired Boras as his agent in July 2016, which Heyman writes “could be taken as an indication he has a different mindset now that he has the security” of that initial contract.  Boras clients generally end up reaching free agency, though there have been enough high-profile exceptions to that trend (i.e. Stephen Strasburg, Carlos Gonzalez) that there is still hope at a longer-term deal to keep Altuve in Houston.
    • Carlos Correa seems perfectly willing to go year-to-year until he hits free agency.  The shortstop said last spring that he was at least willing to listen about a long-term deal but only until he hit his arbitration years; Greg Genske, Correa’s agent, made the bolder statement that Correa had no interest at all in an early-career extension.  Last April, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth explored the many forms a Correa extension could take, if the two sides did happen to come to an agreement.  Correa will become eligible for arbitration next offseason, so the team has one more year to work out a multi-year deal, assuming Correa’s previously-stated deadline still holds.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Exercise Club Options On Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez]]> 2017-11-03T16:46:44Z 2017-11-03T16:31:21Z In perhaps the least-surprising decision of the offseason, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow tells reporters that the team will indeed exercise its 2018 club options over Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez (Twitter link via the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan). Altuve will earn $6MM next year, and Gonzalez will take home a $5.125MM salary.

    Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez | Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Altuve, of course, is one of the front-runners for American League MVP honors on the heels of a season in which he batted a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 with 24 homers and 32 stolen bases.

    The 27-year-old superstar won his second consecutive American League batting championship and his third in the past four seasons. All told, he was a roughly eight-win player by both Fangraphs’ and Baseball-Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement. In all likelihood, the American League Most Valuable Player Award will come down to a two-horse race between Altuve and Aaron Judge.

    He’s led the American League in hits for the past four seasons, topping 200 total knocks in each of those years. Houston holds one more option over Altuve’s services for the 2019 season — yet another bargain at $6.5MM — before the five-time All-Star will be eligible for free agency in the 2019-20 offseason.

    Gonzalez, 29 next March, had one of the most impressive and unexpected breakouts of any player in Major League Baseball. After hitting .268/.309/.413 in nearly 1200 plate appearances from 2014-16, the switch-hitting utility man erupted with a .303/.377/.530 batting line in 515 plate appearances. Gonzalez’s 23 homers and 34 doubles shattered his previous career-highs of 13 and 26, respectively. The former Rule 5 pick more than doubled his walk rate and also cut his strikeout rate by nearly four percent when compared to the preceding season.

    Beyond his excellence at the plate, Gonzalez saw at least 130 innings at all four infield positions, including 281 at shortstop. He also played 331 innings in left field during the regular season before serving as the team’s primary left fielder in the playoffs. Gonzalez will be a free agent following the 2018 season.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros To Name Joe Espada Bench Coach]]> 2017-11-04T19:00:28Z 2017-11-03T13:22:36Z
  • The Astros will hire Yankees third base coach Joe Espada as their new bench coach, reports ESPN’s Marly Rivera. Espada will step into the role that was vacated when Alex Cora left the Astros to become the new manager of the Red Sox. Like Cora, the 42-year-old Espada will bring a relatively youthful presence to the Houston coaching staff. He’s spent seven seasons as a third base coach at the big league level (2010-13 in Miami, 2015-17 in New York) and has also served as a professional scout in the Yankees organization for a year. He’s also served as a minor league hitting coach and infield coordinator in the Marlins organization.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants To Name Alonzo Powell Hitting Coach]]> 2017-11-02T14:04:05Z 2017-11-02T13:51:05Z The Giants are set to hire Astr0s assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell as their new hitting coach, reports Evan Drellich of CSN New England (via Twitter). Powell will step into the role that was vacated amid last week’s shuffle of the coaching staff in San Francisco. He’ll take over for Hensley Meulens, who shifted to the team’s bench coach role. Longtime bench coach Ron Wotus was moved to the role of third base coach.

    Powell will join the Giants organization after helping guide the Astros offense that was far and away the most potent in Major League Baseball. Houston led all of baseball with 896 runs scored, was tied for an MLB-best .282 batting average, and also paced the Majors with a .346 on-base percentage and a .478 slugging percentage. Their 238 home runs trailed only the Yankees for the MLB lead.

    The 52-year-old Powell has been Houston’s assistant hitting coach since the 2015 season and previously held that same role with the Padres from 2012-15. He served as the Mariners’ hitting coach on an interim basis for part of the 2010 season as well and has been coaching and managing at the minor league level dating back to 2002.

    The job with the Giants will serve as a homecoming for Powell — a San Francisco native whose professional playing career began in the Giants organization back in 1983. He reached the Majors in both the 1987 and 1991 seasons, but Powell’s greatest success as a player came in 1992-97, when he starred for the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. In parts of seven NPB seasons, Powell raked at a .313/.371/.510 clip.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Joe Espada Candidate For Astros' Bench Coach]]> 2017-10-29T21:51:31Z 2017-10-29T21:50:59Z
  • Yankees third base coach Joe Espada interviewed for the same position with the Red Sox and the bench coach job with the Astros, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. King first reported the interviews Saturday, but it was unclear then which roles Espada discussed with those teams. Espada’s contract with the Yankees is set to expire Tuesday.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[World Series Notes: Morton, Morrow, Gurriel]]> 2017-10-29T12:51:17Z 2017-10-29T03:53:08Z It was only a few years ago that Astros right-hander Charlie Morton was a ground ball specialist in Pittsburgh, benefitting largely from an increase in shifts that was revolutionary at the time. Fast-forward to the present, and Morton is suddenly one of the hardest-throwing starters in the American League and mixes in his hammer curve to rack up the K’s. Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs leads us through the fascinating process in which Morton used PITCHf/x data to better understand his actual performance, figure out what he’s in control of, and use it to improve his results. After picking up close to 3MPH on his average fastball, Morton learned to trust his mechanics and began to throw his four-seamer up in the zone more often. Sawchik uses a great combination of quotes and charts to tell the story of how Morton managed a breakout age 33 season and was trusted with the ball in Game 4 of the World Series tonight. We highly recommend giving the piece a thorough read.

    A few other items from the 2017 World Series…

    • Anthony Slater of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) tells the story of Brandon Morrow, a reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever-again from Rohnert Park, California. The fifth-overall pick in the 2006 draft was the second player in his draft class to debut in the majors (after 2016 ALCS MVP Andrew Miller), but seemed to be a relative letdown compared to some of the superstars drafted around him. His career nearly came to an end due to surgeries, but the Dodgers took a chance on him last offseason, signing him to a minor-league contract that included a spring training invite. 45 stellar regular-season appearances later, Morrow had earned a spot at the back of the Dodgers’ bullpen, thanks in part to a career-high 97.8 average fastball velocity that propelled him to a 10.31 K/9 mark and a 1.55 FIP. The 33-year-old will reach free agency after the World Series is over, and should be in line for a respectable payday.
    • Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times adds his own perspective to the Yuli Gurriel incident in which the Astros first baseman used a racial slur in reference to Darvish in Game 3. Interestingly, Hernandez (who was born to a Japanese mother) seems to suggest that perhaps the incident shouldn’t be viewed through an American lens, through which it potentially carries more weight than it would in Latin culture due to the events in US history over the past century. This doesn’t make it okay, Hernandez makes sure to mention, and the majority of people will agree that Gurriel’s behavior was offensive and insensitive. Hopefully the Cuban infielder has learned from the experience and will not repeat this mistake in the future.
    • Mike Oz of Yahoo Sports got a chance to speak with 7-year-old Hailey Dawson, the girl with a 3-D printed hand who threw out the first pitch in Game 4. While many readers may already know her story, the conversation between Dawson and Oz is well worth a read; the quotes and Oz’s descriptions really capture the emotion and excitement of a little girl who just two months ago got her prosthetic hand and dreams of throwing out a first pitch in all 30 ballparks.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Interview Joe Espada]]> 2017-10-28T21:57:36Z 2017-10-28T21:57:36Z
  • The manager-less Yankees sent an email to the majors’ other 29 teams Friday granting them permission to contact any of their coaches who served under Joe Girardi, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). So far, third base coach Joe Espada has interviewed with the Astros and Red Sox for openings on their staffs, per George A. King III of the New York Post (on Twitter). While King didn’t specify which position(s) Espada spoke those clubs about, the scribe reported earlier this week that he’s a candidate to be the next bench coach for either team.
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