MLB Trade Rumors » » Houston Astros 2017-10-21T19:31:37Z Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Latest on the Nationals’ Managerial Search]]> 2017-10-21T13:53:16Z 2017-10-21T13:45:10Z The Nationals announced on Friday that they will not bring back Dusty Baker as manager for the 2018 season, despite praise from his players and rumblings that the two sides had been discussing a reunion in recent days. In fact, the club intends to replace the entire coaching staff. The decision comes in the wake of yet another tough NLDS loss for a club that fought injuries to many key players in order to grab the NL’s second-best regular season record.

A few other clubs began their managerial search well before the Nationals, and at least one option (Ron Gardenhire, now with the Tigers) is off the table. The Red Sox appear to be nearing the end of their search as well. Another factor that could limit the club’s options is the organization’s pattern with the lengths of their managerial contracts. In the past decade, the Nationals have never been willing to guarantee a manager more than two years at a time, a factor that could be a deal breaker to certain candidates also in the mix for jobs with other clubs.

On Saturday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported on Twitter that the Nationals have requested permission from the Astros to interview Astros bench coach. Some reports from Boston media outlets say that Cora is already tabbed to manage the Red Sox in 2018, and that the club is simply waiting until after the ALCS to announce the news. A source close to Evan Drellich of NBC Boston even told him, “Not a doubt it is [Cora].” But the invitation to interview with the Nationals could certainly throw a wrench into this rumor.

The 42 year-old Cora played mostly in the middle infield throughout his 14-year major league career, including a 2011 stint with the Nationals in his final year before retirement. Many have spoken highly of Cora’s presence in the clubhouse during that time, which would prove valuable on a Washington team with a lot of young talent on the roster.


Steve Adams <![CDATA[Are Red Sox Preparing To Hire Alex Cora?]]> 2017-10-20T13:30:20Z 2017-10-20T05:36:01Z With the Tigers reportedly settling on Ron Gardenhire as their next manager, attention has focused on the Red Sox’ managerial opening. All indications are that Astros bench coach Alex Cora will receive the nod, as Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston writes, though there’s still no firm reporting tying Cora to the position. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes echoes that it’s quite likely Cora will end up in Boston, but says any formal word will need to wait at least until the conclusion of the ALCS.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Discusses Future With Astros]]> 2017-10-14T17:18:18Z 2017-10-14T17:16:05Z
  • Dallas Keuchel hopes to remain with the Astros over the long term, and the ace southpaw tells’s Evan Drellich that “winning is going to be the biggest factor” in deciding his future, whether that involves signing an extension with Houston or leaving in free agency after the 2018 season.  The Astros certainly seem well-positioned to be long-term contenders, though they’ll face some interesting decisions about keeping their core together over the coming years, with Keuchel being the first of their cornerstone players to reach the open market.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Acquire Juan Ramirez From Tigers To Complete Verlander Trade]]> 2017-10-14T04:29:18Z 2017-10-14T04:22:29Z The Tigers have announced that they have sent young outfielder Juan Ramirez to the Astros. He becomes the player named to complete the late August blockbuster that sent righty Justin Verlander to Houston.

    In exchange for that pair of players, as well as $16MM to cover some of Verlander’s remaining salary, the Tigers picked up a trio of prospects. Righty Franklin Perez, outfielder Daz Cameron, and catcher Jake Rogers were all added to the Detroit farm system.

    Coincidentally, the announcement comes on the eve of Verlander’s scheduled ALCS start. The swap has paid dividends for Houston thus far, as the veteran starter has been outstanding. Of course, the Tigers are far better served by interesting young talent than by Verlander at this stage.

    Ramirez, now 18, landed with the Detroit organization as an international free agent back in 2015. He landed a $185K bonus to sign out of his native Dominican Republic. Ramirez saw 46 games of action this year in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, turning in a .301/.385/.362 batting line with twenty walks against just 14 strikeouts. Despite the clear lack of power, that sort of approach holds obvious appeal.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Inside Brad Peacock's Breakout Year]]> 2017-10-08T17:46:40Z 2017-10-08T17:46:40Z
  • Improved health, a lower arm slot and an altered slider all led to Brad Peacock’s breakout year, though as recently as this Spring Training, Peacock seemed a longshot to make the Astros roster or even stay in Major League Baseball, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle writes.  “We thought we were going to Japan, honestly,” said Peacock’s wife Stephanie.  Dan Straily’s emergence in 2016 made the Astros hesitant about giving up on another arm, however, and Peacock found a roster spot when Collin McHugh began the year on the DL.  The rest was history — over 132 innings as a starter and a reliever, Peacock posted a 3.00 ERA, 10.98 K/9 and 2.82 K/9 rate.  He’ll make his first postseason appearance today as Houston’s starter in Game 3 of the ALDS.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[AL Notes: Red Sox, Royals, Buxton, Chris Davis]]> 2017-10-07T21:42:12Z 2017-10-07T14:35:40Z In a strongly worded piece, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports hammers the Red Sox ownership for being too strict regarding the luxury tax threshold. According to Drellich, many in Boston believed that Edwin Encarnacion would be the replacement for franchise icon David Ortiz. Instead, the Indians got him on a contract that many consider to be a bargain. Meanwhile the Red Sox finished 27th of 30 major league teams in total home runs, and 20th in wOBA. That hasn’t changed in the postseason, as they’ve been outscored by the surging Astros 16-4 so far in the ALDS. Now the Red Sox are in an 0-2 hole heading back to Boston for Game 3, and their offense faces a daunting task in trying to defeat Houston in three straight games. “The Sox’ greatest stumble this year might have been over a pile of cash,” Drellich writes. The article provides a harsh criticism of the Red Sox ownership and is certainly an interesting read.

    More from around the AL…

    • The Baseball America Twitter account took us back in time this morning by tweeting out an article J.J. Cooper wrote about the Royals back in 2011. With Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all set to hit free agency (among others), it’s fair to wonder whether Kansas City’s window of contention has closed, so it’s certainly fun to take a nostalgic look back at BA’s assessment of a farm system that was stacked with so much talent. The Royals, of course, ended up going to the World Series in both 2014 and 2015, coming away with a title in the latter year.
    • Twins center fielder Byron Buxton left the Wild Card game early with an injury that was initially described as “upper back tightness”. But according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, Buxton was trying to play through a cracked rib. Berardino’s source tells him that the injury is unlikely to affect Buxton’s offseason training program. Buxton hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases in the second half, and is under team control through the 2021 season.
    • The seven-year, $161MM contract given to Chris Davis has been disappointing for Orioles fans so far, Rich Dubroff of writes. Indeed, Davis missed significant time in 2017 with an oblique strain and was barely above replacement level when he was in the lineup. Dubroff points out some absolutely horrific stats, such as Davis’ 42.8% strikeout rate and that he went 1-for-53 after reaching an 0-2 count, striking out in 42 of those at-bats. A resurgent Davis would certainly be helpful to a Baltimore club that plans to contend next year, so the O’s will surely be hoping he can return something closer to his 2013 and 2015 production.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Playoff Team Notes: Encarnacion, Astros, Nationals]]> 2017-10-07T13:57:26Z 2017-10-07T13:18:27Z Indians cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion left last night’s game with an ankle injury. While trying to get back to second base in order to avoid being doubled up, his ankle hit the bag and appeared to bend to a gruesome extent. The right-handed DH could not put weight on his right leg as he was helped off the field. While there’s no word yet on the severity of the injury, Encarnacion appeared to be in a lot of pain. The Indians added the slugger on a three-year, $60 million contract this past offseason, and he rewarded them with a .258/.377/.504 season in which he smacked 38 homers and drove in 107 runs. He’s a tremendous right-handed power hitter amidst a left-heavy lineup, and his absence for any length of time would be a huge blow to a Cleveland team that is searching for its first title since 1948.

    More from some teams still playing baseball in October…

    • Dallas Keuchel of the Astros had always felt as though the team was missing a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse. “Guys were just waiting for the Astros to get a lot better,” he tells Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. After adding Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran, Houston soared to a 101-61 record and currently have a 2-0 lead on Boston in the ALDS. A.J. Hinch also appreciates the value of having these veteran players. “They’ve taken everybody under their wing, they’ve developed a culture in the clubhouse and a chemistry that’s all inclusive, which I can appreciate.” Most notably, the piece reveals that Carlos Beltran has become a strong mentor for fellow Puerto Rican Carlos Correa.
    • Nationals assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones has been suspended indefinitely, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. According to a civil suit filed on September 28th, Jones allegedly distributed nude photos of an ex, causing her to suffer “general and special damages”. Dusty Baker described the news as “kind of a downer” before last night’s game, describing Jones as a big part of the team. In Jones’ absence, minor league hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich will serve as the assistant to hitting coach Rick Schu.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[AL West Notes: Dipoto, Angels, Astros]]> 2017-10-06T13:14:56Z 2017-10-06T13:14:56Z Here’s the latest from around the AL West…

    • Jerry Dipoto originally signed a three-year deal with the Mariners, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports, so the general manager is entering his last year under contract.  Seattle is 164-160 in two seasons under Dipoto, with a winning year in 2016 followed up by a disappointing, injury-filled year this season.  There haven’t been any rumblings about Dipoto’s job security, however, and it would make sense if the M’s explored extensions with Dipoto and manager Scott Servais (whose deal is also up after 2018) this winter in order to avoid lame-duck status for either man.  More pressure would seem to be on Servais since managers are more readily replaced than GMs, though Dipoto recently defended his skipper against some reports of clubhouse criticism.  The firings of bench coach Tim Bogar and first base coach Casey Candaele does remove some of Servais’ support system — Heyman notes that Candaele and Servais are good friends, while Bogar is close with Dipoto.
    • The Angels announced earlier this week that hitting coach Dave Hansen won’t return to the club next season.  Hansen had been with L.A. for the last four seasons, first as an assistant hitting coach and then taking over the lead job in 2016-17.  The Angels finished near the bottom of most offensive categories last year, as Mike Trout (181), Andrelton Simmons (103) and late-August addition Justin Upton (137) were the only regulars to finish with a wRC+ above the league-average 100 mark.  (Yunel Escobar also finished with a 100 wRC+ on the dot.)
    • Analytics played a major role in the Astros’ rebuild and subsequent rise to World Series contender, though as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes, the Astros are now faced with the challenge of staying ahead of the curve.  “It’s a double-edged sword.  If [other teams are] following things we did first, it means, a) it works; and b) our advantage is gone, or dissipating,” Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said. “That’s why we’re constantly trying to figure out how we can gain small advantages in multiple areas.  We’re all observing each other.  I copy what I see works with other teams and vice-versa.  Keeping things a secret allows you to benefit longer but it’s hard to do.”
    Jason Martinez <![CDATA[How They Were Acquired: Houston Astros ALDS Roster]]> 2017-10-05T22:50:55Z 2017-10-05T21:08:45Z Astros fans were subjected to three consecutive 100-loss seasons as the Jeff Luhnow-led front office aimed to build a young core by stockpiling talent in the draft. That approach led the Astros multiple top-five overall selections in the draft, and the team also leaned on creative means of utilizing its draft to nab highly touted prospects that slid down the board due to signability concerns. The finishing touches on this year’s 101-win team were made last offseason in trades (Brian McCann), free agency (Josh Reddick, Charlie Morton, Carlos Beltran) and of course, with this August’s last-minute Justin Verlander blockbuster.

    Houston drew plenty of criticism from skeptics of their data-driven approach as they effectively tanked multiple seasons, but they now sport an imposing all-around roster the looks poised for a lengthy run of success. Here’s how they built the roster that now has the opportunity to make Sports Illustrated’s infamous 2014 prediction come true…

    [Related: Houston Astros Depth Chart and Payroll Outlook]

    Of the players on Houston’s 25-man ALDS roster, only Beltran, Gregerson, Maybin and Liriano will be free agents at the end of the season. In fact, nearly each of the Astros’ star-caliber players can be controlled through at least 2019, with the notable exception of Keuchel, who will hit the open market next winter. With few weaknesses and a wealth of young stars that are in their prime, the Astros look to be a perennial postseason contender for the foreseeable future.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mets Announce Changes To Coaching Staff]]> 2017-10-03T14:03:25Z 2017-10-03T13:49:55Z The Mets formally announced on Tuesday what has been widely expected and reported for weeks: Terry Collins is out as the team’s manager and has accepted a role as a special assistant to general manager Sandy Alderson (as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported over the weekend). Beyond that, the Mets made formal the decision to dismiss pitching coach Dan Warthen, and they’ve also cut ties with head trainer Ray Ramirez. The rest of the team’s training and conditioning staff will return, and Warthen has been offered another role in the organization.

    The Mets will retain hitting coach Kevin Long and assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler as well as third base coach Glenn Sherlock. The team hasn’t cut bench coach Dick Scott, first base coach Tom Goodwin or bullpen coach Ricky Bones, but each will be granted permission to speak with other teams once a new manager is selected. Notably, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported earlier this morning that the Mets will begin their managerial search, in earnest, this week.

    Among the top external candidates, as previously reported by Puma and others, are Astros bench coach Alex Cora and Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren (who formerly served as the Mets’ bench coach under Terry Collins). The Mets, Puma writes, may try to get permission to interview Cora and Geren this week before their respective teams begin postseason play in the divisional series. He also suggested that Scott could be given the opportunity to interview as Collins’ replacement.

    Regarding the pitching coach vacancy, Puma wrote that Bones is a top candidate to step into that role, which could open an opportunity for former Mets closer John Franco to interview as the team’s new bullpen coach. The 57-year-old Franco, who spent 14 seasons pitching for the Mets, has interest in coaching for his former team, according to Puma.

    Ramirez’s dismissal as head trainer comes on the heels of one of the most injury-plagued seasons for any team in recent memory. While it’s certainly not fair to pin the entirety of the team’s injury woes on him, it’s long seemed possible that the staggering amount of Mets injuries this year would have some type of ramifications on the training/medical staff.

    Noah Syndergaard missed most of the season with a torn lat muscle that was suffered after his now infamous decision to refuse an MRI. The Mets were also without Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler for much of the season due to various arm injuries (including a partial tear of Lugo’s UCL), while Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, T.J. Rivera and Michael Conforto all suffered injuries on the position-player side of the equation. All of that is in addition to a season-long absence for David Wright, though his health has been an ongoing issue for the past couple of seasons as he tries to work his way back from shoulder and neck surgeries.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[David Paulino Undergoes Bone Spur Surgery]]> 2017-10-02T04:21:03Z 2017-10-02T04:21:03Z
  • Astros righty David Paulino recently underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his throwing elbow but is expected to be ready for Spring Training, the team announced (’s Brian McTaggart has the details).  Paulino was placed on the 60-day DL just as he was eligible to be activated following an 80-game PED suspension.  The 23-year-old was cited on top-100 prospect lists from Baseball America (51st), (54th) and Baseball Prospectus (83rd) prior to the season and he has gotten cups of coffee in each of Houston’s last two seasons, with a 6.25 ERA over 36 big-league innings.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Who Will Win The World Series?]]> 2017-10-01T18:01:08Z 2017-10-01T18:01:08Z Aside from Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton’s pursuit of 60 home runs, the final day of Major League Baseball’s regular season won’t bring much drama. Colorado on Saturday became the last team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot and will be one of 10 clubs vying for World Series glory over the next month-plus. Here’s a rundown of the participants by league and seeding:

    National League

    1.) Los Angeles Dodgers (record: 103-58; most recent title: 1988): The Dodgers are loaded with stars and depth, which explains how they easily exceeded the 100-win mark despite enduring a 1-15 stretch from Aug. 26 through Sept. 11. They recovered from that nightmarish 16-game showing over the season’s final couple weeks and once again look formidable entering the postseason. While the Dodgers have scored the second-fewest runs of this year’s playoff teams, they’ve still managed to pace all NL clubs in position player fWAR. Plus, with a Clayton Kershaw-fronted rotation and a Kenley Jansen-led bullpen, their staff is atop the NL in pitching fWAR.

    2.) Washington Nationals (record: 97-64; most recent title: never): The Nationals cruised to an NL East crown this year despite losing center fielder Adam Eaton in April and having to go without arguably their best player, right fielder Bryce Harper, from mid-August until late September. Harper suffered a knee injury that looked like a season-ender when it happened, and while the missed time derailed his MVP chances, he’s back to lead a lineup that also includes other standouts in Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman. On the pitching side, it seems ace and Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer avoided a serious hamstring injury during his start on Saturday. If that’s the case, Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez could be the premier starting trio in the playoffs. They’ll hand off to a bullpen that has featured offered plenty of shaky performances in 2017, though midseason additions Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler have helped stabilize the Nationals’ relief corps.

    3.) Chicago Cubs (record: 92-69; most recent title: 2016): At this time a year ago, Chicago was putting the finishing touches on a 103-win regular season and preparing to enter the playoffs as the odds-on favorite. Ultimately, the Cubs lived up to the billing last fall and broke a 108-year title drought in an unforgettable World Series against the Indians. They haven’t been as sharp this year, owing in part to worse performances from their pitching and defense, but are still laden with talent. There’s no shortage of quality position players on hand, including reigning MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, but the Cubs will need more from their staff – particularly Jake Arrieta, who’s dealing with a hamstring issue right now, and Jon Lester.

    4.) Arizona Diamondbacks (record: 92-69; most recent title: 2001): One of this year’s surprise teams, the Diamondbacks rode an underrated starting staff and a top 10 offense (by runs scored) to a playoff berth. Starters Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, Patrick Corbin and Taijuan Walker have all turned in good to great seasons, which is why the D-backs’ starters lead the NL in fWAR. They also have a pair of offensive superstars in first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, though he had a horrid September that likely ruined his MVP chances, and outfielder J.D. Martinez. The latter has been a revelation since coming over from the Tigers in a July trade, having smashed 29 home runs in 61 games and batted .304/.369/.746 in 255 plate appearances. If you’re looking for a potential Achilles’ heel, no playoff entrant has a worse wRC+ (84) against left-handed pitchers than Arizona. That doesn’t seem to bode well for a team that will face the Dodgers, whose southpaws include Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson, if it wins the NL wild-card game.

    5.) Colorado Rockies (record: 87-74; most recent title: never): Primarily on account of NL MVP candidates Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies are near the top of the league in runs scored, which is what you’d expect from a team that plays half its games at Coors Field. The Rockies managed to break a seven-year playoff skid this season largely because of an improved pitching staff that sits eighth in the majors in fWAR. Still, despite the presence of Jon Gray, their rotation doesn’t look particularly imposing relative to other playoff teams’ staffs. They do, however, feature a few highly capable relievers in Greg Holland, Chris Rusin, Pat Neshek and Jake McGee.

    (Poll link for app users)


    American League

    1.) Cleveland Indians (record: 101-60; most recent title: 1948): At 48-45, the reigning AL champions were a mere three games above .500 on July 18. Since then, they’ve run roughshod over the rest of the league en route to a 53-15 mark, including a historic 22-game winning streak from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14. The Indians lost a meaningless game to the White Sox on Saturday, but that was just their fourth defeat in the past 35 contests. Needless to say, they’re heading into the playoffs on a roll. As you’d expect, Cleveland’s roster is chock-full of excellence. MVP hopeful Jose Ramirez and all-world shortstop Francisco Lindor are at the helm of a talent-rich offense, one that supports what could be an all-time great pitching staff from top to bottom. Ace/Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber, righty Carlos Carrasco and super reliever Andrew Miller, one of the faces of last year’s postseason, deservedly grab the most headlines, but good luck finding any weak links among the other pitchers the Tribe will use in the playoffs.

    2.) Houston Astros (record: 100-61; most recent title: never): With a league-high 892 runs and a 121 wRC+, it’s a wonder how anyone gets the Astros out. Much of the damage has come from AL MVP front-runner Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, the latter of whom missed significant time earlier this season, but ancillary pieces such as Marwin Gonzalez, Alex Bregman, Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel have all been no worse than very good at the plate. And then there’s the one-two pitching punch of recently acquired ace Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, not to mention a deep starting staff/bullpen behind them. If there’s one big concern here, it’s that Houston may be the worst defensive team in the playoffs.

    3.) Boston Red Sox (record: 93-68; most recent title: 2013): This year’s Red Sox have deviated from past Boston teams that used the likes of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to pound opponents into submission. In fact, this is the first playoff-bound Red Sox club since 1995 to qualify for the postseason without scoring at least 800 runs. Nevertheless, they have several especially well-rounded position players (Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and the banged-up Dustin Pedroia, to name a few) who have done enough in the field to make Boston an elite defensive outfit. That defense supports the AL’s foremost southpaw, Chris Sale, and superstar closer Craig Kimbrel. Boston is entering the playoffs with some concerns in its rotation, though, including the recent struggles of Sale and the yearlong issues 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello has had. Fortunately for the Sox, starter Drew Pomeranz quelled some late-season concerns with an encouraging start against the Astros on Saturday.

    4.) New York Yankees (record: 90-71; most recent title: 2009): Baby Bombers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have more than lived up to the hype this season, combining for 85 home runs and 11.7 fWAR in 1,203 PAs. Fifty-one of those long balls have come from Judge, an OPS machine and an AL Rookie of the Year shoo-in whose 8.2 fWAR leads the majors. The rest of the Yankees’ offense isn’t exactly subpar, either, as a laundry list of their other hitters have notched above-average seasons at the plate. And New York’s pitching staff could be built for October, with an incredibly strong bullpen and a rotation that features perhaps the AL’s third-best starter, Luis Severino. One of the major questions regarding the Yankees is which versions of Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka will show up in the postseason – if the team gets by the wild-card game, that is. Gray allowed between four and six earned runs in three of five September starts, while Tanaka was a mixed bag throughout the regular season. He did conclude the slate with a seven-inning, 15-K shutout against the Blue Jays on Friday, though.

    5.) Minnesota Twins (record: 84-77; most recent title: 1991): In terms of teams, there probably hasn’t been a better story during the regular season than the Twins, who were 103-game losers and owners of the majors’ worst record a year ago. Adding to the improbability of their Cinderella run to the playoffs, the Twins were sellers at this year’s trade deadline, when they dealt starter Jaime Garcia to their wild-card opponent, the Yankees, and Kintzler to the Nationals. However, Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Joe Mauer & Co. were undeterred in the face of those deals and the late-summer absence of slugging third baseman Miguel Sano, who missed over a month with a left shin injury but just returned this week. Given its relatively underwhelming pitching staff, Minnesota is obviously a long shot to claim its first World Series in 26 years. For now, the Twins are focused on the Yankees, who have historically owned Minnesota in the playoffs. But New York’s past triumphs came during series. The wild-card round is a one-off, increasing the odds of an upset. The Twins’ No. 1 starter, Ervin Santana, allowed two or fewer runs in 20 of 33 starts during the regular season. If he’s that stingy against the Yankees on Tuesday – an admittedly tall order – an upset could be in the offing.

    (Poll link for app users)


    And now for the most important question (poll link for app users)…

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Marwin Gonzalez A Free Agent To Watch In 2018-19]]> 2017-09-30T21:22:35Z 2017-09-30T21:22:35Z
  • Astros utilityman Marwin Gonzalez could be a free agent to watch in the 2018-19 offseason, Rosenthal argues. Like Ben Zobrist, who received a $56MM deal two years ago, Gonzalez switch-hits and can play several positions in the infield and outfield. Gonzalez is also reaching the end of an outstanding .303/.375/.530 season. I might point out that Gonzalez doesn’t have Zobrist’s overall track record, but Rosenthal notes that Gonzalez will have only recently turned 30 at the start of the 2019 season, and that unlike Zobrist, he can play shortstop.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Charlie Morton May Retire After 2018 Season]]> 2017-09-30T01:09:04Z 2017-09-30T01:09:04Z
  • Charlie Morton may call it a career after the 2018 season, the Astros right-hander told MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (Twitter link).  Morton turns 35 in November 2018 and has battled several injuries throughout his career, though he is wrapping up one of the most successful of his ten seasons in the big leagues.  His unique enjoyment of his Astros experience, however, is actually one of the factors in Morton’s reasoning: “The group we have here is so good….The most valuable thing you have is time, and these are the guys I’m investing that in.  I can only think of a couple other groups I was with, where I look back and say ’That was really good.  That was worth it.’  It would be a search for that feeling, when you go in a clubhouse and like being with that group.  Here, you’re doing something meaningful — with everything that’s going on in the city….This is a moment to be cherished and valued.”
  • In other Morton-related news, he made his 25th start of the season tonight, which Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle notes triggered a $625K bonus in the Astros righty’s contract.  Morton also received $625K bonuses for hitting the 15-start and 20-start thresholds, so he’ll tack an extra $1.875MM onto his $7MM base salary for the 2017 season.  Morton also has the same base salary and bonus structure in place for 2018.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Altuve, Yadi, Olson, Red Sox]]> 2017-09-26T05:04:23Z 2017-09-26T05:04:23Z Here are the latest health notes from around the game:

    • The Astros dodged a bullet tonight when star second baseman Jose Altuve left the game after being struck on the forearm by a pitch. Thankfully, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets, x-rays came back negative. The diminutive 27-year-old is leading the American League in hits for the fourth consecutive year and in batting average for the third time in four seasons. He’s also pacing qualified batters with a career-best 168 OPS+.
    • Also departing with an injury tonight was Cardinals veteran Yadier Molina. The team announced that he’s undergoing testing as part of the concussion protocol after taking two consecutive foul balls off of his mask. His status for the rest of the regular season remains uncertain, but it could become a bigger issue if St. Louis can claw into Wild Card position.
    • Athletics slugger Matt Olson has been diagnosed with a grade 2 hamstring strain, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. He’s very likely to miss the remainder of the season, but it won’t put a damper on an exciting campaign. Olson, 23, has streaked to 24 long balls in 216 trips to the plate, with a robust .259/.352/.651 batting line. He’ll fall shy of a full year of service, too, so the A’s will control Olson for six more campaigns.
    • Things didn’t go quite as hoped for the Red Sox tonight. Lefty Drew Pomeranz was sitting in the high-eighties with his fastball, though he says that was part of a plan to save some gas for the later innings, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. Star outfielder Mookie Betts left with a wrist issue, though there’s no reason as yet to think it’s significant. Of the greatest concern, perhaps, infielder Eduardo Nunez tweaked his injured knee. He suggested that he’ll sit out a few more games and try again to return, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald tweets.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Inside The August 31 Justin Verlander Talks]]> 2017-09-23T20:34:59Z 2017-09-23T20:34:59Z
  • The trade that sent Justin Verlander to the Astros was finalized literally just two seconds before the August 31 deadline, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter reports in a behind-the-scenes look at how the blockbuster deal came together.  Unable to return to his Houston home due to Hurricane Harvey, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow ended up making the final negotiations on August 31 while trying to find a cellphone signal at his in-laws’ dining table (during a dinner party, to boot).
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[MLB Suspends Mike Fiers For Five Games]]> 2017-09-14T23:44:58Z 2017-09-14T23:44:58Z Major League Baseball announced Thursday that Astros right-hander Mike Fiers has been suspended for five games and fined an undisclosed amount after throwing behind Luis Valbuena’s head during last night’s game against the Angels (video link). Fiers is not appealing his suspension, which will take effect tonight. After starting last night’s game, Fiers wouldn’t have been able to throw for the next three to four days anyhow, so the suspension will likely only cost him one appearance (be it a relief outing or an additional start in McCullers’ place).

    [Related: Houston Astros depth chart]

    Fiers made a spot start in place of Lance McCullers, who was dealing with arm fatigue, and was ambushed early by the Halos, who put up eight runs in the first two innings. Valbuena hit a two-run homer to cap off a five-run first inning and, as he’s done throughout his career, celebrated with a rather emphatic bat flip. Fiers, apparently, took exception to his former teammate’s display and let a 90 mph pitch sail behind Valbuena’s head in his next at-bat. Fiers wasn’t ejected — though the home plate umpire warned both benches — and Valbuena ultimately responded by ripping the next pitch into the right-field corner for a double.

    Fiers explained to reporters that he has no hard feelings toward his former teammate and didn’t intend to hit him but rather to send a message after he felt he was disrespected (link via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle).

    The 32-year-old Fiers has pitched to a 5.22 ERA with 8.6 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 through 153 innings in 2017 while earning a $3.45MM salary after avoiding arbitration last offseason. He’ll be arbitration-eligible again this winter and is controllable through the 2019 campaign.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Jake Marisnick To Undergo Surgery On Fractured Thumb]]> 2017-09-14T22:18:33Z 2017-09-14T22:02:32Z Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick suffered a fractured right thumb when sliding head-first into second base in last night’s game and will undergo surgery tomorrow, the team announced. He’ll require a six- to eight-week recovery, according to the Astros, which seems likely to put an end to his 2017 season even if Houston makes a deep playoff run.

    [Related: Houston Astros depth chart]

    The loss of Marisnick, 26, will put an end to what has in many ways been a breakout campaign for the fleet-footed outfielder. While Marisnick’s glovework in the outfield doesn’t rate as highly as it has in past seasons (+2 Defensive Runs Saved; -4 Ultimate Zone Rating), his .243/.319/.496 batting line and 16 home runs make the 2017 campaign far and way his most productive offensive year. Marisnick is still far to prone to strikeouts (34.7 percent), but his overall output has been markedly better than the league average on a rate basis (121 OPS+, 116 wRC+).

    While he’s been slumping a bit lately and hasn’t been an everyday player for most of the season, his absence will thin out the Astros’ outfield mix. Derek Fisher, George Springer, Josh Reddick and Cameron Maybin figure to see the bulk of the playing time in the outfield moving forward. The loss of Marisnick makes Houston’s move to claim Maybin off waivers look all the more important, as his right-handed bat and considerably above-average speed give him a similar skill set that will help offset Marisnick’s absence.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Hernandez, Wainwright, Marisnick, Johnson]]> 2017-09-14T18:22:33Z 2017-09-14T18:19:43Z As planned, Felix Hernandez will come off the DL to start tonight for the Mariners, according to a club announcement. It’ll be King Felix’s first start for Seattle since July 31st. It’s been a tough year for the righty so far (this was his second stint on the disabled list for issues with his throwing shoulder), but he’ll have a chance to turn things around and keep the Mariners breathing in the AL Wild Card chase.

    Some other injury news and updates from around MLB…

    • Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright threw a bullpen session today, according to a tweet from MLB beat reporter Jenifer Langosch. At this point in the season, and with the Cards three games back in a battle for the NL Central pennant, it seems likely that the veteran will pitch out of the bullpen upon his return. Langosch also notes that reliever Seung-hwan Oh threw a bullpen session as well, while Jedd Gyorko and Dexter Fowler took practice on the field.
    • Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick left Wednesday’s game with an apparent thumb injury after sliding into second base in the top of the third inning. Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle offers some thoughts on the unfortunate situation for the AL West-leading Astros, noting that the recently-acquired Cameron Maybin and rookie Derek Fisher are likely to see increases in playing time. The organization hasn’t released details on the severity of the injury, but manager A.J. Hinch offered that, “It doesn’t look good.” For reference, significant thumb injuries — such as fractures or ligament tears — frequently require absences of at least six to eight weeks. More information will likely be available sometime after Marisnick undergoes tests in Houston today.
    • Veteran reliever Jim Johnson of the Atlanta Braves has been diagnosed with achilles tendinitis, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. He remained in Atlanta while the team traveled to Washington, and Braves manager Brian Snitker says he’s unlikely to pitch this weekend. Johnson is in the first year of a 2-year, $10MM deal with the Braves. It remains to be seen whether he’ll pitch again this season, but its certainly an unfortunate development for Johnson after losing the closer role to Arodys Vizcaino already this season. For Atlanta, the loss of Johnson thins out a bullpen that already has the fifth-highest ERA among all major league teams.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[2017 Rule 5 Roundup]]> 2017-09-14T16:14:45Z 2017-09-14T14:15:17Z With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:


    It isn’t official yet, but these

    • Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
    • Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
    • Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
    • Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
    • Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.

    Still In Limbo

    • Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
    • Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
    • Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
    • Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.

    Kept By Other Means

    • Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.

    Already Returned

    • Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
    • Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
    • Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
    • Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
    • Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
    • Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
    • Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
    • Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[McCullers Dealing With Arm Fatigue]]> 2017-09-14T03:14:00Z 2017-09-14T03:14:00Z
  • Astros righty Lance McCullers was scratched from tonight’s game due to arm fatigue, as’s Brian McTaggart writes. His inability to go has already proven costly, as the Angels jumped onto spot starter Mike Fiers for five runs in the first inning. McCullers indicated that he feels “fine” and the decision wasn’t his, and manager A.J. Hinch told reporters that he’s not overly concerned about McCullers’ health. Houston has the division all but clinched even with some recent struggles, but obviously any uncertainty surrounding McCullers’ health with the postseason looming would be an ominous sign for the eventual AL West champs.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Further Details On The Justin Verlander Trade]]> 2017-09-08T02:10:33Z 2017-09-08T02:10:33Z In one of his latest columns at FanRag Sports, Jon Heyman looks at the final hours leading up to Aug. 31’s Justin Verlander blockbuster. The Astros, according to Heyman, had been reluctant to part with any of their top six prospects in trades for virtually any player in either July or August. It wasn’t until 10:30pm ET on the night of Aug. 31 that they called the Tigers to at last cave in and concede a willingness to part with highly touted right-hander Franklin Perez. Detroit GM Al Avila had two execs head to Verlander’s home before the ace had decided whether to waive his no-trade clause in order to obtain his signature as quickly as possible if he ultimately approved a deal.

    The Tigers’ initial centerpiece target, per Heyman, was another of the Astros’ young right-handers: Forrest Whitley. Houston held firm on him, but the two sides were ultimately able to cobble a deal together and give Verlander about an hour to weigh whether to waive his no-trade protection. In the end, the trade went through at 11:59pm, per Heyman, barely scraping under the wire.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[AL Notes: Astros, Salazar, Profar, Travis]]> 2017-09-07T02:35:51Z 2017-09-07T02:13:29Z The Astros have reallocated resources away from traditional scouting roles to newer methods of assessing talent, most notably eliminating eight positions recently. It’s a move that could signal yet another stage of development in the now-ensconced analytical revolution, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic explores in detail through conversations with numerous key industry figures (subscription required and recommended). Houston is one of a few teams drawing back on the live-game player analysis of pro scouting. That said, per Rosenthal, other clubs have increased their staff sizes, making for a multitude of approaches around the game. The piece is essential reading for baseball fans.

    Here are some more notes from the American League:

    • Danny Salazar’s first start upon returning from the disabled list lasted just two-third of an inning and put his spot in the Indians’ postseason rotation in question, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Trevor Bauer, like staff aces Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, is pitching well right now, Hoynes observes, and right-handers Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin have also been throwing better (should a fourth starter be needed). Hoynes wonders if the Indians could again use Salazar as a bullpen piece in the playoffs, noting that the righty did at least display strong velocity in his otherwise ugly outing.
    • With the Rangers foregoing an opportunity to bring up Jurickson Profar this month, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News examines how the one-time uber prospect fell entirely out of the club’s plans. If Texas can’t even find a use for him with expanded rosters, it only stands to reason that the team will elect to move on over the winter — even if that means taking far less in return than once would have seemed reasonable. As Grant notes, that’s particularly true given that Profar will be out of options. Surely some other team will offer something to take a shot on a player who is still just 24 years of age and won’t command much of a raise on his $1.05MM arbitration salary. Notably, too, given his minimal MLB time this year — and the Rangers’ decision not to activate him in September — Profar will be controllable through arbitration for three more seasons.
    • While Devon Travis has mostly been excellent for the Blue Jays when healthy, he has also appeared in only 213 games over the past three years while dealing with a variety of injuries. That has led to some suggestions that he might be best off moving off of second base to the outfield, though GM Ross Atkins (via’s Gregor Chisholm, on Twitter) doesn’t sound wholly convinced of the idea. Atkins suggested some openness, but emphasized that it could be explored “more in the context of versatility” rather than that of improving durability. The GM made clear that he thinks Travis is most valuable as the team’s everyday second baseman and also stressed that there’s no real “research” showing that shifting onto the grass would really help keep Travis on the field.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Angels Claim Dayan Diaz, Designate Daniel Wright]]> 2017-09-04T20:03:13Z 2017-09-04T19:57:54Z The Angels announced on Monday that they’ve claimed right-hander Dayan Diaz off waivers from the Astros. Fellow right-hander Daniel Wright was designated for assignment in a corresponding roster move.

    Diaz was already linked to the Angels in one respect anyhow, as he’d been designated for assignment by the Astros in order to clear a roster spot for Cameron Maybin, who’d been claimed off waivers from the Halos. In essence, the Angels will swap Maybin and Wright out off the 40-man roster for Diaz, though there’s still a chance that they could keep Wright in the organization for the time being.

    The 28-year-old Diaz made his Major League debut with the Reds last season but was cut loose at season’s end, at which point he signed a minor league deal with the Astros. In a combined 19 2/3 MLB innings, Diaz has an unsightly 9.15 ERA. While he’s picked up an impressive 23 strikeouts in that short time and averaged 94 mph on his fastball, he’s also walked 11 batters and thrown four wild pitches. In 161 career innings at the Triple-A level, Diaz has a much more appealing 2.96 earned run average with 8.2 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9.

    Like Diaz, Wright debuted with the Reds last season but didn’t find much success in the Majors. The 26-year-old tossed 19 2/3 innings with the Halos this year, working to a 4.58 ERA with an 11-to-8 K/BB ratio in that time. Overall, he owns a 5.61 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 56 1/3 Major League frames. Wright has logged considerably more time in Triple-A, though the results there have been even less favorable; through 176 1/3 innings at the top minor league level, he’s posted a 6.58 ERA with 126 punchouts against 60 free passes.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Why Verlander Chose Astros Deal]]> 2017-09-04T00:25:00Z 2017-09-04T00:25:00Z
  • Reports have suggested that Justin Verlander was initially hesitant to waive his no-trade clause and join the Astros, as he would’ve preferred to instead be dealt to the Cubs or Dodgers.  As Rosenthal notes, “there’s no guarantee” either Chicago or L.A. would have looked to acquire Verlander in the offseason, so the former Cy Young Award winner decided to join a contender now rather than stay with the rebuilding Tigers.  Rosenthal also points out the interesting fact that Minute Maid Park has been the most depressed run-scoring environment of any ballpark in the league since the start of the 2016 season, belying its hitter-friendly reputation.

  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Further Details On Astros' Justin Verlander Deal]]> 2017-09-03T21:58:08Z 2017-09-03T21:58:08Z Right-hander Justin Verlander met with reporters Sunday and explained his decision to waive his no-trade clause to go from the Tigers to the Astros in a stunning Aug. 31 trade.  Given that Verlander had been in the Detroit organization since it drafted him second overall in 2004 and evolved into a Tigers icon, it was understandably difficult for him to leave.  “At one point I was kind of pacing back and forth in my living room — it was just [fiancée] Kate [Upton] and I — and I’m going, ’Trust your instincts, trust your instincts. What are your instincts telling you?'” Verlander said (via Brian McTaggart of “I was just so caught in between with emotion and excitement of a new ballclub, and ultimately, it came down to winning and joining an organization that’s set up to win for a long time.”

    For the teams involved, the Verlander deal was a tough one to work out, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press details in a fascinating piece.  The Tigers rejected multiple proposals from the Astros on Thursday, when the trade ultimately went down late at night, and it looked as if the sides would table talks until the offseason.  The clubs finally agreed on a return, and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow called Tigers GM Al Avila around 11:30 p.m. ET to inform him that Houston would pick up $16MM of the remaining $58MM left on Verlander’s contract.  Then, the Tigers dispatched two baseball operations officials to Verlander’s house so he’d provide a signature agreeing to waive his no-trade rights.  Verlander did, of course, but he initially had reservations about going to the Astros.  While Fenech reports that the 34-year-old never rejected a trade to Houston, he had concerns about shifting to their ballpark.  Discussions with Astros owner Jim Crane and manager A.J. Hinch did enough to assuage Verlander, however, and the longtime ace then called Avila to inform him he’d accept the trade, paving the way for a blockbuster that came in barely before the 11:59 p.m. ET waiver deadline.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Carlos Correa Returns]]> 2017-09-03T14:43:39Z 2017-09-03T13:47:58Z One of the premier players in baseball, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, will make his return Sunday against the Mets, per Brian McTaggart of  Correa hasn’t played since tearing a thumb ligament on July 17, before which the 22-year-old put himself in American League MVP consideration by hitting an excellent .320/.400/.566 with 20 home runs and posting 4.1 fWAR in 375 plate appearances.  While Houston was a juggernaut prior to Correa’s injury, it went backward during his absence. The team jumped out to a 62-31 start with Correa in the fold, but it went just 20-22 when he was on the shelf.  Still, the Astros hold an insurmountable 12.5-game lead in the AL West and should have a realistic World Series shot now that their best player is back.

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Reactions To The Justin Verlander Deal]]> 2017-09-02T14:56:01Z 2017-09-02T14:56:01Z Here’s a collection of reactions to the Tigers’ headline-grabbing trade of Justin Verlander to the Astros earlier this week.

    • After the Tigers and Astros agreed on a deal, Verlander initially refused to waive his no-trade rights, Jon Morosi of writes. Verlander wasn’t opposed to joining the Astros, but first he wanted to see if he could go to the Cubs, since he and fiancée Kate Upton like the city of Chicago. (Verlander was also interested in the Dodgers, although they weren’t actively involved in talks.) When it turned out the Tigers felt the Cubs weren’t offering enough value in a potential deal, Verlander signed off on the trade that would send him to the Astros.
    • Bob Nightengale of USA Today has further details on discussions between Verlander and the Tigers that resulted in Verlander’s departure from Detroit. The Tigers ultimately told Verlander it would be “the Astros or nobody,” as Nightengale describes it. Verlander, who had some concerns about Houston as it dealt with Hurricane Harvey, spoke to Astros owner Jim Crane. “I told him, ’This town is going to be fine. It’s going to take time. You will be received great here. We’ve got a good team, a good manager, a good front office. There won’t be any problems here,'” says Crane.
    • The Tigers’ decision to trade Verlander and Justin Upton was an “obvious rebuild move,” says Tigers GM Al Avila (via’s Jason Beck). “We’re going to have a rough month of September, and next year may not be all that pretty, either,” says Avila. “But at some point in the near future, we expect this to turn around, that some of these prospects will be coming up and making a difference. And within a reasonable time then, we should be ready to go.”
    • The trade shows the Astros will treat their coming playoff run as a “crusade” for their beleaguered city, Ken Rosenthal writes for the Athletic. The team already has a franchise-record payroll of around $130MM this season, and that figure could go higher next year. But the Astros are pushing to make it to the World Series, and Rosenthal writes that while a baseball trade hardly makes up for what’s currently a disastrous situation in Houston, it could perhaps be a “ray of sunshine” in an extremely dark time.
    • Franklin Perez now ranks as the Tigers’ second-best prospect behind fellow righty Matt Manning, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen opines in a review of the prospects in the swap. Longenhagen describes Perez as a polished teenager who has the potential to dominate, although he’ll have to increase his stamina to carry a big-league starter’s workload. He calls Daz Cameron a “fringe-to-average hitter with fringe game power” and a borderline future big-league starting outfielder.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Acquire Justin Verlander]]> 2017-09-01T16:08:16Z 2017-09-01T16:05:47Z 11:05am: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that Verlander will retain full no-trade protection now as a member of the Astros (Twitter links). Additionally, the Astros have agreed to waive his vesting option for the 2020 season. Verlander would’ve needed a top five finish in the 2019 Cy Young voting to see that $22MM option vest, though it stands to reason that if he were to finish in the top five that season, he’d be able to earn more on the open market in free agency.

    Nightengale also confirms that Houston will receive a PTBNL in the deal as opposed to further cash considerations. (Houston will still receive the $16MM from the Tigers to help pay down some of Verlander’s salary.)

    12:30am: In a stunning reversal, after a deal seemingly collapsed, the Tigers have officially sent long-time ace Justin Verlander to the Astros. Prospects Franklin PerezDaz Cameron, and Jake Rogers will go to Detroit in the deal. Houston is also slated to receive $16MM from Detroit to cover a portion of Verlander’s remaining salary, along with a player to be named later or cash considerations.

    "JulThe August trade period has never been so loaded with blockbusters. This year, the Tigers pulled off not one but two major swaps on August 31st — the last day for teams to deal players who’d be eligible to appear in the postseason with their new organizations. After shipping outfielder Justin Upton to the Angels earlier today, Detroit GM Al Avila hammered out a yet-more-significant trade by parting with one of the franchise’s icons tonight.

    While dealing Upton came with some complications, the path to the Verlander trade was riddled with roadblocks. Starts and stops in talks over recent months left immense uncertainty as to his future. His full no-trade rights loomed as a barrier, while the $56MM left on his contract after this season (for the 2018 and 2019 campaigns) seemed steep. Indeed, he cleared revocable waivers, with no clubs putting in a claim to take over his entire deal.

    The chatter picked up, then sputtered, approaching the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, then ebbed and flowed in August after Verlander had cleared revocable trade waivers. Throughout it all, Verlander turned in gem after gem, increasing his appeal as a trade target all the while.

    Ultimately, Houston couldn’t pass on the chance to add the hard-throwing workhorse, parting with three talented young players to get him. The Tigers couldn’t miss on this opportunity to deal him at a relative high point, especially after Verlander struggled early in the 2017 campaign. And though Verlander waited until the last minute to approve the trade — MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets that he held out for a chance to land with the Cubs — he ultimately decided to depart a franchise that is obviously launching a significant rebuilding process for one that owns the best record in the American League.

    The dealmaking took place even as the Astros prepare to return to their home city for the first time since Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Texas cost. As the city and its brave citizens continue to battle flood waters, the Astros will play a dramatic doubleheader tomorrow while preparing to welcome one of the most accomplished pitchers of the past 40 years.

    It will be tempting for some Astros fans to see Verlander as something of a savior. He is one of the game’s highest-profile players — due not only to his excellence, but also his relationship with supermodel Kate Upton — and the team has struggled of late even as it comfortably paces the AL West.

    But Verlander is already 34 years of age and has quite a lot of mileage on his arm —  durable though it may be — after 380 regular season MLB outings. While he owns a 3.49 ERA through more than 2,500 innings on the Major League hill, it’s fair to wonder when he’ll slow down. Indeed, those concerns rose to the fore as Verlander labored to a 4.96 ERA through his first 17 starts this season.

    Of late, though, Verlander has been outstanding. Since a dud to open the month of July, Verlander has pitched to a 2.31 ERA with 84 strikeouts against 20 walks over 74 innings. He’s throwing as hard as ever and could still crack 200 innings for the tenth time in the past 11 seasons.

    Clearly, Verlander represents a significant upgrade for an Astros staff that has had its ups and downs this year even as the team runs away with a division crown. While Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. are big talents, both have had injury problems; the latter has also had some hiccups of late and is currently on the DL. Other hurlers — including Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, and Mike Fiers — have certainly had their moments in 2017, but there was room for the Astros to add a postseason starter to the mix.

    The addition is especially notable given that the ’Stros missed on Zach Britton and another as-yet-unknown pitcher at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Verlander will bump some other arms into the bullpen, especially during the postseason, helping to deepen the overall staff while also giving the team a pitcher that is no stranger to working late into playoff games. Of particular note for an Astros team that has only burst into competitiveness in recent seasons, Verlander a 3.39 ERA through 98 1/3 innings in 16 postseason contests == the most recent of which came in 2014.

    Unsurprisingly, the addition comes at a cost. While Verlander’s salary held down his value, Detroit still managed to secure some high-end talent in this deal, all while clearing the bulk of Verlander’s contract from the books. In combination with the Upton trade, the Tigers have saved something on the order of $136MM in salary commitments. (That estimate includes the remainder of those players’ salaries for the current season, less the money the team has agreed to retain in both deals. It also assumes Upton would not opt out after the current season, which remains to be seen.)

    While Cameron is perhaps the best-known youngster moving in this deal, Perez is undoubtedly the headliner. The 19-year-old righty entered the year on top-100 prospect charts, with the potential of developing a quality four-pitch arsenal, and has delivered on the hype. Through 86 1/3 innings at the High-A and Double-A levels, Perez carries a 3.02 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.

    Cameron was one of the highest-rated players in the 2015 draft, and Houston structured its strategy that day around landing him with a big bonus at pick No. 37. The son of long-time major leaguer Mike Cameron, the 20-year-old has bounced back from a tough 2016 campaign. Over 506 plate appearances this year at A ball, he’s slashing .271/.347/.567 with 14 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Notably, too, he has drastically pared back the strikeouts that plagued him last year, carrying a 21.1% rate thus far in 2017.

    Detroit also lands a potential future catcher in Rogers, who is a highly regarded defensive backstop that has shown some hitting skills as well. While he’s already 22 years of age, the 2016 third-rounder from Tulane succeeded at the plate at both the Class A and High-A levels this year. Over 479 total plate appearances, he’s slashing .265/.353/.476 with 18 long balls, and he’s also recorded 52 walks against 100 strikeouts.

    The dramatic tale of this trade isn’t yet over. Verlander promises to be one of the most closely watched players in this year’s postseason and will be expected to anchor the staff over the final two years of his deal. And the Tigers will hope that the three players acquired will help form the team’s next core of stars — though it will likely be some time before any test their merit at the game’s highest level.

    Chris McCosky of the Detroit News covered the late-breaking negotiations (links to Twitter). Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press first reported (via Twitter) that a deal was done. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter) reported the return, which McCosky had previously noted, while Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) and Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link) had the financial elements.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros, Tigers Reportedly Fail To Complete Justin Verlander Trade]]> 2017-09-01T04:59:04Z 2017-09-01T03:58:27Z 10:58pm: As covered in detail here, the sides managed to pull off a last-minute blockbuster.

    10:55pm: The Astros were apparently unable to swing a last-minute deal to land Tigers ace Justin Verlander, though the reasons why remain unclear. Detroit News journalist Chris McCosky said a deal was mostly in place with the Astros, then said that Verlander had nixed the proposed arrangement, and finally concluded it wasn’t clear if Houston had backed out (links to Twitter). Meanwhile, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that it’s not yet clear what happened, but that the “Tigers are not blaming” the veteran right-handed hurler.

    For Houston, this evidently represents the latest thwarted effort to add an impact arm. The club was reportedly close to landing Zach Britton and perhaps another pitcher at the non-revocable waiver deadline, but both deals fell through. Now, it seems, the team has missed on Verlander, who previously cleared revocable waivers but still maintained his full no-trade protection.

    Talks between the teams were long been held up by an evident failure to agree on a return, but evidently gathered steam late today. As of midnight EST tonight, clubs can no longer add players from outside the organization and then utilize such players on their postseason roster.

    The ’Stros are rich in prospects, but had remained hesitant to part with their best young talent while also taking on a significant piece of the $56MM still guaranteed to Verlander over the next two seasons. Meanwhile, the Tigers were said to be holding out for real talent in parting with one of their franchise’s best all-time players.


    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Justin Verlander]]> 2017-09-01T13:37:46Z 2017-09-01T03:28:52Z 10:47pm: The Tigers are “still busily working [the] phones,” tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, with Verlander’s status as yet uncertain.

    10:27pm: There are a variety of reports emerging late that paint a somewhat confusing picture. Detroit News journalist Chris McCosky said a deal was close with the Astros, only to report shortly thereafter that Verlander had nixed the proposed arrangement (links to Twitter). Now, McCosky says it’s not clear if Verlander exercised his no-trade clause or if the Astros backed out. Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter) and Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter) had also suggested that a deal was getting closer.

    9:05pm: The Cubs still aren’t willing to meet the Tigers’ asking price, per David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (via Twitter). Chicago is believed to be the only team willing to take on most or all of Verlander’s salary, per’s Jesse Rogers (Twitter link), though indications remain that a deal is not likely at this late stage.

    8:16pm: One source tells ESPN Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link) that talks involving Verlander are believed to be “dead” with less than three hours to go before the deadline to add players with eligibility for postseason rosters.

    6:24pm: The Cubs and Astros — two teams with prior reported interest — spoke with Detroit today, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (via Twitter). Both learned that the Tigers’ asking price on Verlander has not changed. Whether or not either of those two hypothetical suitors remains engaged on Verlander is not clear.

    2:29pm: While Detroit is indeed asking around about Verlander trades, FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that a trade of Verlander remains “possible but not probable.” As of yesterday, Tigers brass was reportedly not optimistic about reaching a deal for Verlander.

    1:49pm: The Tigers are in “active discussions” on the possibility of a Justin Verlander trade in advance of tonight’s deadline for postseason roster eligibility, reports Jon Morosi of (Twitter links). Per Morosi, each of Verlander, Shane Greene and Alex Wilson is in play as the Tigers are “making clear” to other clubs that they are embarking on a rebuild.

    The inclusion of Greene and Wilson is surprising, if for no other reason than it suggests that both affordable relievers have perhaps cleared revocable waivers. Morosi doesn’t explicitly state that, but both would need to have cleared in order to be discussed in trades or, at the very least, have been claimed off revocable waivers in the past day or so (which would leave Detroit able to negotiate with only the claiming team). The Astros have remained in contact with the Tigers regarding Verlander over the past 48 hours, Morosi further adds.

    Detroit is already on the verge of unloading one massive contract, as the Tigers have reportedly agreed to trade Justin Upton to the Angels. Certainly, the Tigers will be looking for more than just salary relief in exchange for Verlander, who has been dominant over the past couple of months after a slow start to the season, however. Verlander is owed $56MM from 2018-19.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Designate Dayan Diaz For Assignment]]> 2017-08-31T19:55:15Z 2017-08-31T19:55:15Z The Astros announced that they have designated right-hander Dayan Diaz for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for newly claimed outfielder Cameron Maybin, whose acquisition has now been announced by the team as well.

    The 28-year-old Diaz made his Major League debut with the Reds last season but was cut loose at season’s end, at which point he signed a minor league deal with the Astros. In a combined 19 2/3 MLB innings, Diaz has an unsightly 9.15 ERA. While he’s picked up an impressive 23 strikeouts in that short time and averaged 94 mph on his fastball, he’s also walked 11 batters and thrown four wild pitches.

    In 161 career innings at the Triple-A level, Diaz has a 2.96 earned run average with 8.2 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Acquire Cameron Maybin Via Waiver Claim]]> 2017-08-31T19:15:07Z 2017-08-31T19:04:28Z 2:04pm: The Astros actually claimed Maybin off revocable waivers, reports Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Angels are simply letting go of the remainder of his $9MM salary — about $1.5MM — which Houston will absorb in the trade. There aren’t any other players changing hands.

    1:37pm: The Astros have agreed to acquire outfielder Cameron Maybin from the Angels, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter). The trade of Maybin comes in conjunction with the Halos’ reported blockbuster acquisition of Justin Upton from the Tigers.

    Maybin will bring extra outfield depth to the Astros, though there’s no readily open everyday spot for him in an outfield currently comprised of Derek Fisher, George Springer and Josh Reddick. But, he’ll bring plenty of speed to the Astros’ roster as rosters are set to expand, giving the team a valuable pinch-running option as well as a potential right-handed complement to either Reddick or Fisher. It’s also worth noting that after a solid start to his big league career, Fisher has fallen into a prolonged slump, so Maybin will give the team another option in the outfield should Fisher continue to look overmatched.

    Since coming over from the Tigers over the offseason, the 30-year-old has turned in 387 plate appearances of .235/.333/.351 hitting with six home runs and an AL-leading 29 stolen bases. While the overall batting output has been below the league average, Maybin has posted a boost in his walk rate (to 12.4%), is one of the games best baserunners, and has graded as an average or better fielder in left and center.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Details On Failed Darvish Talks Between Rangers, Astros]]> 2017-08-31T17:40:07Z 2017-08-31T16:19:45Z The trade that would have sent Zach Britton from the Orioles to the Astros included third baseman Colin Moran, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, but medical issues ultimately sank the deal. Moran was already on the disabled list after having suffered a concussion and a facial fracture when he fouled a ball off his face in mid-July, per Heyman, but there were also medical issues with one of the prospects that would have gone to Baltimore. That issue was found as the O’s sifted through medical paperwork, and though Houston tried to resurrect the deal in the final hours leading up to the non-waiver deadline, the two sides were ultimately unable to find a common ground. None of Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, Francis Martes, Forrest Whitley or Yordan Alvarez were offered in either iteration of the deal, he adds.


    • Prior to trading Yu Darvish to the Dodgers, the Rangers “made clear” that they were “completely willing” to trade Darvish to the Astros. The Rangers, according to Heyman, asked for top-tier prospects from their division rivals, however, before ultimately landing on a package comprised largely of high-ceiling players in A-ball. Houston offered currently suspended (PEDs) top prospect David Paulino in a deal, and the two sides apparently never got especially close to reaching an agreement.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Justin Verlander]]> 2017-09-01T02:53:53Z 2017-08-29T21:01:44Z With the August trade period soon coming to a close, there has been a surge of interest in Tigers righty Justin Verlander, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter). Verlander is one of many veteran players to have cleared revocable waivers, though he also enjoys full no-trade protection.

    Speculation has long focused on the Astros as a viable landing spot. While there have been indications that the sides have engaged in talks, though, none seem to have occurred  of late — so far as is publicly known.

    Interestingly, though, Morosi says another organization “has emerged as [a] possible suitor.” The new team with interest isn’t yet known, but surely it must be an organization with reasonable present expectations of pushing for a postseason berth.

    That is an intriguing development, to be sure, but doesn’t necessarily suggest Verlander is likely to be on the move. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag suggested yesterday that the Tigers haven’t recently engaged in earnest with other organizations. Plus, there’s the matter of Verlander’s full no-trade protection. Though he has indicated he would at least strongly consider a move to a non-contender, he could also seek some compensation.

    Most importantly, perhaps, Detroit has long been said to desire a fairly significant prospect return that arguably outstrips the value of the star righty’s contract. Verlander is owed $56MM for the following two seasons, which is a fairly hefty rate for a 34-year-old pitcher. He got off to a slow start this year, too, though he has posted a strong 3.34 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 37 walks over his last 105 innings (17 starts).

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Astros Fly To Dallas, To Announce Upcoming Plans]]> 2017-08-28T03:52:49Z 2017-08-28T01:24:08Z In light of the damage wrought by Tropical Storm Harvey, the Astros have released a statement about their plans for the coming week. The team, after playing the Angels in California this weekend, is currently scheduled to host the Rangers in Houston on Tuesday. However, the team now plans to fly to Dallas, and will provide an update on their schedule on Monday. It seems reasonable to speculate that the upcoming series will be moved to Arlington. “At this point, our focus is on the safety of our fans, our players and their families and our front office staff and their families,” says Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan. “As we continue to monitor the conditions, we have been in communication with Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers and will provide an update on Monday.” Obviously, these potential changes to the baseball calendar pale in importance to the continued dangers Harvey poses, and we at MLBTR send our thoughts to any readers currently dealing with the devastation of the storm.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Make Front Office Changes]]> 2017-08-27T00:40:33Z 2017-08-27T00:38:55Z
  • The Astros announced a series of front office changes on Friday, as Brian McTaggart of details in full. The mutual parting between the team and assistant director of player personnel Quinton McCracken was among those moves. McCracken, who had been in the Astros’ front office since 2012 and even drew interest from Boston when it was looking for a GM in 2015, talked about his exit with Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. “(With) the recent reconfiguration of the front office staff, we mutually agreed it was best for me to pursue other opportunities in the baseball community,” McCracken said. “It was a mutual agreement. My contract was due at the end of this cycle, and we decided that it just wasn’t a proper fit moving forward.” McCracken’s departure comes on the heels of the Astros firing eight scouts earlier this month.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Correa, McCullers Among Astros Set For Rehab Assignments]]> 2017-08-24T02:12:32Z 2017-08-24T02:07:54Z Both Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers are headed out on minor league rehab assignments this week. Correa told reporters that he’s going to Triple-A Fresno tomorrow to begin his rehab assignment (Twitter link, with video, from FOX 26’s Mark Berman). Yesterday, Correa said he expected that he’d need 20 to 30 at-bats to get back up to speed, which would suggest that he could return to the Astros in about a week’s time. As for McCullers, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets that he’s slated to make a rehab start with Fresno on Friday. Berman also tweets that in addition to that pair of key players, righty Will Harris, lefty Tony Sipp and righty Michael Feliz are all headed to Triple-A Fresno for rehab work. Beyond that, Brian McCann is ready to be activated tomorrow.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Correa Rehab Assignment Will Likely Last A Week]]> 2017-08-22T23:01:03Z 2017-08-22T22:54:30Z
  • Carlos Correa told reporters today that while he’s not yet certain exactly when he’ll embark on a minor league rehab assignment, he thinks he’ll need about a week’s worth of at-bats in the minors before he’s ready to return (Twitter link via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle). Correa cited a target of 20 to 30 at-bats before he’d be back up to speed. It’s been just under five weeks since the Astros announced that Correa would miss six to eight weeks with a torn thumb ligament.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers]]> 2017-08-20T20:29:40Z 2017-08-20T20:29:40Z Astros superstar shortstop Carlos Correa is progressing toward a return from the torn left thumb ligament he suffered July 18. Correa will take batting practice on the field Tuesday for the first time since succumbing to the injury, and he could then embark on a rehab assignment, manager A.J. Hinch told reporters, including Ben DuBose of Teammate Lance McCullers, who has been on the shelf for three weeks with back discomfort, threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday, but there’s no timetable for the right-hander’s return. Hinch informed Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter) and other reporters that McCullers will need to make multiple rehab appearances before coming back.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Dodgers Claim Jordan Jankowski From Astros]]> 2017-08-20T18:18:45Z 2017-08-20T18:07:23Z The Dodgers have claimed right-hander Jordan Jankowski off waivers from the Astros, per an announcement from Los Angeles. The hurler had been in limbo since the Astros designated him for assignment this past Monday.

    [Updated Dodgers Depth Chart]

    A 34th-round pick of the Astros in 2012, Jankowski made his major league debut earlier this year and fared poorly across 4 1/3 innings, surrendering six earned runs on seven hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. Jankowski hasn’t produced great results in 40 1/3 Triple-A frames this season, either, with a 5.13 ERA, 5.13 BB/9 and a 36.8 percent ground-ball rate. The 28-year-old has averaged nearly 12 strikeouts per nine at that level this season, however, adding to his impressive bat-missing history in the minors. In 174 1/3 lifetime Triple-A innings, Jankowski has fanned exactly 12 hitters per nine, against 4.5 BB/9, and posted a 3.87 ERA.

    Jankowski, who has three minor league options remaining, will report to the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Notes: Verlander, Hernandez]]> 2017-08-20T01:09:09Z 2017-08-20T01:09:09Z There remains an outside chance that Houston will trade for Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander this month, as the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo hears from major league sources that the Astros haven’t closed the door on acquiring the fireballer. There have been a slew of reports since last month on the possibility of Verlander going to the Astros, including one from FanRag’s Jon Heyman earlier this week. A source told Heyman that negotiations between the two teams had been “put to bed.” For his part, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow doesn’t expect to make a big acquisition before the month’s out. To land Verlander, who’s still due around $7MM this season and another $56MM from 2018-19, the Luhnow-led Astros would need to take on the majority of his contract and “give up a few prospects,” Cafardo writes. Not all prospects are created equally, of course, and the Tigers want legitimate young talent in return for the longtime ace and franchise icon, per various reports.

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Astros Fire Eight Scouts]]> 2017-08-19T21:21:17Z 2017-08-19T21:20:21Z
  • The Astros recently fired at least eight scouts, as Peter Gammons tweeted yesterday. These firings are a bit surprising coming from an organization whose big-league team is currently thriving thanks to the contributions of a number of young, homegrown players. GM Jeff Luhnow, though, says the team’s scouting division will remain about the same size going forward, and that the area is being realigned, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle writes. “This is not a cutback in scouting,” says Luhnow. “We are reconfiguring within and across the three scouting departments – international, domestic and pro.” Luhnow added that he expects the team will make new scouting hires.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Have Shown Interest In Ervin Santana; Twins Unwilling To Part With Him]]> 2017-08-18T17:28:35Z 2017-08-18T16:52:24Z
  • The Astros and Mariners have both showed plenty of interest in right-hander Ervin Santana this summer, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports in his latest podcast (audio link, Twins talk starts up around the 45:00 mark). However, Minnesota has never shown any real willingness to deal him, and there’s no reason to expect that they’d change that mentality now with a Wild Card spot still in the crosshairs.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Heyman’s Latest: Astros, Verlander, Samardzija, Rays, Mets, Dickey]]> 2017-08-18T03:21:59Z 2017-08-18T03:20:58Z In his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag takes a look at the tightly packed AL Wild Card race. He also provides some notes from both the American League and National League. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of relevance to the transactional landscape:

    • While the Astros could still conceivably renew their pursuit of Tigers righty Justin Verlander, it may be that the talks are over barring a significant change of heart from one or both of the organizations. Heyman cites a source who said he felt negotiations were “put to bed last week.” In other news regarding Houston, Heyman says the club “never got serious” in their apparently limited pursuits of Jose Quintana, Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish in July, and one source indicated to Heyman that it never even made an offer for Quintana this summer. The Astros, of course, pursued Quintana extensively this offseason, so the front office was likely already well aware of Chicago’s lofty asking price for Quintana.
    • It seems the Giants have yet to place righty Jeff Samardzija on waivers, with Heyman suggesting it’s seen as unlikely he’ll be claimed when he does go on the wire. But the belief is that the starter could be targeted if he does clear waivers. Samardzija has carried compelling strikeout (160) and walk (23) numbers through his 155 2/3 innings on the year, though he has also allowed 22 home runs and owns a 4.74 ERA. He has turned in four-straight quality outings, it’s worth noting.
    • The Rays are interested in finding a right-handed hitter, according to Heyman, though it’s unclear just what the club might realistically look to do. Tampa Bay has not performed as had been hoped when the team reshaped its roster over the summer, which surely also alters the picture. Reserves such as Trevor Plouffe, Daniel Robertson, and Peter Bourjos have all struggled with the bat, though finding upgrades will be challenging at this stage. (As mostly goes without saying, the decision to part with Tim Beckham has not looked good thus far.)
    • After striking a variety of deals already, the Mets are “still working hard” to deal away more players this August, Heyman writes. Veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson still seems like the most obvious possible trade piece, though perhaps infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, lefty Jerry Blevins, catcher Rene Rivera, or even recently-acquired reliever A.J. Ramos could be moved.
    • The Braves are considering exercising their $8MM club option over knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for the 2018 season, per Heyman. That option comes with a $500K buyout, effectively making it a $7.5MM decision. The Braves are pleased with the 42-year-old’s durability, innings and leadership. Through 141 frames this season, Dickey has a 3.89 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 49.5 percent ground-ball rate. Realistically, the club would be hard pressed to find better value on the open market and will need the innings next year.
    • Some clubs believe that the Angels are the team that placed the claim on Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, per Heyman, who notes that Anaheim is still in the market for a second base upgrade. However, the Halos have only “limited” interest in Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has reportedly cleared revocable waivers and is having a solid season at the plate.