Houston Astros – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-08-07T20:36:19Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Yordan Alvarez, Jose Urquidy]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=220764 2020-08-07T19:36:17Z 2020-08-07T19:36:17Z A litany of health problems have slowed the Astros, who have started 2020 an even 6-6 after winning the American League a year ago. Slugger and 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez is among the team’s most important players on the shelf, likely owing to a positive coronavirus test. Alvarez is taking batting practice and running, but manager Dusty Baker suggested a return is not imminent.

“The cavalry is a ways off,” Baker said of Alvarez and right-hander Jose Urquidy, who has also been on the IL for an undisclosed reason early this year, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Urquidy just began throwing off a mound.

The 23-year-old Alvarez was a critical piece of the puzzle for the Astros last season, when he slashed .313/.412/.655 with 27 home runs in 369 plate appearances. There’s obviously no realistic way to replace that type of production.

Urquidy, 25, didn’t star as a rookie last year, but he was impressive in his own right, as he amassed 41 innings of 3.95 ERA/3.68 FIP ball with 8.78 K/9 and 1.54 BB/9. The Astros, who are facing several injuries in their pitching staff, will welcome similar numbers this year if Urquidy is able to pitch.

Austin Pruitt is also among the wounded in Houston, and the club decided to transfer the righty to the 45-day IL because of an elbow ailment on Friday, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets. The move opened up space for just-acquired righty Chase De Jong in their 60-man player pool. Pruitt still hasn’t pitched for the Astros, who added him in an offseason trade with the Rays, and it remains very much in question whether he’ll take the mound at all this season.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[George Springer Exits With Wrist Injury]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=220439 2020-08-07T02:48:39Z 2020-08-07T02:47:44Z Astros outfielder George Springer departed the team’s loss to the Diamondbacks on Thursday with a right wrist strain, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic was among those to report. Fortunately, X-rays came back negative, so he shouldn’t sit out for a significant amount of time, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Although Springer seems OK, even a few days off could be damaging to a Houston team that’s off to a 6-6 start. The reiging AL champions have already had to go without ace Justin Verlander and slugger Yordan Alvarez for most or all of the season because of health problems, and their bullpen has taken a beating from injuries. Those troubles have helped lead to an early 2 1/2-game deficit in the AL West, a division the Astros have won three years in a row. They’re now staring up at the Athletics.

Of course, a great deal of Houston’s recent success has been on account of Springer, who has slashed .269/.360/.488 with 163 home runs in 3,398 plate appearances since he debuted in 2014. He’s one of the premier pending free agents in baseball, and with such a short season, any missed time could hurt the 30-year-old’s earning power heading into the offseason.

The Astros replaced Springer with Myles Straw in center field on Thursday. Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker and Josh Reddick represent the rest of the healthy outfielders on their roster.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros’ Kent Emanuel Receives 80-Game PED Suspension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=220338 2020-08-06T22:33:08Z 2020-08-06T22:30:30Z Astros left-hander Kent Emanuel has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the banned substance Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT), Major League Baseball announced today. Emanuel has yet to make his Major League debut but is on Houston’s 40-man roster. He’ll be placed on the restricted list for the remainder of the season, opening a 40-man spot for the ’Stros, who already had a rather depleted bullpen. The suspension goes into effect today.

Kent, via an MLBPA statement, claims that he does not know how “7 picograms of the long-term metabolite of DHCMT” got into his system, adding that he’s never knowingly taken the substance in question.

The 28-year-old Kent spent the 2019 season with Houston’s Triple-A club in Round Rock, where he tallied 101 2/3 innings of 3.90 ERA ball with 7.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.80 HR/9 and a 57 percent ground-ball rate. He was not in the club’s 60-man player pool — perhaps due to the fact that he was in the process of appealing this suspension. (Most positive tests come well before the league announces a suspension, and the appeals process can be rather lengthy.) The Astros now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Astros’ Rotation]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=220066 2020-08-06T03:56:13Z 2020-08-06T03:53:10Z The Astros are reshuffling the back end of their rotation, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com relays. Right-hander Josh James will head to the bullpen, while fellow righty Brandon Bielak will slide into their starting staff. Bielak’s first-ever start will come Thursday against the Diamondbacks.

The perennially contending Astros have gotten off to a so-so start this season, and the dominant rotation they boasted last season is no longer intact. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander is on the shelf with a forearm injury, and the club lost Gerrit Cole in free agency. Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. remain in the fold, though neither has prevented runs at a quality clip in 2020. McCullers took a beating at the hands of the D-backs on Wednesday. If you want to take an optimistic approach, though, Greinke’s a longtime ace, McCullers has enjoyed a fine career and shouldn’t be discounted in his return from a Tommy John procedure, Cristian Javier has been one of the best rookies in baseball in the early going, and Framber Valdez was terrific in a win over the Angels last weekend.

Unfortunately for Houston, opposing offenses have battered James so far. The 27-year-old opened the season with two starts and six innings of seven-run ball before the Astros booted him from their rotation. James only yielded four hits in that span, and he struck out nine, but he issued an alarming number of walks (11) and saw his average velocity drop from 97-mph plus to under 96. For at least the time being, James will head back to a relief role for a Houston club dealing with numerous injuries in its bullpen. James worked 61 1/3 innings (49 appearances, one start) last season and logged a 4.70 ERA/3.98 FIP with 14.67 K/9 and 5.14 BB/9.

Bielak, 24, was an 11th-round pick of the Astros in 2017 who ranks as a top 15 Astros prospect at multiple outlets. He has been a useful hurler for the club at the outset of his career, having combined for 5 1/3 frames of one-run ball with six strikeouts and three walks in his first two appearances.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Roberto Osuna May Require Tommy John Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=219448 2020-08-04T18:02:32Z 2020-08-04T17:44:09Z 12:59pm: The initial diagnosis is that Osuna requires Tommy John surgery, Mark Berman of FOX 26 reports on Twitter. He’ll go for a second opinion.

If indeed that major reconstruction is required, it could have major ramifications beyond the present season. Osuna is earning $10MM this year (on a full-season basis) and would be due a raise through arbitration for 2021. It’s quite possible that he’d miss all or virtually all of the ensuing season if he requires a UCL reconstruction, so the ’Stros may end up cutting him loose at the end of the season.

12:44pm: The Astros had been hoping for good news after closer Roberto Osuna came down with an elbow injury. Astros manager Dusty Baker indicated in an appearance on SportsTalk 790 that the club is now bracing for the worst (link to audio stream).

“Doesn’t look real good, actually,” Baker explained. “[Osuna] went and had an MRI yesterday. He’s in our prayers and in our thoughts. The reality is it’s probably not really good news.”

Whether Baker knows of an initial diagnosis isn’t evident, but it seems clear the organization anticipates a lengthy absence. Given the short schedule, there wouldn’t be much time for Osuna to work back from a significant injury — let alone to recover from a major surgery.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros To Acquire Chase De Jong]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=219187 2020-08-03T22:52:51Z 2020-08-03T22:52:51Z The Astros have struck a deal to pick up righty Chase De Jong, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). He had been working with the indy league Sugarland Skeeters.

It’s not immediately clear whether De Jong will join the Astros’ active roster or instead head to the team’s alternative training site. Regardless, he’ll first have to pass a physical and covid screening.

De Jong, 26, is a former second-round pick who has appeared in each of the past three MLB seasons. He hasn’t found much success at the game’s highest level, allowing 31 earned runs with a 26:22 K/BB ratio in 47 total frames. He also ran into the Triple-A home run buzzsaw last year, but did carry a 3.66 ERA in 160 frames at the highest level of the minors in the 2018 campaign.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Place Roberto Osuna On 10-Day IL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=218659 2020-08-02T19:18:39Z 2020-08-02T19:15:26Z 2:14pm: The Astros have placed Osuna on the 10-day injured list with right elbow soreness, according to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by right-handed pitcher Humberto Castellanos, who had previously been on the Astros’ taxi squad.

8:46am: Astros closer Roberto Osuna left Saturday’s game due to an arm injury, and manager Dusty Baker told reporters that Osuna will head from Anaheim to Houston to undergo an MRI.  Facing his third batter of the ninth inning last evening, Osuna threw a pitch to the Angels’ Jason Castro and immediately signaled for the trainer to visit the mound.  The right-hander was removed and replaced with Cy Sneed.

In the short term, Osuna’s injury quite possibly cost Houston the game, as Castro hit an RBI double to tie the score, and the Angels then scored the winning run in the 10th.  But Saturday’s defeat could be a relatively small matter compared to a potentially serious arm problem for Osuna, especially considering how the Astros’ pitching staff has already been ravaged by injuries.

Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, Joe Biagini, Jose Urquidy, Austin Pruitt, and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander are all on the injured list, while Ryan Pressly only just returned from a sore elbow.  The Astros have made some recent acquisitions (signing Fernando Rodney and acquiring Hector Velazquez from the Orioles) to help fill out their pitching depth, though there’s only so much that can be done to replace so many sidelined hurlers.

Should Osuna’s MRI reveal any bad news, his loss would be a particularly tough one for the Astros.  Osuna has a 2.45 ERA, 6.33 K/BB rate, and 9.3 K/9 over 92 innings since coming to the Astros from the Blue Jays in July 2018.  Pressly might be the top choice for save situations with Osuna sidelined, though the club might want to ease Pressly back in action considering that Saturday marked his first game of the season.

TC Zencka <![CDATA[Astros Place Chris Devenski On Injured List, Select Carlos Sanabria]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=218417 2020-08-01T23:23:21Z 2020-08-01T23:23:21Z The Astros have placed pitcher Chris Devenski on the injured list, retroactive to July 29th, per Mark Berman of Fox 26 (via Twitter). To replace him on the roster, Houston selected the contract of Carlos Sanabria.

As with many clubs around the game, consistently fielding a competent pitching staff is going to be bit of a whirlwind this season. Devenski has been a cog in their bullpen for the past four seasons, though a 4.56 ERA/4.57 marks an underwhelming last couple of seasons. Still, the Astros are working a lot of young arms into the mix this season, and Devenski’s veteran presence could help stabilize the relief corps.

For now, however, they’ll look elsewhere. Ryan Pressly continues to be held out of action, though he’s very close to being game-ready, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Pressly figures to be a significant presence in the back end of the bullpen, especially with Will Harris now in Washington.

McTaggart also notes that Forrest Whitley has been dealing with some arm soreness. Despite a difficult season in 2019, Whitley will almost surely make his debut this year since there’s no Triple-A season. Still, he’ll have to get healthy first.

Sanabria, 23, will make his major-league debut should he get into a game. The 6’3″ right-hander pitched only as high as Double-A in 2019, making 37 appearances with a 3.11 ERA despite 5.9 BB/9. He’s a live-armed pitcher with some promise if he can get his command right. Fangraphs has him as the Astros’ 22nd ranked prospect.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros’ Jim Crane On Luhnow, Hinch, Sign-Stealing Scandal, Taubman]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=218007 2020-08-01T01:02:47Z 2020-08-01T01:02:06Z Even though GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were incredibly successful atop the Astros, the club let them go last offseason in the wake of a sign-stealing scandal. Major League Baseball also came down hard on Luhnow and Hinch in suspending them for a year apiece, and it fined the Astros $5MM and took away their first- and second-round picks this summer and next.

Astros owner Jim Crane spoke about Luhnow, Hinch and stealing signs, among other topics, in a wide-ranging interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

In regards to Luhnow and Hinch, Crane said, “You hate to see what happened to those guys because they didn’t instigate this thing.” Nevertheless, Crane believed the Astros had no choice but to part with Luhnow and Hinch, who he hopes “get back in the business.”

The Astros negotiated a settlement on the remainder of Hinch’s contract, which ran through 2022, per Nightengale. They haven’t done so with Luhnow, whose deal went through 2023 and whom they fired for “just cause.” It’s possible the two sides will end up in court to settle the matter, according to Nightengale.

With the Luhnow/Hinch era in the rearview mirror, the club’s “sorry” about its misdeeds, said Crane, who guarantees “it will never happen again.” He also observed: “I think (MLB) had a bigger problem than everybody realized. Two other teams (the Yankees and Red Sox) were doing things and got caught, but we’re the ones who took the bullet. That’s the way it works. I’m not trying to blame anyone else. It was our problem. We dealt with it.”

The Yankees were fined for improper use of a dugout phone in 2017, but there’s no evidence that they ever engaged in stealing signs to the extent the Astros did. Meanwhile, the Red Sox lost a second-round pick this year and let go of manager and former Astros bench coach Alex Cora, whom the league suspended for a year, on account of their own sign-stealing violations from their World Series-winning 2018 campaign.

Before the Astros’ sign-stealing crimes became public information, they came under fire during the postseason last year when then-assistant GM Brandon Taubman taunted a group of women reporters, yelling, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna!” He was, of course, referring to closer Roberto Osuna, whom the Astros traded for in 2018 despite the fact that he was amid a 75-game domestic violence suspension at the time. The Astros then made the tone-deaf move of questioning the credibility of Sports Ilustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported Taubman’s comments, only to fire Taubman shortly after that and apologize to Apstein.

Several months later, Crane is still not condemning Taubman. In his talk with Nightengale, Crane stated that “Brandon Taubman didn’t commit domestic violence. He just made a comment. It’s nothing you can defend. He had a few cocktails. He was happy. There were people constantly coming at him over (Osuna), and he overreacted. Did he do the right thing? No. Everybody makes mistakes. But is he a good, genuine decent person and smart kid? Absolutely.”

Between the sign stealing and Taubman’s behavior, it would have been fair to question the Astros’ culture under their previous regime. Indeed, when commissioner Rob Manfred leveled punishment against the franchise, he concluded that the Astros had an “insular culture’’ issue. But Crane told Nightengale, “We didn’t have a culture problem. They’re isolated incidents that are unrelated.”

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Sign Fernando Rodney]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=215189 2020-07-31T20:28:29Z 2020-07-31T20:26:57Z JULY 31: The club has announced the signing. Rodney will go to the team’s alternative training site.

JULY 28: The Astros are nearing a deal with veteran right-hander Fernando Rodney, Adam Spolane of SportsRadio 610 in Houston reports. The Octagon client is currently playing for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, and the Astros have been negotiating a buyout of that arrangement. The deal is till pending a physical for Rodney, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart tweets.

Rodney, now 43 years of age, would join his 12th MLB club if he ultimately gets into a big league game with the Astros. The longtime late-inning reliever split the 2019 season between the A’s and Nationals, struggling with the former but serving as a steadying presence in what had been a tumultuous bullpen with the latter. Rodney has a reputation for making any given appearance a rather adventurous outing, but his overall body of work with the World Champion Nationals was solid. In 33 1/3 frames, he logged a 4.05 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 0.81 HR/9 and a 48.3 percent ground-ball rate. Rodney’s heater still averaged 94.2 mph with the Nats last year.

The Astros’ bullpen has some notable names at the back of the mix, including Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly, but the pitching staff on the whole lacks experience. That’s particularly true with Justin Verlander currently shelved. Other Astros arms on the sidelines include Brad Peacock (shoulder), Austin Pruitt (elbow), Rogelio Armenteros (elbow) and Jose Urquidy (no reason provided). Rodney would add some depth and experience to a pitching staff that right now is carrying an eye-opening seven rookies.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Predict The AL West Division Winner]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=216438 2020-07-30T02:20:57Z 2020-07-30T02:20:57Z With final roster decisions in the books and the 2020 season underway, it’s time to make some predictions. We’re polling the MLBTR readership on each of the game’s six divisions — though plenty more teams will crack the postseason under the rather inclusive new playoff qualification system. We’ve already surveyed the AL East, AL CentralNL Central, and NL East landscapes, and now we’ll turn to the American League West.

The Astros entered this season off three straight division titles, though they’ve undergone some major changes since winning the AL pennant in 2019. A sign-stealing scandal cost them general manager Jeff Luhnow and skipper A.J. Hinch, whom they replaced with James Click and Dusty Baker, respectively. On the field, they said goodbye to co-ace Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley in free agency. Their rotation suffered yet another massive blow this week when they placed reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on the injured list with a forearm strain. He’s one of many injured Astros pitchers, and to make matters worse, the club has been without slugger and 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez because of the coronavirus.

Despite all the issues they’re facing, the Astros at least still boast an above-average roster. They don’t look like a juggernaut in their current state, though, and that could give a division rival a chance to pounce.

The Athletics, winners of 97 games in each of the prior two seasons, boast an eminently talented roster that seems as if it’ll present the greatest challenge for Houston. The Rangers and Angels look more like wild-card possibilities than teams capable of upending the Astros, though a 60-game season could make it more likely for either to pull off an upset. Probably not the case for the Mariners, who are retooling and have gotten to a 1-4 start. While five games isn’t enough of a sample size to bury or crown anyone, the M’s have gotten crushed in three of their defeats and entered Wednesday with the majors’ worst run differential at minus-21.

Which team do you think is going to take the division title? (Poll link for app users.)

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLB Suspends Joe Kelly, Dave Roberts]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=215759 2020-07-29T21:06:18Z 2020-07-29T21:04:43Z Major League Baseball has issued suspensions in the wake of last night’s bench-clearing action between the Dodgers and Astros. Los Angeles righty Joe Kelly was suspended for eight games and manager Dave Roberts received a single-game ban.

Kelly will appeal his suspension, so it’s not going into effect right away. Roberts will go ahead and sit out this evening’s game. His counterpart, Astros skipper Dusty Baker, will be fined for what went down between the two clubs.

In Kelly’s case, the league made several factual determinations that drove the decision. Kelly was deemed to have thrown “in the area of the head” and also to have “taunted” in a manner that spurred the clearing of the benches. The statement also noted that he had previously been suspended for such an incident.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Orioles Trade Hector Velazquez To Astros]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=215551 2020-07-29T18:05:02Z 2020-07-29T16:19:00Z The Orioles announced this morning that they’ve traded right-hander Hector Velazquez to the Astros in exchange for a player to be named later. Baltimore had outrighted Velazquez off its 40-man roster just prior to Opening Day.

Velazquez, 31, spent the past three seasons with the Red Sox, throwing well from 2017-18 before stumbling to a 5.43 ERA in 56 frames in 2019. He’d previously logged a 3.12 ERA in 109 2/3 MLB frames, with averages of 5.9 strikeouts, 2.7 walks and 0.9 home runs per nine innings. The righty’s low strikeout right and lofty 80.7 percent strand rate prompted fielding-independent metrics to treat that ERA with some skepticism, but even metrics like FIP (4.24), SIERA (4.54) felt he was at least a passable option.

Things deteriorated last year for Velazquez when his walk and home run rates spiked. His strand rate not only regressed toward the league average (72.3 percent) but blew right by it and swung toward another extreme: 61.9 percent. Velazquez doesn’t miss many bats, but he can generate grounders with a low-spin sinker when at his best, as evidenced by a near-50 percent grounder rate in 2018.

It’s a necessary depth move for an Astros club that has been hammered by injuries on the pitching staff. Houston currently has nine rookies on its staff, including seven relievers who hadn’t accrued a single day of MLB service prior to Opening Day. It’s not clear whether Velazquez will be selected directly to the Major League roster, although given the sheer inexperience that currently permeates the Houston roster, there’d seem to be a decent chance that Velazquez will be called up in the near future.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Place Joe Biagini On Injured List, Select Andre Scrubb]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=215293 2020-07-28T22:46:45Z 2020-07-28T22:46:45Z The Astros announced that they’ve placed right-handed reliever Joe Biagini on the 10-day injured list due to shoulder soreness and, in a corresponding move, selected the contract of right-hander Andre Scrubb from their alternate training site.

Biagini, 30, averaged 94.5 mph on his fastball as a reliever from 2018-19 but came out of the gates in 2020 averaging a diminished 92.6 mph on that heater. He allowed a run on two hits with a strikeout in two-thirds of an inning in his lone 2020 outing. Biagini struggled in his time with the ’Stros last year, but he turned in a 3.78 ERA with a strikeout per inning and solid control in 50 frames before being traded from Toronto to Houston.

Scrubb, 25, has yet to advance to Triple-A but will now jump directly to the big leagues. Houston acquired him in the 2019 trade that sent Tyler White to the Dodgers. He split last year between the Double-A affiliates for Houston and L.A., pitching to a combined 2.78 ERA with 10.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. He’s not among the organization’s top-ranked prospects, but his solid showing in Double-A last year landed him in the team’s 60-man player pool (and now on the 40-man roster).

With Scrubb joining the bullpen and Bigaini landing on the injured list, the Houston bullpen now has an incredible seven pitchers who entered the season without so much as a day of MLB experience. In addition to Biagini, the Astros also have Brad Peacock, Austin Pruitt, Rogelio Armenteros, Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidy on the injured list at the moment. Given the mounting number of injuries, it’s not difficult to see why the club is pursuing a depth pickup of Fernando Rodney, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the ’Stros were to make some similar additions in the near future.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Exercise Club Option On Dusty Baker]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=215201 2020-07-28T20:04:54Z 2020-07-28T19:50:04Z The Astros announced that they’ve exercised their 2021 club option on manager Dusty Baker. Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston first reported that Houston was set to pick up the option. The Houston organization also picked up 2021 options on pitching coach Brent Strom and third base coach Gary Pettis.

Baker, 71, was hired back in January after the Astros fired both president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch in the wake of the team’s sign-stealing scandal. The move to hire Baker, one of the game’s most widely respected figures in any role, gave the club an experienced voice of leadership following a chaotic winter and distanced the organization from the previous regime. Some wondered whether Baker might be a one-year stopgap, given the short nature of his initial contract, but it seems he’ll stick around into next season.

“Dusty has been a perfect fit for our ballclub,” GM James Click said in announcing the move. “His knowledge of the game and experience have been invaluable to us in his first few months with the club. We’re excited to see him in an Astros uniform again next year.”