Houston Astros – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-06-24T03:30:45Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[2018 Amateur Signings: 6/22/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125604 2018-06-23T05:48:25Z 2018-06-23T05:48:25Z Let’s round up Friday’s draft deals of note. As always, the rankings referenced come courtesy of FangraphsMLB.comBaseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law; Fangraphs and MLB.com scouting reports are available to the public free of charge, while the others require subscriptions.

  • The Pirates have a deal with second-rounder Braxton Ashcraft, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. Aschcraft’s $1,825,000 bonus comes in well over the slot value for the 51st overall selection ($1,382,400). The Baseball America (#58) and MLB.com (#64) analysts were highest on the reputedly athletic hurler, who’s regarded more for his projectability than his present ability on the mound. He’ll forego a commitment to Baylor to join the Bucs, who have inked most of their top picks but are still trying to work things out with sandwich round selection Gunnar Hoglund.
  • Astros second-rounder Jayson Schroeder also lands over slot, Callis tweets. Like Ashcraft, Schroeder is a high-school righty who still needs polish but has shown promising tools. He’ll take home a $1.25MM bonus after being taken 66th overall, a choice that carried a $965,300 allocation. Schroeder had been slated to attend the University of Washington.
  • The Brewers announced their deal with second-round choice Joe Gray, with Callis again tweeting the dollars. Gray lands right at the $1,113,500 allocation for the 60th selection. He’s another toolsy player who’ll forego a collegiate commitment, but in his case he’s an outfielder who has decided against a run at the University of Mississippi. A quality defender with power, Gray is seen as possessing significant upside — if his hitting ability can catch up to his other talents. Notably, the Brewers have yet to ink first-rounder Brice Turang. And amateur scouting director Tod Johnson suggested today that a deal is not inevitable, telling Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter link): “Obviously he and his family have to make a decision as to whether he wants to get on the field and start playing professionally, or go down to LSU and go that route.”
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Trade Candidate: Zach Britton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125545 2018-06-22T16:49:14Z 2018-06-22T16:49:14Z As the non-waiver trade deadline draws nearer, Zach Britton will be among the most oft-speculated and oft-rumored players to be on the move. It’s difficult to fathom a scenario in which the Orioles don’t trade their longtime closer, given that the alternatives are losing him for nothing or issuing a qualifying offer worth more than $18MM to a player who has currently thrown 41 2/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2017.

Zach Britton | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that level of uncertainty surrounding Britton, though, that makes his trade candidacy particularly intriguing. It stands to reason, of course, that several teams will be interested in the once-dominant lefty. FanRag’s Jon Heyman reports that the Astros (who nearly acquired Britton last July) and Indians are already in on Britton. It’s reasonable to expect that virtually every team within a stone’s throw of contending will check in on Britton (or already has checked in on Britton) between now and the deadline. But should Britton be considered a premium trade chip?

Britton is teeming with name value — and with good reason. From 2014-16, he was very arguably the best relief pitcher on the planet. Over that three-year stretch the southpaw posted a 1.38 ERA with 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9 and a historic 77.9 percent ground-ball rate in 209 innings. He set the all-time record for single-season ground-ball rate in 2015 and then broke his own record a year later when a staggering 80 percent of balls put in play against him were hit on the ground. Britton missed bats and limited walks, and it was virtually impossible to lift the ball against him. He was an absolute buzzsaw in the ninth inning. No relief pitcher in the game topped Britton’s 9.5 RA9-WAR in that time.

In the time that has followed, however, Britton has seen his 2017 season cut roughly in half by forearm injuries. Then, in the offseason, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that required surgical repair and ultimately kept him on the shelf until mid-June. He’s only just now returned, and he’ll have scarcely more than six weeks to show contenders that he’s worthy of being deemed an impact reliever once again. Had Britton been his usual self in 2017, perhaps it’d be worth giving him the benefit of the doubt on the heels of a non-arm injury. But the 2017 version of Britton, in spite of a solid 2.89 ERA, simply didn’t look all that dominant.

Last year’s 18 percent strikeout rate (7.0 K/9) was Britton’s lowest since moving to the bullpen in 2014. His 11.5 swinging-strike rate was his lowest as a reliever by nearly five percent, and his 31.8 percent chase rate was six percent lower than his 2015-16 peak. Britton still induced grounders at an elite rate (72.6 percent), but not at the historic levels he’d reached in the three preceding seasons. And after walking just 6.9 percent of the hitters he faced from 2014-16, Britton walked 11.2 percent of his opponents last season en route to a 4.34 BB/9 mark. Britton was a good reliever last season, but he wasn’t elite and didn’t perform at a level commensurate with his $11.4MM salary.

Britton still received a raise to $12MM, though, even after the Orioles knew he’d require surgery to repair his ruptured Achiles, and that salary is all the more problematic now in 2018. Britton is owed about $6.45MM through season’s end, as of today. (It’d be about $3.94MM on the day of the non-waiver trade deadline.) That’s a rather significant sum for a team in the middle of the season — especially with the number of contenders who are either over the luxury tax limit (Nationals, Red Sox) or trying hard to remain slightly south of it (Yankees, Dodgers, Giants).

So far in 2018, Britton has only faced 17 batters and totaled 4 1/3 innings of work, so it’s hard to glean all that much from his early results. That said, it should be of at least mild concern that his average sinker is down from 96.1 mph in 2017 to 93.7 mph in 2018. He’s allowed just one hit in facing those 17 opponents and picked up five strikeouts, but he’s also walked four of them and thrown a first-pitch strike to just eight of them. That wouldn’t be especially concerning in a vacuum, but given the backdrop of last season’s control issues, it’s hardly promising to see Britton struggling with to locate the ball early out of the gates.

Clearly, there’s still time for Britton to rebuild his trade value. Even if his velocity doesn’t trend all the way back up, he’d be plenty appealing if he could scale back the walks and continue inducing grounders at an elite level. The O’s could (and should be willing to) increase his trade value by agreeing to pay down some or all of his significant salary, but that hasn’t been the front office/ownership’s M.O. in recent years. (To the contrary, the O’s have parted with Competitive Balance draft picks in order to shed relatively minimal commitments to relievers Ryan Webb and Brian Matusz.)

Britton’s trade candidacy, perhaps more than any other player who is likely to be moved this summer, is punctuated by “ifs.” If his velocity returns, if his control improves, if last year’s lack of whiffs proves to be a fluke and if the Orioles are willing to absorb some salary, he may very well end up looking like the premium trade chip that many expect him to be based on his name value. Right now, however, Britton looks like a solid but expensive reliever whose on-field results haven’t lined up with that name value in nearly two calendar years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Crane, Luhnow On New Contract For Astros' President Of Baseball Ops]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125352 2018-06-19T17:12:23Z 2018-06-19T16:25:42Z
  • Astros owner Jim Crane and newly-promoted president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow discussed their plans for the future after announcing a new contract for Luhnow yesterday, as MLB.com’s Christian Boutwell writes. Crane says that Luhnow deserves “a lot of the credit” for the club’s World Series win last year and promising future outlook. It’s the possibility of a sustainable run of success, meanwhile, that has Luhnow excited. “[T]his next phase of keeping this organization at its high level for an extended period of time, that’s what drives me, that challenge,” he said. Despite his new title, Luhnow will continue to function as the general manager and will hang onto that label as well, though he says he’ll be willing to hand it off to someone else if that proves necessary. Luhnow also suggested that there’s a strong commitment to skipper A.J. Hinch, whose contract expires after the current season but seems likely to be extended at some point.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Extend Jeff Luhnow Through 2023]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125299 2018-06-18T20:07:19Z 2018-06-18T19:38:04Z The Astros announced on Monday that they’ve promoted Jeff Luhnow from general manager to president of baseball operations and signed him to a five-year contract extension that runs through the 2023 season.

    Jeff Luhnow | Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The exact length of Luhnow’s prior contract with the Astros was unclear, though owner Jim Crane plainly stated at today’s press conference that Luhnow is now under contract through the 2023 season. Financial details, of course, were not disclosed, although recent extensions signed by some of the game’s more highly regarded executives reportedly came with annual salaries ranging from a bit north of $5MM (Yankees GM Brian Cashman) to nearly $10MM (Cubs president of baseball ops Theo Epstein).

    Luhnow was a polarizing figure early in his tenure with the Astros, as many raised an eyebrow and criticized from afar as he emphasized the usage of data, analytics and sabermetrics perhaps more than any executive in the game’s history. The Astros received flak not only for their heavy reliance on statistical data (often at the expense of traditional scouting) but also their aggressive utilization of defensive shifts and other, more experimental player development tactics such as tandem/piggyback starters in the minor leagues.

    In the end, it’s hard to question much that the Astros have done during Luhnow’s tenure, though. The Astros are the reigning World Series Champions and have recently snapped off 11 consecutive wins to propel themselves to first place in the American League West. Their .658 winning percentage on the season trails only the Yankees and Red Sox, but the Astros will have ample opportunity to change that; they’ll play their next 19 games against teams with losing records.

    Luhnow’s tenure with the Astros began with some aggressive tanking that saw the team earn the No. 1 selection in three consecutive drafts, though if there’s a notable blemish on his track record, it’s probably that two of those three instances paid little dividends. The Astros couldn’t have done any better in the 2012 draft when they surprised onlookers by selecting high school shortstop Carlos Correa over Stanford ace Mark Appel with the No. 1 pick. But Houston took Appel with the No. 1 overall pick a year later after he didn’t sign, and the team’s selection of Brady Aiken a year later led to a controversial scenario in which neither Aiken nor over-slot fifth-rounder Jacob Nix signed with the organization.

    Of course, the failure to sign Aiken afforded the Astros with the No. 2 pick a year later, which the team used to draft current third baseman Alex Bregman. Bregman was added to a core of homegrown players that also featured Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers and Dallas Keuchel. Luhnow and his lieutenants have also have plenty of successes both on the trade market (e.g. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Brad Peacock). They’ve prioritized now-popular but once-obscure elements like spin rate when adding names like Collin McHugh (via waivers) and Charlie Morton (free agency), and they struck gold with another waiver claim in Will Harris.

    Exactly how long Houston will retain this core group remains uncertain, of course. Altuve recently signed a massive five-year extension, but key players like Springer and Correa have yet to sign extensions. That pair is nonetheless controllable through the 2021 season, though the rotation figures to take a very different look in the coming years, as Keuchel (this winter), Morton (this winter), Cole (post-2019) and Verlander (post-2019) are all approaching free agency.

    That said, there’s clearly little doubt among ownership that Luhnow and his staff are capable of absorbing whatever losses they’ll inevitably incur and replacing that group with a promising wave of new young talent and free-agent/trade acquisitions. One of the most impressive things about this regime, after all, is that for all of the success they’ve had in recent seasons, the Astros still have a strong farm system. Right-hander Forrest Whitley and outfielder Kyle Tucker lead the way, and both are considered to be among the game’s top 20 prospects. With several impressive prospects rising through the ranks, plenty of financial firepower at their disposal and an enviable core of controllable assets at the MLB level, Luhnow’s Astros have dynasty potential despite the increasingly competitive nature of the American League West.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Inside The Astros' Free Agent Pursuit Of Yoenis Cespedes]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125176 2018-06-17T17:50:12Z 2018-06-17T17:50:12Z
  • The Mets faced a tough challenge from the Astros in the race to sign Yoenis Cespedes in the 2016-17 offseason, John Harper of the New York Daily News reports.  The Astros reportedly made Cespedes a similarly-sized offer (four years, $110MM) that the outfielder was “strongly considering,” according to one Mets source.  Another Mets-connected person tells Harper that Cespedes’ “considerations were [to play for a] contender, money, no-trade clause, and [to] train in Florida near his ranch,” and Houston checked off all of those boxes but was unwilling to provide full no-trade protection.  Mets GM Sandy Alderson was also wary about the no-trade clause, yet ultimately agreed to add it to the deal in order to get Cespedes back in the fold.  That “separator” in talks, as another Mets source described it, may have also been necessary to retain Cespedes given his issues with former manager Terry Collins, which Harper relates at length.  It’s safe to assume that the Astros don’t harbor much regret about missing on Cespedes, as they instead spread out their money to acquire multiple players (Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran) that helped them win the World Series, while Cespedes has been hampered by injuries since re-signing with New York.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cafardo: Astros Interested In Zach Britton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125154 2018-06-17T01:13:19Z 2018-06-17T01:13:46Z
  • The Astros are maintaining interest in Orioles reliever Zach Britton, according to Cafardo. Houston agreed to acquire Britton prior to last year’s trade deadline, but the swap fell apart thanks to medical concerns the Orioles had regarding other players in the deal. The Astros went on to win a World Series without Britton, whose value took a hit over the winter when he suffered a ruptured Achilles. The impending free agent just came off the disabled list earlier this week and, with the Orioles well out of contention, is now auditioning for other teams as the July 31 non-waiver deadline nears. With a righty-heavy bullpen, the Astros may make sense for Britton, though southpaw Tony Sipp has enjoyed a bounce-back season and their relief corps has been elite versus left-handed hitters.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Astros Sign First-Rounder Seth Beer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124605 2018-06-13T22:11:26Z 2018-06-13T22:05:27Z June 13: The Astros have announced the signing. MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets that Beer receives a $2.25MM signing bonus, which checks in a bit south of the No. 28 slot value of $2.399MM.

    “Seth Beer has been college baseball’s premier slugger for the past three years; his resume speaks for itself,” assistant GM Mike Elias said in a statement announcing the signing. “We feel his productivity will translate well to the professional game and see him as a potential impact bat for our lineup. We are delighted to add Seth to what is already one of baseball’s strongest farm systems.”

    June 9: The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with first-rounder Seth Beer; FOX 26’s Mark Berman tweets that Beer himself has said so. The outfielder was the 28th overall pick in this year’s draft, and adds that he’ll fly to Houston on Tuesday to sign and head off to short-season ball.

    Beer was ranked 45th and 46th among draft prospects by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively. BA described him as “one of college baseball’s brightest stars”, citing his 70-grade power, exceptional pitch recognition, and .277/.421/.561 batting line this spring. MLB.com, meanwhile, writes that “few college players can match his combination of strength and patience at the plate.” It’s believed that, while it’s no certainty that the slugger’s power will translate at the major league level, it has the potential to be a carrying tool.

    Beer was the consensus Freshman of the Year as a Clemson rookie, when he hit .369/.535/.700 with 18 home runs. His contact has fallen off a bit since then, but the power remained strong throughout his college tenure. Detractors will point to Beer’s speed and poor routes in the outfield as concerns that he won’t stick at the position, along with a swing that can hardly be described as “smooth”. Indeed, it appears that he’s somewhat of a polarizing player among scouts; at points he was mentioned as a potential number one overall pick, while some believed him to be a fringe second-rounder. If he rides to the major leagues, it’ll be on the coattails of his great power/patience potential and even more excellent surname.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Outright Tim Federowicz]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124677 2018-06-10T23:50:54Z 2018-06-10T23:49:53Z
  • The Astros announced that catcher Tim Federowicz has been outrighted to Triple-A after clearing waivers.  Federowicz was designated for assignment two days ago when Brian McCann returned from the disabled list.  After signing a minors deal with Houston in the offseason, Federowicz appeared in two games for the Astros while filling in during McCann’s brief DL stint, and he’ll continue to provide organizational catching depth.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Place Joe Smith On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124627 2018-06-10T16:33:59Z 2018-06-10T16:31:14Z
  • The Astros have placed reliever Joe Smith on the DL and recalled lefty Reymin Guduan from Triple-A, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic tweets. Smith’s battling “elbow discomfort,” which obviously isn’t the most reassuring ailment for a pitcher. Like Fister, Smith inked a free-agent contract over the winter and has endured a down season. The recipient of a two-year, $15MM pact, the normally solid Smith has put up a 5.49 ERA in 19 2/3 innings, but he has managed quality strikeout, walk and grounder rates (9.15 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 49.0 GB percentage).
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Designate Tim Federowicz]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124468 2018-06-08T20:30:52Z 2018-06-08T20:04:01Z The Astros have designated backstop Tim Federowicz for assignment, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic tweets. That move will allow the team to activate fellow receiver Brian McCann from the DL.

    Federowicz did not see much game action during his brief stint in the majors, striding to bat only seven teams. He has seen time in seven MLB seasons, but only once has taken more than 78 plate appearances. Federowicz had been hitting quite well at Triple-A, though, with a .337/.407/.584 slash in his 113 plate appearances.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On The Astros Bullpen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124036 2018-06-04T01:57:53Z 2018-06-03T23:32:58Z There are “two developing holes” on the Astros roster that the team could address at the trade deadline, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only column.  One is a big bat capable of filling the left field or DH spots, and the other is a potential closer.  For the former, Houston has a number of internal candidates on hand (Marwin Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick) who have either struggled or been battling injuries, while youngsters like J.D. Davis, Tony Kemp, or prospect Kyle Tucker represent more options as manager A.J. Hinch juggles his lineup.  Ken Giles has a 4.50 ERA and has allowed a lot of hard contact this season (.368 xwOBA), though he’s also given up just one walk and one homer in 18 innings, against 16 strikeouts.  Given Giles’ struggles last postseason, however, the Astros could very well look at pitchers like Kelvin Herrera or Brad Hand to bolster themselves for some important ninth innings come this October.

    • Sticking with the Astros relief corps, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link) believes the team could specifically target a left-hander at the deadline.  While Chris Devenski and Hector Rondon can handle left-handed batters, the only actual southpaw in the Houston pen is Tony Sipp, who has become a spare part rather than a regularly-used arm.  The questions surrounding Giles notwithstanding, Rosenthal thinks adding a lefty might be the only real relief need for Houston, as the Astros have one of the best overall bullpens in the game.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Kaplan Examines Astros' Revamped Scouting Operation]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123780 2018-06-01T17:30:54Z 2018-06-01T17:30:54Z
  • Jake Kaplan of The Athletic takes an interesting look at the Astros’ revamped scouting department in its first full year of deployment (subscription link). The Houston organization took plenty of heat for electing not to renew the contracts of eight pro scouts last season, and Kaplan examines the new operation and chats with GM Jeff Luhnow about the team’s scouting processes. While the Astros still send scouts to watch amateur talent (high school, college, Latin America, etc.), their pro scouting now relies primarily on video and data analysis. As Kaplan notes, they’ll occasionally send scouts to a park to watch a Major League or Minor League player if they feel they need a closer look, but the organization no longer does so with regularity. “It’s allowing us to have what we think is the best balance for us of field scouting versus information scouting,” says Luhnow. “Because we’re capturing a lot of information out in the field from technology, from video, from other things, and we have to spend a tremendous amount of time reviewing that information.”
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Verlander Hopes To Pitch Until Age 45]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123682 2018-05-31T03:02:21Z 2018-05-31T03:02:21Z In a candid interview with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, Justin Verlander reveals that he thought his career was in jeopardy back in 2014 when he exited a start in Pittsburgh after one inning. His fastball clocked in the mid-80s that day, and as Verlander recalls, he “sat down and lost it” in the tunnel to the visitor’s clubhouse. His arm was in enough pain that an MRI would reveal he required shoulder surgery. Instead, however, Verlander eventually came to realize that failure to fully rehabilitate from offseason hernia/core muscle surgery had lingering effects throughout his body. Now healthy and enjoying the best season of his career, the Astros’ co-ace tells Morosi that he hopes to play for another decade. “In my head, right now, I’m thinking 45,” said Verlander when asked how long he wants to continue pitching. “I don’t know if that’s realistic. I’m going to go as long as I can, until something changes.”

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros To Place Brian McCann On DL, Select Tim Federowicz]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123566 2018-05-29T15:19:49Z 2018-05-29T15:19:49Z The Astros will place catcher Brian McCann on the 10-day DL with knee soreness, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic was among those to report on Twitter. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by fellow backstop Tim Federowicz, whose contract will be selected.

    McCann has dealt with knee issues in the past, which perhaps is not terribly surprising for a 34-year-old who has logged over 1,500 games behind the dish in his MLB career. By the description, it seems this placement is more about dealing with the long-term wear and tear than addressing any particular recent, acute injury.

    Certainly, the numbers suggest it’s time for a respite. While the ’Stros have surged, McCann has fallen off with the bat. He posted a .271/.397/.407 slash in his first 73 plate appearances but is hitting just .164/.207/.291 in his most recent 58 trips to the dish.

    As for Federowicz, he’ll be appearing in his seventh MLB season, though he has only 318 total plate appearances to date at the game’s highest level. He has been doing damage at Triple-A, as is his wont, with a .337/.407/.584 slash in 113 plate appearances this year — boosting his lifetime OPS at the highest level of the minors to a healthy .884 mark.

    Generally, this move helps explain why many see the ’Stros as a plausible suitor for catching help at the trade deadline. McCann, who’s controlled by a club option for 2019, has generally been a solid asset for Houston but likely isn’t suited to heavy usage behind the dish at this stage of his career. Current reserve Max Stassi has impressed to date with a .300/.371/.525 slash on the year, though that has come with 29 strikeouts in 89 plate appearances.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[No Timetable For Josh Reddick's Return]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123475 2018-05-28T20:34:10Z 2018-05-28T20:14:55Z
  • Astros outfielder Josh Reddick is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, but that’s not going to happen, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com writes. Reddick, who’s battling a skin infection above his left knee, hasn’t resumed baseball activities and may need to embark on a rehab assignment before he returns, according to manager A.J. Hinch.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros To Place Josh Reddick On DL, Recall Jake Marisnick]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123077 2018-05-23T15:19:51Z 2018-05-23T15:19:51Z The Astros will place outfielder Josh Reddick on the 10-day DL to address a leg infection, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter). Houston will recall fellow outfielder Jake Marisnick to take the open roster spot.

    Reddick last appeared in a game on Sunday, so the placement can be backdated to Monday. He’ll be eligible to return on May 31st, though it’s not yet clear whether he’ll need a lengthier absence. To this point of the season, Reddick has not been as productive as he was in his first year with the ’Stros, but has still produced a quality .227/.331/.409 slash in 154 plate appearances.

    In Reddick’s absence, the Astros will likely rely on a combination of players. The left-handed-hitting Tony Kemp was recalled recently, as was righty-swinging J.D. Davis, who’s a corner infielder by trade but can handle the corner outfield in a pinch. And Marwin Gonzalez remains available to appear just about anywhere on the field.

    Marisnick will join that mix after wrapping up a five-game stint at Triple-A. He had struggled quite a bit in the majors early this year, striking out 41 times in 87 plate appearances. The 27-year-old seemed to shake off the rust at Fresno, where he swatted two home runs and a triple in 23 plate appearances. If he can carry the momentum with him into the majors, perhaps Marisnick will re-claim his roster spot permanently.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Unlikely To Retain Brian McCann For 2019?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123008 2018-05-23T00:57:37Z 2018-05-23T00:56:19Z Cole Hamels has a 20-team no-trade clause in his contract, though the veteran southpaw described his no-trade protection as “just kind of a formality” during a wide-ranging chat with NJ Advance Media’s Randy Miller.  Hamels can block deals to every team except the Braves, Mariners, Phillies, Nationals, Rays, Cardinals, Cubs, Royals, and Astros, though it doesn’t sound like he would have any specific objection to being dealt to a contender.  “Really, it’s just kind of like heads up….It just kind of provides a little bit more information, a little bit more bargaining power,” Hamels said.  “That’s kind of really what that entails.  But at the end of the day, situations kind of come up and I think everybody understands what can transpire.”

    • As part of a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes that he would “be surprised” if Brian McCann is with the Astros in 2019.  McCann is in the final guarantee year of his contract and the Astros hold a $15MM club option on him for next season.  This option vests into a player option should McCann has 601 PA and at least 90 starts at catcher this season, and doesn’t end the year on the disabled list, though obviously Houston could manage McCann’s workload to ensure he doesn’t hit the vesting threshold.  The hot-hitting Max Stassi has already cut into McCann’s playing time, though McTaggart isn’t sure that Stassi (a longtime prospect) would necessarily be the starting catcher going forward if the Astros parted ways with McCann.  It’s worth noting that the Astros were linked to J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors last winter, and the team has the minor league trade chips to manage such a big acquisition.  McCann, 34, has above-average run creation numbers (111 wRC+) via his .248/.347/.396 slash line in 118 PA this season, though his production over the last five years has generally been closer to league-average.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Release Jon Singleton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122947 2018-05-22T00:51:12Z 2018-05-22T00:30:15Z The Astros have released first baseman Jon Singleton, the team announced (h/t Mark Berman of FOX 26, via Twitter). He is currently serving a 100-game suspension for his third positive test for a drug of abuse.

    Singleton had previously been outrighted off of the Houston 40-man roster. Once one of the team’s top prospects, he is best known at this point for failing to pan out in the majors after signing an extension just in advance of his initial elevation to the majors.

    At the time that contract was entered, it drew quite a lot of criticism. Many were concerned that Singleton — at the time, one of several high-end prospects vying to become core members of a pre-breakout Astros team — had given the team too much upside for a $10MM guarantee. But the deal has clearly turned out to the advantage of a player that received a fairly minimal signing bonus as an amateur and has accrued limited MLB time since — a possibility we pointed out in a full analysis at the time.

    Singleton is earning $2MM this year, the final guaranteed season in the contract. He’s still owed $1MM in total buyouts for the next three years, as well. The deal gave the Astros successive options at $2.5MM, $5MM, and $13MM that obviously will not be exercised.

    Singleton’s only lengthy MLB action came in his first season with the ’Stros. He picked up a few more in the 2015 season, but has not been back since. Through 420 plate appearances at the game’s highest level, he carries a meager .171/.290/.331 slash line with 14 home runs and 151 strikeouts against sixty walks.

    Despite his struggles in the majors, Singleton remains an interesting hitter who could get a look elsewhere — at least, that is, if other organizations are willing to deal with his mounting problems with testing positive for drugs of abuse. Though he has always swung and missed a fair bit, Singleton has solid power and a phenomenal eye. Last year, for instance, he popped 18 home runs and drew 107 walks in his 500 Double-A plate appearances.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Place Derek Fisher On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122837 2018-05-20T20:15:10Z 2018-05-20T19:54:18Z
  • The Astros have placed outfielder Derek Fisher on the DL (retroactive to Saturday) and recalled corner infielder/outfielder J.D. Davis from Triple-A, per reports from Mark Berman of FOX 26 and Jake Kaplan of The Athletic. Fisher, who has hit just .176/.222/.419 in 81 PAs, is dealing with gastrointestinal discomfort. Like Fisher, Davis hasn’t been great at the big league level this year (250/.357/.250 in 28 PAs). However, the 25-year-old laid waste to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League prior to Sunday’s call-up, slashing .415/.473/.654 in 146 tries.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Option Jake Marisnick]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122508 2018-05-16T15:53:50Z 2018-05-16T15:52:46Z 10:52am: Outfielder Tony Kemp will get the call to replace Marisnick, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (via Twitter).

    7:30am: The Astros announced after last night’s game that center fielder Jake Marisnick has been optioned back to Triple-A. It’s not yet clear who’ll take his spot on the active roster.

    It seems the hope in Houston is that Marisnick can get back on track with some time spent at Fresno. As MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports, skipper A.J. Hinch said after the game that the speedy outfielder will receive “a run of at-bats he’s not going to get [in the majors] over the next ten days or however long he’s down there.”

    The current campaign has certainly been frustrating to this point for the 27-year-old Marisnick, who had posted a breakout 2017 effort. Of course, his excellent output last year — including a .243/.319/.496 slash with 16 home runs and nine steals — came with a worrisome 34.7% strikeout rate.

    Thus far in 2018, the swings and misses have ruled the day. Marisnick is striking out at an alarming 47.1% clip and has drawn just a single walk in 87 plate appearances. His power output is way down as well, though it’s the .151 OBP that is most concerning.

    While the ’Stros certainly value Marisnick’s quality baserunning and fielding, they understandably feel he needs some time to figure things out at the plate. He is earning $1.9MM this year and remains eligible for two more seasons of arbitration.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Still Believe In Slumping Hitters]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122276 2018-05-14T01:07:27Z 2018-05-14T01:07:00Z
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow admitted that “Obviously, you have to think about potentially doing something” to address some struggling hitters on Houston’s roster, though Luhnow tells Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle that he still has faith in the “proven track records” of veterans like Evan Gattis or Jake Marisnick.  In regards to Marisnick, for instance, Luhnow mentioned that his excellent defense makes him an important figure for the team.  This gives Marisnick more value than another internal option like top prospect J.D. Davis, who is tearing up Triple-A pitching but is limited to just left field.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[George Springer (Elbow) Likely To Avoid DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122166 2018-05-13T00:49:57Z 2018-05-13T00:49:33Z
  • Astros outfielder George Springer is dealing with a left elbow contusion, which kept him out of the lineup Saturday, but manager A.J. Hinch expects him to avoid a DL stint (via Christian Boutwell of MLB.com). Springer suffered the injury Friday when Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels hit him with a 92 mph fastball. The reigning World Series MVP has perhaps been the Astros’ best offensive player in the early going, having slashed .296/.363/.506 with eight homers in 182 PAs.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[D-backs To Select Kris Medlen’s Contract]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121481 2018-05-03T17:27:30Z 2018-05-03T17:18:25Z The Diamondbacks announced Thursday that right-hander Kris Medlen will start for the club tomorrow against the Astros. Arizona stopped short of formally announcing that Medlen’s contract has been selected, though they’ll need to make that move after today’s game and, with it, also make a corresponding 40-man roster move. That could be accomplished simply by transferring Taijuan Walker from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL in the wake of Walker’s season-ending Tommy John surgery.

    [Related: Arizona Diamondbacks depth chart]

    In addition to Walker’s season-ending injury, Arizona recently lost southpaw Robbie Ray to the disabled list for the foreseeable future due to a strained oblique muscle. With that pair out of the picture for now, the Snakes will rely on Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Zack Godley and Matt Koch to complement the newly promoted Medlen in their rotation.

    Once a rising star in the Braves’ rotation, it’s been a half decade since Medlen was an effective big league starter. The 32-year-old Medlen logged a 2.75 ERA in 445 innings with Atlanta from 2010-13, missing the bulk of the 2011 season in middle of that stretch while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He looked to have bounced back with strong 2012-13 performances, but Medlen again sustained a torn UCL prior to the 2014 season and was again forced to the sidelines for more than a year.

    The Royals attempted to buy low on the talented righty following that injury, but Medlen managed just a 5.12 ERA in 82 2/3 innings over the life of a two-year deal in Kansas City. He spent the 2017 season back in the Braves organization but didn’t end up appearing at the Major League level.

    Medlen has struggled through 18 innings with the D-backs’ top affiliate in 2018, pitching to a 6.00 ERA, albeit with a more encouraging 18-to-8 K/BB ratio in that time. At this point, it’d be a stretch to expect him to ever return to the promising form he showed prior to his second ligament surgery, though it’s certainly plausible that he could yet be a serviceable source of innings at the MLB level. Given that Ray should return from his injury at some point in June, it seems likely that Medlen and Koch will soon be vying for a single spot in Arizona’s mix of starters. Shelby Miller, too, is on the mend from Tommy John surgery, however, and could eventually pair with Ray to push both Koch and Medlen out of the starting picture at the big league level.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Charlie Morton Discusses Future]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120643 2018-04-23T19:35:07Z 2018-04-23T19:35:07Z Over the past 13 months, right-hander Charlie Morton has ascended from a relatively unheralded signing by the Astros to one of the top pitchers on a loaded Houston roster. The 34-year-old righty currently leads the American League with a 0.72 ERA and has posted a dominant 33-to-6 K/BB ratio. Dating back to Opening Day 2017, and including his postseason heroics, Morton has a 3.32 ERA with a 221-to-62 K/BB ratio in his past 195 innings.

    The righty, who turns 35 in November, has suggested in the past that he’s not sure whether he’ll continue playing beyond his current contract, which expires at season’s end, and he expounded on that difficult decision as part of an excellent Q&A with Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription link). In a general sense, Morton explained that he feels at peace with his career and that his goals as a baseball player have “pretty much been fulfilled” — presumably a nod to last season’s World Series Championship (during which Morton pitched the final four innings of Game 7 and was credited with the win).

    Morton didn’t rule out the possibility of continuing his career beyond the present season, though he came across as a player who’ll be quite selective in the offseason when weighing interest from teams in free agency.

    “[I]t would be about the situation overall,” the right-hander said. “What’s the group like in the clubhouse? Where would I be? Would I be closer to [his wife’s] family (in Delaware) in a spot where she would prefer to be?” Morton goes on to list his own health and performance as additional determining factors in playing into 2019 and possibly beyond.

    Though geography could be an important factor and the East coast sounds as if it’d hold appeal, Morton also plainly stated that he’d rather remain with the Astros than test the open market at season’s end. Morton describes the group of talent in Houston as “special” and adds: “…when you think about a team that you want to play for, a team like this is it.” At present, however, he added that he’s not aware of any extension talks between his agent and the Astros.

    As Kaplan notes, Morton is rapidly pitching himself into qualifying offer territory, so the decision could be fairly straightfoward for both parties. A one-year deal at a premium rate — something north of this past season’s $17.4MM value — for the 2019 season would presumably be appealing to the Astros’ front office. Morton, meanwhile, would have the opportunity to remain where he’s comfortable on a deal that leaves him a window in the near future to walk away from the game and begin spending more time with his growing young family — something which he stressed on multiple occasions to be the most fulfilling part of his life. Certainly, it doesn’t sound as if he’ll be entertaining any long-term offers.

    “It could be this year, next year, but I’m not going to keep playing for a long time,” said Morton of his eventual retirement. “I can promise you that. I’m not going to keep playing four, five, six, seven more years.”

    Kaplan and Morton also discuss the right-hander’s improved velocity, some mechanical and training alterations, various high/low points of his career, his injury history, learning a new curveball grip from former teammate A.J. Burnett and some nicknames he’s accumulated over the course of his career in a terrific Q&A that is full of thoughtful, insightful answers from the right-hander.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Stassi Could Be Targeted By Mets; Bruce Discusses Astros' Offseason Interest]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120428 2018-04-20T14:09:52Z 2018-04-20T14:09:52Z The Mets have been without Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki for a week and have received just two hits from their patchwork catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido. However, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News hears that in spite of that, the Mets don’t plan to trade for a catcher before Plawecki returns in another two to three weeks. Ackert checked in on three AL clubs with “obvious” matches — speculatively speaking, Blake Swihart and Wilson Ramos would be a pair of clear on-paper matches — and was told that the Mets have not reached out. Rather, they’ve told clubs who’ve reached out that they plan to stay internal for now. Mike Puma of the New York Post paints a slightly different picture, reporting that the Mets have begun to kick the tires on some options. He lists Swihart, Ramos and Houston’s Max Stassi as “potential pursuits,” though there’s no mention of direct contact with the Red Sox, Rays or Astros regarding that trio in his report.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Luhnow On Correa, Springer, Keuchel, Verlander]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120025 2018-04-15T13:00:48Z 2018-04-15T00:37:36Z In a lengthy Q&A with Jim Bowden of The Athletic (subscription required), Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow touches on a slew of topics relating to the defending world champions, including the futures of shortstop Carlos Correa, center fielder George Springer, left-hander Dallas Keuchel and right-hander Justin Verlander. There’s no word on whether the Astros have begun extension talks with any of those players, but Luhnow would unsurprisingly like to retain each of them for the long haul. “If I could wave a magic wand and keep all three of those guys, plus others here for the foreseeable future and possibly for their entire careers, I would do it! It’s amazing to watch them,” he said of Correa, Springer and Keuchel. Luhnow added that he’d also like for Verlander to finish his career in Houston, which only has him under wraps through next season. Correa’s under control through 2021, meanwhile, and Springer isn’t slated to hit free agency until after the 2019 campaign. Keuchel could be gone sooner, though, as he’s scheduled to reach the open market next winter.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Place Tony Sipp On Disabled List]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119692 2018-04-11T02:53:55Z 2018-04-11T02:53:55Z
  • The Astros announced today that they placed left-hander Tony Sipp on the 10-day DL and recalled righty James Hoyt from Triple-A in his place. (MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart first reported that Sipp would hit the DL.) With Sipp on the shelf, the Astros are going with an all-right-handed bullpen for the foreseeable future, though the ’Stros do have options in that regard if they decide to change course. Lefties Buddy Boshers and Reymin Guadan are both on the 40-man roster and both pitching for Triple-A Fresno.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Details On The Astros' Interest In Jay Bruce]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119449 2018-04-07T20:02:39Z 2018-04-07T20:02:39Z
  • Heyman provides some new details on Jay Bruce’s free agent market, reporting that the Indians offered Bruce a two-year, $18MM deal while the Blue Jays discussed a one-year deal in the range of $5MM-$7MM.  It’s interesting to note that both teams ended up signing somewhat similar veteran left-handed bats for similar price points — Cleveland inked Yonder Alonso for two years and $16MM in guaranteed money, while Toronto signed Curtis Granderson to a one-year, $5MM deal.  The Jays didn’t actually make Bruce an offer, however, and neither did the Astros, though they also had some talks with Bruce about a two-year deal.  Heyman speculates that Houston may have been considering Bruce only if top prospect Derek Fisher was dealt, and thus the Astros’ interest waned since they were able to acquire Gerrit Cole without parting ways with the young outfielder.  As it turned out, Bruce ended up landing a three-year, $39MM deal to return to the Mets.

    [SOURCE LINK]
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Yuli Gurriel Could Return Tuesday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118967 2018-04-04T19:36:39Z 2018-04-01T21:39:03Z
  • Astros manager A.J. Hinch told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and other reporters Sunday that he expects first baseman Yuli Gurriel to make his 2018 debut on Tuesday. Gurriel has been recovering from surgery on his left hand since late February, and because he’s not on the DL, he has been able to serve his season-opening suspension at the same time. Major League Baseball gave Gurriel a five-game ban as a result of an insensitive gesture he directed at then-Dodger Yu Darvish during the World Series last year.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rusty Staub Passes Away]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118615 2018-03-29T13:43:34Z 2018-03-29T13:43:34Z While baseball brims with excitement for the onset of the 2018 season, there’s also sad news for fans and industry folk alike to mourn on Thursday, as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports that six-time All-Star Rusty Staub has passed away just days before what would have been his 74th birthday. Staub had previously survived a severe heart attack in 2015, but as Madden notes, he’d been in the hospital for the past eight weeks battling a blood infection and kidney failure before experiencing multiple organ failure.

    Staub spent nine of his 23 Major League seasons starring for the Mets, for whom he batted .276/.358/.419 in two separate stints, although his best seasons very arguably came with the Houston organization and the now-defunct Expos in his mid-20s. From 1967-71, Staub posted a terrific .302/.397/.472 slash with 94 homers — good for a 148 OPS+ and five consecutive trips to the Midsummer Classic.

    In all, Staub’s outstanding career drew to a close with 2,716 hits, 292 homers, 499 doubles, 47 triples, 1189 runs scored, 1466 RBIs and more walks (1255) than strikeouts (888). He batted .279/.362/.431 in 11,229 plate appearances across 23 seasons split between the Mets, Astros/Colt 45s, Expos, Tigers and Rangers.

    After his playing days, Staub set to work on helping those less fortunate than he’d been in life, establishing the Rusty Staub Foundation, whose mission to this day is to “give children the opportunity to live full, happy and productive lives and to give aid to the hungry.” Established in 1985, the RSF has established pantries around New York City and, to date, has raised more than $17MM for like-minded organizations, per the RSF’s web site. Staub also established the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, which, as Madden notes in his column, has raised more than $112MM in total contributions since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Madden’s column provides a terrific, heartfelt look at Staub’s legacy both on and off the field and stands as an excellent tribute to a beloved baseball figure.

    The Mets, for whom Staub suited up more than any team in his career, issued the following statement:

    “The Mets family suffered another loss earlier today when Daniel “Rusty” Staub passed away in a West Palm Beach Hospital after an illness. He was almost as well known for his philanthropic work as he was for his career as a baseball player, which spanned 23 seasons. There wasn’t a cause he didn’t champion. Rusty helped children, the poor, the elderly and then there was his pride and joy The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. A six-time All-Star, he is the only player in major league history to have collected at least 500 hits with four different teams. The entire Mets organization sends its deepest sympathy to his brother, Chuck, and sisters Sue Tully and Sally Johnson. He will be missed by everyone.”

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Kyle Tucker To Open Season In Triple-A]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118589 2018-03-29T02:28:39Z 2018-03-29T02:28:39Z
  • Jake Kaplan of The Athletic tweets that Astros top prospect Kyle Tucker will open the season in Triple-A despite possessing only a half season’s worth of experience at the Double-A level. The former No. 5 overall draft pick looks to be on the fast track to the big leagues, having slashed .265/.325/.512 in 72 Double-A games as a 20-year-old last year in addition to a robust .409/.438/.818 slash in 48 spring plate appearances with the ’Stros this year. Tucker entered the year as a consensus top 20 overall prospect and is considered to be a key long-term cog for an already youthful Astros organization.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Morosi: Astros More Willing To Trade McHugh Than Peacock]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118230 2018-03-26T15:08:53Z 2018-03-26T14:56:27Z
  • Astros right-handers Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock have come up as speculative trade pieces, and Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets that the team would be more open to moving the former than the latter. There’s nothing eye-opening about that, though, as McHugh is now working in a foreign role as a reliever after losing his rotation spot during the offseason. He’s also in a contract year, whereas Peacock – who was an elite swingman last season – is under Houston’s control through 2020.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Will Not Sign Jose Bautista]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117823 2018-03-23T16:34:00Z 2018-03-23T16:34:00Z
  • Contrary to some reports out of Mexico, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports (Twitter link) that the Astros aren’t signing Jose Bautista.  Given the Astros’ loaded roster, there wouldn’t have seemed to be much of a spot for the veteran slugger, particularly since he is coming off a sub-replacement level season in 2017.  There hasn’t been much in the way of concrete news about Bautista this winter, though the former Blue Jays slugger recently said he was still trying to find the best fit for he and his family amidst multiple Major League offers.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Collin McHugh]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117799 2018-03-23T14:03:55Z 2018-03-23T13:41:02Z
  • Trade buzz continues to circle Astros right-hander Collin McHugh, as Heyman writes that McHugh “could be had in a trade,” as Houston has a surplus of rotation-worthy arms.  The Twins and Orioles were both linked to McHugh in rumors earlier this winter, though those teams are probably no longer in the running due to their subsequent pitching additions.  McHugh is owed $5MM this season and is under control through 2019 in his final arbitration-eligible season, making him a nice cost-effective addition for potential suitors.

    [SOURCE LINK]
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Yuli Gurriel Progressing In Recovery From Hand Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117684 2018-03-22T03:33:36Z 2018-03-22T03:32:09Z Diamondbacks outfielder Steven Souza Jr. left the team’s game Wednesday with an apparent right shoulder injury, Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic reports. There’s no word on the severity yet, but the Diamondbacks are left to hope it’s nothing serious after acquiring Souza from the Rays last month. The 28-year-old Souza posted his best season in 2017, hitting .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs in 617 plate appearances en route to 3.7 fWAR. If healthy, he should help make up for the D-backs’ offseason loss of outfielder J.D. Martinez, who signed with the Red Sox.

    And now for the latest from the AL West…

    • Rangers reliever Tim Lincecum doesn’t expect to be ready for Opening Day, which he revealed Tuesday after throwing two innings of batting practice (via TR Sullivan of MLB.com). “Doesn’t look like it,” he said. “I still have some stuff to refine. I wasn’t extremely happy with the day. I was happy with the level of work. I’ve got a lot of refining to do.” Lincecum is only two weeks removed from signing with the Rangers, and he, of course, didn’t pitch competitively at all in 2017. Tuesday’s BP session was his second since joining the Rangers, and he’ll need at least one more before potentially pitching in a minor league game.
    • First baseman Chris Carter is unlikely to make the Angels, Maria Guardado of MLB.com writes. That’s not surprising, given that Carter’s a minor league signee who’s not on the Halos’ 40-man roster. Guardado notes that there’s no obvious path to playing time for Carter at first in Anaheim, which has Albert Pujols and Luis Valbuena. Plus, those two and Shohei Ohtani figure to be among their designated hitter options, taking away another potential route to the majors for Carter. The 31-year-old Carter will be able to refuse a minor league assignment if he doesn’t make the Halos, though he did spend a solid chunk of last season with the A’s Triple-A affiliate. That came just one year after the then-Brewer co-led the National League in home runs (41). Because of his dreadful 2017, which he began with the Yankees, Carter went unsigned until late February.
    • Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, on the shelf the past few weeks because of left hand surgery, is progressing in his recovery, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com writes. He’s still likely to begin the season on the disabled list, however, according to McTaggart, and then he’ll have to serve a five-game suspension for an insensitive gesture directed at then-Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish in last year’s World Series. The Astros are likely to use Marwin Gonzalez at first in Gurriel’s absence, and J.D. Davis and Tyler White are currently fighting for a backup role. “It’s 1A and 1B, it’s not like one is separating themselves from the other. Eventually, we’ll have to make a decision,” manager A.J. Hinch said of Davis and White on Wednesday (via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle).
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Extend Jose Altuve]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117140 2018-03-20T19:25:15Z 2018-03-20T18:44:23Z The Astros have officially struck a massive extension with star second baseman Jose Altuve. The deal, which includes a full no-trade clause, reportedly promises Altuve $151MM over five seasons.

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

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

    Altuve receives $21MM in the form of a signing bonus, with $1MM due upon final approval of the contract, $10MM later this season and $10MM in 2019. The contract provides a $26MM annual salary in each of the five seasons. That rate can escalate in the final three years of the contract depending upon his performance in the MVP voting, with a $3MM bump for a first-place finish, a $2MM bump for a second-place showing, and $1MM if he comes in third, allowing for maximum increases of $3MM, $6MM, and then $9MM in the 2022-24 campaigns.

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

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

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

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

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

    MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart first reported the agreement. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeted that the agreement was in place and reported the financial details in a series of tweets. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reported the no-trade clause on Twitter.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Houston Astros]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117002 2018-03-23T18:30:10Z 2018-03-20T03:21:21Z This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series.  Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.

    Fresh off the Astros’ first-ever World Series-winning campaign, general manager Jeff Luhnow spent the winter supplementing an already strong pitching staff.

    Major League Signings

    Trades And Claims

    Extensions

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Notable Losses

    Astros 25-Man Roster & Minor League Depth Chart; Astros Payroll Overview

    Needs Addressed

    The Astros were one of the majors’ elite teams from the start of the regular season until the end in 2017, but they may not have been in position to hoist the trophy in November if not for a late-August trade with Detroit. In that deal, Luhnow shipped out multiple prospects for longtime Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who was utterly dominant in his first action as an Astro, with whom he combined for 36 2/3 innings of nine-run ball in playoff series wins over the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers.

    With Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh among Houston’s in-house starting options entering the offseason, Luhnow could have passed on adding any established starters during recent months. Instead, he revisited the trade route to pick up yet another high-profile option, Gerrit Cole, whom he acquired from the Pirates in January.

    In order to reel in the 27-year-old Cole and his two remaining seasons of affordable team control, the Astros surrendered a respectable package of young talent headlined by righty Joe Musgrove, who was a promising starter for them back in 2016 and a key part of their bullpen down the stretch in 2017. While it’s possible the Astros will come to miss Musgrove and the other players they parted with (righty Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin), they’re well positioned to move on without them.

    As mentioned earlier, there were several legitimate starting options on hand even before the Cole trade, so netting him should allow the Astros to maintain a deep staff in the near term even without Musgrove and Feliz. As opposed to earning starting jobs, Peacock (who was outstanding as both a starter and a reliever in 2017) and McHugh will be part of a righty-heavy relief corps that’s also set to include Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, newcomers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, and Will Harris in prominent roles.

    Cole has been somewhat inconsistent since debuting with the Pirates in 2013, but the talent is immense, evidenced by both his draft pedigree (No. 1 in 2011) and overall production to date (3.50 ERA/3.27 FIP across 782 1/3 innings). At his best in Pittsburgh, the 2015 version of Cole pitched to a 2.60 ERA/2.66 FIP with 8.74 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 over 208 frames. Cole hasn’t been nearly that effective lately, though the flamethrower was still a mid-rotation workhorse in 2017. Cole logged career-worst numbers in the ERA (4.26) and FIP (4.08) departments a year ago, but he also ate 203 innings with strong strikeout (8.69 K/9) and walk (2.44) rates en route to 3.1 fWAR. That’s quality production, clearly.

    Now, as former FanGraphs writer Eno Sarris explained in January, Cole could be in the right place to harness his vast potential. Cole leaned too much on his fastball and wasn’t reliant enough on his breaking pitches during his Pirates tenure, Sarris observed. In Houston, though, he’s with a team that recorded the fourth-lowest fastball percentage and the fifth-highest slider/curveball rate in the league last season.

    No doubt, the Astros are banking on Cole at least delivering similar results as last year. Before they ended up with him, they considered the likes of Yu Darvish, Chris Archer and Shohei Ohtani. Darvish would’ve created a far bigger dent in the Astros’ payroll than Cole, though, having inked a six-year, $126MM deal with the Cubs; Archer remains with the Rays, because they understandably want a major haul for him; and you can’t fault the Astros for losing the Ohtani lottery, given that it featured just about every other major league team at one point. So, in Cole, the Astros have an affordable, arbitration-controlled piece who should help their cause for at least two years. Come 2019, the Astros could be without both Keuchel and Morton, two players who are slated to become free agents next winter. Cole’s presence should help protect against their possible departures.

    Joining Cole as new additions to Houston’s staff are Smith and Rondon, who each bring terrific major league track records on reasonable salaries. One could quibble with the fact that neither is a lefty, which the Astros could seemingly use. Houston was devoid of a shutdown southpaw throughout last season (neither holdover Tony Sipp nor the now-gone Francisco Liriano fit the bill), yet that didn’t stop the club from winning 101 games during the regular campaign before charging to a title in the fall. It helps when you’re righty relievers are capable of holding their own against left-handed hitters, as the Astros’ are. Their bullpen pieces held lefty-swingers to a .302 wOBA in 2017, and even though they’re righties, both Smith and Rondon could help in that regard. The 33-year-old Smith has held opposite-handed hitters to a .307 mark during his career, while Rondon, 30, has been even better at .287 (that figure ballooned to .346 last year, however).

    Long after he bolstered his team’s pitching staff, Luhnow secured arguably the Astros’ best player, second baseman Jose Altuve, to a franchise-record contract extension. Prior to last Friday, when he agreed to his new pact, Altuve was controllable through next season via the club-friendly extension he signed as a youthful, run-of-the-mill player in 2013. The 27-year-old Altuve has since blossomed into a bona fide superstar, having taken home the AL MVP in 2017 (a 7.5-fWAR showing), and will earn at a rate commensurate to that for the long haul.

    Altuve will be due a guaranteed $151MM over a five-year period beginning in 2020. He’s just the sixth player in league history to receive a deal worth $30MM per year, making his meteoric rise since he signed for just $15K in 2007 as a diminutive, anonymous Venezuelan prospect all the more incredible.

    Questions Remaining

    The Astros’ offense is the envy of the league, which it led in wRC+ (121) and runs (896) last season. That came without a full season from all-world shortstop Carlos Correa, whom a thumb injury limited to 109 games. He’s back, as are Altuve, Springer and Alex Bregman, to headline a seemingly relentless Houston attack. Still, the Astros at least showed some interest in upgrading their lineup over the winter. They considered making a run at then-Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who’d have given the Astros two reigning MVPs on one team, before the Yankees landed him and the majority of his $295MM contract. Additionally, Houston was in on Carlos Gonzalez, who ultimately re-signed with Colorado for $8MM.

    Either Stanton or CarGo would have given the Astros another starting outfielder to join Springer in center and Josh Reddick in right. Instead, once first baseman Yuli Gurriel returns from February hamate surgery, they’ll primarily turn to Marwin Gonzalez, who stunningly broke out with a 144 wRC+ last year. But Gonzalez is no sure thing to continue at anything resembling that pace, judging by both his league-average output (101 wRC+) from 2014-16 and Statcast data from 2017. Although Gonzalez managed a superb .387 wOBA in 2017, his xwOBA (.320) fell way short. Meanwhile, Gurriel wasn’t quite that fortunate, but his xwOBA (.327) still didn’t come close to his solid wOBA (.351).

    Both Gonzalez and Gurriel are candidates to take steps back offensively this year, then, while the Astros also seem to lack a high-end hitter at the DH spot. They’re in position to turn to backup catcher Evan Gattis, who was mediocre at the plate (105 wRC+) last year. The good news is that even that type of unspectacular production would easily outpace the now-retired Carlos Beltran’s output from last year. The revered Beltran was an important behind-the-scenes presence in Houston, but at the same time, he was one of the game’s worst DHs from a statistical standpoint.

    While Gattis isn’t a terrible choice to DH, there’s a case to be made that the Astros should have non-tendered him (he’s making $6.7MM) and sought an upgrade. A free agent like Logan Morrison may have made sense, for example, especially considering the Twins handed him a $6.5MM guarantee that’s lower than Gattis’ salary. Morrison would have helped balance out the Astros’ lineup a bit more, giving them four lefty-capable regulars instead of the three they’ll run out in 2018. Admittedly, though, the way free agency unfolded over the winter isn’t something anyone saw coming, so it came as a surprise that Morrison (and Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier, among others) signed such an affordable deal. If the Astros need a bat at the trade deadline, there ought to be some quality options at palatable prices.

    It’s fair to say that even if Gonzalez, Gurriel and Gattis are far from great this year, Houston will thrive at the plate because of its top-end talent. The Astros’ position players may not offer that type of brilliance defensively, though, as they’re returning largely the same group that ranked toward the bottom of the majors in the advanced metrics a season ago. The Astros are projected to be similarly woeful in the field this year, but they proved they could overcome that last season with a punishing offense and terrific pitching – both of which are again in place.

    Houston’s hurlers could have been throwing to a different primary catcher this year had the club signed free agent Jonathan Lucroy, whom it showed interest in over the winter (he went on to join the division-rival Athletics), or made the higher-impact move of acquiring the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto. The Astros and Marlins discussed Realmuto, who’s under control through 2020, and the former reportedly didn’t close the door on giving up premier outfield prospect Kyle Tucker for the backstop. Luhnow doesn’t sound like someone who’s going to trade Tucker, however, instead believing he could be a factor for the Astros as early as this year (and if Gonzalez and Derek Fisher are unsatisfactory in left, that could indeed happen). Regardless, Realmuto’s status will be worth monitoring during the season if the Astros’ combination of Brian McCann, Gattis and Max Stassi doesn’t suffice. McCann and Gattis will be free agents in a year, so acquiring Realmuto during the summer would give the Astros an immediate boost and obviate a need for next offseason in one fell swoop.

    As for the Astros’ pitching staff, which we’ve established is a deep and talented group, health is likely the main concern. Keuchel, McCullers and Morton haven’t been all that durable of late, McHugh missed most of last season and Cole is only two years removed from going to the disabled multiple times on account of elbow problems. All of that considered, it’s easy to see why Luhnow kept McHugh around as depth. Just about every team in the league would sign up for having the accomplished McHugh in its rotation, let alone as a sixth or seventh starter, which explains why he drew trade interest during the winter.

    Overview

    Thanks in part to Luhnow’s offseason maneuverings, the Astros will enter the new campaign as baseball’s best team, though that may have been true even if the GM didn’t make any notable winter moves. Talent-rich Houston is poised at least to win its second straight AL West title after lapping the field a year ago, and despite the offseason efforts of the majors’ other super-teams, the Astros should be seen as the favorites to end up again as the last club standing in the fall.

    What’s your take on the Astros’ winter?  (link for app users)

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Examining Jose Altuve's Extension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117365 2018-03-19T03:44:04Z 2018-03-19T03:44:04Z
  • Though Jose Altuve’s five-year, $151MM extension doesn’t begin until the 2020 season, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards believes the Astros aren’t facing too much risk in locking up the star second baseman.  Comparing the Altuve deal to other extensions of five-plus years for players who were at least two seasons away from free agency, Altuve is younger than three of the names cited (Miguel Cabrera, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Howard) and is coming off a much better platform year than Ryan Zimmerman when he inked his six-year, $100MM pact with the Nationals.  The best comp might actually be Joey Votto’s ten-year, $225MM extension from the Reds, though Houston’s commitment to Altuve was only half as long.  Since Altuve still projects to be an excellent player going forward, the extension also shouldn’t be considered a “gift” — as in, the Astros weren’t simply giving him a make-good deal since his original extension proved to be such an incredible bargain for the team.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Tony Sipp Could Be Odd Man Out Of Houston's Bullpen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117210 2018-03-17T23:02:02Z 2018-03-17T23:01:14Z
  • The Astros may head into the season with an all-righty bullpen, thanks to the struggles left-hander Tony Sipp has endured in recent years, Oliver Macklin of MLB.com relays. Sipp, whom the Astros re-signed to a three-year, $18MM deal heading into 2016, posted back-to-back subpar seasons entering this year and hasn’t fared well this spring. Manager A.J. Hinch conceded that going with an all-righty relief corps is “an option,” though he suggested he’d rather see Sipp rebound to his pre-2016 ways. Sipp, who’ll turn 35 in July, is due to earn $6MM in the final year of his contract.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Poll: Grading the Jose Altuve Extension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117193 2018-03-17T21:53:46Z 2018-03-17T21:53:46Z Yesterday, it was reported that the Astros have agreed to a five-year, $151MM extension with Jose Altuve that’ll keep him in Houston through his age-34 season. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd mentioned yesterday, the deal will be by far the largest extension ever given to a second baseman, handily topping the $110MM given to Dustin Pedroia by the Red Sox in 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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