- Though Josh Reddick is happy to be a member of the Astros and excited for the next four years in Houston, the right fielder said today on CSN Bay Area’s Athletics Insider Podcast that he hoped last summer to sign an extension with the Athletics (transcript via CSN’s Joe Stiglich, where readers can also find the full audio). “It was definitely somewhere I really wanted to make it happen,” said Reddick of Oakland. “Once we realized the numbers weren’t gonna line up, I think I knew deep down it wasn’t gonna happen because I didn’t hear back from them after I counter-offered what they offered me.” Reddick, who inked a four-year, $52MM deal with Houston this offseason, divulged that the A’s never offered a guaranteed four years in extension talks. He also expressed some lingering surprise that the A’s sold off so heavily in the 2014-15 offseason — the winter in which they dealt Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija and Brandon Moss.
Astros prospect Brady Rodgers underwent Tommy John surgery this morning, the club announced. The right-handed pitching prospect will be out until sometime next season as he rehabs.
Now 26, Rodgers earned a spot on the Houston 40-man in advance of the 2015 Rule 5 draft. Unfortunately, it’s reasonably likely he’ll end up losing that slot once it comes time for the Astros to make some tough decisions in advance of this year’s Rule 5 draft at season’s end.
Rodgers went on to throw quite well at Triple-A in the 2016 season, posting a 2.86 ERA with 7.9 K/9 against just 1.6 BB/9 over 132 innings while earning his first MLB call-up. The majors weren’t as kind to Rodgers, who was tagged for 14 earned runs on 15 hits while issuing seven free passes against just three strikeouts over his 8 1/3 frames. But he had responded with an excellent opening to the 2017 season at Fresno, with 16 1/3 innings of 1.10 ERA ball.
For the ’Stros, the loss of Rodgers takes away an easily accessible depth option. He can be moved to the 60-day DL to clear 40-man space, and as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle writes, there are a variety of other potential rotation fill-ins also on hand.
Nineteen-year-old outfielder Luis Robert is the top international talent that is available on the amateur market and, after recently being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, has already begun hosting private workouts with interested teams, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler. The Athletics hosted a workout for Robert last Friday that was attended by GM David Forst, according to Badler, and Reds GM Dick Williams was on hand to watch him this past Tuesday in a workout. Prior to that, he’d worked out for the Astros, Badler adds.
Badler notes that Robert’s camp is also expected to set up private workouts with the Padres, Cardinals and White Sox in the coming weeks. It seems that of those three clubs, the heavy-spending Padres are up first, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports (via Twitter) that Robert will work out with the Pads tomorrow. To this point, the Padres have paced all 30 teams in terms of international spending during the current signing period, as their total investment (including luxury tax penalties for shattering their allotted bonus pool) is in the vicinity of $80MM.
The willingness to spend at such an aggressive level may be key for any club that wishes to sign Robert, as FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes in his latest Inside Baseball column that one source who closely follows the international market believes Robert already has a $25MM offer “in hand,” though Heyman notes that others have suggested to him no offers have been made to this point. There could, of course, be some semantics at play there in terms of what constitutes a formal offer. A price tag in the vicinity of $25MM for Robert would come with a 100 percent luxury tax attached to it, meaning he’d cost any team that signed him at that rate a total of roughly $50MM.
As Badler writes, though Robert has been declared a free agent, he won’t formally be cleared to sign until May 20. In the interim, he’ll host at least one more open showcase for teams, in addition to the remaining private workouts his camp will orchestrate.
It’s worth noting that of the teams linked to Robert, only the White Sox have yet to exceed their current international bonus pool. In other words, while other clubs would essentially only be parting with money in order to sign Robert, the ChiSox would need to determine if Robert is worth handcuffing themselves in each of the next two international signing periods; should the Sox decide to exceed their pool in the eleventh hour — the current signing period ends on June 15 — they’d be unable to sign any individual player for more than $300K in either the 2017-18 or 2018-19 signing periods.
In a similar vein, teams that are still in the metaphorical “penalty box” for crushing their allotted pools in previous signing periods won’t be able to compete for Robert’s services, as they’re each capped at that same $300K figure on individual signings. That eliminates the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays, Rays, Royals and Diamondbacks from serving as serious competition in the Robert market.
Though Robert is just 19 years of age, he’d already blossomed into a star, hitting a ridiculous .401/.526/.687 with 12 homers, 12 doubles, a pair of triples and 11 steals over the life of 53 games (232 plate appearances) in his final pro season in the Cuban National Series. Scouting reports on Robert note that he’s capable of playing center field right now, though he may ultimately wind up in a corner. Badler has previously written that both his bat speed and raw power are plus, and Heyman’s above-linked piece offers a number of favorable reviews of Robert’s skill set. Additionally, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has previously spoken to a number of international scouting directors who have heaped praise onto Robert, calling him the game’s best international prospect behind Japanese phenom Shohei Otani and labeling him one of the most talented young players on the planet.
The Rangers have returned Rule 5 pick Mike Hauschild to the Astros, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets. That means Hauschild cleared waivers after being designated for assignment earlier this week, and the Astros paid the Rangers $50K to have him back in their system. He has been assigned to Triple-A Fresno.
The Rangers attempted to keep Hauschild on their roster this season as a long reliever, but he allowed ten runs and a remarkable five home runs over eight innings of work (although he did have seven strikeouts against only two walks, and he averaged a solid 92 MPH on his fastball). The Rangers ultimately opted to go with veteran Anthony Bass in that role instead.
The 27-year-old Hauschild had previously established himself as a worthwhile starting depth option in the Astros’ system, posting a 3.22 ERA, 7.7 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 with a 53.9% ground-ball rate in 139 2/3 innings with Fresno last season. He was the 16th pick in the Rule 5 Draft last December.
- Astros righty Jandel Gustave is headed to the 10-day DL with forearm tightness, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The 24-year-old had struggled in the early going, issuing seven walks while recording just a pair of strikeouts over his five frames of action. Replacing him will be fellow righty James Hoyt, who narrowly missed out on a roster spot in Spring Training. The 29-year-old Hoyt has been absolutely brilliant in Triple-A since last year, tossing 60 innings with just 10 earned runs and 101 strikeouts against 21 walks.
The Rangers have designated right-hander Mike Hauschild for assignment and selected the contract of right-hander Anthony Bass from Triple-A Round Rock, per a club announcement. Hauschild was the Rangers’ Rule 5 pick out of the Astros organization. If he passes through waivers unclaimed, the Rangers will have to offer him back to Houston for $50K.
The 27-year-old Hauschild made his big league debut for the Rangers this season, tossing eight innings but yielding an unsightly 10 earned runs on the strength of 14 hits and two walks. Of those 14 hits, five of them cleared the fence — further fueling Hauschild’s struggles. He did manage seven punchouts and a 48.3 percent ground-ball rate in his eight innings, but those modest silver linings weren’t enough to keep him on the team’s active roster.
Bass, 29, will be returning for his second stint with the Rangers. The 2008 fifth-rounder (Padres) spent the 2015 season with the Rangers, pitching to a 4.50 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 64 innings as the team’s primary long reliever. Last season, he logged his first year in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, tossing 203 2/3 innings with a 3.65 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 as a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters.
- Early indications are that Cuban outfielder Luis Robert will be cleared for free agency during the current international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports, though nothing has yet been finalized. If Robert is cleared before the stricter international bonus rules come into play during the next signing period (which opens on July 2), he stands to score a much larger payday than he would if his free agency isn’t granted until after the end of the current signing period on June 15. Robert had a private workout for the Astros in the Dominican Republic and he is scheduled for workouts with the Athletics and Reds next week; the Padres, Cardinals and White Sox are also expected to bring the 19-year-old in for workouts. Chicago is the only one of those six teams that hasn’t already exceeded its 2016-17 bonus pool limit, though Badler has reported that the White Sox may be the favorites to sign the highly-touted Robert.
Greg Genske, the agent for Astros phenom Carlos Correa, made news this week when he told FanRag’s Jon Heyman his client “is never going to do an multiyear contract” before he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2021 season. Correa later responded that he was unaware of Genske’s comments and said he would consider an extension, although he noted that “the price has got to be right.”
As a former first overall pick in the draft, Correa has already received a significant upfront payday in the form of a $4.8MM bonus, and as Heyman notes, he also has an endorsement deal with Adidas. He might therefore not be desperate to sign away future free-agent years to secure a guarantee.
In the end, then, we don’t know much more about the likelihood of Correa signing an extension than we did a week ago, although it seems fair to say he and the Astros won’t be announcing one anytime soon. Just for kicks, though, let’s imagine what an extension for Correa might look like.
When trying to assess the likely shape of a pre-agency extension, MLBTR’s Extension Tracker is usually a great starting point. Extensions tend to be based on precedents set by previous extensions, which is probably one reason why, for example, Jay Bruce, Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis all got pre-free agency six-year deals that guaranteed $51MM-$52.5MM when each of them had between two and three years of service time, and why each’s new signee’s deal was worth a few hundred thousand dollars more than the previous one. (All of the deals except Upton’s contained one option, as well.)
So let’s look for potential precedents for a Correa deal based on his talent and upon his service class. Correa headed into the season with 1.119 years of service. Here, then, are the two most expensive extensions in our tracker for players with between one and two years of service time.
We can see here that a Correa extension will probably require more creative thinking than merely looking at precedents. As good as Simmons and Yelich are, they don’t shine as brightly as Correa one day could, and particularly in Simmons’ case, they wouldn’t have been likely to produce the arbitration paydays Correa one day might.
Also, Correa is a year younger than Yelich was at the time of his extension, and two years younger than Simmons when he signed his. Correa is currently on pace to hit free agency just after he turns 27. His youth could make him particularly valuable on the free agent market, as Jason Heyward — who got $184MM and two opt-outs after becoming a free agent at 26 — can probably attest. Correa and Genske might well see the combination of Correa’s talent and youth as such special characteristics that they’d be especially unlikely to forgo Correa’s opportunity to explore free agency entering his age-27 season, particularly since he’ll hit the market after the signings of what might prove to be precedent-setting new deals for very young superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both of whom are set for free agency after 2018.
With that in mind, let’s see if there are other, less obvious, precedents that might help shape an offer that could make Correa think twice.
It seems reasonable to imagine that a Correa extension of a typical length of, say, seven years should fall somewhere in the wide gulf between the Simmons deal and the Trout deal. It’s hard to imagine Correa approaching Posey/Trout territory on any deal of reasonable length — he doesn’t have the service time they did at the time of their extensions, and the Astros are already set to pay Correa near the league minimum salary for each of the next two seasons. He also frankly doesn’t yet have the track record Posey and Trout had at the times of their deals. Posey had won the NL MVP award the year prior to his extension, and Trout finished second in AL MVP balloting in each of the two seasons preceding his.
Another possibility might be for the Astros to sign Correa to a way-outside-the-box extension, offering him a guarantee of ten years or more, a bit like the Marlins did for Giancarlo Stanton or the Reds did for Joey Votto. Both Correa and the Astros would surely see such a deal as risky, and it’s a hard to see the sabermetrically inclined Astros organization taking such a decisive risk on a single player. Correa’s camp might also ask for an opt-out along the lines of the one Stanton got. If there were ever a good candidate for such a lengthy extension, though, Correa would seem to fit the bill, as he’s extremely young, talented and athletic.
Alternately, it’s also possible the two sides could reach a simpler deal that would buy out some or all of Correa’s arbitration seasons while still allowing him to become a free agent following the 2021 campaign. Such a deal seems somewhat unlikely, however, given Correa’s existing sources of income and the absence of a good reason for the Astros to agree to such a pact without getting a significant discount on what they believe Correa’s arbitration-year payouts might be.
There doesn’t currently appear to be much motivation on Correa’s side to sign a deal, and it might be best for their side to wait a year before talking about an extension with the Astros, if they ever do. Allowing Correa to play an extra year might allow his camp to strengthen their argument for giving Correa a deal closer to Posey’s or Trout’s. Correa said this week, though, that he’s not interested in a deal once he hits his arbitration seasons, which begin in 2019. And if he does emerge as a Posey- or Trout-level superstar by then, the possibility of a Harper- or Machado-like payday in his future might be too tempting to resist.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Astros faced a scary situation in Oakland on Saturday when shortstop Carlos Correa left early after taking a 96 mph fastball from Frankie Montas to the left hand. Fortunately for the Astros and Correa, X-rays only revealed a contusion. “Good news, obviously,” Correa told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse. Obviously, it was a hard-throwing guy and it was a fastball inside. He didn’t give me a chance to get out of the way and I got hit in the hand. Thank God no fracture.” Correa, who’s day-to-day, hopes to return to Houston’s lineup Sunday.
- Astros righty Lupe Chavez has retired, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle notes. The Astros acquired the 19-year-old Chavez last August when they traded Scott Feldman to Toronto. Chavez had never pitched above the short-season leagues but had generally been successful, with a 2.19 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over 107 career innings. The reason for his somewhat surprising decision to retire isn’t known.