Here’s the latest from Houston…
- It doesn’t appear as if the Astros will make a push for Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan reports (subscription required). Such teams as the Phillies, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners, and Padres have been linked to Kikuchi’s services, though there has been speculation that the teams on the west coast may have a bit of an advantage due to geography.
- Also from Kaplan’s piece, he details the Astros’ most notable needs heading into the Winter Meetings, namely another starting pitcher and another bat, preferably a left-handed hitter for lineup-balance purposes. (Though GM Jeff Luhnow has said of his hitter search, “We’re not going to be wed to it having to be a lefty or a righty or having it be a specific position.“) Listing a few speculative names who could be potential fits for the Astros, Kaplan opines that Robbie Ray, Michael Brantley, Jose Martinez, Daniel Murphy, or Nelson Cruz could all be possible trade or free agent targets.
- The Astros have been in touch with the White Sox about Jose Abreu, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. Abreu has been on Houston’s radar before, including at last year’s trade deadline. Latest reports suggest that the Sox may not part with Abreu in the offseason (if at all) since they’d be selling low in the wake of a somewhat disappointing season for the first baseman. Abreu hit .265/.325/.473 with 22 homers over 553 PA for Chicago in 2018, a marked dropoff from the .883 OPS he posted over his first four Major League seasons.
- Speaking of first base targets, Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link) that the Astros included pitching prospects Cionel Perez and J.B. Bukauskas in talks with the Diamondbacks about Paul Goldschmidt, before Arizona sent Goldschmidt to the Cardinals. MLB.com ranks Perez and Bukauskas 5th and 8th, respectively, in their list of the top 30 prospects in Houston’s farm system, though it could be argued that neither were in the Astros’ true upper tier of young arms. Forrest Whitley, for instance, is a consensus top-10 prospect in baseball, while MLB.com also had Josh James ahead of Perez and Bukauskas in their ranking. Bukauskas cracked the preseason top-100 prospect lists from MLB.com and Baseball America, though an injury-shortened 2018 season dimmed his ranking and recent reports suggested that the Astros may be using Bukauskas as a trade chip. Perez, a 22-year-old southpaw from Cuba, made his MLB debut last season, though between he and Bukauskas, they didn’t have the Major League readiness that St. Louis offered the D’Backs (namely Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly) for Goldschmidt. Still, the Astros’ apparent willingness to give up two controllable young arms for premium talent is an interesting hint about how far they’ll go to make a significant hitting upgrade.