Houston Astros – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-11-13T19:05:03Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Rejects Astros' Qualifying Offer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137191 2018-11-12T23:22:20Z 2018-11-12T21:32:07Z
  • Dallas Keuchel has rejected the Astros’ qualifying offer, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link).  The ground-ball specialist and 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner will hit the open market, and it remains to be seen if a return to Houston could be in the cards.  The Astros could also lose Charlie Morton in free agency, and Lance McCullers Jr. will miss all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Made Trade Offer For Castellanos In July]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137162 2018-11-13T02:22:11Z 2018-11-12T20:18:32Z The Astros made an offer to the Tigers for right fielder Nick Castellanos prior to last July’s trade deadline, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).  Houston was known to be aggressively pursuing a big outfield bat last summer, even to the point of almost completing a trade with the Nationals for Bryce Harper, and also inquiring about Tommy Pham (then with the Cardinals) and White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia.  Fenech suggests that Castellanos could again be a target for the Astros this offseason, and he explores in a longer piece for the Detroit Free Press that it is becoming increasingly likely that the Tigers will trade Castellanos due to a lack of extension talks between the two sides.

    Castellanos would help the Astros as either a corner outfielder or, perhaps more likely, as a DH given Castellanos’ defensive limitations and the fact that incumbent Houston designated hitter Evan Gattis is hitting free agency.  Since Castellanos is only controlled through the 2019 season, he would give the Astros a short-term boost in their quest for another World Series while also not serving as a long-term block to youngsters Tyler White, Kyle Tucker, and J.D. Davis.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Jose Altuve's Knee Rehab]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137144 2018-11-12T04:26:12Z 2018-11-12T04:26:12Z Jose Altuve provided an update on his rehabilitation from knee surgery, telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and other reporters that he’s “not doing a lot” in the early stages of his recovery process, though “the only thing they told me is we’re going to be 120 percent for the first day of Spring Training, and that’s what really matters.”  Altuve underwent the procedure shortly after the Astros were eliminated from the ALCS, after playing through the injury for much of the second half of the season.  More will be known later in Altuve’s rehab process, though for now, it doesn’t seem like the surgery will keep Altuve from being ready to go for next season.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Lance McCullers Jr. Discusses Injury]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137087 2018-11-11T19:06:34Z 2018-11-11T19:06:34Z
  • Even though the Astros’ Lance McCullers Jr. pitched in September and October, the right-hander tells Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required) that he was aware by then that he needed Tommy John surgery. McCullers revealed that he received the news when he met with surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Aug. 30, but the 25-year-old – with the blessing of ElAttrache and the Astros – put the procedure on hold until the offseason. While pitching through a partially torn UCL was “painful,” McCullers wasn’t going to make the injury worse by doing it, and he knew he’d miss 2019 no matter what. McCullers ended up going under the knife this past Tuesday, and is aiming for a spring 2020 return. Kaplan’s full piece is worth checking out for more from McCullers.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Interested In James Paxton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137089 2018-11-11T14:53:17Z 2018-11-11T14:53:17Z The Mariners are set to retool this offseason, leaving few to no untouchables on their roster. Left-hander James Paxton has emerged as arguably their highest-profile trade candidate early this offseason, and he’s drawing interest from an array of teams, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The Astros are part of that group, Rosenthal reports.

    As World Series contenders who are seeking starters, the Astros are a logical match for Paxton. Although the club had an elite rotation in 2018, it could lose both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency, and it just found out Lance McCullers Jr. will miss all of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Those factors leave aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole as the Astros’ only rotation locks at the moment, though it seems they’ll return veteran Collin McHugh to a starting role after he thrived as a reliever last season. But those three are only signed through next season, whereas Paxton’s controllable through 2020.

    Even if the Astros do move McHugh back to their rotation next season, they’ll still be short on established starters. Swingman Brad Peacock and a series of youngsters – including Forrest Whitley (perhaps the game’s best pitching prospects) and Josh James – are among their other rotation possibilities.

    Notably, Seattle and Houston are in the same division, which in theory could make a trade unlikely. However, if the Mariners don’t see themselves as near-term contenders in the AL West, their mindset should be to take the best possible offer. The Astros may be in position to make the most generous proposal for the 30-year-old Paxton, given that they own one of the majors’ best farm systems. Houston will face plenty of competition, though, including from the AL rival Yankees.

    While the flamethrowing Paxton comes with a troubling injury history and has never approached the 200-inning mark in a season, he’s still among the game’s top starters on a per-inning basis. Paxton’s affordable control only adds to his value, as he’s projected to earn a reasonable $9MM in 2019.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Houston Astros]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136612 2018-11-11T02:43:49Z 2018-11-11T02:43:49Z MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams.  Click here to read the other entries in this series.

    The Astros fell just shy of their second straight World Series berth in 2018. Now, with the offseason underway, they’re facing multiple key departures in free agency.

    Guaranteed Contracts

    Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

    Free Agents

    [Astros Depth Chart | Astros Payroll Information]

    Elite starting pitching was a hallmark of the Astros from 2017-18, but at the outset of the offseason, their rotation has lost quite a bit of luster. The terrific tandem of Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton may exit in free agency, while Lance McCullers Jr. will miss all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this month. Fortunately for Houston, it still boasts a tremendous one-two punch in ace right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The team’s starting mix is murkier thereafter, though president and general manager Jeff Luhnow suggested when McCullers went under the knife that the Astros would turn back to Collin McHugh as a starter after he worked exclusively out of their bullpen in 2018.

    The 31-year-old McHugh was quietly one of the majors’ most effective relievers last season, so deploying him as a starter would obviously weaken Houston’s bullpen. At the same time, it would give the Astros another viable starter, something McHugh served as from 2014-17. He relieved last season because Houston had incredible starting depth, which isn’t quite the case right now. That’s not to say the cupboard is empty after McHugh, though, as the Astros still possess arguably the game’s No. 1 pitching prospect – towering righty Forrest Whitley, 21 – not to mention fellow top-100 prospect Josh James and swingman Brad Peacock. But Whitley seems likely to open 2019 at Triple-A, a level he hasn’t yet reached, and Peacock could stay in a relief role after totaling just one start in 61 appearances last season. James may have the most realistic chance of the three to begin 2019 in the Astros’ rotation, and the 25-year-old flamethrower did stand out late last season in the majors – albeit over just 23 1/3 innings divided between the rotation and bullpen.

    Beyond Whitley, James and Peacock, there are a slew of starting options in the minors who either carry limited track records in the majors or no experience at the game’s highest level, as Jake Kaplan of The Athletic recently detailed (subscription required). With that in mind, it seems clear that restocking their rotation will be a priority for the Astros this winter.

    There hasn’t been any word on whether the Astros will make an earnest attempt to re-sign Keuchel, a Scott Boras client who’s on a collision course with a substantial payday. On the other hand, Morton has made it known he’d welcome a return to Houston in 2019. Morton’s on the market unfettered after the Astros surprisingly decided against issuing him a one-year, $17.9MM qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason. It’s fair to surmise Morton’s age (35 next week) and lengthy injury history played a role in that call, and those factors will also tamp down his earning power on the open market. Regardless, Morton was stellar as an Astro over the past two years – including during a 167-inning, 3.13 ERA showing in 2018 – and would be difficult to replace.

    With the futures of Keuchel and Morton in question, the Astros figure to be in on some of the top available starting pitchers in the coming weeks – especially considering Verlander, Cole and McHugh are each signed for just one more season. Luhnow swung blockbuster trades in the past to acquire Verlander and Cole, and he may again go that route to bolster his rotation. It helps that the Astros happen to have one of the game’s most impressive farm systems, which could give them a legitimate chance to win a bidding war for the Indians’ Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer (though the latter has had it out with Houston in the past), three front-line starters who each come with two or more years of control. The Indians will at least consider offers on that trio, while another high-caliber arm – James Paxton of the Mariners – may also find himself on the move.

    Whether the Mariners would send Paxton to Houston, one of their AL West rivals, is anyone’s guess. The same concerns wouldn’t exist with Zack Greinke, whom the Diamondbacks could part with in a payroll-cutting measure. Even though he’s 35, Greinke remains an outstanding starter. However, he’s owed another $95.5MM through 2021, which not only limits his trade value but could scare off potential suitors (including Houston, though the club could likely afford to take on his contract). More reasonably priced targets may include hard-throwing lefty Robbie Ray, one of Greinke’s Arizona teammates, as well as the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman, the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy and the Yankees’ Sonny Gray. Aside from Gray, who’s slated to become a free agent in a year, all of those hurlers come with at least two controllable seasons. And while Stroman, Bundy and Gray struggled in 2018, it’s worth noting each were above average in terms of spin rate, in which the Astros are big believers.

    Houston would likely be buying at least somewhat low on Stroman, Bundy or Gray, given the down years they had. Free agent Garrett Richards, another spin rate darling, also stands out as an intriguing buy-low candidate. Having undergone Tommy John surgery last July, Richards probably wouldn’t contribute in 2019. Although, if he inks a two-year deal, he’d be able to help Houston come 2020, when some or all of Verlander, Cole and McHugh could be off the team.

    As far as healthy free-agent starters go, perhaps the Astros will explore the top of the market, where Patrick Corbin, Keuchel and Nathan Eovaldi are the headliners. The next tier includes J.A. Happ, Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi (if his team posts him), Morton and Hyun-Jin Ryu. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Astros come away with any of those starters, barring a trade(s).

    A trade may be the Astros’ preferred way to upgrade behind the plate, which seems inevitable. With Brian McCann, Martin Maldonado and DH/onetime catcher Evan Gattis now unsigned, Houston’s down to Max Stassi and recent waiver claim Chris Herrmann as its backstops. Stassi was effective in 2018, especially as a defender, but his offensive production cratered after May. That could help point the Astros back to the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto, the sport’s premier catcher in 2018. The Astros were in on Realmuto last winter, when they reportedly considered offering coveted young outfielder Kyle Tucker for him, but Miami ultimately retained its franchise player. However, now that Realmuto’s a year closer to free agency and still refuses to sign an extension with the Marlins, a trade’s probably coming sometime soon.

    Houston’s certainly a logical fit for Realmuto, though it’ll have some alternatives in free agency if it’s unable to swing a deal with Miami. The leading member of the free-agent group, Yasmani Grandal, has already landed on the Astros’ radar. The 30-year-old Grandal’s the only catcher in the game who was a better pitch framer than Stassi in 2018, and he also brings a track record of quality hitting to the table.

    While catcher looks like the Astros’ focus with respect to their position player cast, there are other concerns, including at DH. As excellent as the Astros were from 2017-18, their primary DHs – Carlos Beltran two years ago, Gattis last season – underwhelmed during that span. Sure, Gattis smacked 25 home runs in 2018, but he was a mediocre hitter overall (101 OPS+, 99 wRC+). Meanwhile, even though he was playing his age-38 season, the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz continued to serve as an offensive force. Cruz is now one of the foremost hitters available in free agency, and has drawn the Astros’ interest since the market opened.

    Speculatively, the Astros may have other sluggers on their radar, including Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez, Rays first baseman C.J. Cron and Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak. It’s true that Houston already has a starting first baseman in Yuli Gurriel, but he was mediocre in 2018 and may be better served as a utility player. Taking on such a role would enable Gurriel to at least partially replace free-agent Swiss Army knife Marwin Gonzalez, who appears to be on his way to landing a raise outside of Houston.

    Gonzalez saw more left field action in 2018 than any other Astro, which could put them in the market for help there if the 21-year-old Tucker’s not ready to assume the reins. If next season began today, Houston would possibly be looking at a Tony Kemp/Jake Marisnick platoon in left. Needless to say, that’s not the most confidence-inspiring duo. If the Astros really want to swing for the fences (no pun intended), they could go after free agent Bryce Harper, whom they nearly acquired from Washington at last summer’s non-waiver trade deadline. On paper, Harper’s projected annual salary ($30MM-plus) would push the Astros’ 2019 payroll to around $165MM – roughly a $5MM boost over last year’s franchise-record Opening Day outlay, and that’s without any improvements at other positions. However, the Astros only have $50MM-plus tied up in their 2020 roster and just $29MM locked in from 2020-24. A Harper pursuit may not be wholly out of the question, then, though the Astros could deem it infeasible with no proven starting pitchers under control past next season and three core players (Bregman, Correa and Springer) possibly due for massive extensions in the coming years.

    Should a Harper-Astros union prove to be a flight of fancy, the club could still better its outfield mix in free agency with someone like center fielder A.J. Pollock, who’d enable Springer to move back to a corner on a full-time basis, or a high-profile corner bat such as Michael Brantley or Andrew McCutchen. For the most part, corner outfield trade possibilities don’t look as enticing.

    As is the case with every team, the Astros figure to dedicate at least some offseason attention to their bullpen. The unit may lose McHugh to the rotation and lefty Tony Sipp to free agency, after all. Still, with Peacock, Ryan Pressly, Roberto Osuna, Hector Rondon, Will Harris, Chris Devenski and Joe Smith slated to return, the Astros’ relief corps is in enviable shape. If Houston’s bullpen needs anything, it’s a southpaw to complement its septet of accomplished righties. It’s unclear whether the Astros are interested in re-signing Sipp, who bounced back in 2018 after two dreadful seasons. In the event Sipp’s on his way out, Houston may consider fellow free agents Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, Oliver Perez and Jerry Blevins to replace him. It’s worth noting the Astros already have connections to four of those players. They unsuccessfully chased Britton and Wilson on the trade market in recent years, traded for Perez in 2015 (it didn’t go well), and made a generous offer to Miller during his previous trip to free agency in 2014.

    It’s evident the Astros have an array of plausible paths they could take this winter in order to up their chances of winning a third straight AL West title in 2019 and recapturing World Series glory. Luhnow believes the Astros “have a championship-caliber roster already in place,” but don’t expect him to rest on his laurels in the coming months. With Keuchel, Morton and Gonzalez potentially leaving Houston, inactivity isn’t an option.

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    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Trade Deadline Retrospective: Harper, Astros, Garcia, Nats, Puig]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137059 2018-11-10T23:52:01Z 2018-11-10T22:55:40Z Baseball fans everywhere were stripped of high-level trade deadline intrigue last season, as Ken Rosenthal details in a stunning report for The Athletic, when a trade that would have sent Bryce Harper to the Astros in exchange for a trio of prospects was nixed by Washington’s ownership group.  The trade, said to have been agreed upon a day before the July 31 deadline, would have sent 2017 first-rounder J.B. Bukauskas to the Nats, as well as two other prospects, one of which was reportedly catcher Garrett Stubbs.  Though Bukauskas faces questions about a third pitch, which could relegate him to eventual relief duty, and Stubbs has cooled after a blistering 2016 performance for Double-A Corpus Christi, the package was surely superior in value to the compensatory pick the Nationals will receive should Harper depart in free agency, which, as Rosenthal notes, will come after the fourth round in next year’s draft, by virtue of the club exceeding the luxury tax total in 2018.  Houston, which received middling corner-outfield production from Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez last season, would certainly have benefitted from Harper’s presence in a lineup diminished by injuries to Carlos Correa and a substandard season from George Springer, though the departing asset cost would’ve assuredly been hefty for only two months of the 25-year-old superstar.

    • Though no official reason was offered for the disapproval, Rosenthal speculates the Nationals owners may have been worried about damaging their relationship with Harper in the offseason to come. The club, after all, did offer Harper a reported $300MM over ten years on the last day of the 2018 season, and figures to further its aggression in efforts to sign the generational talent. During the August waiver period, the club also shot down a Dodger effort to acquire Harper, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. It appears this offer, which reportedly included outfielder Yasiel Puig at its center, was nixed at the front office level, though it’s certainly plausible that previous ownership mandates were a significant factor in the team’s eventual refusal to depart with the star. Puig, certainly, would have been an intriguing return for just over a month’s use of Harper – the 27-year-old has had his share of on-field dustups, to be sure, but has remained a force at the plate: in an odd reverse split, the polarizing Cuban has put up a 142 wRC+ against right-handed pitching the last two seasons, good for 12th among qualifiers in baseball during that span, and is under team control through the 2019 season.
    • After being stonewalled in their Harper pursuit, sources told Rosenthal that the Astros pivoted their attention (to, obviously, no avail) in the final hours to White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia, dangling right-handed pitching prospect Francis Martes, whose damaged right elbow was apparently of no concern to the Southsiders.  Garcia, who’s been around replacement-level in five of his six major league seasons thus far, seemed an odd target for an Astro club not much in need of a right-handed boost – the 27-year-old, after all, posted a minuscule 1.4% BB rate in the season’s first half, and again sunk to a level of below-league-average production by the time his season ended in knee surgery in mid-September.
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    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[AL West Notes: Correa, A’s, Beltre]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137055 2018-11-10T21:20:03Z 2018-11-10T20:59:11Z Astros shortstop Carlos Correa announced today at a team benefit that he underwent surgery to repair a deviated septum last Monday.  The nasal affliction, said the 24-year-old, was inhibiting his ability to breathe normally, especially when running the bases.  Arguably the centerpiece of the team’s 2017 championship run, the former #1 overall pick slumped to a career-worst .239/.323/.405 games last season.  He especially struggled in the season’s second half, posting a putrid 45 wRC+ and 24% hard contact rate over 133 PA following a return from the DL after a bout of lower back soreness.  During multiple gatherings with the reporters on a crusty Minute Maid Park surface, the former Rookie of the Year made no effort to draw a nexus between the respiratory issues and his poor performance, but did note that he doesn’t expect to have surgery to address the lower-back ailment, with the Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith tweeting that the shortstop is “doing well” right now.

    In other news from around the division . . .

    • On the heels of a wildly successful 2018 season, the A’s have announced changes to the team’s player development program, reports The Athletic’s Melissa Lockard. The club, apparently, is piggybacking on recent trends in the rookie-level Arizona League, where select teams – namely, the Padres, Indians, Cubs, and Giants – have added a second ’affiliate’ to compete in the league.  In this case, it seems the move is an effort to acclimate newly-signed international players to the American way of life (and professional baseball in the country) at a far more rapid rate than in the past.  Eddie Menchaca, who managed the lone AZL affiliate for the club last year, will reprise his role as manager for one of the teams, in addition to fulfilling his newly-appointed duties as Latin American player development supervisor.  The club’s farm, responsible in no small part for the team’s periodic, oft-unforeseen success over the last two decades, is ranked middle-of-the-pack in Baseball America’s latest update.
    • Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News cites a source “close” to Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre in declaring that a decision on the 39-year-old’s future could come “within a week or so.”  Beltre, of course, is deeply contemplating retirement, with a recent report by FanCred’s Jon Heyman noting that “the belief” is that the 21-year-veteran is leaning in that direction. If he is to return, Beltre seems to have given conflicting directives in the way of his future, with Grant noting that the Ranger dignitary “would like” to return to Texas but is most interested in playing for a contending team, of which category the 2019 Rangers are decidedly unlikely to fall into.  The article, which details possible positional alignments for the 2019 club, in addition to revelatory quotes from GM Jon Daniels, is well worth a full read for Ranger fans of all sorts.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Interested In Nelson Cruz; Marwin Gonzalez Drawing Widespread Interest]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136969 2018-11-09T16:05:26Z 2018-11-09T16:05:26Z Veteran slugger Nelson Cruz seems likely to draw quite a few looks from American League clubs. Per Jon Heyman of Fancred, the White Sox “are a player” in that market, while the Astros also have some interest. Either club would have some open DH plate appearances for the 38-year-old Cruz, who turned in a .256/.342/.509 slash with 37 long balls this past season in Seattle. That homer total, remarkably, was Cruz’s lowest in the past five seasons. During that time, he’s averaged 41 big flies per season while generally producing 45 percent more offense than a league-average hitter (by measure of OPS+). Houston GM Jeff Luhnow recently discussed a desire to add to an already imposing lineup, and Cruz would certainly fit the bill in that regard.

    • Former Astros utility man Marwin Gonzalez is the most versatile defender in free agency this season, and Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that he’s garnered at least some level of interest from nearly every club in the game. As a switch-hitter with at least a league average bat and the capability to play as many as six positions (all four infield slots and both outfield corners), “Swiss G” is indeed easy to imagine fitting onto virtually any team’s roster. Meanwhile, former Pirate Josh Harrison, a quality defender at second base with experience at third base and in the outfield corners, has generated some interest from the likes of the Yankees, Reds and Nationals, among others, per Heyman. Both players’ versatility should serve them well this winter.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays Hire Dave Hudgens As Bench Coach]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136849 2018-11-08T01:32:01Z 2018-11-08T01:24:45Z The Blue Jays announced Wednesday that they’ve hired Astros hitting coach Dave Hudgens as manager Charlie Montoyo’s new bench coach. Hudgens, 62 next month, becomes the third member of Houston manager A.J. Hinch’s staff to be hired away by another organization since season’s end. Bullpen coach Doug White was recently named the Angels’ new pitching coach, and assistant hitting coach Jeff Albert took an offer from the Cardinals to become their new hitting coach.

    Hudgens has plenty of experience on a big league coaching staff, having served as a hitting coach with the Athletics and Mets in addition to the ’Stros. In total, he has 12 seasons as a big league hitting coach under his belt, though this will be his first stint as a Major League bench coach.

    A former first baseman, Hudgens had a six-year minor league career and made a brief, six-game cameo in the Majors with the 1983 Athletics. In addition to his work as a hitting coach in the Majors, he’s worked as a minor league manager and roving hitting coordinator. He also spent six years as the Athletics’ assistant director of player development in the late 90s and early 2000s.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Rumors: Marwin, Gurriel, Grandal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136809 2018-11-07T22:47:23Z 2018-11-07T22:46:49Z
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow discussed his team’s options for replacing utlityman Marwin Gonzalez, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart covers. Moving Yuli Gurriel around the diamond could help the club make up for the loss of flexibility. Perhaps notably, Luhnow specifically references a “post-Marwin world,” which could be telling with regard to how the organization feels about its chances to retain its most versatile player. Meanwhile, says Luhnow, he’s “looking at different options to add more to our offense.” Adding a big stick certainly seems to make sense under that roster alignment, as the club would have flexibility to get a new player into the lineup at DH, first base, or the corner outfield.
  • Speaking of the Astros, catching is another obvious area to address. The club has some level of interest in Yasmani Grandal, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter), with the Mets also showing early signs of intrigue. As the top catcher on the free-agent market, Grandal will garner interest from a wide slate of teams. At present, the Astros’ top internal option behind the dish is Max Stassi.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Lance McCullers Jr. Undergoes Tommy John Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136733 2018-11-07T01:07:14Z 2018-11-06T23:27:00Z Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. underwent Tommy John surgery today and will miss the 2019 season, tweets Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle.

    It’s a brutal blow for an Astros rotation that was already faced with the possibility of losing both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency. The loss of McCullers for the upcoming season now gives the Astros a third rotation piece to potentially replace. Houston does have some internal options who’d likely be starting for other organizations; righties Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock have both proven to be viable multi-inning relievers and could potentially slot into the starting five next year depending on the moves that president of baseball operation Jeff Luhnow and the rest of the Houston front office put together.

    Luhnow, in fact, spoke today about the possibility of McHugh returning to a starting role next season (Twitter link via Rome). “I’d say we have three spots fairly well locked up, if we choose to go down the path of putting (Collin) McHugh back in the rotation,” he said. “With Lance not being there, it probably increases the odds of that happening.”

    That’s not quite a proclamation that McHugh will start in 2019, but it does suggest that the ’Stros are comfortable with that outcome should it be necessary. Houston also has top prospect Forrest Whitley not far from the big leagues, and it’s possible that he could emerge as a rotation piece at some point in 2019.

    But Houston’s long-term rotation outlook is now murkier than ever. Beyond the loss of McCullers and the fact that Keuchel and Morton are already free agents, each of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and McHugh will be free agents at the end of the 2019 season. Viewed through that lens, it’s all the more critical for the Astros to add some arms that are controlled for multiple seasons this winter, be they top free agents (e.g., Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Nathan Eovaldi) or trade acquisitions (e.g., James Paxton, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Michael Fulmer).

    The Astros will still owe McCullers a raise on 2018’s $2.45MM salary — a raise they’ll gladly pay despite the fact that McCullers won’t pitch next season. That raise will be based on his 2018 results — 3.86 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 10-6 record through 128 1/3 innings — and he’ll likely earn that amount in both 2019 and 2020. Houston controls McCullers through the 2021 season, so while agreeing to pay a player who is known to be out for the season isn’t an ideal situation, the fact that tendering him a contract also entitles the Astros to his 2020-21 seasons makes it a lock that he’ll be retained.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Health Notes: McCullers, Miller, Ohtani, Meyer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136676 2018-11-06T15:58:41Z 2018-11-06T15:07:35Z Health considerations can certainly have a major impact on the development of the player market. Here are the latest notes on several hurlers whose medical reports bear watching:

    • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow acknowledged yesterday that the team is awaiting word on the status of righty Lance McCullers Jr., Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle writes. McCullers has dealt with forearm problems that have created plenty of uncertainty entering the offseason. Luhnow acknowledged that a surgical outcome is on the table. When asked whether he anticipates McCullers being with the club in 2019, the GM responded: “If he has surgery, no. If he doesn’t, yes. Any time you’re talking about an elbow injury, [surgery] is one path to resolving it.” That isn’t the most optimistic stance, even if it is still possible that McCullers will avoid surgery, as it clearly suggests he’s dealing with a significant injury. Needless to say, losing the 25-year-old would create a major opening in a rotation that is already bidding adieu to several notable pieces.
    • The news on veteran southpaw Andrew Miller is generally more promising. Agent Mark Rodgers tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post that Miller has been given a clean bill of health after a 2018 campaign that was marred by ongoing knee issues. If that is indeed the case, then Miller could be an immense value in free agency. Of course, he’s also closing in on 34 years of age and has endured plenty of wear and tear, so interested clubs will surely take a close look for themselves at the medicals. MLBTR has taken a rather bullish stance on Miller’s earning potential, predicting he’ll be capable of securing a three-year deal with a $9MM AAV.
    • The Angels provided updates on two notable righties today, as Maria Torres reports on Twitter. Shohei Ohtani is said to be on track in his Tommy John rehab, though certainly it’s only at an early stage. He’s expected not to pitch at all in 2019, regardless, but his rehab progress will dictate whether and when he’s able to function as a DH. Meanwhile, Alex Meyer has suffered a setback in his efforts to make it back from shoulder surgery. For now, he’ll rest for four to six weeks before attempting to resume throwing. It has been more than a year since Meyer went under the knife to repair a torn labrum, so there’s cause to hope that the towering righty will be able to get up to speed and contribute in 2019. Of course, recovery from surgical intervention in that joint is often not a straightforward proposition. The Halos will surely not make any assumptions about his availability for the coming season in making offseason decisions.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Michael Brantley, A.J. Pollock Hire Excel Sports Management]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136659 2018-11-06T15:17:50Z 2018-11-06T14:15:47Z TODAY: Also heading to Excel is outfielder A.J. Pollock, another key piece of the free agency puzzle this winter. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link), Pollock is staying with his own agent, Brian Peters, who’s also moving to Excel.

    YESTERDAY: Outfielder Michael Brantley has hired Excel Sports Management to represent him in free agency, SB Nation’s Devan Fink recently reported on Twitter. He is moving to Excel from The Legacy Agency along with agent Kenny Felder and some of Felder’s other clients, including George Springer of the Astros and Lewis Brinson of the Marlins.

    Of this trio, Brantley’s case is of particular note since he’s now a free agent. He recently reached the open market without having received a qualifying offer, meaning any team can sign him without surrendering draft compensation.

    Brantley, 31, spent ten seasons with the Indians. The latter half of his time in Cleveland was played under an extension that included an option for the 2018 season, which the club picked up at $11MM. However, the $17.9MM QO proved too rich for the Indians, even after watching Brantley turn in a nice effort in 2018.

    While he’s hardly an eye-popping power threat for a corner outfielder, Brantley is an exceptional contact hitter who is plenty valuable on offense. He finished the 2018 campaign with a .309/.364/.468 slash along with 17 home runs and a dozen steals. Brantley was a tough out, with a 9.5% strikeout rate that only just exceeded his 7.6% walk rate.

    Brantley’s new reps will no doubt pitch their client as a high-quality performer with the bat who showed recently that his particular skills haven’t waned. He can also provide some value on the bases, though Brantley isn’t particularly well-regarded defensively and is also somewhat vulnerable to left-handed pitching.

    The biggest questions surrounding Brantley, though, don’t involve his quality of play. Rather, they concern his ability to stay on the field. Brantley has endured a series of travails that cast some doubt on his durability, particularly given the cumulative effects. At the same time, he was healthy in 2018 and offers a hitting skillset that isn’t easy to come by. MLBTR recently named him the tenth-best free agent on the market, predicting a three-year, $45MM contract.

    Find up-to-date information on player representation in MLBTR’s Agency Database.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Sig Mejdal, Ryan Hallahan Leave Astros' Front Office]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136604 2018-11-05T05:30:15Z 2018-11-05T05:30:15Z
  • Changes are coming to the Astros’ front office, as Sig Mejdal and Ryan Hallahan – members of their Ground Control analytics team – are leaving, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Their exits come on the heels of director of research and development Mike Fast’s September departure. Both Mejdal and Hallahan had been in Houston since 2012. Mejdal, a former NASA researcher, joined the Astros as a director of decision sciences. He spent part of the 2017 season as a coach at the Class-A level, interestingly enough, and held the title of special assistant to the general manager, process development in 2018. Hallahan served as the Astros’ senior technical architect.
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