MLB Trade Rumors » » Houston Astros 2018-01-16T20:45:10Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Grading The Gerrit Cole Swap]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112627 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z Gerrit Cole is a highly visible player — a former first overall pick who landed fourth in the National League Cy Young vote in 2015 — so it’s natural there will be strong opinions about the return he drew in the recent swap between the Pirates and Astros. We have already seen a variety of industry opinions pour in (see here, here, here, and here), but I thought it’d be worth taking the temperature of the MLBTR readership.

There’s little reason to full describe the elements of the agreement. (MLBTR’s Conny Byrne discussed all relevant elements in detail in his post on the Cole trade.) But here’s a brief account for purposes of facilitating today’s poll:

Astros receive:

  • 2 years of control over SP Gerrit Cole ($6.75MM for 2018; arbitration for 2019) — following aforementioned 2015 season, Cole was limited by injury in 2016 and pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in a healthy 2017 season

Pirates receive:

  • 4 years of control over RP Michael Feliz — carries 5.13 ERA (allowing 1.5 HR/9) through 121 MLB innings, but has averaged 12.8 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9
  • 5 years of control over SP/RP Joe Musgrove — former first-round pick has been tagged for a .288/.339/.506 slash and 5.37 ERA over 25 MLB starts, but worked to a 1.26 ERA with 39:6 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 innings last year after moving to the bullpen
  • 6 years of control over 3B Colin Moran — former sixth overall draft pick slashed .308/.373/.543 with 18 home runs in 338 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, but has yet to receive significant time in the majors
  • 6 years of control over OF Jason Martin — 22-year-old reached Double-A for first time in 2017, slashing .273/.319/.483 with 11 home runs in 320 plate appearances

Since there are two teams involved with their own set of needs, we’ll ask for grades from each organization’s perspective. For Pittsburgh, clearly, the move was designed to add multiple assets that can deliver value over a longer time frame. If even one of these players really succeeds, it could end up standing as a win. Also of note: the Bucs are said to have passed up a chance at gaining one higher-grade prospect (Clint Frazier of the Yankees) in order to add several contributors.

(Poll link for app users.)

On the Houston side, it’s all the more clear. The team resisted parting with its own blue-chip prospects, but gave a variety of useful pieces up to acquire just two seasons of Cole. If one views him as even a quality and durable mid-rotation starter, and does not think the assets parted with will come back to haunt the ’Stros, then this could be seen as a bargain. On the other hand, there are some questions surrounding Cole and it is not difficult to imagine one or more of the more controllable assets sent to Pittsburgh delivering greater value than will Cole’s final two arb years.

(Poll link for app users.)

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[More Reaction & Fallout To The Gerrit Cole Trade]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112544 2018-01-14T15:26:56Z 2018-01-14T15:26:56Z The Astros and Pirates swung a major trade yesterday, with the World Series champions acquiring Gerrit Cole in exchange for a package of four players (Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, Jason Martin).  We’ve already published one batch of reactions to the deal, and now here are some additional details about the trade talks and further analysis about what this deal means for Houston, Pittsburgh, and other clubs…

  • The Astros were able to land Cole without giving up any of their top prospects, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Houston wasn’t willing to offer Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, or Yordan Alvarez.  Musgrove and Moran were seen as the top two pieces of the trade by the Pirates, and they pulled the trigger on the deal since Pittsburgh felt no other team was offering two top prospects of better quality in exchange for Cole.  Musgrove, Feliz, and Moran give the Bucs 15 years of controllable talent, which was also a factor in their decision.
  • Also from Crasnick, the Yankees were willing to include one of Clint Frazier or Chance Adams in a potential Cole trade, but not both.  New York was also intent on holding onto its top minor leaguers, as Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, and Estevan Florial were considered off-limits in trade talks.
  • The Yankees’ unwillingness to move its best prospects could be due to a belief that Yu Darvish could be signed for a “reasonable” price, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes.  This could be a contract in the range of five years and $80MM-90MM, which would represent a stunning discount from the six-year, $160MM deal MLBTR predicted for Darvish at the start of the offseason.  Even with the unprecedentedly slow nature of this winter’s free agent market, it’s hard to believe Darvish would settle for such a relatively small deal, especially with at least five other teams known to be vying for his services.  Harper also notes that even a five-year/$80MM pact would put the Yankees over the luxury tax limit, unless they were to move another big contract to create payroll space.
  • The Pirates’ return was “more one of quantity than of impact,” ESPN.com’s Keith Law writes, though Cole may only be “a soft upgrade” for the Astros rotation if he replicates his 2017 numbers.  Law feels that Cole’s 2016-17 performance curtailed some of his trade value, and while Houston is obviously hoping that Cole returns to his 2015 form, the trade also could’ve been a way of keeping him away from a chief AL rival like the Yankees.
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Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Reactions To The Gerrit Cole Trade]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112498 2018-01-14T02:16:48Z 2018-01-14T02:16:48Z The baseball world is still reeling from the big news earlier today regarding the Astros’ acquisition of Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Here are a few of the early takes…

  • What better place to start the Cole reactions than with that of Cole himself? The right-hander seems to be incredibly excited to join his new organization. “I’m ecstatic. I got the phone call not too long ago and I was shocked. I couldn’t have been more happy. I’m familiar with a few people on the organization and the team,” Cole said to reporters (hat tip to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart). Cole also used the words “flat-out elated” to describe the “unbelievable opportunity” (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In addition to his giddiness over his trade to the Astros, Cole also spoke highly of the Pirates organization and expressed a fondness for his years with the team.
  • Cole isn’t the only player expressing excitement about the trade, however. Many of his new teammates have reacted strongly on social media as well. New rotation mate Justin Verlander wrote a tweet with the hashtag #backtoback, while Alex Bregman simply tweeted a gif of himself screaming.
  • Grant Brisbee of sbnation.com notes that although the Astros are young and unburdened by large contracts, the team may have acquired Cole in part because they need to consider their window. Brisbee argues that “there isn’t a team in baseball that knows with metaphysical certitude how they’ll look in three years,” so it was beneficial for Houston to act now in order to create a superteam for 2018. While the notion that Cole’s presence makes the Astros a superteam is debatable, he notes that he may just be one of the best pitchers in baseball if last year’s spike in homers allowed turns out to be a fluke.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington describes the trade as “the balance of immediate and moderate and longer-term.” (hat tip to Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “We felt this was the right move to get these players that are major-league ready with 15 years contribution combined,” Huntington adds.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow offers a timeline of events in reference to his team’s talks with the Pirates about Cole, via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Apparently, the two teams were in discussions about the righty as early as last July, but talks were shelved after they couldn’t reach an agreement. During the winter meetings, however, discussions picked up steam again, and after that the teams talked at least once a week until a deal was ultimately agreed upon this morning.
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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Acquire Gerrit Cole]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112469 2018-01-14T03:01:14Z 2018-01-14T00:05:47Z The Astros have acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates for righties Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin, according to announcements from both teams.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

Houston and Pittsburgh nearly reached an agreement on a Cole trade earlier this week, but reports of a done deal proved premature. The two sides continued to negotiate, however, and have now come together on one of the most noteworthy trades of the offseason. Cole is the second potential front-end starter the Astros have acquired since last August, when they landed longtime Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who ultimately helped pitch them to their first-ever World Series title a couple months later.

With Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh among their starters on hand, the Astros didn’t exactly have a desperate need for Cole heading into next season. But adding Cole should nonetheless increase their chances to finish atop the major league mountain again in 2018, and with two years of team control remaining, he figures to help their cause through 2019. Neither Keuchel nor Morton is under contract past 2018, which helps explains why the Astros have been in on Cole and other high-end starters this offseason. The Astros’ addition of Cole should affect top free agents like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, both of whom have been on their radar this winter, as it seems to remove a potential suitor for them.

Cole, who settled on a $6.75MM salary for his penultimate year of arbitration control on Friday, is coming off a somewhat disappointing season. Although the 27-year-old racked up 203 innings and continued to serve as one of the majors’ hardest-throwing starters, a bloated home run-to-fly ball rate (15.9 percent, well above his career figure of 10.0) helped lead to a personal-worst 4.26 ERA/4.08 FIP.

Given his down 2017, the Pirates weren’t in position to sell high on Cole. However, as a Scott Boras client nearing free agency, the low-payroll club knew its chances to extend him weren’t good. Consequently, the Bucs shopped Cole around the league – including to the Yankees, Twins and Cubs – before sending him to the Astros. Cole had been with the Pirates since they selected him first overall in the 2011 draft, and he looked like an ace with them at times after debuting in 2013. All told, Cole registered a 3.50 ERA/3.27 FIP with 8.44 K/9, 2.34 BB/9 and a 47.4 percent groundball rate across 782 1/3 innings in Pittsburgh.

Parting with Cole could begin a rebuild for the Pirates, who finished under .500 for the second straight year in 2017. However, acquiring three major league-ready players for him in Musgrove, Moran and Feliz may also help them compete next season. The headliner is arguably the 25-year-old Musgrove, a former top 100 prospect who has worked as both a starter and reliever since debuting in 2016. While Musgrove scuffled as a starter last season, he was utterly dominant in his first big league action out of the bullpen. Moving to a relief role enabled Musgrove to ramp up his velocity, and it helped lead to a 1.44 ERA with just under nine strikeouts per nine and a paltry 1.44 BB/9 across 31 1/3 innings. It’s unclear whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever going forward, but with five years of control, the Pirates will have time to find an ideal role for him.

Moran was a first-round pick of the Marlins in 2013 who topped out as Baseball America’s 61st-ranked prospect after that season, though he hasn’t seen much action in the majors to this point (37 plate appearances). And with the emergence of third baseman Alex Bregman, there simply wasn’t a path to playing time in Houston. The 25-year-old Moran held his own in 2017 at Triple-A – his second season at that level – with a .308/.373/.543 line in 338 PAs. Moran ranked as the Astros’ fifth-best prospect prior to the trade, according to MLB.com, which lauds “his pure left-handed swing and his ability to barrel balls easily while controlling the strike zone.” Defensively, Moran has the hands and arm to handle third, though he lacks range, per MLB.com.

Feliz, 24, amassed significant experience out of the Astros’ bullpen over the previous two seasons, during which he combined to make 98 appearances and throw 121 innings. While Feliz brought high-90s heat, posted a sky-high 13.14 K/9 and a passable 3.5 BB/9 along the way, he only managed a 4.94 ERA – owing in part to a low groundball percentage (37.1 percent) and a lofty home run-to-fly ball rate (16.5 percent). ERA indicators have been bullish on Feliz, who owns a career 3.67 FIP and 3.17 xFIP. He comes with four years of control, including his final pre-arbitration season in 2018.

Martin, an eighth-round pick in 2013, brings the least fanfare of anyone in this trade, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic noting on Twitter that he may end up as a reserve outfielder down the line. MLB.com agrees that he won’t turn into a regular option in the corner outfield, though it rated Martin 15th in Houston’s system and suggested he has a chance to develop into a starting center fielder. The 22-year-old spent most of last season in Double-A, where he slashed .273/.319/.483 in 320 PAs.

Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported the Astros would acquire Cole, and he added that the Pirates would receive Musgrove and Moran. Jon Heyman of FanRag reported the Pirates would get four total players. Rosenthal reported that Feliz and Martin were in the deal (Twitter links). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Arbitration Updates: 1/13/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112430 2018-01-13T22:22:30Z 2018-01-13T22:22:30Z Here are the arbitration numbers we’ve learned thus far today — all of them coming via the Twitter feed of Jon Heyman of Fan Rag unless otherwise noted:

  • The Giants’ previously known deals with two righty relievers now have dollar values attached. Sam Dyson is slated to earn $4.425MM, while the team will pay righty Cory Gearrin $1.675MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM award for Dyson and a $1.6MM salary for Gearrin.
  • Diamondbacks infielder Chris Owings settled out at $3.4MM, just a shade over the $3.3MM the team will pay outfielder David Peralta. Swartz had both Owings and Peralta at $3.8MM.
  • Right-hander Nick Vincent will take down a $2.75MM payday from the Mariners, coming in just north of his $2.7MM projection.
  • Astros righty Lance McCullers Jr. is set to receive $2.45MM (a bit shy of his projected $2.6MM) in his first season of arb eligibility, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
  • Infielder Hernan Perez receives $1.975MM from the Brewers, falling short of a $2.2MM projection.
  • The Athletics agreed yesterday with righty Liam Hendriks at $1.9MM, matching his projection, and catcher Josh Phegley for $905K. Swartz had Phegley at $1.1MM.
  • White Sox third baseman Yolmer Sanchez has filed at $2.35MM while the team countered at $2.1MM – the same as his projection.
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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Jeff Luhnow: "We're In A Good Spot Because We Don't Have To Do Anything"]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112453 2018-01-13T21:26:59Z 2018-01-13T21:11:31Z
  • Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters Saturday that he’s “very happy” with his current roster, one he thinks is capable of winning a second straight championship in 2018, and added that “we’re in a good spot because we don’t have to do anything.” Luhnow also noted that, although things have been slow to develop across the majors this offseason, free agents and possible trade acquisitions who would improve the Astros would still require “a significant investment.” It seemed earlier this week that Luhnow was set to make such an investment in Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole, but a deal still hasn’t materialized. Luhnow has addressed the Astros pitching in other ways this offseason, though, having added Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to their bullpen (Twitter video via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com).
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Unresolved 2018 Arbitration Cases]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112362 2018-01-13T03:05:53Z 2018-01-13T00:02:01Z We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)

    Some situations could even be dealt with in short order. As things stand, though, these unresolved arbitration cases could turn into significant hearings. (As always, MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration projections can be found here; you will also want to reference MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration tracker.)

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Avoid Arbitration With Dallas Keuchel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112349 2018-01-12T21:58:47Z 2018-01-12T21:57:39Z The Astros have settled with starter Dallas Keuchel, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle first tweeted. Keuchel will earn $13.2MM, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter).

    Notably, the Astros have not been able to work out agreements wit a few other important players. Outfielder George Springer, reliever Ken Giles, and starter Collin McHugh will file figures, Kaplan tweets, though of course it’s still possible they will settle before going to a hearing.

    Keuchel, 30, posted a strong 2.90 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 on the year in 2017, though he was limited by injury to 145 2/3 innings. That tamped down on his earning power somewhat, though Keuchel still earns a healthy raise on his $9.15MM salary from 2017. He had been projected to earn $12.6MM by MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz, but tops that figure by $600K.

    As things stand, this’ll be Keuchel’s final season in Houston. He’ll hit the open market after the 2018 campaign unless the sides are able to work out a longer-term agreement at some point.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Avoiding Arbitration: American League]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112296 2018-01-13T05:52:28Z 2018-01-12T21:00:23Z The deadline for MLB teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with their arbitration-eligible players is today at 1pm ET. As such, there will be a veritable flood of arb agreements piling up in the next few hours — especially in light of a more universal approach to the “file and trial” method for teams. (That is to say, those teams will no longer negotiate one-year deals after arb figures are exchanged and will instead head to a hearing with those players, barring an agreemenr on a multi-year deal.)

    Note that you can keep an eye on all of today’s deals using MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker, which can be filtered to show only the results of the team you follow and is also sortable by service time and dollar value of the agreement. All projections that are referenced come from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s annual compilation of projected arbitration salarie

    American League West

    • The Astros and Evan Gattis agreed to a $6.7MM deal for 2018, per FanRag’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). A free agent next season, Gattis lands within $100K of his $6.6MM projection. The club also has deals (for values unknown) with starters Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Brad Peacock, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
    • The Rangers agreed to a $1.05MM deal with infielder Jurickson Profar, tweets Murray. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, meanwhile, tweets that lefty Jake Diekman landed a $2.7125MM deal and righty Keone Kela will earn $1.2MM. Profar had been projected at $1.1MM and is controllable another three seasons. Diekman, a free agent next winter, was projected at $2.8MM. And Kela, still controlled for three more years, matched his $1.2MM projection on the dot.
    • The Athletics and closer Blake Treinen agreed to a $2.15MM deal for next year, tweets Murray. The A’s can control Treinen for another three years. He was projected at $2.3MM. Shortstop Marcus Semien has settled for $3.125MM, Heyman tweets; his $3.2MM projection was nearly spot-on. Oakland has announced that it has avoided arbitration with Liam Hendriks and Josh Phegley as well, but their salaries have yet to be reported.
    • The Angels have a one-year, $7.3MM agreement in place with right-hander Garrett Richards, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link). Richards, a free agent next offseason, tops his $7MM projection by a margin of $300K. The Halos have also avoided arb with first baseman C.J. Cron ($2.3MM) and left-hander Tyler Skaggs ($1.875MM), tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Cron’s total falls a ways shy of his $2.8MM projection, while Skaggs comes in just $25K south of his $1.9MM projection. Both are controllable through the 2020 season. Lastly, Murray tweets that Matt Shoemaker agreed to a $4.125MM deal. He’s controlled through 2020 and projected at $4.4MM. Fletcher also tweets that the club has agreed with righty J.C. Ramirez ($1.9MM salary vs. $2.6MM projection) and lefty Jose Alvarez ($1.05MM salary vs. $1.1MM projection). Finally, righty Cam Bedrosian has agreed at $1.1MM, Flecher tweets, which represents a payday close to his projection of $1.2MM.
    • Left-hander James Paxton will earn $4.9MM with the Mariners in 2018, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Murray tweets that the Mariners and David Phelps agreed to a $5.55MM deal. Paxton, controlled through 2020, projected to earn $5.6MM, while Phelps was pegged at $5.8MM. He’s a free agent next winter. Righty Erasmo Ramirez took a $4.2MM deal, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. That’s half a million shy of what the model suggested. Fellow right-hander Nick Vincent also has an agreement, but the terms aren’t yet known.

    American League Central

    • New lefty Luis Avilan has agreed to a $2.45MM deal with the White Sox, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports via Twitter. The recent trade acquisition came with a projected $2.3MM price tag. Fellow southpaw Carlos Rodon will receive $2.3MM, a bit of a bump over the $2MM he projected to receive. Also, utilityman Leury Garcia gets $1.175MM, which is just $25K short of his projected value.
    • The Royals and righty Nate Karns agreed to a $1.375MM deal for 2018, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports (on Twitter). That lands within $25K of his $1.4MM projection for the coming season. Kansas City controls Karns through 2020. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports (via Twitter) that Kelvin Herrera will earn $7.9375MM in 2018, landing a bit shy of his $8.3MM projection. Herrera is a free agent next winter.
    • The Indians have a $5MM agreement with righty Danny Salazar, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. He had projected to earn just $200K more, this falls right in line with expectations. Cleveland also agreed with Lonnie Chisenhall on a $5.5875MM deal, tweets Nightengale. The third baseman-turned-outfielder, who was projected to earn $5.8MM, will be a free agent following the 2018 season.
    • Trevor May has a $650K agreement with the Twins for the 2018 season, according to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. May, who missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery (and did some writing for MLBTR during his rehab process), had been projected at $600K. The Twins also agreed to a $1MM deal with infielder Ehire Adrianza, per La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. Meanwhile, righty Ryan Pressly has agreed to a $1.6MM deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Both deals are identical matches with their projections. Adrianza has three years of team control remaining, while Pressly has two. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that outfielder Robbie Grossman settled at $2MM, leaving him $400K shy of his projection. Grossman is controlled for another three seasons.
    • Tigers third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos will earn $6.05MM, per Heyman (via Twitter). He had projected at a much heftier $7.6MM in his second-to-last season of arb eligibility. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports (Twitter links) that the Tigers and right-handed reliever Alex Wilson settled at $1.925MM, while fellow righty Shane Greene will earn $1.95MM. Wilson was projected to earn $2.1MM, while Greene was at $1.7MM. Wilson is controlled through 2019, while Greene is under control through 2020.

    American League East

    • The Yankees have knocked out some of their biggest arb cases, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter links). Shortstop Didi Gregorius receives $8.25MM and righty Sonny Gray checks in at $6.5MM. The former had projected to earn $9.0MM while the algorithm was just $100K high on the latter.Backstop Austin Romine will earn $1.1MM, Heyman also tweets, which is also $100K below the projection. Righty Adam Warren and the Yankees have a $3.315MM deal, per Murray (Twitter link). This is Warren’s final season of eligibility before hitting the open market next winter. He’d been projected at $3.1MM. Meanwhile, fellow right-hander Dellin Betances has agreed to a $5.1MM deal, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). That’s just $100K more than Betances had sought last year, when he took his case to a hearing that he ultimately lost. But it’s quite a bit more than the $4.4MM he projected to receive after a subpar season in which he played at a $3MM salary.
    • The Red Sox have agreed to pay $8.5MM to southpaw Drew Pomeranz, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). That’s short of the $9.1MM that had been projected after Pomeranz turned in a productive 2017 season. Boston and Jackie Bradley Jr. settled at $6.1MM, tweets Murray. That’s a bit north of the $5.9MM at which he’d been projected for the upcoming season. Bradley Jr., a Super Two player, has another three seasons of club control remaining. Nightengale tweets that righty Joe Kelly ($3.6MM projection) agreed to a $3.825MM deal. He’ll be a free agent next winter. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez ($2.375MM salary vs. $2.7MM projection) and righty Brandon Workman ($835K salary vs. $900K projection) are two other Sox hurlers that have agreed to terms, Speier reports (Twitter links). On the position player side, catcher Sandy Leon falls a bit under his projection $1.95MM (via Speier, on Twitter) while utilityman Brock Holt just beats expectations at $2.225MM (per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, on Twitter). The team also agreed with shortstop Xander Bogaerts for $7.05MM, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston tweets, which comes in a bit shy of his $7.6MM projection. Boston also announced agreement with backstop Christian Vazquez, who’ll earn $1.425MM, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne (via Twitter). That’s just under the projection of $1.5MM.
    • The Blue Jays and righty Aaron Sanchez agreed to a $2.7MM deal for 2018, according to Nightengale (Twitter link). That crushes his $1.9MM projection, which was likely suppressed due Sanchez’s lack of innings (just 36) in 2017. He’s under Jays control through 2020. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, meanwhile, tweets that second baseman Devon Travis will make $1.45MM next year, falling a bit shy of his $1.7MM forecast. Other Toronto players agreeing to terms include Kevin Pillar ($3.25MM vs. $4.0MM projection) and Dominic Leone ($1.085MM vs. $1.2MM projection), MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets.
    • The Rays and closer Alex Colome settled at $5.3M, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (on Twitter). He’d been projected at $5.5MM and is controllable for three more years. They also settled at $5.95MM with outfielder/DH Corey Dickerson ($6.4MM projection) and $4.5MM with infielder Brad Miller ($4.4MM projection), per Murray (all Twitter links). Steven Souza, according to Murray will earn $3.55MM, placing him right in line with his $3.6MM projection. Dickerson and Miller are controlled through 2019. Souza is controlled through 2020.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Avoid Arbitration With Jake Marisnick]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112191 2018-01-12T05:20:00Z 2018-01-12T05:12:47Z
  • The Astros have settled at a $1.9MM rate with outfielder Jake Marisnick, Heyman tweets. That’s just shy of his $2.0MM projection. The 26-year-old earned $1.1MM last year as a Super Two. Marisnick turned in a stunning year at the plate, slashing .243/.319/.496 slash and launching 16 home runs in only 259 plate appearances. Of course, that limited playing time also limited his earning potential.
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    Matt Swartz <![CDATA[Arbitration Breakdown: George Springer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111636 2018-01-12T03:53:26Z 2018-01-12T03:53:26Z Recently, I have been discussing some of the higher-profile upcoming arbitration cases as part of MLBTR’s Arbitration Breakdown series. I rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong. Full arbitration projections for 2018 are also available.

    George Springer enters his second year of arbitration eligibility (as a Super Two player) having compiled a solid .283 average to go along with 34 home runs and 85 runs batted in in 2017. As a result, he is projected for a $5MM raise to take him up to an $8.9MM salary in 2018.

    George Springer | Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    One thing complicating Springer’s case is something that could affect a great number of cases this year—the high home run level throughout the league. This past season set a league record with 6,105 total home runs, which represented a 26 percent increase over the league average from the previous five seasons. As such, when examining players with similar totals over that five-year span, there’s no way of knowing whether an arbitration panel (or teams and agents that are negotiating in the shadow of what an arbitration panel would say) would treat home runs from Springer the same as they would in an environment when home runs were less prolific.

    My model does not adjust for league run environment in this way; rather, the data has shown that run environment has not historically been a significant component in the arbitration process. Hitters in high-scoring years benefit from being compared to hitters in lower-scoring years, and pitchers in low-scoring years benefit from being compared to pitchers in high-scoring years. Springer could potentially be treated by a panel (or negotiated with in the shadow of what such a panel would say) as someone who hit closer to 26 home runs than someone with 34. But even still, his list of comparables shows solid earning potential.

    There have only been a couple players entering their second year of eligibility with averages north of .275 and at least 25 home runs in the past five years, and both are from last year. Manny Machado got a $6.5MM raise after hitting .294 with 37 homers and 96 RBIs. Charlie Blackmon got a $3.8MM raise after hitting .324 with 29 home runs and knocking in 82 runs.

    Machado is a more obvious ceiling because his numbers are not inflated by Coors Field, and he hit substantially more home runs than Blackmon in 2016. Blackmon might serve as a floor in Springer’s case due to the fact that he hit fewer balls into the seats, despite playing in Coors. However, his high batting average could make him more favorable at the same time. In the end, I think Springer might be closer to Blackmon than he is to Machado.

    Few other players really show up as decent comparables, especially when limiting the field to those who did not sign multi-year deals. Looking to a statistical comparable that did sign a multi-year deal, J.D. Martinez signed a two-year contract covering 2016-17 which included a $3MM raise in the first year of the pact. It also was preceded by an exchange of figures in which Martinez asked for a $4.25MM raise, while the Tigers countered with an offer of a $2.25MM raise. Considering Martinez’s .282, 38 homers and 102 RBIs in the platform season for that two-year deal, this could suggest a lower number for Springer.

    I am guessing Springer ends up closer to a $4MM raise than $5MM based on the cases of Blackmon and Martinez. But with little comparability and the uncertainty of how a panel will consider the relevance of Coors Field or Martinez’s multi-year deal, Springer may be able to land closer to that $5MM raise. This would still be south of Machado’s $6.5MM raise but would safely beat the other two players.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yu Darvish Choosing Among Six Teams]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112159 2018-01-11T06:12:59Z 2018-01-11T05:34:03Z Yu Darvish is widely considered to be the top starting pitcher available in free agency, and while his market — like the market of nearly every other top free agent this winter — has been slow to progress, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Darvish has whittled the decision down to a handful of teams: the Rangers, Cubs, Astros, Twins and Yankees. Darvish himself has hardly been shy about stirring the pot on social media this winter, though, and he created an additional layer of intrigue tonight when he responded to the report by tweeting: “I know one more team is in.” The Dodgers may very well be the sixth team to which Darvish alluded, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times tweeted tonight that Los Angeles “remains in the mix” to bring Darvish back to L.A.

    In his column, Wilson once again cautions that the Rangers aren’t a prime suitor for Darvish. The right-hander, according to Wilson, would prefer to return to Arlington were all things equal, but the Rangers aren’t expected to pursue top-tier free agents, as has reportedly been the case for the entire winter. Wilson reported three months ago that Texas was aiming to trim payroll by about $10MM for the coming season, which would leave them around $155MM overall. A backloaded contract for Darvish could technically still make that goal possible, but Wilson strongly suggests that the Rangers won’t be making any moves of the “all-in” variety this winter. The Rangers’ payroll projects to check in around $144MM as things presently stand.

    Both the Yankees and Astros have been prominently linked to another high-end rotation candidate recently, as both have been said in recent weeks to be in talks for Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow earlier today shot down a report that his team had struck an agreement to acquire Cole, but both New York and Houston appear to have some level of interest more cost-effective trade candidates.

    The Yankees, of course, have been hard at work trying to bolster their 2018 roster while simultaneously remaining south of the luxury tax barrier (to great success thus far), while Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported just yesterday (subscription required and recommended) that Houston prefers to trade for a pitcher like Cole rather than shell out a massive contract to Darvish or another free-agent starter. If the Yankees can find a way to shed a significant portion of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract (which seems unlikely) or if the Astros ultimately deem all of their trade targets too expensive in terms of prospects, then perhaps on of those clubs will take a more serious look at Darvish.

    Minnesota, meanwhile, has long been reported to be one of the more aggressive teams on Darvish, who knows Twins GM Thad Levine quite well from the pair’s time with the Rangers. Of all the teams in the mix, the Twins’ payroll outlook is by far the most open (zero dollars on the books beyond the 2019 season). As for the Cubs, they’ve been tied to Darvish, Jake Arrieta and fellow righty Alex Cobb as they seek to round out their rotation and remain atop a competitive NL Central division.

    The Dodgers, like the Yankees, are facing some self-imposed financial restrictions. Both clubs are trying to reset their luxury tax penalty level, and the Dodgers look to have done so in the Adrian Gonzalez/Scott Kazmir/Brandon McCarthy/Matt Kemp trade. Bringing Darvish back into the fold would once again push them north of the tax line, L.A. is also looking for ways in which to shed Kemp’s contract. As is the case with the Yankees and Ellsbury, finding a taker for a notable portion of that deal could create additional flexibility.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Luhnow Refutes Report That Astros Have Deal For Gerrit Cole]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112073 2018-01-10T20:45:50Z 2018-01-10T20:44:53Z 2:44pm: The Astros are still engaged with the Pirates on Cole but are also still looking at alternatives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

    11:15am: Recent chatter of a possible trade that would send right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates to the Astros intensified early today, with multiple reports indicating the sides were gaining momentum. And Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter) reported that a deal was in place between the organizations that would send Cole to Houston.

    Ensuing reports, though, cast doubt and then fully refuted that agreement had been reached. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said that there was “nothing imminent” in any of the team’s trade talks, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). And Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported (Twitter links) first that the deal had not yet fully been completed and ultimately that the apparent news of an accord was simply a “false rumor.”

    All told, it seems there’s no reason at this time to believe a deal is particularly close to coming to fruition, beyond the fact that the sides have evidently engaged in serious discussion. Passan says a trade “is not happening” right now, while noting “talks could pick back up quickly.” And Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter) suggests a trade “isn’t necessarily close.” Indeed, he also hears of another suitor being involved beyond the Yankees (the organization that once seemed likely to land Cole before those talks fizzled). With the necessary proviso that the situation can always change, then, it appears we’re mostly back to the status quo ante on Cole’s trade status.

    Cole, now 27, remains a top trade candidate. He was the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. He ascended quickly to become Pittsburgh’s top pitcher, though he has not exactly been at his peak of late. In 2017, he worked to a 4.26 ERA in 203 frames. While that represented a promising return to full health after some limitations in 2016, it also was hardly the output that had come to be expected.

    In 2015, after all, Cole had fully emerged as a staff ace, turning in 208 frames of 2.60 ERA ball with 8.7 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. While his velocity and key peripherals have largely held steady, Cole was tagged for 1.37 home runs per nine — over twice the rate he had maintained previously. As Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs explains, Cole’s heater surrendered quite a bit of added pop in 2017, but there’s reason to believe he can refine his offerings to regain his standing. Cole will cost a projected $7.5MM in 2018 with one more season of arbitration control thereafter.

    For the ’Stros, we’ve seen clear indication of late that the organization wishes to boost an already-strong rotation unit that was already boosted late last year with the addition of Justin Verlander. With Dallas Keuchel, youngster Lance McCullers, and the increasingly interesting Charlie Morton already on hand, along with breakout righty Brad Peacock, it seems Houston’s interest in starters is a want moreso than a need.

    On the Bucs’ side, it’s still hard to know how things will play out this winter. Even if the team deals away Cole and other veteran trade candidates (most notably Andrew McCutchen), it may still have some designs on competing in ’18. But parting with Cole would unquestionably mean delivering a major blow to the team’s expectations for the coming season.

    More broadly, questions persist about just when and how the player market will get moving in earnest. A deal involving Cole might have given some clarity to the outlook for free agent starters, while perhaps leaving the Astros free to dedicate financial resources to other needs (most notably, the bullpen). But with this prospective swap not occurring — at least at this time — we’re left with the same overall market landscape.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros, Pirates Gaining Momentum Toward Gerrit Cole Swap]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112066 2018-01-10T17:49:55Z 2018-01-10T16:52:24Z 10:51am: A deal is “imminent,” Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets.

    10:29am: Whitley is likely to be considered “untouchable” by the ’Stros, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter), though it seems the two young outfielders could still be in play in discussions.

    10:17am: The Astros and Pirates appear to be “picking up steam” in talks involving Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Negotiations on Cole were reported recently, as Astros owner Jim Crane has made clear his organization is interested in adding a major starter.

    Cole, 27, has long been seen as a front-line power starter, though he has had some stumbles in the past two seasons. While he topped two hundred innings and threw as hard as ever in 2017, he only managed a 4.26 ERA.

    As always, contract rights are a key component of value. Cole is controllable for two more seasons via arbitration. MLBTR’s arbitration projections suggest he could earn $7.5MM for the 2018 season after a $3.75MM salary in 2017.

    It remains unclear just what kind of trade package would suffice to pry Cole free from the Bucs, who originally selected him with the first overall pick of the 2011 draft. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan has suggested (Twitter link) that Pittsburgh is holding out for a headliner such as outfielder Kyle Tucker or righty Forrest Whitley, while the ’Stros are understandably hoping to hold on to their two top-rated prospects. The sides are also said to have discussed young outfielder Derek Fisher.

    Also of note is the fact that, per Sanchez, Cole “was Houston’s top target last summer” when the organization was searching to bolster its rotation. It seems the prior interests has carried into the offseason. Of course, other organizations may also still be involved. At one point, the Yankees were said to be gaining momentum toward a deal for Cole, though that chatter evidently cooled down. Other organizations surely also have interest in the righty.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros “Actively Pursuing” High-End Starters, Have Discussed Gerrit Cole With Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111969 2018-01-10T16:12:44Z 2018-01-08T18:27:16Z 12:27pm: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Astros have had talks with the Pirates about a trade that would send Cole to Houston. Young outfielder Derek Fisher’s name has come up in negotiations, though Passan notes that the Pirates “almost certainly would need Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley” to headline the deal.

    The 24-year-old Fisher entered the 2017 season as a well-regarded outfield prospect and elevated his status with a .318/.384/.583 batting line in 384 Triple-A plate appearances. That led to Fisher’s first MLB promotion, though he struggled to a .212/.307/.356 slash in a small sample of 166 PAs with Houston.

    Tucker and Whitley, by most accounts, two of the top prospects in Houston’s system (if not the two very best). Each is a former first-round pick, with Tucker going fifth overall in 2015 and Whitley being tabbed with the 17th selection in the 2016 draft. Both reached Double-A in 2017 despite being four to five years younger than the league average in the Texas League. Whitley displayed some of the most intriguing strikeout numbers of any starter in the minors, while Tucker posted a composite .874 OPS between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.

    11:25am: The Astros have been connected to Yu Darvish at various points throughout the offseason, and owner Jim Crane confirmed to reporters today that his club is in the market for a top-shelf pitching addition (Twitter links, with video, from MLB.com’s Alyson Footer). Crane didn’t suggest that his front office is zeroed in on one particular target, instead suggesting that an upgrade could come either via free agency or trade.

    “[General manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and his team are actively pursuing a high-end starter,” said Crane. “We don’t have anything done yet, and it may not come to be, but we’re constantly looking to improve the team. … We’re always trying to upgrade the team, so it would have to be a significant upgrade. We’re happy where we’re at. I’ve been told that on paper we have the best team in baseball, but paper doesn’t win titles.”

    Darvish has been the most prominently mentioned name in connection with the Astros, though the free-agent market also features Jake Arrieta while the trade market could bear names such as Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer (among other, potentially yet unforeseen candidates).

    Houston, of course, already boasts a stacked starting rotation. Justin Verlander looked arguably better than ever following an Aug. 31 trade from Detroit to Houston, and he’ll return to front a rotation that includes 2015 AL Cy Young Winner Dallas Keuchel, high-upside young righty Lance McCullers, and 2017 breakout stars Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. The ’Stros also have veteran Collin McHugh on hand as a solid back-of-the-rotation option and a number of high-end prospects waiting in the upper minors (including Francis Martes and David Paulino, each of whom has already made his MLB debut).

    However, the Astros could also be on the verge of losing Keuchel and Morton to free agency, as each has just one year of team control remaining. While the development of Martes and/or Paulino could lead to the emergence of some internal replacements, Houston could very well see Verlander depart after the 2019 season. As such, adding a top-end starter right now would not only give the Astros an even more formidable collection of starters, it’d also serve as insurance against the possibility of losing arguably their top three starters over the course of the next two years (although Cole, it should be noted, only comes with two years of team control himself).

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Still Considering Move For Closer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111801 2018-01-06T07:31:58Z 2018-01-06T04:23:21Z
  • Heyman also checks in on the closer market. The Astros, he notes, remain interested in adding a high-end, late-inning arm. It’s not entirely clear if they are a realistic suitor for Greg Holland, but in theory he’d be an option. Holland is said to have set out in search of five years in free agency. That never really seemed likely, as he’s 32 years of age and had at least a few late-season stumbles in his first campaign back from Tommy John surgery. Of course, Holland is still expected to secure a significant contract, though a three-year arrangement may be likeliest at this point.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Remain In Darvish Mix]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111598 2018-01-04T02:12:33Z 2018-01-04T02:12:33Z
  • The Twins are “still trying to match schedules” to schedule a sit-down with free agent Yu Darvish, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). That’s somewhat odd to read at this stage of the winter; Darvish has already met with other teams, Minnesota has long labeled him a “priority,” and spring camp is just six weeks away. Nevertheless, at this point it seems little has changed in the situation: the Twins are still interested in the top-flight righty, though it’s difficult to determine a favorite in the Darvish sweepstakes. To that end, it’s worth noting that Jim Bowden of The Athletic wrote today that Minnesota “appears … prepared to offer a market deal” for Darvish (though it stands to reason that an in-person meeting would precede such an offer). Bowden also notes that the Astros are still in the Darvish mix, in part due to concerns over their ability to sign Dallas Keuchel long term, and he cites multiple sources in reporting that the Rangers are still alive in the bidding for Darvish as well.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Could Astros Still Add Left Fielder, Starting Pitcher?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111320 2017-12-29T00:12:31Z 2017-12-29T00:12:31Z
  • The signings of Joe Smith and Hector Rondon may end up being the Astros’ biggest moves of the offseason, though MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart feels the team could still add another starter or a left field candidate.  It isn’t out of the question that Houston makes a big play for Archer or the Marlins’ Christian Yelich, especially if the team could do so without moving either of Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley, McTaggart feels.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Astros, Machado, Hamilton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111242 2017-12-28T00:35:27Z 2017-12-27T22:28:44Z In a dramatic and suspenseful article, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic chronicles the recent harrowing life-or-death race to get Astros first base coach Rich Dauer to Houston Methodist Hospital. On the day of the Astros’ championship parade, Dauer was present at the official ceremony to honor the team. He began to stagger as if drunk, and stepped to the back of the stage. From there, a panicked attempt to get Dauer to the hospital amidst a crowd of millions of people unfolded behind the scenes. The piece is incredibly well-written, and thankfully has a happy ending. It’s definitely worth a full read.

    More from around MLB as we approach the end of December…

    • Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun wonders if this offseason’s drama surrounding Orioles star Manny Machado could have been avoided. Meoli takes a look at the chances the Orioles had to explore trades or a contract extension with their prized third baseman, but he ultimately comes to the conclusion that there was never a reason to trade him until now. It also seems as though by the time Machado was a safe fixture in the O’s lineup, his value was sky-high, and he was close enough to free agency that an extension didn’t make sense for him (or his agent). While it remains to be seen whether Baltimore will actually end up dealing Machado, Meoli’s piece sheds some light on a tough set of circumstances for the Orioles.
    • The Giants and Reds have remained active in talks about a trade that would send Billy Hamilton to San Francisco, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The Reds have reportedly shown interest in Heliot Ramos, who is largely considered to be the Giants’ best prospect (he credits The Athletic with first report of this news). Hamilton, of course, is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game, and also creates a lot of runs with his speed alone. His career .298 on-base percentage is widely regarded as his achilles heel, but he could still provide plenty of value as an elite center fielder in AT&T Park’s spacious outfield. A couple months back, I wrote about the trade market for Hamilton, noting that the Giants were the best match for his services.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Update On Brady Rodgers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=111147 2017-12-25T05:48:44Z 2017-12-25T05:48:44Z
  • After undergoing Tommy John surgery last May, Brady Rodgers hopes to be finished with his rehab by June, the Astros right-hander tells Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle.  A third-rounder in the 2012 draft, Rodgers made his MLB debut in 2016, tossing 8 1/3 innings for the Astros.  He owns a 3.98 ERA, 4.56 K/BB rate and 7.4 K/9 over 575 career frames in the minors, with particularly strong results coming in the last two years at the Triple-A level.  Once recovered, Rodgers will provide more upper minors depth for the Houston rotation.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros, Rangers Reportedly Set To Meet With Yu Darvish]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=110716 2017-12-24T17:48:37Z 2017-12-24T17:48:04Z DEC. 24: The Rangers remain in contact with Wolfe, writes Wilson, who adds that Darvish hasn’t ruled out a reunion with the club. However, it’s up in the air whether Rangers ownership would pay the necessary amount to bring back Darvish, Wilson suggests.

    DEC. 19, 10:35pm: Wilson reports that Darvish and Daniels are planning to have dinner this week, but Darvish’s agents will not be in attendance and the two do not plan to discuss business. The two are simply having dinner, per Wilson, adding that Daniels has continually maintained the stance that Texas will not play at the top of the free-agent market. The dinner was actually planned for November but was pushed back to this point. Darvish himself confirmed as much by quote-tweeting Wilson and adding the comment, “Tomorrow night!”

    Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports the same sentiment, noting that Daniels and Darvish never had much of a chance to have a conversation when Darvish was traded to the Dodgers. Grant likens the meeting to an “exit interview” and emphasizes that Darvish’s lead agent, Joel Wolfe, will not be present.

    All of that said, it’s still a bit of an eyebrow-raiser to see Daniels, whose rotation is rife with uncertainty, meet with the top free-agent pitcher on the market under the guise that no business will be discussed.

    6:41pm: Darvish is set to meet with the Rangers after he sits down with the Astros, a club source tells Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link). That seemingly runs counter to what GM Jon Daniels told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram earlier today, as Wilson tweeted that Daniels said there was no meeting planned with Darvish at that point.

    Obviously, the Rangers are more familiar with Darvish than any other club, and there’s certainly a need in their rotation. Texas has added Mike Minor as a potential starting option this winter and has also swung a trade for Matt Moore and signed Doug Fister. Still, there’s room for improvement among a shaky group of Texas starters.

    What remains to be seen, though, is exactly how much payroll capacity the Rangers have remaining. Texas is reportedly aiming for its 2018 payroll to come in around the $155MM mark, and signing Darvish would almost certainly take them beyond that point, barring a heavily backloaded deal.

    The Rangers could see a substantial amount of cash come off the books after the 2018 season, depending on Cole Hamels’ option and Elvis Andrus’ opt-out provision, but a long-term Darvish deal would likely mean boosting their commitments for 2020 season north of $85MM. Certainly, finding a taker for Shin-Soo Choo’s albatross contract would alleviate some of that crunch, though that’s a daunting proposition for the Texas front office.

    5:00pm: One day after Yu Darvish reportedly met face-to-face with the Cubs, he’s sitting down for a similar meeting with the Astros, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Houston joins the Cubs and Twins as teams that have now been prominently linked to Darvish, who topped MLBTR’s free agent rankings at the beginning of the offseason. The Rangers, Heyman writes, are “monitoring” the Darvish market.

    The Astros, of course, got an up-close look at Darvish for years when he fronted the division-rival Rangers’ rotation and when they clobbered him in a pair of World Series starts. Though that rough pair of outings was obviously a sour note upon which to end an otherwise solid season, the tiny sample of two starts against a powerhouse offense isn’t likely to alter his perception much among big league teams. (Notably, one unnamed Astros player revealed to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci that Darvish was tipping his pitches in both World Series outings.)

    Houston isn’t exactly in dire need of a rotation upgrade, as their current group of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock is already strong. Houston also still has Collin McHugh as an option for the back end of the rotation as well as a number of upper-level prospects (e.g. Francis Martes, David Paulino) that could eventually emerge as rotation options.

    That said, adding Darvish to a rotation that already includes Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers and Morton would make for a potent starting five. Peacock thrived in a multi-inning relief role on multiple occasions in 2017 and could function in a similar capacity in 2018, should the ’Stros ultimately elect to add a significant arm to their rotation. Picking up Darvish could also bode well for the club in the long term, as both Keuchel and Morton are set to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

    From a pure payroll standpoint, Houston can certainly absorb a significant multi-year deal. The Astros do have just shy of $150MM committed to the 2017 payroll (including projected arbitration salaries), but that number plummets to $56MM on the books for 2019 when Keuchel, Morton, Evan Gattis, Tony Sipp and Marwin Gonzalez are all eligible for free agency.

    [Related: Houston Astros depth chart and payroll outlook]

    The ’Stros will no doubt look to lock up Jose Altuve beyond the 2019 campaign, when their control over the 2017 AL MVP runs out, though, and they probably want to keep George Springer around beyond 2020 as well. Those will be considerations when deciding whether to offer a long-term deal to any high-priced free agent, though it’s worth pointing out that Houston only has $21.5MM committed to the 2020 roster at present and does not have a single guaranteed contract for the 2021 season on its current books.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Acquire Preston Tucker, Designate Luke Jackson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=110782 2017-12-20T17:30:44Z 2017-12-20T17:21:48Z The Braves have acquired outfielder Preston Tucker from the Astros, per an announcement from the Atlanta organization. Cash or a player to be named will go back in return. To open 40-man space, the Braves designated righty Luke Jackson.

    Tucker is an interesting addition for a Braves organization that recently shed regular corner outfielder Matt Kemp. The young, left-handed-hitting Tucker is a possible platoon piece. He might pair with Lane Adams, for instance, if the organization decides it’d prefer to keep top prospect Ronald Acuna at Triple-A to open the season.

    It’s certainly possible that Tucker could still turn into a valuable big league asset. The 27-year-old slashed .250/.333/.465 with 24 long balls in 569 Triple-A plate appearances in 2017. He has also shown an ability to hit the ball out of the yard in the majors, having popped 13 long balls in 323 plate appearances in 2015, though he also managed only a .297 OBP in that run, struggled badly in the ensuing season and has not seen the bigs since.

    As for Jackson, the writing was likely on the wall as the Braves began committing 40-man spots to other relievers over the winter. The 26-year-old has a big fastball and managed a decent 10.2% swinging-strike rate in 2017, but managed only 5.9 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 along with 4.62 ERA over 50 2/3 innings in his first extended MLB action.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Interested In Chris Archer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=110531 2017-12-17T01:21:29Z 2017-12-17T01:18:02Z The Astros and Phillies have interest in Rays right-hander Chris Archer, joining a slew of previously reported clubs, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays clearly wouldn’t have any trouble finding a taker for Archer, thanks to his track record, age (29) and team-friendly contract (four years, $34MM). Teammate and face of the franchise Evan Longoria, the Rays’ longtime third baseman, is three years older than Archer and costs far more (a guaranteed $86MM over a half-decade). But that doesn’t seem to be a prohibitive price tag, as the three-time All-Star is drawing some interest from the division-rival Yankees as well as the Giants, Mets and previously reported Cardinals, according to Topkin.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Designate Preston Tucker]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=110351 2017-12-15T20:55:24Z 2017-12-15T20:45:23Z The Astros have designated outfielder Preston Tucker for assignment, per a club announcement. His roster spot will go to just-signed reliever Hector Rondon.

    Tucker, a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft, has generally posted strong numbers during his rise through the Houston system. He reached the majors in 2015, hitting for enough power (including 13 home runs in 323 plate appearances) to produce at just over the league-average rate despite carrying only a .297 on-base percentage. But Tucker struggled badly in the following season and has not been back to the big leagues since.

    In 2017, playing exclusively at Triple-A, Tucker posted a .250/.333/.465 batting line with 24 home runs over 569 plate appearances. On the promising side, he boosted his walk rate to a career-best 11.4% and struck out just 17.9% of the time. But his overall output was not much better than the mean in the hitter-friendly PCL. Tucker’s .263 batting average on balls in play no doubt had an impact, though he has typically generated a low BABIP.

    All told, it seems reasonable to expect that another organization will be glad to risk a 40-man spot on Tucker, who has one more option year remaining. His younger brother, Kyle Tucker, remains in the Astros system and is considered one of the team’s top prospects.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Sign Hector Rondon]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=110281 2017-12-16T04:07:50Z 2017-12-15T20:11:06Z The Astros have inked free-agent righty Hector Rondon to a two-year, $8.5MM pact. Rondon, an Octagon client, was non-tendered by the Cubs earlier this month. Now, he’s lined up for successive $4MM and $4.5MM salaries in Houston, where he’ll represent an arm with closing experience to help fortify the back of the bullpen.

    Hector Rondon | Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Rondon, 30 in February, saved 77 games with a 2.44 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 with the Cubs fro 2014-16. He initially lost the closer’s role in Chicago through little fault of his own, as he was bumped from that spot when Chicago acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees prior to the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline.

    The 2017 season was Rondon’s worst since the 2013 campaign (when he was a Rule 5 pick out of the Indians organization), as he turned in a 4.24 ERA with a 3.1 BB/9 mark — both his highest levels since that rookie season. However, Rondon also logged a career-high 10.8 K/9 and 29.1 percent overall strikeout rate in 2017 while maintaining excellent fastball velocity (average of 96.4 mph) and an above-average ground-ball rate (48.3 percent).

    Like many pitchers throughout the league, Rondon has become increasingly susceptible to home runs across the past two seasons, averaging 1.5 HR/9 despite being extremely stingy in that regard throughout the first three seasons of his career. His increased vulnerability to the long ball obviously made the uptick in walks this past season all the more damning, though metrics like xFIP (3.43) and SIERA (3.20) remained generally bullish on his abilities.

    Houston has already reportedly added to its supply of late-inning arms by striking a deal for sidearm righty Joe Smith, and Rondon will give them another option to pair with the likes of Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris in the late innings. Giles, who served as the team’s closer throughout the season, struggled in the playoffs, though the addition of Rondon wouldn’t seem to supplant him from that ninth-inning role. If Giles’ struggles carry over into the 2018 campaign, though, Rondon would certainly be a plausible alternative for manager A.J. Hinch to get the final few outs of a game, given his extensive experience in Chicago.

    Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the signing on Twitter. Rosenthal (in a tweet), SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter), and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter) had contract details.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Sign Joe Smith]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109951 2017-12-14T22:36:57Z 2017-12-14T22:36:53Z 4:36pm: Smith will earn $7MM in 2018 and $8MM in 2019, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.

    6:20am: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the two-year deal actually guarantees Smith $15MM.

    THURSDAY, 2:32am: Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports that Smith will be paid $14MM over his two-year pact (Twitter link).

    WEDNESDAY, 8:18pm: Smith passed a physical in Houston on Wednesday, Kaplan tweets, and the team has announced the agreement. Financial details aren’t yet available.

    5:13pm: The Astros have agreed to a deal with free agent reliever Joe Smith, pending a physical, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com tweets. It’s a two-year pact, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Smith is a client of Excel Sports Management.

    Joe Smith

    Houston will be the sixth team for the 33-year-old Smith, who has served as a more-than-capable reliever since making his major league debut in 2007. The sidearming, soft-tossing right-hander has racked up a combined 624 2/3 innings of 2.97 ERA pitching and posted a 55.7 percent groundball rate with the Mets, Indians, Angels, Cubs and Blue Jays.

    While Smith’s success has come in spite of modest strikeout and walk rates (7.88 K/9, 3.17 BB/9), he found another gear in both departments last season. Across 54 innings divided between Toronto and Cleveland, Smith logged 11.83 K/9 against 1.67 BB/9 and recorded an 11.4 percent swinging-strike rate – a vast improvement over his lifetime mark of 8.4. He joins Bryan Shaw, now with the Rockies, as the second proven reliever to depart the Indians via free agency this winter.

    While the World Series-contending Indians have seen their bullpen weaken since last season ended, Smith should step in with aplomb for Luke Gregerson, who left the reigning champion Astros for the Cardinals. Along with Smith, Houston has a host of other quality pieces in the fold in Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Joe Musgrove and, if he doesn’t start, Brad Peacock, with Michael Feliz and James Hoyt also in the mix.

    All of those hurlers are righties, which could lead the Astros to reel in a southpaw at some point this winter, though their relievers did limit lefty-swingers to a .231/.306/.395 line last season. Smith, meanwhile, has typically been effective against lefties, having held them to a .242/.336/.369 mark during his career.

    Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Interested In Carlos Gonzalez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109994 2017-12-14T01:46:20Z 2017-12-14T01:46:20Z
  • In addition to a host of other teams, the Astros have some interest in outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, according to Heyman (Twitter links). The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have checked in not only on Gonzalez but also fellow free agent oufielder Carlos Gomez.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pitching Market Chatter: Phils, Yanks, Greinke, Cole, Archer, Duffy, CC, Jays]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109922 2017-12-14T00:51:51Z 2017-12-14T00:51:51Z With a pair of relief signings being wrapped up, the Phillies seem to feel good about that aspect of their roster. Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, via Twitter, the team will turn its gaze to improving the rotation. Both they and the Yankees checked in with the Diamondbacks regarding right-hander Zack Greinke, Robert Murray of FanRag writes. Greinke ending up with either club is unlikely, however, sources informed Murray. With the Rangers also having shown interest in Greinke, we now know at least three teams have inquired about the expensive 34-year-old this offseason.

    Greinke is the latest hurler to land on the radar of the Yankees, who have also eyed Pirates righty Gerrit Cole. Consequently, the Bucs “are gathering names of young, controllable” Yankees they could acquire in a Cole deal, though there’s “nothing close,” Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (on Twitter). Notably, Brink adds that the Yankees are also “looking at” Rays righty Chris Archer. The 29-year-old has drawn significant interest this winter, but it’s unclear whether the Rays will move him.

    Plenty more pitching rumors…

    • The Royals are giving serious consideration to dealing southpaw Danny Duffy, who’s “extremely popular” on the trade market, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. Duffy suggested on Twitter that he doesn’t want to go anywhere, for what it’s worth. “Bury me a Royal,” he declared.
    • As the Blue Jays look for pitching reinforcements, they are giving real consideration to veteran CC Sabathia, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. Though manager John Gibbons suggested his own priority is to add bats, he also said he’d welcome the addition of the veteran Sabathia — who has a lengthy history with the Jays’ current front office leadership stemming from their time in Cleveland together.
    • Teams have given up on trying to acquire Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, Heyman reports on Twitter. The Reds understandably want an enormous haul back for the 27-year-old star, who’s under affordable control for the foreseeable future.
    • The Twins and Rays have chatted about veteran righty Jake Odorizzi, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter), who adds that Tampa Bay was not interested in Minnesota’s initial offer.
    • Although they’re at the beginning of a full, cost-cutting rebuild, the Marlins aren’t feeling any urgency to deal righty Dan Straily, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com (Twitter link). Miami’s de facto ace will play his first of three arbitration-eligible seasons in 2018. He’s projected to earn a $4.6MM salary, which even the Marlins can afford.
    • The Mets are not likely to sign another free agent reliever, at least in the near term, according to GM Sandy Alderson and as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. Instead, after landing Anthony Swarzak, the organization expects to begin looking to fill its other needs.
    • Brewers GM David Stearns discussed his organization’s situation with reporters including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (Twitter links). He said the team was willing to go to two years to get Swarzak, but wasn’t willing to match the dollar amount he ultimately took. The club still has open payroll capacity, which Stearns says he’ll put to good use. “We have spending power this offseason,” he said. “I’m confident we are going to find places to use that effectively.”
    • Before the Astros agreed to a deal with Joe Smith on Wednesday, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com hinted on Twitter that the team could have interest in free agent righty Hector Rondon. Whether that still stands remains to be seen, but the Astros are already chock-full of righty relievers as it is.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pitching Rumblings: Twins, Darvish, Cishek, Cole, Mariners, Liriano, Watson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109820 2017-12-13T22:14:17Z 2017-12-13T19:21:28Z While the market for starters is still fairly slow to develop, relievers have been flying off the board at the Winter Meetings. Here’s the latest chatter on some hurlers from around the game:

    • The Twins are sending signals that they’re serious about their pursuit of free agent righty Yu Darvish. As LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune writes, skipper Paul Molitor says the organization has “targeted [Darvish] as somebody we have tremendous interest in.” That follows prior public indications of interest from GM Thad Levine, who, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press examines, has a longstanding relationship with Darvish. That piece is well worth a full read, if only for Berardino’s enjoyable chat with catcher Chris Gimenez, who worked closely with Darvish with the Rangers and has played most recently with the Twins.
    • Meanwhile, the Twins are also among the teams looking into righty Steve Cishek, according to Berardino (via Twitter). The sidearmer has been left as one of the top remaining free-agent setup men after a spate of signings at the Winter Meetings. He finished the 2017 season on a strong run with the Rays.
    • The Orioles have at least checked in on Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Certainly, Baltimore isn’t the only organization that would love to add Cole, whose name has arisen in chatter a few times in recent days. Whether the Bucs are really ready to deal him isn’t entirely clear; neither is it certain just what the club would seek in return. Yesterday, though, Buster Olney of ESPN.com gave perhaps the clearest indication yet that Pittsburgh may be prepared to strike an agreement, tweeting that there’s a belief from some around the game that Pittsburgh would pull the trigger if the right deal came across its desk.
    • Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto says his team is in the “red zone” on a deal, likely for a reliever, in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio tweets that Juan Nicasio is a “strongly rumored possibility,” though clearly that’s not a firm connection at this point. And it’s certainly worth noting that the M’s have, in fact, struck agreement on a trade since Dipoto went on the air — though it’s not clear whether the minor acquisition was the one he was referring to. Perhaps Dipoto was giving a nod to that swap, but it’s also possible there’s a more significant move still in store. Regardless, the M’s are clearly focused on pitching, as Dipoto has made clear and TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports.
    • The Astros are weighing a reunion with lefty Francisco Liriano, according to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Long a starter, the 34-year-old was added by the ’Stros at the 2017 trade deadline and moved into a relief role. He did not exactly thrive in that job initially, allowing seven earned runs and posting an ugly 11:10 K/BB ratio in his 14 1/3 frames over twenty appearances. Liriano will presumably also draw some looks from organizations that would propose to give him a shot at rediscovering his form as a starter.
    • Another lefty, Tony Watson, is a possible target for the Athletics, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 32-year-old has plenty of late-inning experience and finished strong after a mid-season swap to the Dodgers. In twenty innings with L.A., Watson posted a 2.70 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Carlos Gonzalez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109628 2017-12-12T20:52:51Z 2017-12-12T20:47:22Z 2:47pm: Other clubs with some level of interest include the Astros, Orioles, and Rockies, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Colorado GM Jeff Bridich has previously indicated a desire to “continue conversations” with CarGo, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post tweeted yesterday, though he did not commit to anything beyond that.

    12:46pm: Though Carlos Gonzalez hasn’t drawn a huge amount of headlines coming off a down season in the final campaign of his seven-year deal with the Rockies, he’s generating a fair bit of interest from clubs looking to take a flyer on the former MVP candidate, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Gonzalez is likely to sign a short-term deal to rebuild his value, and Crasnick notes that the A’s, Blue Jays, Rays, Giants and Royals are among the clubs that are “believed” to be keeping tabs on him.

    Gonzalez, 32, struggled to a ghastly .221/.299/.338 slash in the season’s first half before erupting with a .314/.390/.531 slash, 21 doubles and eight homers in the second half. That surge was fueled largely by a mammoth spike in CarGo’s BABIP (.390 following the All-Star break). While that level isn’t sustainable over a full season, the fact that Gonzalez’s hard-contact rate spiked by nearly eight percent from the first half to the second half suggests that there was more than mere good fortune at play in his late rebound.

    Defensively, Gonzalez hasn’t graded out as an elite right fielder by any means in recent years, but he’s been a bit above average per Defensive Runs Saved and a bit below average in the estimation of Ultimate Zone Rating. Statcast rated him one out above average in the outfield this past season.

    Of the teams listed, the A’s are a bit of a surprise, given their desire to add a controllable right-handed-hitting corner bat. However, they do have outfield space to spare, and Gonzalez could be a nice value play for them on a short-term deal. From a hitter’s standpoint, the Coliseum isn’t necessarily a great place to go try to put up big numbers, though Gonzalez is plenty familiar with the setting from his days in Oakland early in his career.

    The Rays are an even more curious fit given their payroll crunch, though if the team sheds a significant amount of salary and looks to rebuild, they could reallocate some resources to a one-year pact for Gonzalez with the intent to flip him at the nonwaiver deadline. It’s a similar story in Kansas City, where they have space in the outfield but are reportedly on the path to a rebuild.

    The Jays have been eyeing left-handed bats and some outfield help, so there’s certainly a reasonable match there. San Francisco, of course, just missed out on Giancarlo Stanton and will be looking to bolster its offense in other manners now. Depending on the price point at which Gonzalez and agent Scott Boras ultimately settle, other teams could well jump into the mix and hope to sign the Gonzalez that hit 65 homers from 2015-16 as opposed to the one that struggled in 2017 and 2014.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Marwin Gonzalez Hires Scott Boras]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109522 2017-12-12T03:33:12Z 2017-12-12T03:33:12Z Astros utilityman Marwin Gonzalez has switched representation and is now a client of Scott Boras, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports (on Twitter). Gonzalez’s hiring of Boras comes on the heels of teammate Dallas Keuchel’s decision to join up with baseball’s most famous agent. Both players are scheduled to hit free agency next offseason.

    The 28-year-old Gonzalez, a standout with last season’s World Series winners, took an indirect route to prominence. The Venezuelan signed with the Cubs in 2005 and later had an extremely brief stint with the Red Sox, who selected him in the 2011 Rule 5 draft before trading him to the Astros that day. Gonzalez debuted in Houston in 2012 and struggled over his first two major league seasons, batting a miserable .227/.266/.323 in 441 plate appearances as part of a pair of 50-some-win teams.

    The rebuilding Astros began making real progress in the win-loss column during a 70-victory 2013 season, when Gonzalez started showing he could be a legitimate contributor. Since then, the switch-hitter has slashed a solid .271/.321/.432 in 1,935 plate appearances, including an excellent .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs in 515 PAs last season. Gonzalez has added to his value by logging between 78 and 252 appearances at second base, left field (his spot during the Astros’ title run), third base, first base and shortstop.

    Both the Astros and Gonzalez and will try to replicate their 2017 success next season, though there’s some skepticism about the latter’s chances. Good fortune on batted balls was a key factor in Gonzalez’s impressive offensive outburst, as Statcast indicates his actual weighted on-base average (.387) far surpassed his expected wOBA (.320). Gonzalez’s lifetime wOBA happens to be .320, and returning to that level next season certainly wouldn’t be an ideal outcome in a contract year. The Astros could attempt to extend Gonzalez before then, but for now, he’s slated to make a reasonable $5.125MM in 2018.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Had Interest In Giancarlo Stanton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109512 2017-12-12T02:41:58Z 2017-12-12T02:35:29Z
  • The reigning World Series champion Astros at least made an effort to acquire 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). The two sides never came close to a deal before the Yankees landed Stanton, however, Heyman adds. Notably, the Astros were one of four teams to whom Stanton would’ve accepted a trade. He also would’ve added another terrifying force to an all-world lineup headed by AL MVP Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Considering Pursuit Of Top Starters]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109399 2017-12-11T18:31:16Z 2017-12-11T17:43:19Z As the Astros prepare for a World Series title defense, they are at least weighing the possibility of adding a significant rotation piece, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link). Per the report, the club has “shown interest” in top free agents Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. Possible trade targets such as Chris Archer could also be considered.

    At this stage, it seems, that interest is mostly exploratory in nature. That’s not to diminish the importance of the report, though: the involvement of the ’Stros at the top of the rotation market could certainly have a significant bearing on how things shake out.

    Though Houston’s payroll has continued to climb northward in recent years, the team’s successes have perhaps freed up some additional financial flexibility. Rosenthal also notes that the organization could find a taker for Collin McHugh — who’s projected to earn $4.8MM by MLBTR — should they make a big strike in the rotation.

    On the one hand, this news hardly rates as a surprise. While the ’Stros staff has plenty of talent, particularly with Justin Verlander now on hand, it also comes with some questions. Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton have had some health concerns at times and Brad Peacock will need to prove his 2017 breakout is sustainable. Plus, with Dallas Keuchel slated for free agency next winter, there’s room to consider a long-term addition.

    On the other, this is a bit of an interesting development. The unfortunate incident involving Yulieski Gurriel mocking Darvish during the World Series is one factor with regard to that particular possibility, though both players’ responses in the aftermath suggest it’s not an insurmountable barrier. Of greater importance, perhaps, is the fact that the Astros were so careful even when deciding to add Verlander out of concern for over-burdening their future payroll. Darvish and Arrieta are each already 31 years of age.

    Then there’s the fact that the bullpen remains the obvious area to target. What’s most interesting about this report may be the possibility that the Astros would consider a major rotation upgrade to be a means of answering needs on the relief side — at least in part. With top youngsters such as Francis Martes and David Paulino climbing the ladder, there are plenty of avenues for creativity. Adding another quality starter would leave the organization with significant depth and flexibility to keep arms fresh through the season and, perhaps, enter a hypothetical postseason run with loads of interesting possibilities for handling a staff.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 12/11/17]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109396 2017-12-11T16:56:17Z 2017-12-11T16:56:17Z We’ll use this post to track the day’s minor signings:

    • The Astros have signed catcher Tim Federowicz to a minors pact, the club announced (per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, on Twitter). Righty Matt Ramsey is also on board with a minor-league deal. Federowicz, 30, could join the competition for a reserve role in Houston if the club does not make a bigger strike for a backstop to pair with Evan Gattis. He has taken 318 total MLB plate appearances over parts of six seasons, slashing just .196/.245/.313 in sporadic action. As things stand, the depth chart projects Max Stassi as the primary reserve. As for Ramsey, the 28-year-old finished the 2017 season with a 3.65 ERA and 11.8 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 in 44 1/3 Double-A frames, but was knocked around in brief action at the highest level of the minors.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Hires Scott Boras]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=109299 2017-12-10T22:24:55Z 2017-12-10T22:24:33Z Set to enter his final year of team control in 2018, Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel has switched representation and is now a Scott Boras client, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports (Twitter link).

    Keuchel is projected to earn $12.6MM via arbitration next year, which could be his last season with the organization that used a seventh-round pick on him in 2009. Now 29, Keuchel blossomed into one of the game’s premier starters in 2014 and went on to earn the American League Cy Young Award the next season. Keuchel was a 200-plus-inning workhorse in each of those two seasons, but injuries limited him to a combined 313 2/3 frames from 2016-17.

    While Keuchel struggled in 2016, he returned to his front-line ways last season (albeit over just 145 2/3 innings), with a 2.90 ERA, 7.72 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a major league-best 66.8 percent groundball rate. Keuchel’s regular-season output helped the Astros rack up 101 wins and roll to an AL West title, and he was also an instrumental member of the team’s first-ever championship-winning run in October. Keuchel was at his best in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, firing seven scoreless, 10-strikeout innings in a win over the Yankees, whom the Astros ultimately defeated in seven games.

    In the midst of the Astros-Yankees series, Keuchel said that his hope is to remain in Houston for the long haul. It’s unclear whether there has been progress toward that goal, though, and it’s obvious that the Astros are going to have to fork over a significant contract in the coming year if they’re serious about extending Keuchel before he reaches the market next winter. As of now, Boras’ newest high-profile client is on track to be a key part of a class that could feature a slew of other stars, including fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Wearing Walking Boot After Ankle Sprain]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108726 2017-12-05T06:38:41Z 2017-12-05T05:31:41Z
  • Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel is currently sporting a walking boot after suffering a foot sprain, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Keuchel told TMZ Sports that he was banged up in the team’s World Series parade. Fortunately, the expectation at the moment is that the injury won’t prove to be much of a hindrance to Keuchel as he begins to prepare for the 2018 campaign.
  • In other coaching news, the Mariners announced that Brian DeLunas has been hired as the team’s bullpen coach. Per the club, DeLunas has most recently worked for private entities CSE Baseball and Premier Pitching and Performance (P3) and previously served as a pitching coach at a variety of levels, including at the University of Missouri. Meanwhile, the Athletics have added Al Pedrique as the club’s new first base coach while shifting Mike Aldrete to assistant hitting coach and Marcus Jensen to bullpen coach. Pedrique, a former big leaguer, was most recently the manager for the Yankees’ top affiliate and has previously coached in the majors for the Diamondbacks and Astros.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Jeff Luhnow On Astros' Bullpen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108540 2017-12-03T04:20:55Z 2017-12-03T04:20:55Z
  • With the unreliable Tony Sipp representing their only established left-handed reliever, there’s an argument that the Astros could stand to add another southpaw to their bullpen. But, as he looks to improve the reigning champions’ relief corps, general manager Jeff Luhnow isn’t discriminating based on handedness (Twitter links via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com). “It’s really about finding the best upgrades to our pitching staff we can find to give us depth and quality we need to get through long season,” said Luhnow, whose team’s righty-heavy bullpen actually held its own against lefty-swingers in 2017. Luhnow noted, though, that the market is currently “stalled,” which suggests nothing is imminent on Houston’s end.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Shohei Ohtani Rumors: Saturday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108528 2017-12-03T02:00:28Z 2017-12-03T00:54:57Z The latest on game-changing Japanese ace/slugger Shohei Ohtani, whom the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters posted on Friday and who’s at the beginning of a three-week window to work out an agreement with a major league team:

    • The Ohtani sweepstakes is seemingly on the verge of picking up in earnest, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the 23-year-old CAA Sports client will meet with various teams in Los Angeles next week (Twitter link). The Mariners are among those clubs, suggests Passan, who relays that team brass has asked multiple members of its roster to clear their schedules for a potential meeting with Ohtani. That comes on the heels of general manager Jerry Dipoto’s revelation last week that the Mariners are preparing an aggressive push press for Ohtani. “We’re not joking around. We’re bringing the big guns,” declared Dipoto (Twitter link via Greg Johns of MLB.com).
    • Ohtani’s camp will notify certain teams this weekend if they’ll remain in the mix to sign him, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Padres are hopeful they’ll advance to the next round. “As a group, we’re prepared, and I think he’s a player that obviously we’ve scouted and have history with,” GM A.J. Preller told Lin. “You try to see what the fits are and why he’s a good fit for us and why we’re a good fit for him. We’re kind of down the path of doing that work.”
    • The Red Sox will also chase Ohtani, per president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald via text: “Would acknowledge our interest. Beyond that, all would be confidential.” Ohtani joining Chris Sale and David Price would make for a rather enticing top of the rotation, needless to say, and he could also factor in as a designated hitter for a Boston club that received uninspiring production there last season in the first year of the post-David Ortiz era.
    • Count the World Series-winning Astros as yet another team that will court Ohtani. Owner Jim Crane told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that the Astros will “put a full-court press on” to sign Ohtani, adding that they’ll “probably send the A-team out there.” He also noted that the Astros “need a left-handed DH, so there you have it.” In addition to having the ability to demonstrate his offensive prowess in Houston, Ohtani would add another potential front-end starter to a rotation that already includes past Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel.
    • While the Rays are obvious long shots to land Ohtani, they have an advantage over other teams with the presence of two-way prospect Brendan McKay, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times observes. McKay, the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, could be both a pitcher and a hitter in the majors. “We’re hopeful (McKay) can do it,” Rays GM Erik Neander said. “We want to give him the opportunity to do it because he’s shown he deserves that opportunity and we don’t want to take that away from him prematurely.” Citing McKay’s presence, the Rays will emphasize to Ohtani that they’re open-minded about developing and employing a two-way player, per Topkin, who also expects them to pitch Tampa Bay’s “relaxed” lifestyle during the recruiting process.
    • The Marlins, MLB’s other Florida-based organization, are unlikely to make an effort for Ohtani, Tim Healey of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. The cost-cutting Marlins are wary of the financial commitment it would take to reel in Ohtani, who won’t require much from a salary standpoint but will cost a $20MM posting fee. While that looks like a relatively minor amount for a possible franchise face like Ohtani, the Marlins simply aren’t in position to fork it over in their current financial state, Healey explains.
    • While the Indians only have $10K in international bonus pool space, they’re expected to partake in the Ohtani derby, per Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. He’d slot into an already loaded rotation, one which features two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco; additionally, Ohtani could DH for a team at risk of losing Carlos Santana in free agency.
    • All things considered, the Yankees may be the favorites for Ohtani. There’s a general “fear” coming from other franchises regarding the Bronx Bombers, tweets Passan, given the talent on hand, the market they’re in and their strong relationship with CAA Sports. They also have the second-biggest international bonus pool.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Non-Tender Mike Fiers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108449 2017-12-02T02:23:40Z 2017-12-02T01:09:26Z The Astros have non-tendered righty Mike Fiers, per a team announcement. The team has tendered contracts to all other eligible players, while Fiers will head to the open market.

    This move was widely expected, though there seemed to be some possibility that the team would instead find another organization interested in Fiers via trade. Fiers was projected by MLBTR and Matt Swartz to earn $5.7MM in his second (and second-to-last) season of arbitration eligibility.

    Fiers, 32, has had some dazzling high points — including a 2015 no-hitter — but has been increasingly prone to the long ball over the past three seasons. He surrendered 1.88 home runs per nine in 2017 while also posting a career-high 3.6 BB/9 walk rate. Perhaps it isn’t surprising, then, that he ended the year with an ugly 5.22 ERA over 153 1/3 innings.

    While Fiers had a nice stretch of good outings in the middle of the year, briefly losing his rotation spot before being pushed back in due to injuries, he finished poorly and did not earn a chance to play in the Astros’ successful run through the postseason. Of course, in other ways Fiers was much the same pitcher as ever. He posted typical velocity and swinging-strike (9.1%) numbers along with a 42.9% groundball rate that sits above his personal average.

    It still seems likely that there’ll be fairly robust interest in Fiers in free agency. Even if expectations aren’t all that high, he has turned in 88 starts over the past three seasons and seems a reasonable bet to help stabilize the back of a rotation.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Likely To Tender Evan Gattis]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108271 2017-12-01T06:49:57Z 2017-12-01T00:32:12Z
  • Also on the topic of non-tenders, Crasnick notes in the above column that the Astros are likely to tender a contract to slugger Evan Gattis tomorrow. MLBTR listed Gattis as a potential non-tender/trade candidate due to his projected $6.6MM salary, some diminished productivity and the fact that backup catcher/designated hitter are among the few clear areas for improvement on a stacked Astros roster. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart suggested the same this week, but Crasnick and Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle both report that indications are that Gattis is not at risk of a non-tender.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Likely To Shop Mike Fiers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108203 2017-11-30T00:29:36Z 2017-11-30T00:29:36Z With the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players looming, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros will “surely attempt to trade” right-hander Mike Fiers between now and that 8pm ET deadline on Friday.

    MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected the 32-year-old Fiers to take home a $5.7MM salary in what would be his second trip through the arbitration process. Any club that acquired Fiers would be picking up his rights not only for the 2018 campaign but also for the 2019 season, as he’ll be arbitration-eligible once more next offseason. Of course, the fact that Fiers is already a non-tender candidate speaks to the fact that he’s coming off a down season, and he’d need to enhance his stock with a solid 2018 performance for those 2019 rights to even come into play.

    Fiers served as a useful rotation piece for the Astros and Brewers in 2015-16, working to a combined 4.07 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 with a roughly 40 percent ground-ball rate in 349 innings. The righty traded some of his 2015 strikeouts for improved walk and ground-ball tendencies in 2016 and experienced generally useful results in both years. The 2017 campaign saw the return of Fiers’ ability to miss bats (8.6 K/9) but also some control issues (3.6 BB/9) — this time paired with a best-yet 42.9 percent grounder rate.

    Home runs have long been an issue for Fiers, a righty who works with a four-seamer that averages just under 90 mph, but that issue was more pronounced than ever in 2017, as Fiers yielded an average 1.88 HR/9 in this past season’s 153 1/3 innings. The resulting 5.22 ERA wasn’t pretty, though an uptick in home runs plagued pitchers across the league this season as pundits and players alike speculated on the possibility of some alterations to the composition of the baseball.

    For a team that believes Fiers’ homer spike can be managed in 2018-19, he could represent a durable option to fill out the back of a rotation. Fiers has made at least 28 starts per season in each of the past three seasons and has never been on the Major League disabled list. While Fiers isn’t teeming with upside, he’s been a solid two-win pitcher in seasons past and could provide solid value if he can return to that form.

    Considering the fact that reclamation projects on the free-agent market are oftentimes priced similarly to Fiers’ arbitration projection — Tyson Ross and Derek Holland each made $6MM on one-year deals last offseason, for instance — and the fact that Fiers has a remaining year of control beyond ’18, it’s not hard to see a club rolling the dice on a low-cost trade. If Houston isn’t able to find a taker, Fiers could be non-tendered and join what has been a bizarrely stagnant free-agent market to date.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Interested In Mike Minor]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108189 2017-11-30T04:51:21Z 2017-11-29T20:41:44Z
  • The Astros can now be added to the list of teams with some interest in Mike Minor, according to a report from ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle previously explained that the southpaw would make for an interesting target for the ’Stros; we have also heard of prior interest from the Mets, who Olney also names. There’ll likely be quite a few other teams poking around on his market, too, after a high-quality season in which Minor bounced back from shoulder problems. As a lefty with a starter’s arsenal, Minor could be awfully handy on plenty of rosters, though his contractual upside will likely be limited by his health history.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Notes; Rotation, Marisnick, Gattis]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108157 2017-11-29T05:25:40Z 2017-11-29T05:16:21Z In his latest Astros inbox, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart explores a number of topics pertaining to Houston’s 2018 roster and their current offseason plans. McTaggart suggests that left-handed relief will be a top priority for the ’Stros this winter and that Jake Marisnick will return for the 2018 season as the team’s primary fourth outfielder even with Derek Fisher also in the picture. McTaggart fields multiple questions on a loaded Astros rotation that will be anchored by Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton, leaving just one spot for Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes. Of the bunch, he suggests that Peacock and McHugh could both see time in the fifth spot, while Musgrove could be shifted to a more permanent ’pen role and Martes could return to Triple-A to continue developing as a starter.

    More on the Astros and the division…

    • With Evan Gattis projected to earn $6.6MM in 2017 and reported interest from the Astros in Jonathan Lucroy, McTaggart also notes within that inbox column that Houston could either non-tender Gattis or try to trade him in advance of Friday’s 8pm ET non-tender deadline. Gattis posted a quality .263/.311/.457 slash in 325 PAs this season but also threw out just four of 39 potential base thieves this season (though he was 13-for-28 in that regard in 2016). With few obvious areas for an upgrade, Houston could conceivably look to add a more significant bat at DH and pursue a backup catching option that is cheaper and/or comes with a better defensive reputation. MLBTR listed Gattis as a potential non-tender candidate this week.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rangers Claim Juan Centeno From Astros]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=108061 2017-11-27T20:45:36Z 2017-11-27T20:39:15Z The Rangers announced that they’ve claimed catcher Juan Centeno off waivers from the Astros. Centeno was placed on outright waivers last week.

    The 28-year-old Centeno spent some time as a backup catcher with Houston this past season and logged more significant time with the Twins a year prior. Overall, he’s batted .254/.306/.382 with five homers, 12 doubles and a triple in his past 249 big league plate appearances. Centeno has struggled to throw out runners in his career (just 13 percent in the Majors) and has graded out as a poor pitch-framer, per Baseball Prospectus.

    That said, the Rangers have a thin catching corps at the moment, with Robinson Chirinos and Brett Nicholas representing the only two catchers on the 40-man roster with big league experience. Well-regarded youngster Jose Trevino was added to the 40-man roster last week as well. Centeno is out of minor league options, so he’ll have to either break camp with the club as the primary backup to Chirinos or once again be exposed to waivers if the Rangers hope to keep him in the organization.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Place Juan Centeno On Outright Waivers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=107728 2017-11-22T17:50:17Z 2017-11-22T17:41:22Z The Astros have placed catcher Juan Centeno on outright waivers in order to remove him from the team’s 40-man roster, according to a report from Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle.

    Centeno is still on the waiver wire, but Kaplan writes that Houston is hoping he’ll clear and remain with the organization at Triple-A. It’ll be his choice whether to do so, as he was previously outrighted by the Twins in 2016.

    With a fully-stocked MLB roster, the ’Stros were likely always going to need to clear some space before potentially adding players from outside the organization. The 28-year-old Centeno was particularly vulnerable given the presence of Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, and Max Stassi.

    Centeno has seen big league action in each of the past five seasons, carrying a composite .235/.289/.339 slash line through 315 plate appearances with four different organizations. The left-handed hitter spent most of 2017 at Triple-A, hitting .311/.354/.383 in hist 257 plate appearances

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