Houston Astros – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-09-19T04:38:57Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jason Martinez <![CDATA[The Top Minor League Performers Of 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132681 2018-09-19T01:00:00Z 2018-09-18T23:15:05Z Over at Roster Resource, I rank Minor Leaguers throughout the regular season using a formula that takes into account several statistics with age and level serving as important factors in how they are weighed. These are not prospect rankings!

This is how it works:

  • Hitters are mostly rated by total hits, outs, extra-base hits, walks, strikeouts and stolen bases.
  • Pitchers are mostly rated by strikeouts, walks, earned runs, home runs and hits allowed per inning.
  • A few counting stats are included (IP, plate appearances, runs, RBI) to ensure that the players atop the list played a majority of the season.
  • The younger the player and the higher the level, the more weight each category is given. Therefore, a 19-year-old with an identical stat line as a 25-year-old at the same level will be ranked much higher. If a 23-year-old in Triple-A puts up an identical stat line as a 23-year-old in High-A, the player in Triple-A would be ranked much higher.

A player’s potential does not factor in to where they are ranked. If you’re wondering why a certain prospect who is rated highly by experts isn’t on the list, it’s likely because they missed time due to injury (see Victor Robles or Nick Senzel), MLB promotion (Juan Soto) or just weren’t productive enough. While there are plenty of recognizable names throughout the MiLB Power Rankings Top 200 list, it’s also full of players who were relatively unknown prior to the season and have seen their stock rise significantly due to their performance. Here’s a closer look at the Top 20.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

Guerrero probably deserved to start his MLB career sometime between the debuts of NL Rookie of the Year candidates Ronald Acuña Jr. (April 25th) and Juan Soto (May 20th). All things being equal, that would’ve been the case.

But his call-up was delayed, mostly because third baseman Josh Donaldson was healthy in May and designated hitter Kendrys Morales was being given every opportunity to break out of an early season slump. As Guerrero’s path to regular playing time was becoming clearer, he suffered a knee injury in early June that kept him out of action for a month. When he returned, the Jays’ playoff chances had dwindled. Instead of adding him to the 40-man roster and starting his service time clock, they chose to delay his MLB debut until 2019.

You can hate the rule, but I’m certain Jays fans would rather have Guerrero under team control in 2025 as opposed to having him on the team for a few meaningless months in 2018 and headed for free agency after the 2024 season. And maybe it’s just me, but I kind of enjoy seeing what kind of numbers a player can put up when he’s way too good for his competition. And all this 19-year-old kid did was slash .381/.437/.636 with 20 HR, 29 2B, 37 BB, 38 K in 408 plate appearances, mostly between Triple-A and Double-A (he had 14 PAs during a rehab stint in the low minors).  Thanks for providing us with that beautiful stat line, Vlad Jr.

2. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros Astros Depth Chart

Despite a slow start—he had 21 hits in his first 83 Triple-A at-bats with one homer and 20 strikeouts— the 21-year-old Tucker showed why the World Champions were willing to give him a chance to take their starting left field job and run with it in July.

Tucker wasn’t quite ready for the Big Leagues—he was 8-for-52 in two separate MLB stints prior to a recent third call-up—but his stock hasn’t dropped one bit after slashing .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers, 27 doubles and 20 stolen bases over 465 plate appearances in his first season at the Triple-A level.

3. Luis Rengifo, SS, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

A 21-year-old shortstop just finished a Minor League season with 50 extra-base hits (7 HR, 30 2B, 13 3B), 41 stolen bases, as many walks as strikeouts (75 of each) and a .299/.399/.452 slash line. If the name Luis Rengifo doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably not alone. He kind of came out of nowhere.

The Mariners traded him to the Rays last August in a deal for Mike Marjama and Ryan Garton. Nine months later, the Rays shipped him to the Angels as the PTBNL in the deal for C.J. Cron. Based on those two trades, I can say without hesitation that the Mariners and Rays did not think Rengifo was this good. Not even close.

4. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

Lowe’s breakout season mirrors Juan Soto’s in one way: They both posted an OPS above 1.000 at two different levels before a promotion to a third. Soto’s third stop was in Double-A, and it was a very short stint before heading to the Majors. After destroying High-A and Double-A pitching, Lowe’s final stop of 2018 was Triple-A, where he finally cooled off.

Still, the 23-year-old has put himself squarely on the Rays’ radar. After homering just 11 times in his first 757 plate appearances, all in the low minors, Lowe broke out with 27 homers and 32 doubles in 555 plate appearances in 2018. His overall .330/.416/.568 slash was exceptional.

5. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins | Twins Depth Chart

We’re four seasons into the Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano era—both debuted during the 2015 season—and we can’t say for certain whether either player will even be penciled into the regular lineup in 2019. They could be still turn out to be perennial All-Stars someday. But you can’t blame Twins fans if they temper their expectations for the next great hitting star to come up through their farm system. And yet, that might be difficult with Kirilloff, a first-round draft pick in ’16, and last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Royce Lewis, after the year each of them just had. Both are moving up the ladder quickly.

The 20-year-old Kirilloff, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, was a hitting machine in his first full professional season. After slashing .333/.391/.607 with 13 homers in 65 games with Low-A Cedar Rapids, he hit .362 with seven homers and 24 doubles in 65 games with High-A Fort Myers. He also had 11 hits in the playoffs, including a 5-hit performance on September 5th.

6. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

All Bichette did during his age-20 season was hit 43 doubles and steal 32 bases while manning shortstop for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the 2018 Eastern League Champions. It’s unlikely that he’ll join Vlad Jr. in the Majors early next season, but he might not be too far behind.

7. Peter Alonso, 1B, New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

Alonso’s monster season (.975 OPS, 36 HR, 31 2B, 119 RBI between AAA/AA) ended in disappointment when he was passed over for a September promotion. As was the case with Vlad Jr., it didn’t make much sense to start his service time clock and fill a valuable 40-man spot during the offseason—neither Guerrero or Alonso have to be protected from the next Rule 5 draft—while the team is playing meaningless games. The 23-year-old Alonso did establish, however, that he is the Mets’ first baseman of the very near future, and they’ll plan accordingly during the upcoming offseason.

8. Touki Toussaint, SP, Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

As tough as it will be to crack the Braves’ rotation in the coming years, the 22-year-old Toussaint has put himself in position to play a significant role in 2019 after posting a 2.38 ERA and 10.8 K/9 in 24 starts between Triple-A and Double-A. He’s also starting meaningful MLB games down the stretch as the Braves try to seal their first division title since 2013. After spending last October in the Arizona Fall League, where he followed up an underwhelming 2017 season by allowing 10 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings, he could find himself on the Braves’ playoff roster.

9. Vidal Brujan, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

The highest-ranked player to spend the entire season in Low-A, the 20-year-old Brujan slashed .320/.403/.459 while stealing 55 bases in his first crack at a full season league (27 games in High-A; 95 games in Low-A). He’ll still be overshadowed a bit in a deep Tampa Bay farm system that includes two of the best young prospects in the game, Wander Franco and Jesus Sanchez, but it’s hard to ignore such a rare combination of speed and on-base ability displayed by a switch-hitting middle infielder.

10. Michael King, SP, New York Yankees Yankees Depth Chart

The Yankees’ offseason trade that sent two MLB-ready players, Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith, to the Marlins cleared a pair of 40-man roster spots prior to the Rule 5 draft and brought back $250K in international bonus pool money. They also received King, who—whether anyone expected it or not—was about to have a breakout season.

After posting a 3.14 ERA with a 6.4 K/9 over 149 innings in Low-A in his age-22 season, numbers that typically indicate “possible future back-of-the-rotation workhorse,”  he looks to be much more than that after his 2018 performance. In 161 1/3 innings across Triple-A, Double-A and High-A, King posted a 1.79 ERA, 0.911 WHIP and 8.5 K/9. He was at his best once he reached Triple-A, posting a 1.15 ERA with only 20 hits and six walks allowed over 39 innings.

11. Taylor Widener, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

Unlike the trade to acquire King, the Yankees appear to have gotten the short end of the stick in a three-team, seven-player offseason deal with Arizona and Tampa Bay. They traded away Nick Solak to the Rays and Widener to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Brandon Drury, who was supposed to fill a short-term need for infield depth.

While Drury was a bust in New York—he had nine hits in 51 at-bats before being traded to Toronto in a July deal for J.A. Happ—Solak, a second baseman/outfielder, put up terrific numbers in Double-A (.834 OPS, 19 HR, 21 SB) and Widener has emerged as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.75 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 11.5 K/9 over 137 1/6 innings with Double-A Jackson.

12. Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart

The offseason signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer certainly didn’t bode well for Naylor’s future with the Padres. Whether he had an MLB future at all, however, was already in question. First base prospects can’t just be good hitters. They need to mash, which is far from what Naylor did in 2017 (.761 OPS, 10 HR between Double-A and High-A). But a 20-year-old holding his own in Double-A is still interesting, nevertheless. So it was worth paying attention when he hit .379 with seven homers, five doubles, 13 walks and 12 strikeouts in April. He also spent most of his time in left field in 2018, adding a bit of versatility to his game.

Although April was his best month, by far, he still finished with an impressive .297/.383/.447 slash line. He’ll enter 2019 as a 21-year-old in Triple-A who has flashed some power (17 HR, 22 2B in 574 plate appearances) and above-average plate discipline (64 BB, 69 K).

13. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

Unlike the Jays and Mets, who had multiple reasons to keep Guerrero and Alonso in the Minors until 2019, the Sox’s decision to bypass Jimenez for a September call-up was more questionable.

Already on the 40-man roster and without much to prove after slashing .337/.384/.577 with 22 homers and 28 doubles between Triple-A and Double-A, Jimenez’s MLB debut appeared imminent as September approached. But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, citing Jimenez’s need to improve his defense, confirmed in early September that he would not be called up. Of course, the 21-year-old probably would’ve benefited greatly from playing left field in the Majors for 20-25 games in September. And, of course, Hahn is just doing a good job of not saying the quiet part out loud: Eloy under team control through 2025 > Eloy under team control through 2024.

14. Dean Kremer, SP, Baltimore Orioles Orioles Depth Chart

After posting a 5.18 ERA in 2017, mostly as a relief pitcher in High-A, Kremer’s stock rose quickly with a full-time move to the starting rotation in 2018. In 16 starts for High-A Rancho Cucamonga, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 3.30 ERA with a 13.0 K/9. After tossing seven shutout innings in his Double-A debut, the Dodgers included him as a key piece in the July trade for Manny Machado. Kremer continued to pitch well with Double-A Bowie (2.58 ERA, 45 1/3 IP, 38 H, 17 BB, 53 K) and now finds himself on track to help a rebuilding Orioles’ team in 2019.

15. Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals Royals Depth Chart

Lopez started to turn some heads during last offseason’s Arizona Fall League, and it carried over into 2018 as he slashed .308/.382/.417 with nine homers, 15 stolen bases and more walks (60) than strikeouts (52) between Triple-A and Double-A.  It’s a sign that the 23-year-0ld’s bat is catching up with his stellar defense and that he’s closing in on the Majors, where he could team with Adalberto Mondesi to form one of the better young middle infield duos in the game.

16. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins Twins Depth Chart

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft didn’t disappoint in his first full professional season, posting an .853 OPS, nine homers, 23 doubles and 22 stolen bases in 75 Low-A games before a 2nd half promotion to High-A Fort Myers. He didn’t fare quite as well (.726 OPS, 5 HR, 6 SB in 46 games), but he did hit three homers in the playoffs to help his team win the Florida State League championship. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the if he reached Double-A early next season as a 19-year-old with a jump to the Majors in 2020 not out of the question.

17. Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

Throwing a 100 MPH fastball isn’t as rare as it used to be, but Kopech has reportedly touched 105 MPH, putting him in a class of his own. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old right-hander is expected to join a long list of pitchers who have had their careers interrupted by Tommy John surgery after he was recently diagnosed with a torn UCL.

The timing isn’t great, as Kopech had just arrived in the Majors in late August and would’ve likely been a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year in 2019. Still, he’ll only have to prove that he’s back to full health before he returns to the Majors—he should be ready to return early in the 2020 season— after making a strong impression in Triple-A with a 3.70 ERA and 12.1 K/9 in 24 starts.

18. Kevin Smith, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

Not only do Guerrero, Bichette and Cavan Biggio likely form the best trio of infield prospects in the game, two are sons of Hall of Famers—Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Craig Biggio, and Bichette’s dad, Dante, was also pretty good. And yet, another Blue Jays infield prospect with a very ordinary name and without MLB lineage managed to stand out. The 22-year-old finished the season with 25 homers, 31 doubles, 29 stolen bases and a cumulative .302/.358/.528 batting line between High-A and Low-A.

19. Gavin Lux, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

The former first-round pick wasn’t overly impressive in his first full Minor League season in 2017, slashing .244/.331/.362 with seven homers and 27 stolen bases for Low-A Great Lakes. A move to the hitter-friendly California League in 2018, however, seemed sure to give his offensive numbers a boost. It did. Lux had a .916 OPS and 41 extra-base hits in 404 plate appearances, but he also didn’t slow down once he reached the upper minors late in the year.

In 28 regular season games with Double-A Tulsa, the 20-year-old Lux slashed .324/.408/.495 with four homers in 120 plate appearances. It didn’t end there. Over an eight-game playoff run, the left-handed batter went 14-for-33 with five multi-hit games.

20. Patrick Sandoval, SP, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

Acquiring the 21-year-old Sandoval from the Astros for free agent-to-be catcher Martin Maldonado could turn out to be the steal of the trade deadline. While the lefty didn’t stand out in Houston’s deep farm system, he was having a strong season at the High-A and Low-A levels at the time of the trade (2.56 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 88 innings). The change of scenery didn’t affect him one bit as he tossed 14 2/3 shutout innings in the California League before finishing the season with four impressive Double-A starts (19 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 27 K).

Power Ranking Leaders By Level

Triple-A
Hitter: Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
Starting Pitcher: Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox
Relief Pitcher: Ian Gibaut, Tampa Bay Rays

Double-A
Hitter: Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
Starting Pitcher: Taylor Widener, Arizona Diamondbacks
Relief Pitcher: Matt Pierpont, Colorado Rockies

High-A
Hitter: Colton Welker, Colorado Rockies
Pitcher: Emilio Vargas, Arizona Diamondbacks

Low-A
Hitter: Chavez Young, Toronto Blue Jays
Pitcher: Jhonathan Diaz, Boston Red Sox

Short-Season A
Hitter: Tyler Freeman, Cleveland Indians
Pitcher: Jaison Vilera, New York Mets

Rookie 
Hitter: Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
Pitcher: Joey Cantillo, San Diego Padres

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros, Round Rock Set To Announce Affiliate Agreement]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133003 2018-09-18T16:03:21Z 2018-09-18T16:03:21Z The Triple-A Round Rock franchise has scheduled a press conference on Thursday night. While there’s still no official word, every indication has been that the Astros will be moving their top affiliate to Round Rock. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart was among those to tweet that the Houston organization will indeed be formalizing an arrangement to bring its highest-level minor-leaguers into the state of Texas.

Previously, of course, both of these outfits had alternative affiliations. The Rangers had utilized Round Rock for eight seasons, but now find themselves among three MLB teams and three Triple-A sites still engaged in match-up negotiations. And the ’Stros had spent four seasons with the Fresno Grizzlies, who are now looking for a new mate.

Though the Astros-Round Rock connection wasn’t inevitable, it certainly long stood out as a strong possibility. The Triple-A outfit is, after all, owned by the Ryan family. Legendary hurler Nolan Ryan, whose nickname on the mound inspired the club’s “Express” moniker, is presently an executive advisor to the Astros. His son, Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, is another fellow owner of the minor-league club. Both rank high atop the Houston org chart.

Thus, Round Rock CEO Reese Ryan (son of Nolan and brother of Reid) was acknowledging the obvious yesterday when he said an agreement between these organizations was an “absolute no-brainer.” (Via Mark Berman of FOX 26, on Twitter.) Details of the new pact remain to be announced.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Charlie Morton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132958 2018-09-17T19:24:50Z 2018-09-17T19:24:50Z Charlie Morton has said on multiple occasions in the past that he’s unsure of how long he’ll continue playing — most recently telling The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan back in April that he is “not going to keep playing for a long time” while pondering the possibility of retirement following the current season. At the time, Morton listed numerous factors — his growing family, his health, the quality of his performance, a team’s proximity to his wife’s family in Delaware — as some of the numerous factors that would influence his decision.

Morton once again commented on his future this weekend when chatting with Kaplan’s colleague, Ken Rosenthal, and while he stopped short of a definitive declaration, he did imply that a 2019 return could be in the cards (subscription link). Morton plainly stated that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be apart from his wife and children, but he also suggested he still has the desire to compete at a high level: “If I stay healthy and throw well, chances are I’ll try to continue pitching.”

The 34-year-old Morton has certainly checked all the boxes in terms of health and his own personal performance; he’s just 8 2/3 innings shy of his career-high in terms of innings pitched and has turned in an excellent 3.15 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.99 HR/9 and a 47.1 percent ground-ball rate. Morton did have a brief stint on the disabled list in late August/early September due to some discomfort in his right shoulder, but he required only a minimal 10-day absence. He’s allowed four runs with a 10-to-2 K/BB ratio in 11 innings since returning.

I’ve speculated in the past that Morton is a sensible candidate to accept a qualifying offer, as issuing a one-year offer in the range of $18MM is a veritable no-brainer for the Astros organization. That’d give Morton the opportunity to remain where he’s comfortable and earn at a relatively premium rate while keeping open the possibility retiring to spend time with his family following the 2019 season.

However, if Morton wants to pursue a more significant contract, such interest would surely be there in the offseason — even were he to turn down that QO. Already at this point, even just two full seasons into what looks to be a legitimate late-career breakout, he’s demonstrated more than Rich Hill had when Hill was able to secure a three-year, $48MM pact. Hill’s contract spanned his age-37 through age-39 seasons; Morton is turning 35 this November, meaning a three-year deal for him would end with the same season (age-37) with which Hill’s contract began.

Last year’s free-agent freeze rightly creates questions about what even the most compelling free agents can expect to earn in the upcoming offseason, but there’s certainly a case to be made that Morton has pitched himself into consideration for a deal that would top Hill’s $48MM guarantee — or at the very least, top his annual salary on a shorter-term arrangement. Even if a three-year deal offer doesn’t materialize, Morton should have little difficulty in finding one- and two-year offers that are enticing for a player whose career earnings to date sit a bit shy of $41MM.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Five Teams Set For Potential Triple-A Affiliate Changes]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132950 2018-09-17T14:16:54Z 2018-09-17T14:16:13Z The majority of clubs throughout Major League Baseball have already announced that they’ve renewed their player development contracts with their Triple-A affiliates, but there are still five clubs that don’t have a clear plan in place just yet. Notably, the Astros and the Fresno Grizzles announced yesterday that they will not be renewing their partnership. As MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes, that should pave the way for the ’Stros to land in Round Rock (where they previously had their Triple-A club for a decade). Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said a return to Round Rock is “at the top of our list,” McTaggart notes, adding that the Ryan family owns the Round Rock Express.

That move, of course, would leave the Rangers searching for a new affiliate, though Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News wrote over the weekend that the Rangers could well end up in San Antonio, where a Triple-A franchise will be added as Colorado Springs loses its Triple-A designation (a move that’ll leave the Brewers, currently in Colorado Springs, looking for a new home as well). As Fraley explores, the facilities to which the Rangers could relocate in San Antonio are currently lacking, which could potentially prove detrimental in pursuing minor league free agents. However, sticking in Texas would come with greater marketing opportunities and a preexisting fan base from which to draw.

The Brewers, Nationals and Athletics are the three other clubs that are yet undecided on next year’s affiliations. The Nats will be seeking a new partner following the post-2017 announcement that the Mets had purchased the Syracuse Chiefs (securing a much-needed geographic upgrade over their current home in Las Vegas). The Athletics, in similar fashion, would reap significant geographic benefits by moving from their current home in Nashville to either Fresno or Las Vegas.

Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Journal-Review notes that the Nationals have expressed interest in moving to Nashville, while Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee suggests that the A’s would likely have their pick between Fresno and Las Vegas, as both would prefer to partner with the Athletics for geographic reasons, giving Oakland the advantage. That’ll present the A’s with the decision of whether to play in California or move to a newly constructed facility Vegas and seems likely to leave the Brewers with an even larger gap between their big league club and their top minor league affiliate, though they’ll be moving into improved facilities either way.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[AL Notes: Tucker, Abreu, Betts, Blue Jays]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132924 2018-09-16T20:39:49Z 2018-09-16T20:39:49Z The Astros called up top outfield prospect Kyle Tucker from Triple-A today, and that could very well mark the team’s final September promotion, manager A.J. Hinch tells reporters (Twitter links via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle). Hinch added that Tucker probably won’t play much in the season’s final weeks, though with Tucker having already debuted earlier this summer and his season in Triple-A Fresno over, there’s little reason not to bring Tucker back up. The 21-year-old former No. 5 overall pick hit just .154/.254/.212 in 59 plate appearances with the ’Stros earlier this year, but he decimated Triple-A pitching at a .332/.400/.590 pace, swatting 24 homers and swiping 20 steals along the way.

More from the American League…

  • In an interesting look back at what could have been, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald examines the Red Sox’ initial pursuit of Jose Abreu when he was an international free agent. The BoSox maxed out at six years and $60MM in their pursuit of the vaunted Cuban slugger according to Silverman, but they ultimately lost out when the White Sox offered a total of $68MM guaranteed over that same term. Silverman runs through a series of trickle-down effects, as Boston instead pivoted to re-sign Mike Napoli. That was one of many lackluster offseason moves that set the stage for the ill-fated 2014-15 offseason that saw the Sox sign Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. There’s little sense in fretting too much over hindsight, but it’s nonetheless an intriguing reminder of the domino effect that so many offseason moves (and non-moves) carry.
  • Mookie Betts exited today’s game with soreness in his left side, the Red Sox announced today. That’s the same issue that caused him to land on the disabled list earlier this summer, but manager Alex Cora tells reporters that this instance was precautionary and not considered serious (Twitter link via Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic). Betts is expected to see some time at DH in the Red Sox’ upcoming series against the Yankees, with J.D. Martinez lining up in right field in his place.
  • The Blue Jays are making some changes in their scouting department, as first reported by Robert Murray of The Athletic (Twitter link). Specifically, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports that pro scouts Jon Bunnell, Dan Evans, Bryan Lambe and Kimball Crossley are being let go. A pair of veteran Jays scouts, Jim Beattie and and Brad Matthews are retiring as well. While some organizations have begun to pare back on their pro scouting staffs, Davidi notes that the Blue Jays are planning on replacing all six of them.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[NL West Notes: Dozier, Belt, Diamondbacks, Black]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132917 2018-09-16T14:56:57Z 2018-09-16T14:56:57Z Brian Dozier, mired in a dreadful slump after a hot first week with the Dodgers, spoke to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register about those struggles. Dozier played through a bone bruise in his knee earlier this season, and while he said the knee “feels great” now, he acknowledged that he developed some bad habits at the plate while trying to compensate for it at the time. The 31-year-old Dozier added that he doesn’t believe playing primarily in a platoon capacity has had an adverse impact on him. (The Dodgers’ constant lineup fluctuations based on matchups has been a source of frustration for many of their fans.) Dozier will be a free agent at season’s end, but the .218/.306/.391 slash he’s carrying isn’t likely to do him any favors — particularly when he’ll be heading into his age-32 season next year.

More from the division…

  • Brandon Belt underwent an MRI on his ailing knee, but the Giants aren’t planning to shut him down for the remainder of the season, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Belt is considered day-to-day for the time being, but he’ll start more games before season’s end. It’s been a disastrous summer for Belt — and, really, for most of the Giants’ offense — as his production has cratered after soaring to career-best levels in the season’s first half. Belt, 30, posted a ridiculous .307/.403/.547 batting line through June 1 before landing on the disabled list due to a bout of appendicitis. He never seemed to recover his footing after that, as he’s floundered at a miserable .203/.283/.290 pace since returning. Belt also missed a bit more than two weeks due to a hyperextended knee in late July and early August.
  • Clay Buchholz, whose season ended yesterday due to a flexor mass strain, tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he’d love to return to the Diamondbacks, but there have yet to be any discussions about a new contract between the two sides. Piecoro also chatted with Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, whom the Diamondbacks passed over in favor of Dansby Swanson back in the 2015 Draft. Bregman said he was thrilled to go to the Astros with the No. 2 overall pick but admitted that part of him was also “pissed,” because he’d hoped to be the top overall selection in the draft. He also relayed a story from the 2012 draft, when Arizona showed interest in him as a late first-rounder but instead drafted catcher Stryker Trahan. Arizona called him to see if he’d sign as a second-rounder, but Bregman informed the team he planned on attending college at Louisiana State University.
  • In a fun Sunday-morning read, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post walks through a typical day in the life of Rockies manager Bud Black during the team’s pennant race — covering everything from an early radio appearance to lineup planning, pre-game media sessions, in-game decisions and post-game work and rituals. Saunders also chats with catcher Chris Iannetta and lefty Kyle Freeland about Black’s managerial style and his teaching methods. “Buddy has a laid-back style, but even though it’s laid back, I wouldn’t say it’s relaxed,” says Iannetta of Black — his fifth big league manager. “…I think it’s the sign of a good manager when he knows when to be hands-on and when to take his hands off.” It’s obviously an extra-appealing read for Rox fans, though fans of any club will still appreciate the detailed look at the day-to-day operations of a big league skipper.
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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Astros Select Myles Straw’s Contract]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132851 2018-09-15T19:38:35Z 2018-09-15T19:38:35Z The Astros have selected the contract of outfielder Myles Straw from Triple-A Fresno, as the team announced via Twitter.  Right-hander Jandel Gustave (who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery) was moved to the 60-day DL in order to create space for Straw on the 40-man roster.

A 12th-round pick in the 2015 draft, Straw will be making his Major League debut as a specialist on the Astros roster, as The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan (Twitter link) suggests that Straw will be primarily used as a pinch-running specialist.  Straw’s base-stealing ability has been his calling card over his brief pro career, particularly this season, as he has a whopping 70 steals (out of 79 chances) over a combined 131 games at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.  All told, Straw has been successful in 151 of his 190 stolen base chances in his minor league career.

Beyond his speed, Straw also has a .302/.394/.376 slash line over 1830 PA in the minors, though he has only managed to hit .257/.349/.317 over 304 plate appearances for Fresno this season, which represents his first taste of Triple-A action.  MLB.com ranks Straw as the 14th-best prospect in the deep Astros system, citing a strong throwing arm and good center field defense to go along with his “plus-plus speed.”  His lack of power and “an extreme opposite field approach” make Straw’s future as a consistent big league hitter questionable, though for now, his bat won’t be much of a concern to a Houston team eyeing him as a potential base-stealing threat for the postseason roster.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Notes: McCullers, Correa]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132528 2018-09-09T03:35:40Z 2018-09-09T03:35:40Z A forearm strain has kept Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. out of action since Aug. 4, but he’s progressing toward a return. McCullers threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday, saying afterward (via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle) that it represented “a big step,” even though he didn’t throw any curveballs. The plan is for McCullers to mix in his famous curve during his next bullpen session, which is scheduled for Wednesday. If that goes well, there may be a clearer picture regarding a potential return date for McCullers, whom the Astros are likely to use in relief when he does come back.

  • More from Rome, who delves into the surprising struggles of Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. The 23-year-old has been woeful since Aug. 10, when he returned from an almost two-month layoff. Correa was on the shelf with a lower back injury, and he revealed Saturday that his back has occasionally been a problem since he came off the DL, noting that “it’s just been hard to get in a rhythm.” Correa doesn’t want to use his back as an excuse for his slump, Rome writes, but he admitted that “it definitely has played a role in the way my swing has changed a little bit and some of the bad habits I’ve acquired.” When he went on the DL, Correa was sitting on a .265/.351/.474 batting line. He’s now at .242/.326/.415 – good for an 84-point drop in his OPS.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Deetz Added To Roster But Ineligible For Postseason]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132324 2018-09-05T18:36:39Z 2018-09-05T18:35:41Z
  • The Astros called up right-hander Dean Deetz as part of yesterday’s latest slate of September additions. The righty spoke to reporters about the 80-game PED suspension he served earlier this season, which will prevent him from being postseason-eligible this year regardless of how well he performs this month (link via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart). Deetz still maintained that he never knowingly took a banned substance and went through a roller-coaster swing of emotions upon learning he’d tested positive. “I got a call literally three or four days after I got put on the [40-man roster],” he said. “I went from being really excited to the toughest news I ever heard.” Deetz, 24, pitched to a ridiculous 0.79 ERA in 34 Triple-A innings this season, averaging 13.2 strikeouts, 4.8 walks and 0.26 homers per nine innings pitched. This promotion will be his first exposure to big league opponents, and he figures to be in the mix for a bullpen spot in Spring Training next year.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Activate Brian McCann, Select Josh James]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132015 2018-09-01T22:01:08Z 2018-09-01T22:01:08Z The Astros have activated catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Jake Marisnick from the 10-day disabled list, selected the contract of right-hander Josh James from Triple-A Fresno, and recalled lefty Cionel Perez from Fresno, Ben DuBose of MLB.com was among those to report.

    The most notable news here is the return of McCann, who went on the DL on July 3 with a right knee injury and then underwent surgery to repair the issue. McCann will start Saturday for the Astros, who mostly turned to Max Stassi and Martin Maldonado behind the plate in his stead.

    Houston acquired Maldonado from the Angels a few weeks after losing McCann, and the defensive-minded backstop has since offered above-average offensive production in 64 plate appearances (.237/.270/.492 with three home runs). The 32-year-old Maldonado has never been much of a hitter, though, and an unsustainable power surge (.254 ISO) has been the reason for his respectable output as an Astro, helping to overshadow subpar strikeout and walk rates (23.4 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively).

    Stassi, meanwhile, has come back to earth to a significant extent since a hot offensive start to 2018, but overall, he has batted a solid .234/.322/.407 with eight homers in 242 PAs. Notably, the 27-year-old has been a major asset behind the plate, as Baseball Prospectus has ranked him as the game’s best pitch framer this season.

    McCann, 34, has garnered plenty of praise for his defense throughout his career, and has typically been among the majors’ premier offensive backstops. However, he struggled to a .206/.283/.323 line with five HRs and a career-worst .116 ISO in 173 PAs before undergoing surgery. As a left-handed hitter, he may well finish the season in a platoon with the righty-swinging Maldonado or Stassi. After that, it’s unclear what McCann’s future will hold, as he’s likely to hit free agency over the winter. McCann is controllable next year by way of a $15MM club option, but he won’t amass the necessary 1,000 PAs from 2017-18 for it to vest, and the Astros won’t exercise it.

    While the McCann era may be winding down in Houston, James’ career with the team is just beginning. The Astros, clinging to a 1 1/2-game lead over the A’s for the AL West lead, will start the 25-year-old James against the Angels on Saturday. Houston’s turning to James, a 34th-round pick in 2014, because it’s without starters Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. – both of whom are on the DL.

    MLB.com’s sixth-ranked Astros prospect, James earned his way the majors this year by posting a 3.40 ERA/3.39 FIP with a sky-high 12.92 K/9 (against 3.79 BB/9) across 17 starts and 92 2/3 Triple-A innings. James offers serious heat, per MLB.com, as his fastball sits between 95 mph to 97 mph and is capable of reaching triple digits. His repertoire also includes a promising slider and “an improving changeup,” according to MLB.com, though the outlet suggests he’s likely to be a reliever in the majors.

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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[September Call-Ups: 9/1/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=131982 2018-09-01T22:38:55Z 2018-09-01T21:24:34Z A few call-ups were announced yesterday, but we’re likely to see far more prospect promotions and even contract selections take place today as rosters expand. We’ll use this post to keep track of those moves…

    • The Marlins selected the contract of righty starter Jeff Brigham today; he’ll be among those playing in the majors for the first time ever. Brigham’s solid 3.44 ERA in Triple-A this season is muddied a bit by his 4.45 FIP, but he’s maintained solid ratios. Brigham’s 8.25 K/9 and brilliant 2.24 BB/9 give him a solid 3.69 K/BB ratio that probably looks quite nice to a Marlins club that’s hurting for serviceable major league starters. Miami has also recalled right-handers Sandy Alcantara and Nick Wittgren along with catcher Chad Wallach.
    • The Athletics selected several contracts today, including that of catching prospect Beau Taylor. The lefty-hitting backstop has never played in the majors, but he’s done well for himself at the Triple-A level this season by drawing walks in 14% of his plate appearances while hitting .248. He’s even chipped in a pair of stolen bases. The biggest knock on Taylor is his lack of power; the 28-year-old owns a sub-.100 ISO and has never hit more than eight homers in a given season. Other contracts selected by the Astros today include those of lefty Dean Kiekhefer and righties Chris Hatcher and Liam Hendriks. The A’s recalled lefty Daniel Coulombe and shortstop Franklin Barreto as well.  
    • The Indians selected the contract of right-hander Jon Edwards today, who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2015. The 30-year-old Edwards has done well for himself in the Tribe’s minor league system in 2018, though, racking up 56 strikeouts in just 39 1/3 innings while pitching to a 3.64 ERA. Though he’s exhibited extreme control issues in the past, his 2.70 BB/9 in 30 innings with Triple-A Columbus suggests there’s a possibility he’s put those problems behind him. The Tribe promoted catcher Eric Haase to the majors alongside him.

    Earlier…

    • The Mariners have selected the contract of Justin Grimm among their September moves, whom they signed to a minor league contract on July 25th. Grimm’s been plagued by shoulder and back issues all season and struggled to a cataclysmic 13.50 ERA in 12 2/3 innings for the Royals earlier this season, which led to his release early on in the summer. With the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, though, he’s put up a pristine 1.64 ERA and an even more impressive 13.91 K/9 mark. In addition to Grimm, Seattle also selected the contract of Kristopher Negron, and recalled right-handers Chasen Bradford and Ryan Cook, lefty James Pazos, catcher David Freitas.
    • The Nationals have selected the contract of right-hander Austen Williams, who’ll be getting his first MLB cup of coffee this September. He’s been quite impressive in the upper minors this season, including a 0.55 ERA in 16 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level. That’s backed up by excellent peripherals, including 20 strikeouts against just four walks. Williams had pitched exclusively as a starter until this season, and it appears a transition to a relief role has catapulted him to a status as an incredibly intriguing talent. The Nats also recalled catcher Pedro Severino to fill in while Wieters is dealing with a hip/groin injury (per Jamal Collier of MLB.com).
    • The White Sox promoted Caleb Frare to get his first taste of the bigs; as James Fegan of The Athletic points out, he needed to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be protected from the coming winter’s Rule 5 Draft. They’ve good reason to do so, as the lefty reliever has thrived with the organization ever since being acquired from the Yankees a month ago in exchange for $1.5MM in international bonus pool funds. He’s put up fantastic numbers in 12 2/3 innings at Triple-A Charlotte, including a 0.71 ERA and 13.50 K/9. Aaron Bummer will join him as the other White Sox player to receive a September promotion so far.
    • The Royals have selected the contract of catcher Meibrys Viloria to account for the hole left by Drew Butera, who was traded to the Rockies yesterday. Fascinatingly, Kansas City decided to promote the 21-year-old Columbia native even though he’s never played above the High-A level. He’s done just fine there, though, batting .260/.342/.360 in 407 plate appearances over the course of 2018. Viriola is expected to maje his MLB debut as early as this week while mainstay catcher Salvador Perez deals with a sprained thumb.
    • After a short stay in the minors, righty reliever Ray Black is back up with the Giants. He’s had a poor showing in the majors so far, allowing ten earned runs in 15 1/3 innings. He did manage to strike out 22 batters in that span, though, and owns a 2.11 FIP in 25 2/3 innings at Triple-A this season. His blistering 16.13 K/9 at that level perhaps speaks to his potential even more.
    • The Cardinals recalled catcher Carson Kelly today, who’s widely considered to be the club’s catcher of the future once Yadier Molina’s contract is complete. However, he’s yet to prove his worth at the major-league level, as evidenced by his .150/.216/.187 batting line across 118 MLB plate appearances. The Redbirds have also called up lefty Tyler Webb and righty Daniel Poncedeleon.
    • The Phillies have opted to recall outfielder Aaron Altherr, who’d largely been a fixture in the club’s major-league outfield for the past two seasons prior to a late-July demotion. While his 13.3% walk rate so far this season was downright fantastic, that was about the only aspect of Altherr’s performance to be happy about; he was striking out at a 32.7% clip while hitting just .171 and slugging just .305. Philadelphia also added outfielder Dylan Cozens and righty reliever Yacksel Rios to their active roster.
    • The Yankees are set to give right-hander Stephen Tarpley his first taste of major-league action after selecting his contract earlier today. Tarpley is quite an interesting arm-he’s been utilized as a multi-inning reliever at two levels of the minors this year, and to great effect. Most recently, he’s pitched to a 2.65 ERA and 10.06 K/9 across 17 appearances spanning 34 innings at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Infielder Tyler Wade and right-hander Luis Cessa will also join the MLB club as rosters expand.
    • The Mets will give righty Eric Hanhold his first taste of major-league action, MLBTR has learned. Acquired in the 2017 trade that sent Neil Walker to the Brewers, Hanhold has apparently been quite unlucky to own his 7.11 ERA at Triple-A this season. Rather, his 3.43 FIP in 19 innings at that level produces some level of optimism that he can serve as a quality reliever in the majors. A .429 BABIP and 2.86 K/BB ratio further strengthen that case.
    • The Reds are set to give shortstop prospect Blake Trahan a September call-up, as C. Trent Rosencrans of The Athletic was among those to tweet. Trahan came to the Reds by way of the club’s third-round draft pick back in 2015. He did not rank amongst MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Reds prospects in the publication’s most recent rankings, though Fangraphs ranks him 24th in that regard thanks to a 55 speed tool and a 60-grade arm. He’s also likely to be a league-average shortstop. That’s about all there is to like about Trahan at present, as he’s only hit .245/.327/.302 at the minors’ highest level.
    • The Reds have also recalled Lucas Sims, who arrived in Cincinnati just prior to the non-waiver trade deadline as part of the package in exchange for sending Adam Duvall to Atlanta. Sims owns a 5.96 ERA and 7.15 K/9 in a Braves uniform, but his minors track record indicates he might have better days yet to come; the righty has managed to strike out at least ten batters per nine innings at every level of the minors post-Rookie ball, and has a sub-4.00 MiLB ERA in each of the past two seasons.
    • The Twins will promote right-hander Zach Littell, according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP. Littell has but 3 1/3 innings of MLB experience, during which time he allowed seven earned runs with one strikeout en route to a demotion. His 3.57 ERA at Triple-A this season is far more palatable, albeit unspectacular.
    • The Twins also announced that they’ve selected the contract of left-hander Andrew Vasquez, who’ll be receiving his first cup of coffee after pitching to a sub-1.50 ERA out of minor-league bullpens across the past three seasons combined. They’ve also selected catcher Chris Gimenez in addition to recalling outfielder Johnny Field and right-hander Tyler Duffey.
    • The Red Sox have officially recalled five players, including first base/outfield type Sam Travis. After serving as a somewhat serviceable piece in 2017 (.263/.325/.342 batting line), Travis has struggled in limited major-league action this year to the tune of a 45 wRC+ and -0.1 fWAR. Boston has also promoted left-handers Bobby Poyner and Robby Scott, as well as right-hander William Cuevas and infielder Tzu-Wei Lin.
    • The Tigers have recalled right-hander Sandy Baez from Double-A Erie, per a club announcement. Baez made his major-league debut back on June 4th, entering the game in relief during a double-header. He didn’t allow any runs in 4 1/3 innings, though he did walk three batters in that appearance. Aside from that, Baez has never pitched above Double-A, and owns a troublesome 5.64 ERA there on the 2018 season, in part due to command issues.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Agency Changes: Maldonado, Moya]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=131706 2018-08-31T02:01:46Z 2018-08-31T01:16:39Z Astros catcher Martin Maldonado has enlisted the Boras Corporation to represent him in his upcoming free agency, reports Jon Heyman of Fancred (Twitter links). Twins lefty Gabriel Moya is also under new representation, having enlisted the Beverly Hills Sports Council, per Heyman.

    Maldonado, 32, is a month from his first trip to the open market after spending parts of eight seasons with the Brewers, Angels and Astros. He’s hitting a combined .222/.279/.359 in 350 plate appearances between the Halos and Astros. His power has trended up since the trade, however, as he’s hit three homers, four doubles and a triple in just 60 trips to the plate with his new club.

    Maldonado has never been much of a threat at the plate but is considered one of baseball’s premier defenders behind it; the 2017 Gold Glove winner has thrown out a remarkable 40 percent of would-be base thieves (82 of 205) dating back to 2015 and regularly ranks among the game’s top pitch framers.

    That profile is enough to draw strong interest. The catching market includes some fairly notable names, including a few backstops who’ll certainly draw greater interest than Maldonado. But with Tyler Flowers deciding to re-up with the Braves in advance of free agency, there’s now one less competitor.

    As for Moya, 23, he’s still looking to establish himself in the majors. In 31 frames over the past two seasons, he carries only a 4.94 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9. Still, he has put up awfully impressive numbers in the upper minors, including a 1.90 ERA with 50 strikeouts against a dozen walks in 42 2/3 Triple-A innings this year and an eye-opening 0.77 earned-run mark with an 87:15 K/BB ratio over 58 1/3 Double-A frames last year.

    As always, you can find the most up-to-date agency information in MLBTR’s Agency Database.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Astros Extend A.J. Hinch Through 2022]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=131668 2018-08-30T20:27:43Z 2018-08-30T20:05:36Z Aug. 30: Astros owner Jim Crane and president of baseball ops Jeff Luhnow have announced Hinch’s new contract at a press conference. Hinch signed a four-year extension that is guaranteed through the 2022 season.

    Aug. 29: he Astros have agreed to a contract extension with manager A.J. Hinch, reports Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston (Twitter link). A formal announcement of the move will come tomorrow, per the report.

    A.J. Hinch | Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    While the length of the new contract is not yet clear, general manager Jeff Luhnow said earlier this summer that his hope was to “have [Hinch] here as my manager for as long as I’m here” (link via The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan). Those comments were made on the day that the organization announced an extension for Luhnow that runs through the 2023 season.

    Hinch, 44, is in his fourth season at the helm of the Astros — each of which has been a winning season. After winning 86 and 84 games, respectively, in his first two seasons as the Houston manager, Hinch of course guided the Astros to a 101-win season and an eventual World Series championship in 2017. The Astros just wrapped up their 82nd victory of the season and are currently two and a half games up on the Athletics in a surprisingly competitive AL West division.

    Hinch was already under contract through the 2019 season via a club option that long looked like a lock to be exercised, but the new agreement will prevent him from heading into the 2019 season with any questions surrounding his long-term standing in the organization. In all, the Astros are 353-266 under Hinch.

    Hinch’s managerial career got off to a rough start when, after previously serving as the D-backs’ director of player development, he was named the team’s manager at the age of 35 in 2010. The move was widely panned at the time, given his youth and inexperience, and he lasted just 212 games with Arizona in that role before being cut loose. Hinch went on to work in the Padres’ front office as the team’s vice president of professional scouting before returning to the field as the new Astros manager following the 2014 season.

    Hinch’s experience in player development, the adversity he faced in his first managerial position and his familiarity with analytics and data-driven strategies made him a fit in Houston, and it now seems that the union between the two sides will continue for several years to come. While Hinch has not yet taken home a Manager of the Year Award since being named the Houston skipper, he’s finished second in the voting (2015) and third in the voting (2017) in his short career.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Astros Place Charlie Morton On 10-Day DL, Activate Chris Devenski]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=131612 2018-08-29T17:44:54Z 2018-08-29T17:44:54Z The Astros announced today that righty Charlie Morton will be placed on the 10-day disabled list, as Jake Kaplan of The Athletic was among those to report (Twitter links). He’ll be replaced on the active roster by reliever Chris Devenski, who was activated from his own DL stint.

    Morton is dealing with “right shoulder discomfort,” per the team’s account. That description is somewhat ominous on its own, but evidently shouldn’t be interpreted in such a manner. Fortunately, per Houston GM Jeff Luhnow, the expectation is that Morton will only miss a single start.

    It certainly doesn’t see as if the AL West-leading ’Stros feel as though this injury is cause for particular concern. While the organization still needs to hold off a pesky A’s club that’s dealing with its own, perhaps more serious pitching health troubles, the focus will surely remain on getting Morton to full health for the postseason.

    The Astros have already dipped into their farm to fill in for Lance McCullers Jr., who is himself on the DL, installing Framber Valdez into the rotation. With several relievers on hand who can give innings, it may not be necessary to call another starter up to account for Morton’s absence. If the organization does look at adding another arm at some point, though, it can call upon 40-man members such as Brady Rodgers, Cionel Perez, and Reymin Guduan.

    All told, there’s really no reason to anticipate that the Astros will feel particularly compelled to add another arm via trade. Indeed, Luhnow said yesterday that “there’s no clear missing piece” on the roster, as Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reported. McCullers is expected to return as a reliever rather than building out to a full starter’s workload, but the ’Stros still have three excellent postseason starters (in addition to Morton) and can also ask for multiple innings from pitchers such as former starters Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock. Luhnow didn’t shut the door to an acquisition entirely, but there’s little reason to think that any dealmaking will be driven much by Morton’s current health situation.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[George Springer To Return To Astros' Lineup Monday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=131415 2018-08-27T00:38:07Z 2018-08-27T00:38:07Z
  • George Springer will be in the Astros’ starting lineup tomorrow, manager A.J. Hinch told reporters (including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle).  The outfielder made his return to the field today with a pinch-hit appearance, marking Springer’s first action after missing Houston’s previous six games due to an injury to his left quad.  Between the quad problem and a DL stint due to a left thumb sprain, Springer has only appeared in four games since August 5, one of several injury absences that has contributed to the Astros’ narrowed lead over Oakland in the AL West race.  Even before the injuries, however, Springer was stuck in a protracted slump; he has only a .201/.304/.346 slash line over his last 272 plate appearances.
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