Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

Fourteen years ago today I married the woman of my dreams. The Astros lost to the Cubs, 5-3. But 14 years ago tomorrow she took an epic nap and I sat in our hotel room and watched the Astros beat the Cubs 3-1! I have her to thank for the support that allows me to post on this dumb web site so much. She means everything to me and I love her with all my heart. 

*Don't get too cocky, Astros fans. Where the Phillies are right now is where the Astros were in 2011. Maybe 2012. Have some respect, show some class. Act like you've been there before, because we have. And Phillies fans have, too. Astros win 13-4 and improve their record to 66-33. They are 36-12 on the road. And now they are 8-0 against the National League. The Mariners won, so the Astros are still 17 games up with 63 games to play.

*The Astros have scored 594 runs in 99 games, which puts them precisely at 6.0 runs/game. They will need to average 6.44 runs per game over their last 63 games to reach 1000 runs for the season. Doable?

*Phillies manager Pete Mackanin:
This is as good a team as we've seen. They go up there to do damage. They look like they're ready to hit every pitch. They're not taking pitches to get a look at the pitcher. If you make a mistake out over the plate, they're going to hurt you.

Now read that again, but imagine Mackanin is running his fingers through his hair, wide-eyed, with a cigarette dangling from his lips.

*Former Astros Great Vince Velasquez:
They hammer mistakes. McCann hit that fastball over the middle. I can't leave it over the middle like that. It cut right over the middle, right into his barrel. Bregman is just a great, great hitter. Just what he's done, coming up in the league, he's been phenomenal. 




*George Springer left the game after the third inning with discomfort in his quad after his spike got caught in the dumb Philadelphia ground. Notable that Springer strained his left quad in July 2014 and was shut down for the year. Hinch thinks Springer will avoid the DL, but he'll get today off.

*Related: James Hoyt was optioned back to Fresno (after throwing 2IP, 3H/0ER, 2K:1BB) and Derek Fisher was called up. Fisher grew up in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, which is 100 miles from Citizens Bank Park. Hopefully he gets a start tonight or tomorrow.

*Dallas Keuchel will throw a bullpen session today and start either Friday or Saturday at Detroit. Will Harris will go on a rehab assignment tomorrow. Within that link we find that Colin Moran has been released from the hospital and will drive back to Houston for surgery since he has not been cleared to fly.

*Jose Altuve collected four hits for the 2nd game in a row, going 4x4 with a walk. He's hitting .507/.554/.760 in the month of July, pushing his OPS to 1.005. As David Schoenfield notes, the only 2Bs since 1950 to have a season OPS over 1.000 are Joe Morgan (1976) and Jeff Kent (2000). I mean, I'm sure Aaron Judge is going to win the AL MVP award because Yankees, but we are watching something ridiculously special with Altuve, just like I said after Sunday's game. Altuve's SLG, by month:
April: .472
May: .530
June: .576
July: .760

Altuve's .433 road avg is the highest since. baseball. integrated. Hinch:
This guy continues to be amazing. I don't know how else to describe him. It's line to line, it's home runs, it's multiple hits, it's walks when he needs it. He's every bit the MVP candidate that he looks like, and he ignites us on so many levels on this team.

To do some ridiculous math, let's assume Altuve ends the season with 639 ABs (his average for the past two seasons). In order for him to hit .400 for the season (again, ridiculous) he would need to reach 256 hits for the year. Altuve is at 138 hits now in 378 ABs, meaning he would need 118 hits in his next 261 ABs - or he would need to finish the year hitting .452. Ted Williams was a beast.

*Alex Bregman became the 10th Astros with 10+ HR. Once Reddick hits his next homer, the Astros will have 11 players with 10+ home runs.

*Brad Peacock told Jake Kaplan that he feels as good right now as has since he debuted in 2011, and the slider he learned from Jordan Jankowski has been key for him.

*Washington Post: Luhnow is looking to make his team October-ready. Ken Giles, on possible additions to the team:
If the front office feels like they'd be more comfortable adding someone else - the more, the merrier. We're open arms. There's never any hard feelings over asking for more help.

*With the Astros playing the rebuilding Phillies, it lead to several pieces in the Philly media comparing them to the Astros. Some were optimistic. Some were not.

*Ken Giles says he put too much pressure on himself to perform early in his Astros career:
I wanted to show these guys I was ready to win for them. Going from a losing team to a winning team is different. You know what you're worth. You know what you bring to the table. If you don't bring that stuff to the table you get frustrated with yourself. That's how it was.

*The Allentown Morning Call revisited the Giles trade from the Phillies side.

*The Rangers are ready to move Yu Darvish, "for the right price." If the Astros don't, the Dodgers will.

*Bob Nightengale asks if the Astros will move their prospects:
Think they'll be wildly celebrating a 110-victory season if they're sitting home early in October, still looking for their first championship in franchise history?

*MLB.com released their Midseason Top 100 Prospects list, and the Astros put five on there and - according to their point system - have the 5th-best farm system in baseball. Here are the five, with their rankings:
Kyle Tucker: #10
Forrest Whitley: #40
Franklin Perez: #46
Derek Fisher: #54
J.B. Bukauskas: #87

Just for comparison sake, here are the number of Top 100 prospects in other AL West teams:
A's: 3
Rangers: 1
Mariners: 1
Angels: 0

*Check out the Phillies fan double-fisting:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Morning Hot Links

*Well yesterday's game wasn't ideal. Lance McCullers struggled for a second straight start (more on that later) and we got to watch the rare occasion when the offense can't bail out the pitching. Astros lose 9-7. They are 65-33. Seattle, Upper Cleburne, and Anaheim are all locked in a death struggle for 2nd place at 17 games back each. There are 64 games left.

The Astros were down 3-0, tied 3-3, down 4-3, down 6-3, up 7-6 before giving up the last three runs of the game.

Hinch:
We're not perfect every game. We're not without our own flaws or things we can do better. There have only been a couple of nights where we got it handed to us. Most of the time we're in the game.

*Lance McCullers struggled again, throwing 4.2IP, 9H/6ER, 3K:2BB with a Wild Pitch and 2HBPs. He was behind 1-0 on 11 of the 24 batters he faced. In his last three starts he has thrown 13.2IP, 24H/15ER, 11K:7BB. Hinch says it's on McCullers:
I think he's trying to be a little perfect and falling behind a little bit and if he's not throwing his fastball for a strike, where he wants to, they can either disregard it or put a good swing on it. He's going through a rut right now and things aren't going his way. He's not getting beat around the ballpark as much as he is creating some havoc for himself.

Breaking down some of the numbers (all from the invaluable Brooks Baseball), he was throwing his four-seam fastball an average of 94.83mph, his sinker 94.94mph, and his curve 86.24mph before going on the DL. Since coming back his velocity isn't off by any meaningful margin: Four-seam at 94.40, sinker at 94.29, curve at 86.16. The movement doesn't indicate that anything weird is happening, he's just struggling with his command.

Since returning from the DL McCullers' four-seamer has resulted in a ball 53.33% of the time, higher than the 42.16% ball percentage before going on the DL. Batting average by pitch type, before going on the DL (BABIP in parentheses):
Four-seamer: .261 (.263)
Sinker: .159 (.151)
Curve: .201 (.349)
Changeup: .321 (.364)

And since coming off the DL (BABIP in parentheses):
Four-seamer: .258 (.269)
Sinker: .272 (.282)
Curve: .199 (.303)
Changeup: .390 (.455)

The biggest jump is how hitters are tagging up his sinker and changeup, but he's just missing his spots. McCullers says (and this is known) that his curveball plays off his fastball. So when his fastball isn't locating, the curve is less effective:
When you're facing a lineup like this, that's been hot and has some of the top hitters in baseball, you can't be coming at them with one pitch the whole time. You're going to get beat eventually.

I don't think he's hurt. I think he's made 54 starts (about a season and a half's worth) in his career, wants to be the anchor in the rotation, and he's trying too hard. Good thing he'll have about 12 more starts before the playoffs start to get it figured out.

*Chris Devenski threw 2IP but allowed a home run for the third straight appearance. He allowed four home runs in all 2016 (108.1IP) and is up to 8HR allowed in 58.1IP this season.

*Hinch:
Well, we won the series, which is the positive side of things. Obviously today, you know both offenses swung the bat pretty well. I liked the big innings that we had coming back from their two big innings. They just had an extra one and we didn't. 

*The Astros haven't lost a road series since Cleveland from April 25-27, a span of 11 road series. They are 28-8 in road games in that span.

*Nori Aoki and Jose Altuve each ended their days (wink) a triple short of the cycle, each hitting three-run home runs. It was Aoki's first home run since April 14, and in four starts since the All-Star Break he's hitting .545/.545/1.091. Hinch, on Aoki:
He's come up big whenever I've been able to get him in there. It's a tough lineup to crack and so when he gets in there, to be able to contribute is exactly why he's on our club.

*Altuve did Altuve things: He went 4x5 from the leadoff spot (with George Springer's scheduled day off) and is now hitting a League-leading .358. We are watching a great player hit his prime in the year the Astros could enjoy it the most. Consider his OPS, by year, since the Astros moved to the AL:
2013: .678
2014: .830
2015: .812
2016: .928
2017: .988

Altuve, 2+ hit games: 37
Altuve: 0-hit games: 18
Altuve, 3+ hit games: 17

Hinch:
I'm sort of never surprised because he can do so much on the field. That's why he's our catalyst.

*Yesterday Altuve got two pieces of national coverage. Sports Illustrated said he was the Astros' engine. ESPN asked him about how tall Aaron Judge is.

*Marwin Gonzalez was 2x3 with two walks, pushing his OBP to .401, a 108 point increase over his .293 OBP in 2016. As of this morning his OPS (.994) is 300 points higher than his 2016 OPS (.694).

*Colin Moran is still in a Baltimore hospital with facial fracture(s) and could be facing surgery. Hinch:
[Moran is] not doing very well. He's stable...but long night for him...He'll be in the hospital here in Baltimore for the foreseeable future until they decide what's next. 

*The return of Keuchel and McHugh have shifted the Astros' trade deadline plans to focus more on the bullpen. But Luhnow is still looking at all possibilities:
If there's somebody out there that can help us...we're still going to pursue it

*The Astros open a series this evening against Philadelphia, and Ken Giles is pretty excited to go back.

*Even before Clayton Kershaw left yesterday's start after two innings, the Dodgers were interested in Yu Darvish. Projecting a little bit, try not to think about the Astros making the World Series and facing Kershaw, Darvish, and Alex Wood.

*Buster Olney breaks down the biggest questions surrounding the Trade Deadline, which is seven days away, including how Luhnow might approach it.

*The GCL Nationals no-hit the GCL Marlins in both games of a doubleheader.

*Hardball Times: The absurd history of "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim"

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Morning Hot Links

*Well the win was fun but a scary moment with Colin Moran somewhat clouded the evening, then absolute heroics from Marwin solidified his place in the Hall of Fame. Astros win 8-4. They are 65-32, with a 17-game lead with 65 games remaining.

*Collin McHugh made his season debut and threw 77 pitches in 4.2IP, 4H/4ER (two two-run home runs). All four runs came in the 5th inning. Hinch:
I don't want the last inning to take away from how well he threw the ball...he pitched extraordinarily well for the first four innings. 

*McHugh has added a slider to his arsenal when facing RHBs.

*The bullpen of Martes, Gregerson, and Musgrove threw 4.1IP, 0H/0ER, 5K:1BB, needing just 57 pitches to shut the game down.

*Moran fouled off a Darren O'Day pitch straight up and into his eye in the bottom of the 6th inning of his 2nd game with the Astros. I'm not embedding the video here, but if you want to see it, click this link. Hinch:
Not a great update. You know he's at the hospital getting evaluated for everything from concussion to fracture. He's going to go through an array of tests. Pretty scary incident...He wasn't feeling very well and he wanted to get off the field, like all players do. Nobody wants to sit down, and as soon as he got up, he thought he was going to pass out, kind of got nauseous. So we put him back down and called for the cart.

*Marwin pinch-hit for Moran and seconds later jacked a three-run home run on to Eutaw Street, the 93rd time a ball has been hit on the street since the park opened in 1992. The Astros also got home runs from Gurriel (his 13th) and Bregman (his 9th).

*Marwin destroyed the ball:

*So what now? Moran will head to the 7-Day DL at the minimum, and the Astros will need someone at 3B. My guess is Tyler White gets that call. Last night he went 3x5 with a double and a home run and is hitting .299/.371/.517 with 19 home runs and he has played 20+ games at 2B (20 games), SS (20 games), and 3B (37 games).

*The Astros are 5-0 against Baltimore this season and are 15-4 against the Orioles dating back to 2015.

*As a team the Astros are hitting .291 w/RISP, which is nuts. But since the All-Star Break, the Astros (5-3) have gone 20x81 w/RISP (.247), but have still scored 47 runs. They're 13x66 in their last seven games (.197).

*Dallas Keuchel got his first NYPL win since August 26, 2009, throwing 5IP, 3H/1ER, 5K:0BB over 62 pitches. The ValleyCats won 5-1. Keuchel will be evaluated today and a determination on his status will be made tomorrow.

*With McHugh's return, and Keuchel's impending return, Hinch moved Joe Musgrove to the bullpen, which will give more flexibility to deploy Francis Martes. Martes threw 2.1IP, 0H/0ER, 2K:1BB. Hinch:
The way that our bullpen is constructed now with Musgrove down there, he can cover a little bit more of the length and might free up Martes to be used a little more randomly, just not a defined role.

*Orioles VP Dan Duqette doesn't sound like a guy ready to trade Zach Britton to the Astros:
This year we haven't had the starting pitching that we need, but the other elements of our ball club are intact. If we can get a little bit stronger pitching and add to the pitching, we can still make a run at this.

Baltimore is 46-51, eight games back of Boston and 4.5 back of the Rays with five teams between them.

*Jake Kaplan says that the bullpen is more vulnerable than the rotation.

*Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros had been aggressive on Sonny Gray early last week, but talks have cooled down, and that - if he's still on the team next week - Derek Fisher will take over in LF.

*The Astros could have interest in Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn, who was drafted by Jeff Luhnow.

*Buster Olney writes that the Rangers will trade Yu Darvish if they don't think they can re-sign him in the offseason.

*Noah Syndergaard is rethinking how he trains.


*Come get your boy:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Morning Hot Links

*James Hoyt and Chris Devenski made that game way more interesting than it needed to be, turning an 8-2 lead in the 9th into a situation where the Astros had to use three relievers to get the final three outs in an 8-7 win over the Orioles. The Astros are 64-32 with a 34-11 road record. They have a 17-game lead with 66 games remaining. 51 of those games are against teams currently below .500. 31 of those games are against AL West teams, against whom the Astros are a combined 31-14.

*Fun part first: Yuli Gurriel had his first career four-hit game including a double and a home run. Hinch:
When he gets going and gets pitches to hit, he does a great job of using the whole field. He's truly a really, really good professional hitter. And the more comfortable he gets and the more he sees the league, the better he's getting.

As of the end of last night's game, Gurriel is the 5th player in the Astros starting lineup to hit .300. (Not counting Colin Moran's .500 average).

*Springer had three hits while Marwin and Colin Moran had two. Everybody in the lineup had at least one hit.

*And speaking of Colin Moran, he came into last night with one career extra-base hit from his previous stint in the Majors. Then he got a triple and a two-run home run. Moran, the nephew of Former Orioles Great B.J. Surhoff, was predictably excited:
I came to this ballpark a lot as a kid, so it's definitely pretty special to play here in the big leagues. 

*Mike Fiers was legit, yet again, throwing 7IP, 6H/1ER, 9K:1BB. McTaggart notes that in his last ten starts, Fiers is 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA, 69K in 61IP. Hinch:
I've said it time and time again, in a time where our rotation was pieced together, he was a stable part of it.

*Fiers hit 93mph last night.

*But dear God the 9th inning was so stupid. With an 8-2 lead (Feliz allowed one run in the 8th), Hinch summoned James Hoyt to get the final three outs. Plot twist: he didn't. Hinch:
It was a mess of an inning from the beginning. They obviously put some good at-bats together. It can happen fast in this park. All's well that ends well with a win - albeit a stressful one in the end.

Hoyt retired the first batter he faced and then, whaddayaknow, allowed a walk, double, double, single to make it 8-4 with runners on the corners. Chris Devenski came in to try to get the last two outs, and he gave up a 3-run home run to make it 8-7 with Chris Davis up. Davis, who hit his 258th career home run on Thursday night against Arlington, bunted to the pitcher for an out. Kenneth then struck out Trumbo to end the game.

*As of right now the only time to throw James Hoyt is when you have a 6-run lead and three outs to get the win. But if he isn't reliable even then, what do you do? I'll give him credit for five straight appearances (July 2-15) when he didn't allow a run, but last night was the second straight outing in which he's allowed an earned run. In 15 road appearances, Hoyt has thrown 16.2IP, 18H/13ER, 27K:5BB. He has good stuff, doesn't walk many batters, he just can't miss bats. Which is an insane thing to type out given that he has 55 strikeouts in 35.1IP overall. Irritating.

*Righties vs Hoyt, 2017: .252/.282/.413
Lefties vs. Hoyt, 2017: .294/.360/.544

Yet 47.6% (68 of 143) of ABs batters have taken (ABs not PAs because it's 8:10am and Baseball-Reference hasn't updated yet) against Hoyt have been lefties.

*And yet it was Reymin Guduan who was sent back Fresno to make room for Collin McHugh. Jake Kaplan notes that Baltimore's righty-heavy lineup was likely the reason that it was Guduan and not Hoyt.

*In a geographically-convenient move (that barely seems fair) Dallas Keuchel will make what everyone hopes will be his final rehab start at Tri-City tonight.

*Yesterday I decided that the Astros can afford Justin Verlander, if they want him. Please, I'm begging you, note that the post was not *should* the Astros go get Verlander. The Tigers are "not remotely close" to a deal with any team.

*Crooked-ass Padres GM A.J. Preller wants the world for lefty reliever Brad Hand:
An anonymous executive joked to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, "I don't think the Dodgers would ask more for Kershaw than A.J. is for Brad Hand.

*Yu Darvish can block a trade to the Cubs, Indians, Pirates, Red Sox, and Rockies.

*It's not infuriating at all that - out of nowhere - I can't go to Cooperstown next week. Bagwell has been watching a lot of Astros games this season.

*Baseball America posted their Top 10 Astros Midseason Prospects:
1. Kyle Tucker
2. Franklin Perez
3. Francis Martes
4. Derek Fisher
5. Forrest Whitley
6. Yordan Alvarez
7. J.B. Bukauskas
8. Teoscar Hernandez
9. J.D. Davis
10. Garrett Stubbs

Notable that Bukauskas has yet to make his pro debut.

*For schadenfreude, check the Rangers' write-up:
A thinned-out farm system has seen several players struggle, with more spare parts than impact talent or projected everyday regulars in the organization.

*Forrest Whitley threw 3.2IP, 3H/2ER, 7K:2BB last night for Buies Creek. Stephen Wrenn was 3x5 with a home run and 2RBI. BCA is 19-9 in the second half with a 5.5-game lead on Winston-Salem.

*Cumulatively the Astros' domestic minor-league teams are 258-212 (.549). Minor-League Standings Check:
Fresno: 57-42, tied for 1st in the Pacific Northern division
Corpus: (49-49 overall) 15-13 in the second half, two games behind San Antonio
BCA: (56-42 overall) 19-9 in the second half, 5.5-game lead
Quad Cities: (56-40 overall) 19-9 in the second half, 3.0-game lead
Tri-City: 12-18, 5.0 back
Greeneville: 16-12, 1.5 back
GCL Astros: 12-9, 1.0 back

*There's a Kickstarter to save Mission Control.

*ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball lineup:
July 23: Cardinals at Cubs
July 30: Giants at Dodgers
August 6: Dodgers at Mets
August 13: Red Sox at Yankees
August 20: Cardinals at Pirates

The August 27 Sunday Night Baseball matchup hasn't been picked up, but the Astros @ Angels game time is the only one listed as TBD.

*If you've been reading all the way to the bottom of the Hot Links for the past, I don't know, two or three years, you've seen a lot of links to Vice Sports articles. Vice.com, in a continued effort to produce video content that everyone in the world hates in order to speed up the downfall of any semblance of a literate society, closed it down. Vice.com can go to hell. Websites, ranked by awfulness:
3. Websites that auto-play videos
2. Websites that auto-play multiple videos at the same time
1. Websites that move your browser window down so that you have no choice but to (a) throw your computer against the wall or (b) close the tab as quickly as possible and never go back to that website ever again.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Astros can afford Justin Verlander

Because I love those page vyuuuus and I want all the Clicks, and because my availability to randomly post #content during the day is quickly drawing to a close,  I thought I'd take a look at the financials of acquiring Justin Verlander.

Let's set the stage a little bit. In a pair of tweets from Jon Morosi (who is a noted Michigander, so when he talks about the Tigers, I listen) he says that the Astros are interested in acquiring both Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. Wilson would fill the need for a lefty reliever and Verlander would provide a Proven Veteran front-of-the-line starter (more on that in a minute) for the next few years. But he's expensive. Here's his contract:

2017: $28m
2018: $28m
2019: $28m
2020: Option for $22m vests if Verlander finishes in the 2019 AL Cy Young voting.

So if we eyeball the math on the rest of his salary for 2017...carry the one...let's say he's owed $13m at the time the Astros trade for him and Wilson. So that means Verlander would be owed $69m guaranteed (wink), and we won't concern ourselves with the vesting option for 2020.

$69m for a 34-year old starting pitcher currently going through the worst season of his career is steep. If we assume - and we're doing a lot of assuming in this post - the Tigers kick in half of Verlander's salary, the Astros would be on the hook for approximately $35m over the next two-and-a-half seasons. Can the Astros afford that?

To divide it evenly, it would mean the Astros adding $14m in payroll for this season and the next two seasons, as well. Yes, the Astros can afford that. Season-by-season:

2018

Potential money cleared:
Carlos Beltran ($16m)
Luke Gregerson ($6.25m)
Nori Aoki ($5.5m)
Total: $27.75m

I can't imagine Carlos Beltran getting another deal, much less one at $16m. Luke Gregerson is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Astros *could* let him walk. Depending on what happens with Derek Fisher in the next ten days, Nori Aoki is a non-tender candidate for 2018. $6-7m is a decent chunk of change for a 4th/5th OF.

Payroll added:
George Springer
Lance McCullers
Dallas Keuchel
Ken Giles

George Springer is looking to get PAID in his 3rd-year of arbitration, and will definitely command more than the $3.9m he's getting this year). McCullers will be in his first year of arbitration, so he'll get a substantial increase over his league minimum salary. Same argument for Ken Giles. Keuchel's salary may not increase too much over his $9.15m this year in his final season of arbitration given that he'll end up missing approximately two months of the season. Eyeballing arbitration figures, I'm going to assume Springer gets in the $8-10m range for 2018, McCullers and Giles in the $4-5m range, and Keuchel in the $10-11m range. That would bring an increase of $15m to the payroll. Subtracting that number from the above money cleared, that's a difference of about $13m. Leaving the Astros $1m short of Verlander's contract. A doable difference.

2019

Potential money cleared:
Brian McCann ($11.5m)
Charlie Morton ($7m)
Tony Sipp ($6m)
Jon Singleton ($2m)
Total: $26.5m

None of the above players figure into the 2019 team.

Payroll added:
Carlos Correa
Chris Devenski

Correa and Devenski will be arbitration-eligible for the first time, so they will command a decent payroll addition. Since arbitration is *supposed* to be a year-by-year valuation of a player and not a cumulative effort (i.e., it would be, uh, abnormal if, say, Alex Bregman was eligible for arbitration in 2020, had a crap 2019, but the panel said, "Your 2018 season was really good, so despite missing 159 games with an ear infection, we're going to award you $Eleventy Gajillion") I'm not going to speculate on 2nd- and 3rd-year arbitration players' salaries.

Other limitations of this exercise also involve a potential long-term deal for Altuve (upon whom the Astros can exercise a $6m and $6.5m - pause to shake your head until it falls off your damn shoulders - team option in 2018 and 2019, respectively), Springer, or Keuchel.

What this exercise *doesn't* do is evaluate whether Verlander is worth it. It also doesn't evaluate whether Verlander - a 10 & 5 guy - would waive his no-trade clause to join the Astros. But if Mr. Upton, who is clearly in the twilight of his career - wants a shot at his first World Series ring, then he'll need to approve a trade somewhere as Detroit looks to rebuild. And the Astros could handle his salary. The more salary the Astros take on, the less they have to pay in prospects.

Source: RosterResource.com

Friday Morning Hot Links

*Off-day yesterday (of course) so it was all about Teh Rumorz!

*Brian McTaggart's Mailbag suggests the Astros go after Zach Britton and maybe not so much after a starter. He also says Verlander would cost too much (in terms of actual dollars).

*The Astros are interested in Verlander, but involvement in talks is apparently "minimal."

*Buster Olney tweeted that the Astros "may well be" the most motivated to trade for Britton. Britton has been dealing with a forearm strain for most of the season, leading him to throw just 16IP this season. He has walked seven batters in those 16IP. But he won't be a free agent until 2019.

*Britton gave up 2H/2ER, 0K:1BB in Baltimore's win over North Corsicana last night.

*Jon Heyman tweeted that he's not hearing anything serious going on between Oakland and Houston on Sonny Gray, despite Jon Morosi's report to the contrary.

*Heyman also tweeted that the Astros don't love Justin Verlander's contract.

*The Rangers have started gathering intel on what they could get in return for Yu Darvish, according to Jeff Passan. Passan:
[The Astros'] market is almost assuredly Darvish, Gray, or bust.

The Rangers are not playing well. They just got swept by Baltimore (whom the Astros play this weekend) and have lost five straight. They're 18 games back of Houston and 4.5 back of the 2nd Wild Card spot with five teams between them and getting to be the road team in the Wild Card game. FanGraphs gives them an 11.2% change of making the postseason. It would make sense to get something for Darvish before he hits free agency this offseason (and potentially re-sign him in five months, though Jon Heyman says that's unlikely given Darvish will shoot for Strasburg's $175m contract). Would it be delicious to win the race for the World Series with the Rangers' best pitcher? YES. Would it suck to watch the package of prospects it would require to get him help prop the Rangers back up? ALSO YES.

*Six years ago yesterday Jose Altuve made his MLB debut. In those six years, Altuve has the most hits in baseball. Top Five:
Altuve: 1173
Robinson Cano: 1121
Miguel Cabrera: 1096
Andrew McCutchen: 1018
Adam Jones: 1015

*Fresno beat Las Vegas 18-5, hitting five home runs. Jon Kemmer (2HR), Derek Fisher, and Preston Tucker (5RBI) each had three hits. A.J. Reed added two home runs and 5RBI. Fresno scored 61 runs in the four-game series at Las Vegas. Their 149 home runs leads all of minor-league baseball by 18 HR.

*Dexture McCall and Jason Martin went back-to-back in a 5-3 Corpus win at Midland. McCall has homered in four straight games for Corpus.

*Buies Creek scored the last eight runs of the game in an 8-3 win over Carolina. Anibal Sierra was a double shy of the cycle, finishing 3x4 with 5RBI. Myles Straw, Jake Rogers, and Tyler Wolfe had two hits each. Kevin Hill threw the final 3.2IP, allowing 1H/0ER, 5K:0BB.

*In this podcast Forrest Whitley talks about his first full pro season.

*How do you not know how to spell Keuchel by now? Matijevic? I get that. Bukauskas? Sure. They're minor-leaguers, just drafted. But Keuchel? Come on...

*Jeff Passan: The loudest voices for change in a collapsing Venezuela are coming from MLB.

*Here's a story from Minnesota on autograph culture (this is a hobby that I simply do not understand, but whatever, to each their own.)

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