Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Morning Link Dump

It's 108 days until Opening Day

*Jed Lowrie feels as though Minute Maid Park is "tailor-made" for him, what with that seven-foot tall right field wall. 

*Jeff Luhnow, on 3B:
Matt Dominguez has a chance to be a very good player. Two years ago he proved that. Last year, he slid back a little bit. We're going to give him every opportunity to win that job, but we also have to protect ourselves as an organization. Marwin is still with us, and Marwin could end up being our third baseman.

*Jose Altuve is one of the Washington Post's Breakout Stars of 2014.

*The Astros Caravan will be from January 20-23 with stops in Houston, Brownsville, Austin, and Corpus, and FanFest is on January 24. 

*Rough day to be a former Astros pitcher in the A's organization: Fernando Rodriguez was DFA'd and Jorge De Leon was released.

*They started cleaning The Astrodome.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Morning Link Dump

*Here's an interesting report from Evan Drellich on redrafting Brady Aiken or Jacob Nix in 2015, and that the Astros won't lose their top two draft picks next year.

*The Rangers don't have any questions regarding Delino DeShields' work ethic. Neither did the Astros.

*Trey Hillman is excited.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Morning Link Dump

A surprisingly large dump for you this morning. Wait...

*The Astros still have money left in the checkbook, but it seems as though their big spending this off-season is pretty much over. Within that Chron link, there's a good salary breakdown by position type.

*Even though Venezuelan Winter League club Magallanes tweeted that Jose Altuve would be joining them in a couple of weeks, the Astros have not yet given their approval for him to do so.

*The Astros treated Lowrie "like a goal, not a contingency" this off-season, said Brodie Van Wagenen, Lowrie's agent.

*Keith Law, on Jed Lowrie ($):
It's a deal that underpays him based on expected performance but prices in his injury risk and the probability that he's not able to stay at shortstop for the entire deal.

*Houston signed Dan Johnson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Johnson has spent just 114 games in the Majors from 2008-2014, but hit a cool homer in the bottom of the 9th during G162 for the Rays that helped them get to the playoffs. So that's what the Astros will be looking for this September: playoff-clinching homers.

*Palm Beach County commissioners approved a deal to seek a land-swap with the city of West Palm Beach on a proposed Astros/Nationals Spring Training facility, but it may not happen. Line of the day comes from Palm Beach County commissioner Steve Abrams, regarding the deal:
It looks like we're trading Giancarlo Stanton for a .200 hitter on the Astros.

*Delino DeShields just wants to help the Rangers, despite being hesitant:
I was hoping I would get selected, but not by the Rangers, of all team, the Texas rival. It's a good opportunity to get my career going...They can move me around a little bit if they want to. I didn't forget how to play second base. It's only been a year. I adjusted to the outfield pretty good. I'm athletic enough to do whatever they tell me to do. Whatever role I have on this team I just want to do whatever I can to help.

Read more here:

*Not sure how I missed this from earlier in the off-season but the Braves not only hired Bo Porter as their 3B coach, they hired former Astros bench coach Dave Trembley as their Director of Player Development and Minor League Field Coordinator. Former Astros catcher Robinson Cancel will manage the Braves' Gulf Coast League team.

*Wesley Wright signed with Baltimore.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Best of Luck, Gregorio

With Jed Lowrie joining the fray, Gregorio Petit was DFA'd, meaning that the Astros now have 10 days to trade him, or else he becomes a free agent.  This was a predictable move, and probably means that no catcher-related or Fowler-related trade is on the horizon, else the Lowrie signing merely would have been delayed.

Petit enjoyed somewhat of a career resurgence with the Astros in 2014, appearing in the Majors for the first time since 2009.  He posted a pleasant .278/.300/.423 line in 100 plate appearances, with two home runs and 8 doubles.  He walked once against 25 strikeouts.  He was versatile defensively, appearing at second, third and short.  He also possesses a reputation as a great clubhouse guy.

At this stage of the Astros rebuild/upswing, there probably isn't room for both him and Marwin Gonzalez on the roster.  Gonzalez also had a great 2014, posting a similar .277/.327/.400 triple slash in 310 plate appearances.  Gonzalez also logged time at first base and the corner outfield positions - read into that what you want.  Regardless, Gonzalez's career .248/.291/.354 line in 750-odd PA's isn't that much different from Petit's .278/.301/.391 career line in 156 PA's on the surface (with the standard small sample-size caveat).

So, with Petit's future with the Astros uncertain, it makes sense to re-live a couple of Gregorio Petit special moments for 2014.  I recall two - this awesome bit of base-running against the Bo Sox that left Christian Vazquez and Burke Badenhop flummoxed (and Cockroach unable to even describe it), and this three-run jack (on a great pitch) to snap the Angels' 10-game win streak and support a Dallas Keuchal gem.  Feel free to discuss - or add other moments - in the comments.

And here is Petit's MLB highlight archive.  Some fun viewing there!

So whatever happens, best of luck Gregorio, and I hope your ML career continues somewhere.  One-fifty career plate appearances doesn't seem enough to me.

Tuesday Morning Link Dump

As you likely know by now, the Astros and Jed Lowrie agreed on a 3yr/$23m deal with an option that could push it to $28m. So how did the Astros come by Lowrie?

*December 14, 2011: Traded to Houston from Boston with Kyle Weiland for Mark Melancon.
*February 4, 2013: Traded with Fernando Rodriguez to Oakland for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi.
*December 15, 2014: Signed with Houston as a free agent

Lowrie posted a 1.8 WAR in 2014 (FanGraphs version), but Astros shortstops as a unit - Petit, Villar, Marwin - posted a 0.9 WAR combined. Lowrie's contract: 2015: $8m; 2016: $7.5m; 2017: $6.5m; 2018: $6m or a $1m buyout.

*The Astros said Carlos Correa is not changing positions, which makes things awkward for Colin Moran and Rio Ruiz.

*Astros, Twins, and Phillies are at 150:1 to win the 2015 World Series.

*Just to continue with this rumor for a little longer, Cole Hamels is from California and, while he may be interested in the West Coast, he just wants to win:
Whatever city is going after winning, that could definitely change every sort of perspective and every desire because that trumps almost everything. Winning.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Astros and Jacob Nix reach settlement

The Astros and unsigned 2014 5th Round pick Jacob Nix have agreed to a settlement of an undisclosed amount, according to multiple media reports.

To recap just what the hell this is about:
The Astros drafted Brady Aiken with the #1 overall pick, and then drafted friend, fellow UCLA commit, and fellow Casey Close client Nix with their 5th Round selection. The Astros and Nix had agreed to a $1.5m bonus contingent on Aiken's $6m signing. Then the Astros "found" Aiken had a teeny-tiny UCL and tried to renegotiate (or, drop the bottom out of) Aiken's bonus. Aiken and Close told the Astros, whose bedsheet and comforter were decidedly soaked with fecal matter, to piss off. When the Astros realized they'd be on the hook for the full pricetag of the 1-1 pick, they couldn't sign Nix. So, through no fault of his own, Nix lost out on becoming a teenage millionaire. And the world was understandably pissed.

Now, both Aiken's and Nix's college eligibility is up to the NCAA (which is akin to having your fate decided by a drunk with a combover at the roulette table), because their eligibility has been compromised by having Close obviously represent them.

The only bright side? It seems as though the Astros won't have to forfeit their 1-2 and 1-5 pick in 2015. Why would they have to do that? Because if they were on the hook for Nix's $1.5m deal, that would put them over their bonus pool by such a percentage that the penalty is to forfeit the top two picks in the following draft. So it seems as though by making this agreement, the Astros aren't going to lose the "benefit" of not signing Aiken, after all.

What a freaking train wreck that was.

Jed's Back

The Astros have announced they are bringing back Jed Lowrie on a fairly team friendly deal, as Evan Drellich has reported.
Lowrie was of course the Astros starting shortstop for the 2012 season and went away in the Carter/Peacock/Stassi trade. He had an excellent 2013 for the A's, but was coming off of a down year in 2014, hitting only .249/.321/.355, for 93 wRC+. Still, at just 7 million per year, even that production will make him worth the contract. And he is a massive upgrade at either SS and 3rd.

You might also remember the Astros throwing a fit over Lowrie bunting against the shift, and then throwing baseballs at him. It seems he got over it.

Monday Morning Link Dump

*Cleaning up some rumors from late last week/over the weekend, the Astros talked to Scott Boras last week about Stephen Drew, which would fill a short-term need at shortstop. In 85 games (due to signing late so teams could avoid giving up a draft pick) last season for Boston and New York, Drew hit .162/.237/.299 - though he did post a .777 OPS for the Red Sox in 2013. That said, he has played in 100+ games just once since 2010.

*The big rumor from yesterday is that the Astros are a possible "sleeper team" for Cole Hamels, who has four years and $94m left on the massive contract he signed when Ruben Amaro Jr offered it from the champagne room at the club. There is a $20m team option, or a $24m vesting option, or a $6m buyout for 2019.

Hamels would obviously be a massive upgrade, but at what cost - and not just in terms of money (which isn't our money), but prospects? Hamels posted a 6.9 WAR last season, but I can't see the Astros giving away Correa, Springer, or Appel for Hamels' Age 31-35 (or 36) seasons. The Phillies helped along the Astros' rebuild, I'm not interested in returning the favor.

*According to the New York Daily News' Bill Madden, the Astros are interested in Mike Morse, who hit .276/.336/.475 for the Giants last season - his best year since 2011. Madden also says the Astros are one of three "best bets" for stumping up the cash for Max Scherzer, So take that with however many grains of salt you want...