Saturday, December 12, 2009

Astros sign Edgar Ferreira

Jorge Arangure, Jr is reoprting the Astros have signed LHP Edgar Ferreira for $350,000. Some notes:

Ferreira just turned 17 (Oct 15, 1992), and has thrown 93-94mph in workouts.

A forum at Sign-on San Diego says that Arangure named Ferreira the top amateur (previously) un-signed pitcher in the Dominican.

Baseball America named Ferreira the 11th-best Latin American prospect. called Ferreira "raw" with a 90-91mph fastball.

Non-tender day!

The Astros have until 10:59pm Central to decide on whether or not they will offer contracts to players who have three years of service time, but aren't yet eligible for free agency (Captip to McTaggart for the Cliff Notes version). Who does this entail?

-Michael Bourn
-Tim Byrdak
-Jeff Keppinger
-Matt Lindstrom
-Hunter Pence
-Humberto Quintero
-Wandy Rodriguez
-Chris Sampson

McTaggart says it's unlikely that the Astros will non-tender anybody, but that's not going to make Wade get all chatty:

"We've made our decisions, but we're not going to telegraph them. We're going to go through the process and where we are at the end of it. We'll take a long look at names that become available. If we see ways to improve the team, we'll pursue them."

Keep it tuned to Astros County to see who has been non-tendered today. You won't be saturated with it, but I'll keep it to players who might be fits for the team. Feel free to leave comments on players who you've seen get told to piss off by their team that Eddie could take a flyer on.

Alyson Footer is saying Easy Eddie has told the media that no one will get non-tendered.

Non-tender Update:
Garrett Atkins
Chien-Ming Wang
Kelly Johnson/Ryan Church
Scott Olsen
Neal Cotts
Jonny Gomes

What's with all the wives calling the shots!

Alyson Footer tweeted some comments from Pedro Feliz on his decision to sign with the Astros:

In the beginning I was thinking Tejada was going to play third. It was one of those things where I think anyone would want to play for them. I saw other teams that needed 3rd basemen. I like the city. I think it's good for me. Talking with my wife, she was always thinking about Houston."

This is interesting, because I've noticed this is becoming a trend in baseball (if you count Three Times as a trend, and that's just off the top of my head.)

For instance, Mark Teixeira's wife, Amber:

Throughout his free agency, Teixeira solicited his wife's opinion and she kept saying, "I just want you to be happy," Teixeira recalled. On date night, Teixeira asked, "Everything's equal, where do you want to go? She finally said, 'I want you to be a Yankee.'"

Teixeria joked:
"Cash should give Leigh a hug,"

Leigh Teixeira:
"I thought it would be special for him to be a Yankee,"

Or take C.C. Sabathia:

CC Sabathia had met with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on Sunday and on Monday, but Cashman suggested that maybe it would help if he were to fly to California and speak with Sabathia, again, with Amber Sabathia, the player's wife.

This is interesting to me - GMs lobbying wives to come to their city and play for their team. I mean, it makes sense, and all, but Feliz' two reasons for coming to Houston were apparently (1) His wife, and (2) the playoffs. Not that those aren't valid reasons, but...uh...

(Note: This post was produced while sitting in the couch with my wife. Who was watching the finals of the Miss World pageant.)

So that's why he left Philly and went to the Astros?

Hang on. So Pedro Feliz said:

"I think they've got a great team, and I think it's a great opportunity for me to go there and have a chance to get to the World Series."

I'm sorry Happy Pete, but I think your best chance for the World Series was to have stayed where you were. Which leads to a larger question: Can you discount 90% of the introductory media statements as 100% bullcrap?

More Feliz:
"I'm going to give 100 percent and leave everything I have on the field. In my mind, I'm always thinking about winning, and that's the main point for me. I think the Astros have potential, have good players. It's a great team and a great opportunity."

And this is the point at which Lance said, "Good. He can be the team leader."

We think Pedro brings a lot of different elements to our club. Before we talk about the offensive side of his game, his defense has always been very solid. We certainly think with him and Blum, our defense is in pretty good shape at third base...

...He knocked in 80-plus runs last year, which is fairly standard for him, he hits well with runners in scoring position and is durable. He started 150 games at third place [last season] and played in 155 games. In our environment with Geoff here, we have a chance to give him rest from time to time and keep him sharp...

...He struggled down the stretch in August and September, and a lot of that seemed to be workload related. We can pick and choose our spots to give him rest and keep him fresh."

McTaggart notes that the Astros' payroll will be around $95 million, though today is the non-tender deadline.

Friday, December 11, 2009

BryanTSC's optimized lineup

The post from earlier today generated a few comments on the potential lineup for 2010, and I think it'll be Mills' first test to see who he throws out there. Within those comments, however, was one from BryanTSC, who wrote:

FWIW, I plugged those projections into the lineup analyzer at

Interesting results:

Comes to 4.313 runs per game. (about 700 for the season)
Note: And an improvement of 53 runs over 2008.

Optimized lineup suggestion came to 4.53 rpg (about 730 for the season), but I don't see it as realistic:


Heyman lists Astros in "winners" category

Unbelievably, Jon Heyman put the Astros in the W column for the off-season so far:

While they overpaid for Lyon, he still makes the ballclub better and will cover the Astros if they don't get closer Jose Valverde back (though Lyon's better as a setup man than closer). Pedro Feliz is dependable at third base (not to mention very reasonable at $4.5 million).

On the 2010 Lineup

Kevin brought up a good question in the comments of a post from this morning on Happy Pete's splits: Where will he hit in the lineup?

This is tough one, because it looks as though there are only a few spots that are a given:

1. Bourn
3. Lance
4. Lee

That means we need to find spots for Matsui, Pence, Manzella, Feliz/Blum, and at catcher. And God knows who that's going to be, but He ain't telling.

Feliz has spend 43.3% of his career plate appearances (1782 of 4115) hitting in the #7 spot for a .256/.297/.414 line. He's only started 10 games in the #2 spot, and he's spent some time in #3/#4/#5 - but that won't be happening this year. We also need to keep in mind that Manzella won't exactly be a force with his bat, and we have an idea of what Quintero/Towles can do. So if we put Happy Pete in #6, it allows Towles to hit 7th, and Manzella to slide to #8.

Pence spent most of his time in the #6 spot (51.5% of his PAs) in 2009, and posted an .844 OPS (118 OPS+). Next-highest PAs in the lineup was in the 5th spot, where his OPS was an even .800. He also had Tejada in the lineup hitting mostly 5th, but that's obviously not an option this year, so I'd like to see Pence step up to #5.

This leaves Matsui/Keppinger in the #2 spot. Thus, the lineup with the CHONE projections of:


Note that, from CHONE's projections, the Astros could possibly have two players with an OBP under .300, and three under .315. Oh, and nary a .300 hitter.

Doin' the splits with Pedro Feliz

So let's just do the splits with Pedro Feliz. What kind of player is he?

2009 Splits!

vs LHP130.208/.278/.38515:1310-19
vs RHP450.282/.317/.38753:2234-63
Bases Empty331.221/.263/.31442:1821-5
Runners On249.325/.366/.48226:1723-77
On 1st Pitch93.333/.340/.505x:x10-17
After FPS275.225/.250/.33541:920-38
After FPB212.288/.365/.40127:2614-27

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 1.94
K/PA %: 10.9%
XBH/H %: 28.6%

Yahoo declares Astros "winners"

Maybe it's a contrarian view, but Steve Henson of Yahoo Sports says that the Astros are winners of the Winter Meetings:

For a team that couldn’t work a trade for Rafael Soriano, failed in its effort to re-sign LaTroy Hawkins and lost closer Jose Valverde to free agency, Houston certainly salvaged its bullpen at the winter meetings. First came a trade with the Marlins for 100-mph throwing Matt Lindstrom, with the Astros parting with only three middling minor leaguers. Then came an excessive but refreshingly decisive three-year, $15 million deal for Brandon Lyon. Either acquisition could become the closer, with the other serving as the eighth-inning setup reliever.

The Astros are in a penny-pinching mode, but they still finished business Thursday by signing free-agent third baseman Pedro Feliz to a one-year, $4.5 million deal, returning Geoff Blum where he belongs – in a reserve role.

Other GMs: Your GM is stupid

Tom Verducci on the reaction in the lobby on the Brandon Lyon deal:

Two different GMs were aghast to hear the Astros are paying $15 million over three years to reliever Brandon Lyon. Both of them had to have the numbers repeated to them twice, thinking surely they had misheard what will be one of the worst contracts of the winter.

Zach Levine drops math on us on Lyon, Feliz

Levine's new post references the brutal FanGraphs piece on Brandon Lyon, and has a rebuttal:

In looking at the numbers, the BABIP difference that Cameron is discussing didn't seem to be a product of an inordinate drop in line drives, mostly a huge drop in BABIP on ground balls.

His career ratios aren't all that different than the MLB ratios, so I'm not going to say that infield defense is any more vital than usual behind him, but Detroit's certainly helped him last year...

...The Astros have to hope that was some AL jitters or something and not some mistrust of his stuff as the clock struck 30.

Carry that mediocre walk rate, which he'd never had before, and return that BABIP to average, and you've got yourself a very mediocre pitcher for a killer price.

If Lyon is getting more groundballs, with Manzella at short and Matsui/Maysonet at second, it's probably a good thing. But let's keep in mind that playing behind Lyon in Detroit was Adam Everett, so there is going to be a defensive drop-off.


On to Feliz, although we probably shouldn't:

His OPS has declined every year since 2003. 2009 OPS? .694

With Feliz's 35th birthday coming in April, Astros fans have to hope that steady OPS doesn't begin to decline and that he's still got it defensively, though I can't imagine the Astros will lean on him for 158 games like the Phillies did last year.

Chris Johnson's future, for at least 2010

Richard Justice offers a little analysis on what the Pedro Feliz signing means for Chris Johnson, 2009's 3B1-to-be.

Chris Johnson will still be given every opportunity to win the third-base position this spring. Remember that he was so highly regarded last spring that the Astros figured he'd spend a few weeks at Round Rock, then become the everyday third baseman.

"Chris will certainly get a chance to compete and we think he has a solid big league future. But we believe Feliz brings, at the very least, some short-term certainty to the position. Chris won't be the first prospect who was given more time to develop, if necessary."

So Blum will hit against lefties, which he did to a tune of:
.345/.424/.483. Sounds awesome, right? Hold on. Blum did this in 29ABs. That's right. Cecil Cooper had Blum take 92.3% (394 of 427) of his plate appearances against righties, against whom he hit .239/.305/.358.

Pedro Feliz will hit against righties, which in 2009 he hit:
.282/.317/.387 in 450 plate appearances.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An email exchange with Will Carroll

Yesterday afternoon was an interesting time in the Astros off-season. LaHawk had just signed with the Brewers, and there were trade rumors circulating about Matt Lindstrom, but no one seemed to have any idea who was getting sent to Florida in return.

At 2:57pm, Will Carroll, who writes the (incredible) "Under the Knife" column for Baseball Prospectus tweeted the following:

Heard in the lobby: Astros looking for OF help and speed. (Felix) Pie just one of guys they're looking at. Lyles one trade possibility.

As you can imagine, the proverbial excrement hit the proverbial oscillator in Astroland, especially with "Felix Pie," "Jordan Lyles," and "trade possibility" all within 140 characters of each other. People went nuts.

AC said:
Mother of Pearl! Jordan Lyles for Felix Pie! Outfield help! With Lee, Bourn, and Pence? Is the "speed" part because Lee is on his way out? Felix Pie! Jordan Lyles!

/apoplectic shock

I tweeted in response:
Please tell me you're kidding about Jordan Lyles as trade bait.
and then:
If you get a chance to find out who said it, you don't have to say who it is. Just give them a kick in the stones.

Brutal, huh? Others were worse.

So this evening, I'm at the grocery store, and an email comes in from none other than Will Carroll himself. He gave permission to reprint it, which I have done:

When I tweeted out my tweet yesterday, let me tell you how it came about. I'd been talking to an Astros scout, earlier in the day, and he said the thing they were looking for was speed and bullpen help. About an hour later, I was talking with some prospect guys in the media. I mentioned the earlier conversation and one said "They've got things people would want. They were in on Felix Pie, but that didn't go anywhere." Another said "I think they'd give up someone like _____ or Lyles for the right guy." (I'll be honest. I didn't know Jordan Lyles at all and I didn't catch the name of the first guy he said. It's loud in the lobby.) I hadn't tweeted in a while, so I threw something together. There's not a lot of room for nuance in 140 characters and you saw the reaction. Now, you know the rest of the story.

Now that's stand-up. Name one other reporter who would take the time to do it. Will Carroll is Astros County's hero.

Deputy Jason: Astros now 28.6% whiter

The following is courtesy of Deputy Jason

Remember 2005, The Bros went to the Series and everyone loved everything about our team? Remember 2006, when the Astros were losing a lot of games with the same dudes?

That losing season begat accusations of being a racist organization by some media peeps from around the Houston. We weren't going to win without diversity in the workplace. Hell, for a while, we had the fewest black players of any team this side of Jasper High school. So the Bros went out and added a couple of ethnically diverse players/coaches and boosted their street cred considerably.

Well, damn. That obviously didn't work. The Bros have struggled to win half their games over the past 3 years using a melting pot approach. We Houston fans are a fickle bunch, we'll only go watch winning teams no matter what flavor.

With LaHawk's and Valverde hitting the bricks this week, combined with the addition of new relievers Matty Lindstom and Brandon Lyons, the bullpen has become 28.6% whiter (and 14.3% mormon-er). This blatant ethnic cleansing is not even relegated to the bullpen. Miggy was told peace out, Pudge was given a one way ticket out, and Wandy Rodriguez was made to change his name to Chuck Goldstein.

Losing for three years straight has raised some hard questions within the front office. Why are we trying to be diverse for the sake of being diverse? Why are we trying to be MTV's Real World when we can be Jersey Shore?

Ratings gold = Tickets sold.

Astros among Winter Meeting losers

The Sporting News recaps the winners and losers of the Winter Meetings.

I bet you already know where the Astros will be...

They are replacing Valverde and Hawkins with Lyon and the inconsistent Matt Lindstrom. That isn't what you consider an upgrade.

They're not replacing Valverde and Hawkins with Lyon and Lindstrom. They're replacing Valverde's and Hawkins' dollars with Lyon's and Lindstrom's dollars. And Pedro Feliz, apparently.

Astros almost got Mike Lowell

The Astros came this close to nabbing Mike Lowell from the Red Sox, WTVG Toledo says.

One team that looked at Lowell was Houston, whose new manager is former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, but the Astros decided that he was too great a question mark to play third base, according to one source.

Hm. Mike Lowell. Or Pedro Feliz. Are you kidding me.

Astros sign Feliz

It's being reported all over the place that the Astros have signed Pedro Feliz to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million - entirely too much money. Sorry, Chris Johnson.

Approval Rating Check

Wade, on what to address next

Short version: Third base.

Long version:

“We're leaving here with some pieces in place and some flexibility remaining. It was conceivable when we made it here on Sunday night that we would have been leaving here with one or two pieces in place and no flexibility and (some) needs remaining. So I think in that regard we're better off. Now, from a performance standpoint, replacing Valverde and Hawkins and (Miguel) Tejada and all those other guys we're going to have to prove it on the field. But from the standpoint knowing that we had some things we needed to address I think we've done a good job."

On Third Base:
“You got Feliz and Uribe and a couple of other guys out there in a free agent environment that would fit the need at third base. There are some trade possibilities as well. We've had some conversations with some clubs where we might be able to do something. Again, we think Blum's done a terrific job for us and Geoff will get a lot of playing time whether it's being earmarked as the front-line third baseman or getting a lot of playing time at a several different positions. We think he'll get his at-bats and at the same time we think that we can probably do something that will either augment what he does or give us somebody that can step in on a more front-line basis and be a more prototypical third base bat...

...I'd still like to bump the offense a little bit if we could. We know we have potential needs in the outfield, backup outfielders. That particular issue we'll let drift down the road. If something falls on our laps sooner rather than later we'll move on it, but I think having a few dollars to spend and patience could reap some benefits later in December or January. There's a lot of players who are still out there. I'm sure there'll be more players over the weekend with the non-tenders. The market will increase over the weekend.”

No. There aren't needs with backup outfielders. There are a couple of options in Triple-A. Bring them up. Whether it's Abercrombie or Bogusevic, they will suffice as 4th/5th outfielders. Pardon, they will suffice at replacing Darin Erstad as a 4th/5th outfielder.

This post is Rated R for violence

FanGraphs' Dave Cameron breaks down the Lyon signing. And it's entitled "The Worst Signing of the Winter."

Some hardcore nuggets:
Ed Wade is the GM equivalent of a bad SNL sketch. The first time he overpaid a middle reliever, we figured out that he didn’t really know how to build a roster. Now, when he gives Brandon Lyon a 3 year, $15 million deal, we just shrug our shoulders and say, “Yeah, that’s Ed Wade for ya.”

Seriously, $5 million a year for the next three years for Brandon Lyon. We’re not talking about overpaying for a premium bullpen guy. Lyon is a generic middle reliever, the kind of guy who could be replaced by a minor league free agent or a Rule 5 draftee. His career FIP is 4.23, which is below average for a relief pitcher. He doesn’t even have magical FIP-beating properties – his career ERA is 4.20...

...What year does Wade think this is? The market for relief pitchers absolutely cratered a year ago, as teams stopped paying significant money for setup guys who could be effectively replaced by league-minimum earners. So far this year, we’ve seen a significant pullback from even that level of spending. The average dollar per win for the first crop of free agents signed this winter has been about $3 million per win. The Astros are paying about $10 million – ten million – per win for Lyon.

They don’t have any money to spend to fix the rest of their bad, old roster, but they can commit $5 million a year to Brandon Lyon through 2012. Moves like this are why the team isn’t good, and won’t be good any time soon. This move is just the latest act in a joke that’s gone on far too long.

Rob Neyer references Cameron's post and says the following:

I'm glad Cameron said it instead of me ... but, yeah.

The Astros actually play in a pretty solid market, in the top dozen or so anyway. They've got a relatively new ballpark. Owner Drayton McLane did finance roughly a third of the stadium's construction, for which he deserves credit. But the bottom line is that the Astros play in a bigger market, and are presumably wealthier, than the Cardinals, the Brewers, the Pirates, and the Reds. In fact, the Astros should enjoy huge financial edges over all or most of those clubs.

The No. 1 argument against Ed Wade's competence is not this ridiculous contract. The Astros should be able to blow $5 million per season on freely available talent like Brandon Lyon and still win. The No. 1 argument against Wade's competence is that the Astros have been outscored by 232 over the last four seasons, and there's no reason for optimism about 2010 or beyond.

I haven't chimed in on my thoughts on the Lyon/Lindstrom signing, because right now I can't get my head around it. That post will be coming this afternoon, but I'm leaning towards a take of, "How is Matt Lindstrom different from Casey Daigle?" and, "Isn't Jeff Fulchino about the same as Brandon Lyon?" For now, I'm assembling data and information, and soliciting your opinions...

The Value of Brandon Lyon

J.C. Bradbury of the incredible site Sabernomics evaluates the Lyon signing:

Over the past three seasons he’s had a 2.11 K/BB and given up 0.7 HRs per game. He’s not a stud, but he’s a dependable pitcher who can handle late inning opportunities when the game is close. I’ve got him valued at $17.5 million over the next three seasons, so the deal seems about right to me."

Meanwhile, over at The Ghost of Moonlight Graham, they say:

I fully expect this to be a disaster and midway through the season Lyon will lose his job to the newly acquired Matt Lindstrom. Lyon is just another bloated contract and a team full of them. This is a bad signing by the Astros.

As expected, Astros out of Soriano sweepstakes

Give it to Ed Wade. He may not have solved the problems of the 2010 Astros, but he did it at a relatively low cost. ESPN is reporting that Tampa Bay has traded RHP Jesse Chavez to Atlanta for Rafael Soriano.

Keith Law reacts to Lindstrom

It's Insider Only, but, as always, Astros County has your back.

The Astros' bullpen has been depleted by the presumed loss of Jose Valverde to free agency as well as the loss of LaTroy Hawkins, so Lindstrom helps. But if they're looking at him as a Valverde replacement they'll be disappointed, as he's a clear step down and doesn't have either the swing-and-miss pitch or the good control you'd like to see in a pitcher working highly leveraged innings.

The Marlins just wanted anything for a player they might have non-tendered, and they didn't get much more than anything. Luis Bryan is a decent defensive shortstop who was hurt for all but 31 Gulf Coast League games this summer, and either infinite K/BB ratios are the new market inefficiency or he has the worst plate discipline known to man. Robert Bono is an organizational pitcher who might have a chance to be a long man because he has good control.

Rule 5 Update

The Astros lost RHP Jose Duran to Baltimore and OF Nick Moresi to Washington in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft.

Duran pitched in 27 games for Lancaster last season, posting an 8.06 ERA/1.85 WHIP. In four seasons in the organization, Duran was 14-8 with a 4.23 ERA/1.35 WHIP.

Moresi, the Astros 3rd Round pick in 2006, hit .223/.268/.406 in 101 games for Lancaster and Corpus in 2009. In four seasons with the organization, Moresi hit .219/.286/.355.

Justice reacts to yesterday's moves

Richard Justice is a fan of yesterday's moves:

Give him credit for moving fast in the wake of Jose Valverde rejecting arbitration and Hawkins signing elsewhere. Within hours, he'd made two moves that probably take care of the eighth and ninth innings...

...I don't know how it'll shake out, but the Astros have a chance to have a better bullpen than they had in 2009. No National League team blew more saves. Only the Washington Nationals converted a lower percentage of their save chances...

Now about third base...

Rule 5 Day!

According to McTaggart, the Astros have selected 3B Jorge Jimenez from Boston.

Of course, this has no impact on the Astros, as he will be shipped to Florida to complete the Lindstrom trade.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So there's your other closer

Fox 26 is reporting that the Astros have signed Brandon Lyon to a three-year deal, pending a physical.

Lyon turned 30 this summer and posted a 2.86 ERA/1.11 WHIP for Detroit. He had a 57K:31BB ratio.

He throws a 92mph fastball, 89mph slider, 90mph cutter, 77mph curveball, and an 86mph changeup.

The question, though, is, of course (that's four commas to six words): How much will he cost?

Lyon made $4.25m with the Tigers last season.

Newcomer, who is in the know, says he's a Type B free agent, so the Tigers will be getting a supplemental pick.

UPDATE: Rosenthal says that Lyon was pursuing a 3-year, $15 million deal - but the Astros preferred to give him two years and a club option. So we'll see what shakes out. Then there's this:

Both Lindstrom and Lyon have closed in the past, but most industry observers view them more as setup men.

UPDATED UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal is saying the deal is for three years, and $15 million.

The Marlins fans, however, are not so nice

The Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi helps us to realize that the 872 fans who showed up to...Wherever the Marlins Play aren't so nice:

"I'm Matt Lindstrom,' fans often yelled into the bullpen, mimicking the reliever's public-service announcement for Tobacco Free Florida. "I don't smoke. I don't chew and I don't save games.'"

"I'm grateful for the Marlins for giving me an opportunity to play in the big leagues. I look forward to a change of scenery."

I bet.

The Marlins seem to be very nice people

Robert Bono's hometown paper got the quotes from Bono himself (I'll be honest. I was looking forward to the Achtung Baby references):

"I had no clue. But in talking to people from the Marlins, they basically told me that with the season I just had, I shouldn’t be surprised that I was in a trade like this."

Who will be that Player To Be Named Later?

According to Brian McTaggart, it'll be the player selected in tomorrow's Rule 5 draft.

FanGraphs brings the hard math on Lindstrom

FanGraphs has some charts and graphs for your perusal regarding the Lindstrom trade:

Lindstrom is still an attractive asset despite his down year. His ground ball tendencies are great for a reliever, as it suppresses the home run ball. He has a live fastball, averaging over 96 MPH. The questions for Lindstrom are if he can find his control and lower his BB rate as well as if his crazy home run suppression will return...

...In addition, the Astros farm system is, simply put, not good. Bono had decent numbers (3.62 FIP) in A ball at age 20 and has a very high ground ball rate, but doesn’t seem to be highly acclaimed by scouts. Bryan didn’t walk a single time in 105 ABs in rookie ball, and that lack of plate discipline will not play in the majors.

The Marlins didn’t get much for Lindstrom, and although he was unproductive and is aging, at 30 years old, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to just give up on...

...However, Lindstrom probably won’t cost Houston too much, and as such an intriguing player at such a low cost, this move makes a lot of sense for Houston.

Alright, so the math wasn't that hard.

And, just to throw it out there, Bill James projects Lindstrom to get a little closer to his 2008 numbers:
4.76 ERA/1.57 WHIP, 7.76 K/9 : 4.41 BB/9 and a .277 BAA.

(Captip to the Crawfish Boxes for the link)

Just FYI, LaHawk's contract

JJO has some details on Wade's negotiations with LaHawk, with Wade:

“It’s something that’s he tried to find for the last three or four years, and he found it in what we think may have been the 11th hour. We thought we were closing in on getting a deal done. We talked about a year and a vesting option. They actually came back and asked about just a clean one-year deal. We made our proposal, but we got turned down for two years. We’ll move on. We got some other things working right now. There’s a possibility of picking up a bullpen piece via trade. We had some conversations in that regard.”

Bob Nightengale has the details of LaHawk's contract with the Brewers:

2010: $3m with $500,000 signing bonus
2011: $4m with $275,000 in incentives

Wade, on the trade

Alyson Footer posted a series of tweets quoting Ed Wade. There are too many to link to individually, so let's just get a narrative going:

On Lindstrom:
"We'll use him in the late innings. Right now he's the most experienced closer we have on staff. That could still be the case on opening day and we're OK with that."

On Luis Bryan:
"Our guys thing Bryan is going to be a good big league player. But he's 19 and x number of years from the big leagues."

On Bono:
He has a chance to pitch in the big leagues and we recognize that. But we had a chance to add a kid who can close and with the struff Lindstrom has, you have to give up something to get something. If we had to give up prospects, we're doing it from an area where we have some strength."

Footer adds:
Wade adds that search for closer is not over. Still involved in discussions. "Today was a busy day."

Interesting that the Astros may or may not be done. Either way it's interesting. I'm guessing Fulchino and Arias just got promotions.

JJO's companion piece at the Chronicle quotes Wade:
If we get multiples that would be great. We’re pursuing multiples right now. If we’re successful in our pursuit, then that’s great. If we’re not successful. If we get one not two, then we have a couple different ways to go. One, we can continue this pursuit. It doesn’t end tomorrow.

“There may be bullpen pieces available here for an extended period of time. We can go in the direction of ratcheting some of our guys into roles that we think that they’re capable of handling. They just haven’t been called upon to handle them in the past. We start talking about (Chris) Sampson, (Jeff) Fulchino, (Alberto) Arias, (Sammy) Gervacio. These are all good arms who have shown the mental makeup to be able to pitch late in games. We’re going to try to add. If we don’t have we have internal candidates. We’ll see how it goes.”

Oritz also says the Astros maintain interest in Pedro Feliz.

So...who did we give up?

To complete the trade for reliever Matt Lindstrom, the Astros sent Lexington pitcher Robert Bono, GCL Astros infielder Luis Bryan, and a player to be named later.

Bono was one of the Big Five for Lexington, going 10-8 with a 3.38 ERA/1.24 WHIP in 25 starts (143.1IP). He only walked 19 batters in 601 faced, striking out 66.

Luis Bryan was the offensive star of the GCL Astros, though he managed to make it a short-season without drawing a walk, and posted an .893 Fld% on the year.

I'm not so upset about Luis Bryan, but I'm not happy about giving up Bono. He's probably Double-A ready at this point, meaning he may be able to contribute in 2012/2013. That's a long way down the road, but the Astros gave up a solid pitcher in a farm system that could use him.

Of course, if Lindstrom is the real deal, maybe I'll change my tune. Prospects are just that.

Lindstrom an Astro

According to Peter Gammons (God bless him), it's done. The Astros have addressed one of their bullpen concerns by trading for Marlins reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Bill Baer (of Crashburn Alley) broke down Lindstrom over at Baseball Daily Digest. What are we getting?

Lindstrom has two main pitches in his arsenal: a four-seam fastball that averages 96 MPH and an 82 MPH slider. He seems like a natural fit at the back end of any bullpen, but his poor showing in ‘09 should cause hesitation in awarding him high-leverage innings...

...Lindstrom’s BABIP last season sat at .342, which seems high but it was at .335 in ‘07. This seems to be his natural BABIP and should not be cause for concern.

His runners left on base percentage (LOB%) was 61.6% after previously resting at 72.3% and 76.3% the previous two seasons. Aha. Lindstrom was allowing hits at about a 34% clip and averaging about a walk every two innings — a bad combination. The league average LOB% is 72%.

While some of his LOB% woes may be due simply to randomness (or bad luck if you prefer), it’s so far under what we’d expect that there has to be an underlying factor. My theory is that as a result of his walk rate, and coupled with his thin pitch repertoire, he was very transparent on the mound. Thus, hitters were more successful against Lindstrom when there was at least one runner on base as opposed to the bases empty. The statistics bear this out:

* Bases empty: .744 OPS
* Runners on: .873 OPS
* Runners in scoring position: .868 OPS

All told, we can identify some, or even most, of Lindstrom’s struggles:

* He’s had a below-average defense behind him
* Transparent pitch selection, thus allowing hitters to sit on fastball, which accounts for about 75% of his pitches
* Mechanics with runners on base as opposed to bases empty causes inability to consistently pitch in the strike zone
* Hitters are much more selective at the plate due to his lack of command

Once the struggles and the factors behind them are identified, Lindstrom and whatever team he will be playing for in 2010 can take the appropriate steps necessary to fix them. Lindstrom is certainly not a lost cause. He’s only 30 years old and will be relatively cheap for several years, which makes him a great low-risk, high-reward candidate.

Lindstrom is on his way to Houston for a physical, and there's still no word on who the Astros are sending to Florida. Keep it tuned here.

Ed Wade, on LaHawk

Alyson Footer, and Brian McTaggart are tweeting some reactions from Ed Wade on what happened with LaHawk:

"I'm disappointed. I think the world of LaTroy not only from the standpoint of what he brings to the club from a competitive standpoint but also the kind of person he is. He got a 2-year deal he's talked about trying to get for the last 4 years. We thought we were closing in on getting it done, a 1-year deal with maybe a vesting option for a 2nd year. We got trumped on 2 years."

What happens now?

We need someone who's closed games before. I think we'll accomplish that. We'll have somebody back there with closing experience. We might have more than one, a mix and match situation. I'm proud of the bullpen we put together last year. Now we have to figure out a way to do it again."

Astros "close" to a deal for Matt Lindstrom

In McTaggart's new article, he references an article in the Palm Beach Post regarding a deal between the Astros and Marlins for reliever Matt Lindstrom. Nuggets:

Although the Marlins haven’t had any success trading 2B Dan Uggla, a source with one National League team said the Marlins are close to sending Lindstrom to the Astros. The Marlins would get prospects in return.

I want to know where these "prospects" are, and where they've been hiding. Might they be Clemens, or Locke? (Pure speculation)

And Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Astros and Marlins are swapping medical information on Matt Lindstrom.

Ringolsby: Rays are front-runner for Soriano

Astro-hater Tracy Ringolsby is saying that the Rays are your front-runner for Soriano:

The Rays and Houston are making the strongest push to acquire right-handed closer Rafael Soriano from Atlanta with growing indications that the Rays are likely to make the move...

...The Astros lost free agent Jose Valverde to free agency also, which is why they are interested, but with the Rays have a team that has shown it is capable of competing with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East there is a need for them to address the bullpen need.

God, no.

Will Carroll is tweeting this (you might want to have a seat):

Heard in the lobby … astros looking for OF help and speed. Pie just one of guys they're looking at. Lyles one trade possibility.

Mother of Pearl! Jordan Lyles for Felix Pie! Outfield help! With Lee, Bourn, and Pence? Is the "speed" part because Lee is on his way out? Felix Pie! Jordan Lyles!

/apoplectic shock

Now what?

A couple of nuggets on the Twitter wire for what happens now:

From Buster Olney: ATL asking for solid return for Rafael Soriano, in addition to having other team pick up $. Unclear whether someone bites on asking price. And then: But the fact that the relief market is beginning to move fast will motivate the Braves, for sure, to get Soriano off their books.

Now, Jayson Stark: Astros are kicking the tires on reliever Jamey Wright.

Jamey Wright will be 35 on Dec 24, and spent last season with the Royals, with a 4.33 ERA/1.48 WHIP in 79 innings, with an $800,000 salary.

Well, that's that

Smilin' Ken Rosenthal says LaHawk is off to Milwaukee, pending a physical, in a two-year deal, which is exactly what Ed Wade did not want to hand out.

Expect that Rafael Soriano deal to come together even more quickly. The Astros just shed about $12 million with the departures of LaHawk and Valverde.

Jayson Stark, among others, is reporting the Hawkins deal is worth $7.5m over two years.

Honestly, if the Astros had committed $7.5 million to LaHawk, I wouldn't be very happy. But what happened with the negotiations? Let's take a look:

November 1: LaHawk says he's waiting to see what happens with the new manager before making a decision about free agency.

November 6: Ed Wade: "We have indicated to them we would like to have LaTroy back, but there is no time table."

November 19: Astros have an offer on the table to LaHawk.

December 1: Astros decline arbitration to LaHawk.

December 2: Astros make offer in the neighborhood of $4m

December 2: Wade lists re-signing his free agent trio of LaHawk, Valverde, and Tejada as a top priority. He didn't sign any of them.

December 5: Rockies make signing LaHawk a priority

December 8: Braves are reportedly interested in LaHawk

December 8: LaHawk arrives in Indianapolis

December 8: Wade not interested in a multi-year deal.

9:47am, December 9: First time Brewers are reported with interest, by Bob Nightengale

11:24am, Dec 9: "Hawkins to Milwaukee" rumors are "news to" Hawkins

11:40am, Dec 9: Wade "doesn't feel the need to talk to" Hawkins. LaHawk knows where he is.

11:41am: Brewers listed as "front-runner"

Then he signs.

I'll give credit to Ed Wade for not over-paying for Hawkins. He didn't want to give him a multi-year deal, and he didn't. The Astros had an offer on the table, basically as soon as the season was over, and the Brewers just committed to him until the end of 2011. If they're comfortable with that, that's fine. Remember, Hawkins signed his $3.5m deal last year before the economy tanked, and it turned out to be an awful lot of money for an 8th-inning guy. It would have been nice to get some draft picks out of it, but Hawkins may have accepted arbitration, and been given a handy raise. So, let's see what Wade can do with the back end of the bullpen now. He has $13m he didn't have at the beginning of the week.

Rosenthal's Soriano update

Smilin' Ken Rosenthal's tweet has an update on the Soriano situation:

Angels, O's no longer pursuing R. Soriano. Astros and others still in.

A trade is expected to come together "quickly," according to Rosenthal.

Brewers the "front-runner" for LaHawk

A MilHawkee scenario is looking likely, Adam McCalvy of reports.

The Brewers are considering veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins as an extra late-inning option, and according to one report are the front-runner for his services.

Milwaukee already has Hoffman in the 9th inning, and LaHawk could be the final piece of their bullpen. This is in addition to Ken Rosenthal's report that the Brewers have signed Randy Wolf to a three-year, $29.75m deal.

Wade doesn't really feel like he needs to meet with LaHawk

JJO's accompanying article in the Chronicle about half an hour ago explains Wade's plans on negotiating with Hawkins:

In other early news, Wade made it clear that he doesn't feel a need to actually visit with LaTroy Hawkins here because the veteran righthander already knows how highly he's thought of by Wade and the Astros.

Wade then gave extensive praise to Hawkins, who is in town visiting with teams hoping to sign him.

That's so strange...

LaHawk update

JJO has an update on the MilHawkee proceedings:

Milwaukee reportedly has strong interest in Hawkins, but as of 11 a.m. Central, it was news to him, he told me. Reports are solid, though

JJO on Soriano

JJO has a new blog post (Captip to The Crawfish Boxes for the link), detailing the inside track the Astros may have on negotiations with Soriano:

Soriano must approve a trade, but if there's one GM who can get Soriano to accept it's Ed Wade. Why? Well, Soriano is represented by the highly respected Peter Greenberg out of New York. Greenberg has represented Richard Hidalgo, Bobby Abreu and many of the top players who came out of the Astros' Venezuelan academy. He also has two players the Astros could have interest in signing to minor-league deals this winter — Kelvim Escobar and outfielder Endy Chavez.

As many of you remember, Wade had and loved Abreu in Philadelphia. On multiple occasions Greenberg has told me how much he respects and trusts Wade. Heck, he told me as much during our phone conversation on Monday and during our chat Tuesday.

JJO indicates that he wants Soriano as the closer soon. I want to see what the Astros would have to give up before passing judgment on it.

Ed Wade on Sirius/XM Radio

Alyson Footer is tweeting during Wade's interview on a few items of note:

Wade acknowledges again that he is seeking back end of bullpen help through both trade and free agent markets...

...Wade says they've had one meeting with an agent this morning and an internal discussion about a trade that might be possible.

More as it comes out.

Brewers could sign LaHawk today

USA Today's Bob Nightengale is reporting that the Brewers are being aggressive on LaTroy Hawkins:

The Brewers are moving fast on premier setup man LaTroy Hawkins and could sign him today.

I'm guessing that, if he does sign, it'll be for 2+ years, as that seemed to be a sticking point yesterday.

In a further tweet, Nightengale says:
Hawkins, who arrived Tuesday in Indy, is drawing strong interest from (many) clubs, but Milwaukee is trying to hurry and sign him.

Astros interested in Pedro Feliz

Jorge Arangure, Jr is saying that the Astros, Twins, and Orioles are interested in utility man Pedro Feliz.

Rosenthal: Angels make sense for Soriano

Smilin' Ken Rosenthal has a recap of the events transpiring with Rafael Soriano, but closes on a different note:

The Angels probably make the most sense -- Soriano could serve as a setup man for Brian Fuentes, and likely get his share of save opportunities.

Astros in "extensive" talks with Florida

Within Evan Grant's Dallas Morning-News blog, we see a brief nugget about the Astros interest in reliever Matt Lindstrom:

"Talks with Astros, according to a Florida official, were more extensive."

This is interesting, no? Lindstrom is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2010, after recording 15 saves for the Marlins in 2009 with a 5.89 ERA/1.65 WHIP. This is after posting two pretty stellar seasons in relief in 2007/2008. Strikeouts were down, walks were up last year, and he gave up five home runs, so this would be a job for Arnsberg.

What say you?

Once is an anomaly, twice means it's worth a mention

Okay, so there's been some chatter generated from looking at who would fit in a trade with the Braves, should the Astros be a serious suitor for the services of Rafael Soriano.

As we all know, payroll is a major deal for the Astros, so even with the raise Pence will get in arbitration, there would be a shift in the Braves favor of at least $3 million. That probably won't cut it on Houston's end.

Let's also consider the possibility that, if the Astros trade for Soriano, that's going to do it for LaHawk's time in Houston, saving $4-5 million. However, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Anonymous in the comments section proposed a Carlos Lee for Rafael Soriano and Derek Lowe trade. And then the Bleacher Report said basically the same thing.

Now, let's look at this from a payroll standpoint:
Carlos Lee = $18.5 million (and has $55.5m remaining until 2012)

Derek Lowe = $15 million (and has $45m remaining until 2012)
Rafael Soriano = $8 million

So that's a difference of $4.5m. Factor in that Ed Wade probably wouldn't be bringing back LaHawk, and we're almost at a wash.

Now we all know the kind of trouble the Astros have in getting runners from home plate, all the way around those bases, and back again. You cannot deny that Lee's offense has been solid, though he is trending towards a further regression. However, is Brian Bogusevic or Yordany Ramirez or Jason Bourgeois ready to make the jump to a .300 hitter who drives in 100 runs and strikes out less than 100 times a year?

What about Derek Lowe? As Sabernomics' J.C. Bradbury says, "Derek Lowe may be overpaid, but he's not Carlos Lee overpaid." FanGraphs put Lowe's value in 2009 at $12m, $3m less than his salary.

Don't forget he'd have to waive a full no-trade clause, anyway. On November 11 Ed Wade was quoted as saying that Lee had "made it very, very clear that he does not want to go anywhere."

So if the Astros are going to shed Carlos Lee's contract, I'd like to see a little more come back than Derek Lowe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

That's not fair. Sabathia has eight left hands.

Look way down at the bottom of this article and you'll see that C.C. Sabathia was the winner of the Warren Spahn Award. The Warren Spahn Award, should you not know, is given to the top left-handed pitcher of the year.

Why is this news? Because it apparently took a tie-breaker to win it over Wandy. What was the tie-breaker? World Series rings?

Rafael Soriano could be on his way to Houston

But that's a big Could. David O'Brien writes that Rafael Soriano, who just accepted arbitration, might be on the move.

When Soriano accepted, according to O'Brien, he also said that he would approve a trade to one of the teams that had acknowledged their interest in pursuing him. And the Astros, along with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles are on that list.

Given the big ol' trade that went down, the Yankees might be on the market for mid- to late-inning relief. Braves GM Frank Wren:

"I talked to Raffy's agent last night right after they accepted, about 12:05 [a.m.]. And he reiterated that [Soriano] wants to be pitching in the back end of ballgames and he knows that we've committed that to other people. And he shared with me the list of clubs that were the hottest after him and said if you can make a deal with those clubs to give us an opportunity [to pitch in that sort of role], he's open to that."'s Mark Bowman says:
Wren said he doesn't believe it will take long to get a deal done. In fact, he seemed to indicate it could be completed within the next week to 10 days.

What do the Braves want? Bowman says a right-handed bat to upgrade the line-up. I'm looking at the Astros' active roster and I'm coming up with one name: Hunter Pence. (Note: this is pure speculation.) On a scale of 1-10, how livid would you be if this went down?

Mills won't be afraid to rip one out

An interview with Brad Mills by McTaggart.

On respect and communication:
"It is definitely going to be one of the biggest things I'm going to bring with me from Terry. He knows how to balance that relationship with the players. Plus, when you have to tell a guy sometimes something he doesn't want to hear, I think Terry does a good job of that balance. And that's a big thing that I want to bring with me."

Things like, "Hey. Run to first base."

On Al Pedrique:
"I have all the confidence in the world in him. Our relationship has taken off on the right foot, and I am excited about him having that responsibility and being with me. The six years I've been with Terry and those experiences, I think I'm more inclined to give him a lot of responsibility and just kind of watch how he does some of those things. But I have no qualms about him. He's going to be an absolutely outstanding bench coach, and a big support for me."

Hawkins and Wade going round and round

JJO has an update on the process with LaHawk:

First, Jorge Arangure, Jr was right: LaHawk was scheduled to meet with Arizona, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore, but isn't talking about the negotiations.

Freedom and flexibility is great. Not having the best closer (in free agency Valverde) is not. … We view it as we have the ability to fill more than one spot on the back of the bullpen."

However, like Tejada, length of contract with LaHawk is a sticking point:
“I think Hawkins would like to do something on a multi-year basis. We're not at that position at this time.”

Wade does have some hooks in the water on the trade front but, of course, did not elaborate.

I'm scared of the trade front. Unless we're trading Tal's Hill for the Green Monster, I'm not sure anything good can come via trade.

Watch your extra "s," there, Jorge

ESPN's Jorge Arangure, Jr. has himself a tweet:

Free agent reliever Latroy Hawkins is here in Indy to meet with teams.

Yep, that's "teams." Plural.

Astros invite eight to Spring Training

Brian McTaggart tells us the Astros have invited eight to Major League Spring Training:

Pitchers: Roy Corcoran, Ryan Sadowski, Casey Daigle, Gary Majewski

Infielders: Chris Shelton, Drew Meyer, Oswaldo Navarro

Outfielders: Alex Romero

Cardinals interested in Tejada

Miguel Tejada needs an idiot to give him multiple years and multiple millions of dollars. And Tony LaRussa might just be that man. Take it away, Derrick Goold:

La Russa acknowledged interest in Miguel Tejada, as reported a week ago in The Post-Dispatch. It’s his understanding that Tejada would entertain a move to third base and it’s his opinion that Tejada could handle the position. Though the former American League MVP has lost the power that made him so potent a producer in Oakland and Baltimore, La Russa still sees Tejada as capable of handling a middle-of-the-order role. “We’ve talked about Miguel,” La Russa said.

He described him as an opponent that still gets your attention. That’s a fit for the middle of the order.


Astros won't be bringing Tejada back

According to Alyson Footer, the Astros won't be signing Miguel Tejada. The sticking point?

Ed talked to Tejada's agent today. Ed is certain a deal will not be done. Length of contract is the sticking point.

And from McTaggart:
"I'm not optimistic we're going to be able to get anything done on Miggy. We love him death and everything he's brought to the organization, but I don't necessarily see a common ground."

Wade said the sticking point is length of terms of the contract. Tejada made about $14 million last season, but the Astros told him he'd had to have a large pay cut and play third base if he was going to return for a third season in Houston. That return now seems very unlikely.

Now that Valverde's gone, LaHawk is planning to make some hay

LaTroy Hawkins is in Indianapolis (or at least on his way) to try to get a deal worked out with the Astros by the end of the Winter Meetings.

Larry Reynolds, LaHawk's agent:
"There's some opportunities out there we've got to look at and figure out what's going to be in his best interest and move from there."

"We'll continue to have dialogue with LaTroy. We've never walked away from the Hawkins situation. We've just recognized if Valverde accepted it would put some limitations on how much we could spend in the eighth and ninth innings. There's Hawkins and a number of other guys that we think fit the profile, not only of what LaTroy does but with the potential of being able to close."

From LaHawk's standpoint, Houston might be more attractive than Colorado or Atlanta, where there are established closers already on the roster. This is, of course, LaHawk isn't really interested in closing, then it's wide open again.

Rockies/Braves interested in LaHawk

Jayson Stark is tweeting that the Rockies (which we knew) and the Braves (which we didn't) are interested in LaTroy Hawkins.

This is bizarre. The Braves just got Wagner and Saito, and now have Soriano back. Unless they're planning on dealing Soriano (which sounds likely), why in the world would they need LaHawk?

(Captip to TPack for the link)

That said, McTaggart has that LaHawk is on his way to Indy to meet with the Astros reps.

And again, just now, McTaggart says:
Hawkins will meet with Astros this afternoon with hopes of getting deal done soon, perhaps as early as today.

Justice goes crackers

This is one of the weirdest blog posts I've ever seen. I can't even pull anything from it...

Hold the phone on that Randy Wolf deal

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt says that the Brewers' offer to Randy Wolf is being shopped around, and his agent will meet with the Mets today.

What did other NL Central teams do yesterday?

First day of the Winter Meetings, we know what the Astros did, or didn't do. What happened to other NL Central teams yesterday?

According to the NY Post's Joel Sherman, the Brewers are on the verge of signing Randy Wolf to a three-year deal. This would be bad.

Reliever Mark DeFelice needs shoulder surgery, creating a bigger need in the bullpen.

Buster Olney reports that Brad Penny has signed a one-year, $7.5m deal (with incentives up to $9m total) with St. Louis. Given Dave Duncan's track record with Pitchers Who Were Good But Now Kind of Suck, it's a good move.

Jon Heyman says the Cubs could be suitors for Marlon Byrd.

The Pirates are listening on Matt Capps (closer candidate?), Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Bill Mazeroski.

They're trying to re-sign Laynce Nix.

"Multiple Teams in on Putz" and the Astros aren't one of them

Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reports that there are "multiple teams in on Putz." Who's on the list?

White Sox, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Nationals and Tigers.

Granted, there could be other teams who just aren't listed...

McTaggart on Valverde

McTaggart's post explaining that Valverde's declining is good news (uh, yeah):

The best option for the Astros at this point will be to pursue a closer at a lower cost than Valverde -- Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg or Fernando Rodney, anyone? -- and still have some money to sign LaTroy Hawkins or another reliever. The Astros are also in the market for a third baseman to add some offensive punch and they need some bench help.

As Deputy Jason pointed out, Mike Gonzalez is from Pasadena, and I'd rather have him than Kevin Gregg.

Justice to Wade: Get more pitching, idiot!

Richard Justice's new post references a tweet by Brian McTaggart in which Ed Wade references the team's off-season needs. They read:

8th-inning reliever

Then Justice says that the Winter Meetings are basically a boozefest, and Wade must be drunk, but he isn't drunk, etc.

There's no easy answer to any of this. Drayton isn't going to allow Ed to spend enough money to significantly upgrade the Astros this winter, so there's a chance 2010 could be terrible.

Maybe the strategy is to keep as much payroll flexibility as possible for next winter when Carlos Lee can be traded and the 2008 draft class could begin arriving in the major leagues.

Perhaps there's a coherent plan we don't know about. Ed might be attending these winter meetings to prepare for next year. They might know exactly what they're doing. Next round's on me, Ed.

Ho. Ly. Crap.

I can't believe it. Those of you who read AC yesterday know I spent all day getting myself ready for Valverde accepting arbitration. But it didn't happen. Valverde declined arbitration and will opt for free agency, saving the Astros' off-season.

“We didn't get arbitration. We gave a chance to Houston and let them make an offer, and they didn't offer anything. So I'll remain a free agent. Houston had a chance. They traded me for three players in 2007, and I thought I did an excellent job for them. I feel good about the two years I played for them. They have great fans. I can't complain about them. They had me for two years doing an excellent job.

Another arbitration wasn't for me. If they want to win with young players, that's good. But a team like that has to invest to win. The GM said he wanted me, but if he really wanted me, he would have offered something. He never offered me any type of offer or anything. They had a chance to make an offer, and they never made it. It was always, ‘Well talk tomorrow.' Then when the time ended for the first offer, they said we'd talk later. They never, never made me an offer."

“We can still have the ability to sign him, and we certainly will reach out to see if there's an ability to sign him. But there are alternatives in the market, and we'll be aggressive exploring them.”

Now, I'm surprised by how snippy Valverde got. Surely his agent told him, "Hey, they're reducing payroll, so they probably won't be real aggressive in trying to sign you." Maybe he didn't. It's easy for me to sit here on my couch, bleary-eyed and freebasing coffee, to think "Jeez, Valverde, lighten up." But I get it. The Astros didn't even try to make him an offer to bring back a closer who has led the NL in saves twice. Ed Wade didn't say, "We'd like to have you back, but Drayton hasn't given me my allowance?"

That said, what do you think about how Wade apparently handled the discussion? I can't blame him for trying to delay the conversation, but does this strike you as shady?

But hey, at least nobody got choke-slammed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rafael Soriano's agent met with Astros officials

So says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien:

At the Winter Meetings hotel, there was speculation that Greenberg was only trying to stoke a slow-developing market and prompt offers for Soriano by suggested he'd take the Braves' offer. This in effect would let any interested teams know they had best make offers by midnight, rather than wait a few weeks for the free-agent market to take shape.

The deep-pocketed New York Yankees were among teams reportedly interested in Soriano and Greenberg met Monday with the Houston Astros officials.

Valverde still hasn't made up his mind

Around 8pm, JJO tweeted the following:

With just over 3 hours to decide, Jose Valverde just told me he's still deciding whether to accept arbitration to stay in Houston.

My guess is he's holding out to see what happens with Betancourt and Soriano. If those two accept arbitration, I bet Valverde accepts.

UPDATE: Yeah, I was off on this one. What I should have said is that, if Betancourt and/or Soriano accepts, I bet Valverde declines - because the free agent market would be thinner.

Astros not interested in a starting pitcher

And why would they be, really? McTaggart says (from a couple of hours ago) that they're not interested, what with Roy, Wandy, Norris, Pitcher X, and Moehler.

Who could be the 8th inning guy?

Who could be the 8th inning guy in 2010 (provided Valverde comes back. Or doesn't.)? Let's ask Alyson Footer:

Ed Wade:
Wade rattled off four names who could possibly act as setup men in '10: Alberto Arias, Jeff Fulchino, Chris Sampson, LaTroy Hawkins.

So with the non-tender deadline coming up on Dec 12, that's good news for Sampson.

Regarding the bench, Wade will try to fortify it "sooner" rather than later.

JJO hasn't really got the hang of this Twitter thing

So JJO has a Twitter account, but didn't tweet anything, instead filing an actual article on how Valverde is really making everybody sweat about screwing up the off-season.

What has Wade been doing?
“What we’ve been doing in the office for the last week and 10 days is to strategize (projecting) the closer is going to count an x number of dollars, potentially an x number of dollars. What does that leave? What areas would we like to address? How much volume is out there? How much talent is out there? What’s the proper approach? Are we more aggressive on the offensive front? Are we more aggressive on the eighth inning? Are we more aggressive on the composition of the bench? That’s the type of thing that we’ve been doing.”

Which means talks with LaHawk are on hold:
“David Gottfried has done all the communication with Larry Reynolds (LaHawk's agent). They talked again over the weekend, and Larry is aware that we have to wait until Valverde’s situation is resolved before we know if we can move forward with him or not. Realistically, we have to look at this and say, ‘can we commit that much of our resources to the eighth and ninth inning if Jose is back?’”

Which means talks with Tejada are on hold:
Wade estimated it had been about two weeks since he spoke with Tejada’s agent, Diego Bentz. “It was a candid conversation in which I said that we love Miggy and everything he’s done for us. In order for it to work back here it is probably at a third base setting at a reduced price. I haven’t heard back from Diego.”

Because right now, Blum is 3B1:
“We would be more than happy to have Geoff Blum back at third base in the same role that he was in last year. If we could do something where we could mix and match with Geoff in sort of the plan that we had last year when we signed Aaron Boone, if there’s somebody out there that we think fits that mold better than (Jeff) Keppinger, better than (Edwin) Maysonet or some combination of those two players, then we could do a mix and match there. If we got somebody who we felt was more of a front-line everyday third baseman that frees Blum up to be a super utility guy, we think there’d be a lot of playing time for Geoff in that role as well. You could mix and match at second base with (Kaz) Matsui. You could mix and match at third base with him. He can play first. He can play some shortstop. We’ll take advantage of Geoff’s versatility in that regard. I think that Geoff Blum’s going to get his at-bats regardless. Whether it’s all or mostly at third base remains to be seen depending on what we may be able to do. We also don’t want to walk past the fact that we got Keppinger, we got Maysonet and we got Chris Johnson.”

And right now, that means there are no trade talks ongoing, because they have to wait to see what Valverde does:
“From a trade standpoint candidly at this point it’s quiet on our front. We’re going to talk to some clubs today. We expressed certain ideas, but I don’t know. I just think there may be a lot of trade activity (but) at the same time I still think when you have this volume of players on the free agent market that it’s going to slow the trade environment down because teams are going to have the opportunity to fill their needs without having to give up players in return. There are very few teams with regard to Type-A players. That’s not going to be a huge impediment in this whole process. Realistically, if you look at us if Valverde doesn’t accept arbitration we got two draft picks coming. We’d like to horde draft picks, but if we have two draft picks by virtue of Jose not accepting then we may consider signing a Type-A player and giving up our second-round pick. We’ll be getting two in return to give up one if we figure there’s a quality player the compensation aspect doesn’t necessarily preclude us from doing something.”

So basically, the Astros would be open to a trade if Valverde declines arbitration. But if he doesn't they won't. I think it's pretty safe to say that the next three and a half hours are they key to the Astros off-season.

I still think offering Valverde arbitration was the right move, because who would have thought he might accept? On November 14, Valverde's agent indicated his interest in free agency. So who knew?

Well, maybe a few people. Buster Olney's blog post on October 2 indicated that four of six executives and player reps thought the Astros wouldn't offer him arbitration. But with Valverde's interest in free agency, it was a shot they had to take. Of course, he could still decline...

Rockies to "ramp up" negotiations with LaHawk

Thomas Harding of is reporting that the Rockies are waiting to see what happens with Rafael Betancourt's arbitration decision, but should he leave...

The Rockies also will ramp up negotiations with LaTroy Hawkins, who held the setup role for them in 2007 and is coming off a strong year with the Astros.

Keith Law rips my hometown

Because why wouldn't he? ESPN's Keith Law takes some time to rip Nashville, or the Opryland Hotel, one of the sites in the Winter Meeting rotation. Why?

I spoke to several front office executives about the winter meetings and the site selection, and they all agreed on one thing: The winter meetings should never, ever return to the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, which three of them referred to as the "worst hotel ever" for the confab. One GM said that "it's difficult to prove" that the Opryland makes it harder to accomplish anything, "but it's certainly not conducive because you can't find anybody." Another called it "the biodome" and said "people get sick by the time they're done because you never breathe fresh air." A third said, "I wouldn't care where they are as long as it's not there." Yet another executive was kinder, saying "it's a beautiful hotel, but completely out of place for working baseball meetings; I spent a week in it and had no idea how to get anywhere." I have attended two winter meetings there myself, one with the Blue Jays and another as a member of the media, and I agree with all of the above sentiments and more (I even ranted about it after the 2007 meetings).

Nashville's not an easy or inexpensive place to fly to, and the Opryland soaks guests and non-guests at every opportunity, yet Minor League Baseball is committed to returning there every few years, including a repeat in 2012. There's really no reason why MLB has to tag along in '12 to a location that member clubs seem to so widely despise, especially when the location itself interferes with the work that many teams hope to get done at the event.

Beyond the shared loathing of Nashville, there wasn't much unanimity among the executives I polled.

To hell with Keith Law. But the Opryland Hotel is hard to get around.

Bray Day: Episode 11

Aaron Bray was the 27th round draft pick for the Astros in last June's amateur draft. He was also the winner of the Astros County Adopt-a-Player contest. Each week, Aaron will write a column for Astros County detailing his off-season. Check the sidebar for archives.

Hello Astro Fans,
It is the month of Christmas, which means school is almost over. For me it will be over for good. I am busy finishing up on some papers and will be busy studying. The days are going by and before you know it I'll be in Spring Training. I am excited and cannot wait. I hope all of you had a Great Thanksgiving and are looking forward to Christmas.

Finals will be over soon, and you'll be a graduate with a History degree. What will you do to celebrate, and what happens to your training regimen once you get over said celebration?

My celebration will be working out harder. With my schedule clearing up, my days will be strictly baseball now. Which excites me. My workouts will now be everyday until I leave to go to Florida. They will get harder than in the past couple months. Having all the free time is good. I will be able to concentrate on baseball and baseball only.

As I said earlier, readers. I hope you all are having a good end to your year and are looking forward to Astros baseball.

Got a question for Aaron? Send it to

Heyman's quick note on Valverde

In Jon Heyman's newest column for SI, he has a couple of quick hits:

-The Astros are still interested in Rafael Soriano and will wait and see what he does with his arbitration decision, though Heyman notes the Braves don't expect him to accept.

-And on Valverde:
Execs expect star closer Jose Valverde to wind up back as Houston's closer. He could even decide to accept arbitration.

Make it stop. Just...make it stop.

What happens if Jose Valverde accepts arbitration?

So, with the news from Ken Rosenthal this morning that Valverde may accept arbitration, what the heck will that do to the 2010 Astros? Allow me...

-He would continue his mostly-dominant role as an elite-ish closer for the Astros.

Valverde has 69 saves for the Astros over the last two years, with a 2.93 ERA/1.16 WHIP. From the point at which Valverde returned from the leg injury on June 13, through the end of the season, he had a 1.76 ERA/1.11 WHIP, and 23 saves to two blown saves.

The Astros don't have any obvious in-house relievers to take Valverde's role. Bringing him back would keep the 9th inning (mostly) secure, in the 70-75 instances the Astros will need to preserve a lead in the 9th in 2010.

-It would add about $10 million to the 2010 payroll.

Payroll is the biggest issue that Valverde's accepting arbitration would impact. $10 million is an estimate for Valverde's services that has been thrown around by AC, and other media sources, as well. The Astros already have $58.5 million committed to the 2010 team, and are trying to keep payroll around $90-95 million. Putting Valverde on the books for $10m would leave $22-27m for Ed Wade to play with, and that's before arbitration raises coming to Pence, Bourn, Wandy, Byrdak, Quintero, Keppinger, and Sampson.

It's hard to project where these players' bottom lines will end up, but a conservative guess would be around an $11m raise from the ~$5 they received in 2009. That's a total of about $16 million (and this is guess-timating, one of my all-time most-hated words). So with Valverde and the $16m for the arbitration guys, that puts
payroll at about $84 million. Meaning there's $6-11m for the rest of the team, which is not a lot. At all.

-The Astros wouldn't receive two high draft picks.

This is the second biggest issue the decision would impact. If you believe everything you read online, the Astros' farm system is held together with chewing gum and chicken wire. The Astros could really use an extra first-round draft pick plus a supplemental round pick. If Valverde declines arbitration and signs with another team, those picks come to Bobby Heck. If he accepts, then...uh, just the one first-round pick.

What am I missing?

Doug Brocail getting his marketing on

Doug Brocail is tweeting, and is going through Online Marketing 101, apparently.

One tweet over the weekend said:

I will be in Detroit this weekend, maybe a revival a decade later with the Tigers? Who knows? Have a great weekend everyone!!

(Captip to Bless You Boys)

Crasnick has some notes for us

As the Winter Meetings heat up, AC will have relevant updates throughout the day, and depending on the good graces of La Constabless, throughout the evening, up until bedtime.

On that note, Jerry Crasnick tells us that the Rangers are in for Brett Myers, but only if he'll take a one-year deal, while his agent is looking for a multi-year deal. Will the Astros be the team that gives him 2+ years?

Will the Astros have enough money to do it, even if they want to? That depends on Jose Valverde's arbitration decision, due by 11:59pm (Eastern) tonight. Furthermore, Crasnick kind of confirms that the Astros don't have very much money to spend, "unless Drayton has a change of heart."

If Valverde accepts, will that change of heart come?

Soriano leaning towards accepting arbitration, as well

Buster Olney is reporting that the Braves' Rafael Soriano is leaning towards accepting arbitration. This is noteworthy as Ed Wade confirmed interest in Soriano last week.

It won't be newsworthy if Valverde accepts arbitration.

Wade backing off Chris Johnson?

It's something we've had an idea about, what with the re-signing of Geoff Blum and the active rumors that Easy Eddie is looking to upgrade at 3B, but McTaggart McTaggart has new words from Ed Wade indicating that he is backing away from Chris Johnson like a robber easing out of a bank:

"We like the job Geoff Blum has done us the last two years or we wouldn't have signed him. Geoff did a tremendous job for us defensively and has done a pretty good job overall. We just look at our situation, and if there's a way to tweak the offense a little bit, we'll try to do something like that. Keppinger can play over there, and [Blum and Keppinger] did a good job for us. Both can play around in the infield and help us. Keppinger's a very professional hitter and did a good job after he came over here. We've got Chris Johnson, and we still think he had a chance to be an outstanding big league player, whether that happens on Opening Day this year or down the road remains to be seen."

Recap: Blum Blum Blum, Keppinger Keppinger, Blum, oh yeah, we've got Chris Johnson.

Valverde leaning toward accepting arbitration?

Today is the day that the Astros will learn whether or not Jose Valverde will accept arbitration, and it looks like he's leaning toward accepting, according to Smilin' Ken Rosenthal, who is saying that Valverde could return to Houston in 2010 (scroll down to "1:15 am")

Perhaps another team would sign him to a multi-year contract, but the free-agent market is deep in late-inning relievers, and several others are available in trade. Teams also will be reluctant to give up two high draft picks for Valverde, a Type A free agent.

Thus, Valverde might decide that a one-year, non-guaranteed contract from the Astros is his best option. The team then could settle with him on a guaranteed deal before the two sides went to a hearing.

Either way, the Astros would pay a high price.

Wow. Would a team ever get so pissed about returning one of the top closers in the game?

Updated Winter Ball stats - 12/7

On the morning of the opening day of the Winter Meetings, let's take us a look at the WinterStros:

Dominican Winter League (hitters)


Dominican Winter League (pitchers)


Puerto Rican Winter League (hitters)


Puerto Rican Winter League (pitcher)


Venezuelan Winter League (hitters)


Venezuelan Winter League (pitcher)