Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thinking about payroll. How much jack do the Astros have left?

So it's been well-reported that the Astros are trying to get payroll down to between $90-95 million for 2010. The reasons for this are all over the map, from "The Astros are losing money at $108 million" to "Drayton is increasing profit margins in order to sell the team." Regardless, payroll is coming down. So with some recent signings (Myers, Lyon, Feliz), where does the payroll project?

Let's start with who's on the books already:
1B - Berkman: $14.5m
2B - Matsui: $5.5m
3B - Feliz: $4.5m
SS - Manzella: -
LF - Lee: $18.5m
CF - Bourn: Arb
RF - Pence: Arb
C1 - Towles: $406,500
IF - Blum: $1.5m
IF - Johnson: $400,000
IF - Keppinger: Arb
OF - Michaels: $800,000
C2 - Quintero: Arb

SP1 - Oswalt: $15m
SP2 - Wandy: Arb
SP3 - Myers: $5m
SP4 - Norris: -
SP5 - Moehler: $3m
SP6 - Paulino: -

CL: Lindstrom: Arb
SU: Lyon: $4.25m
SU: Fulchino: -
SU: Arias: -
SU: Sampson: Arb
SU: Wright: -
SU: Byrdak: Arb

(I know there are 26 players here.) That's 12 players already signed and $73,356,500 committed. Thirteen players and approximately $17 million left. But of course the Astros have eight arbitration-eligible players:

Wandy Rodriguez ($2.6m)
Tim Byrdak ($1m)
Humberto Quintero ($610K)
Chris Sampson ($449K)
Hunter Pence ($439K)
Michael Bourn ($434.5K)
Jeff Keppinger ($427.5K)
Matt Lindstrom ($410K)

Their total salary in 2009 was $8.07 million. We saw from a post earlier this week that the average increase from arbitration in 2008 was 172%. So if we apply that to the Astros, that $8.07 million becomes $13.884 million. But you can bet that Wandy, Pence, and Bourn will get an increase of much more than 172%. It sounds about right, however, for Byrdak, Quintero, Sampson, Keppinger, and Lindstrom. Let's apply the 172% to those players, and we get a total of $4.98 million.

It's not a stretch to think that Wandy could get $5 million in arbitration, Pence $4 million, and Bourn $3 million.

Now our total for the arbitration eligibles is $16.98 million, brining our total overall payroll to $90,336,500. And there are still five players to sign.

Manzella, Norris, Paulino, Arias, Fulchino, and Wright will make in the league minimum range, bringing payroll to about $92,886,500.

What say you?

Tejada to Oakland?

In ESPN's Rumor Central, we read:

Tejada could fill openings at third base for Toronto, Oakland or St. Louis, and if clubs think he can play some second base, another handful of clubs could show interest...

...Jon Heyman of MLB Network said Friday night that the A's are looking for an infielder and could try to bring Tejada back to Oakland and losing out on Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre.

Ah, but the SF Chronicle's Susan Slusser notes:
As I mentioned, there's only a vague possibility anyway that the A's would consider Tejada the answer to their needs for a third baseman who also could play shortstop; first of all, he'd have to come at a reasonable price, and second, while there's an assumption most shortstops can play third, Tejada has never done so. And his defense has declined over the years.

Jesse Spector is scratching his head

It's not often that the NY media turns its attention to Houston. And it's generally not a good thing when they do. Such is the case with the New York Daily News' Jesse Spector on the Myers signing:

Although he might be more effective out of the bullpen, the Astros apparently plan to have Myers work as a starter, challenging Wandy Rodriguez for the No. 2 spot in their rotation...

...Houston has traded for Matt Lindstrom and signed Brandon Lyon for its bullpen this winter, so in Wade’s mind, the relief corps is set - but if you believe that both of those acquisitions were questionable, and that Myers is better suited for work in the late innings… well, then this becomes another head-scratcher.

Myers is the right player for the right situation, and at $5 million on a one-year contract for someone who made $12.1 million last year, the right price. But the only way that this is the right situation is that Houston is a city where Myers will have to deal with the media far less than he did in Philadelphia (and Myers is not the most media-friendly player in the majors), and a fresh start may be just what he needs. From a numbers standpoint, the idea of Myers as a potential No. 2 starter just doesn’t add up.

More from Spector:
The righthander is only 29 years old, so it’s not unreasonable to believe that he’ll bounce back in Houston, though it’s not like escaping Philadelphia will curb his penchant for giving up home runs - Myers has allowed 87 homers away from Philly in 590.2 career innings, compared to 91 in 593 innings at Veterans Stadium and the bandbox that replaced it.

The other problem for Myers is that his control has always been average at best, and he doesn’t have good enough stuff to make up for it - his fastball sits around 90 mph and his off-speed pitches are inconsistent. Myers was able to jack up the velocity on his fastball when he came out of the Phillies’ bullpen in 2007, making his breaking balls more effective and resulting in a career-high strikeout rate of 10.9 per nine innings, but as a starter, he doesn’t strike out as many hitters, and gives up too many hits to allow for a career walk rate of 3.1 per nine innings.

Russ Ortiz signs minor-league deal with Dodgers

In a throw-away post, it's worth noting that former Astro Russ Ortiz has signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. Money quote:

Ortiz has no business being on a major-league roster, but odds are he won't be - not for long, anyway.

Nuggets from Justice

Richard Justice has a glass-half-full approach to the Myers signing. Some highlights:

On what he's like, you know, under the surface:
People who know him say he's a bright and thoughtful guy once you get past a macho façade. Be warned: he's capable of doing or saying something stupid at any moment.

On Paulino:
Paulino is the X factor in the rotation. He has worked hard to get himself in shape, and the Astros are hoping against hope he'll finally be able to harness that 97 mph stuff.

He'll be one of new pitching coach Brad Arnsberg's most important projects this spring. Wade is confident, too, in part, because Paulino is the pitcher other teams most frequently call about.

On the clubhouse:
There's no way to overstate how bad things got around the Astros last season. It was a losing clubhouse, and it extended to players such as Oswalt and Lance Berkman, who came to the big leagues when the Astros were among baseball's smartest franchises.

That's where Brad Mills enters the picture. His most important job as the new manager is to get the attitude back in a place that allows young players to flourish and older players to enjoy the game again.

Fans sometimes judge managers by in-game moves, but about 80 percent of their job is to get a good day-to-day effort from their players and to create the right atmosphere. Mills is untested at the big league level, but his résumé is impressive. He's also tough, smart, organized and every bit a first-rate baseball man.

Optimism abounds, even if it is January.

Tigers GM on the cost of Valverde

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had this to say about the cost of giving up that first-round draft pick to sign Valverde:

"You look at every different circumstance. You never want to give up draft choices of any type -- first, second or third round. If you are thinking of doing that, you weigh where the draft pick is and the player involved. You also look at whether it's going to be a strong draft or a weak draft. The way I've always approached it is that you have to weigh a lot of factors."


Friday, January 8, 2010

Tigers really couldn't care about Valverde

In Jason Beck's article on the Tigers' interest in Valverde, we see that maybe they're not so concerned about their bullpen. And maybe the Diamondbacks aren't, either. Meaning that Valverde's agent has changed the feces-stained bedsheets, and proceeded to soil them again.

Neither the Tigers, nor the D-Backs - who are believed to be at their budget -- nor any other clubs in the market for a closer appear to be in that kind of financial range. In the Tigers' case, their abundance of young relief talent -- including closing prospect Daniel Schlereth from last month's trade of Edwin Jackson -- has given them another reason not to pursue a longer-term deal for any closer. There were indications the Tigers might've been a little more willing to consider a second year when they were talking about their own free-agent relievers, including Brandon Lyon, but both Lyon and Fernando Rodney signed elsewhere.

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said earlier this week that he's "content" with his club's bullpen options if they don't sign anybody else, leaving Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya as the likely competitors for the closing job. However, Dombrowski also said he's "open-minded" about finding ways to improve if any moves make sense.

Zumaya has four saves. Valverde has 116.

Johnson, Towles sign deals

Within the Brett Myers piece, we see that J.R. Towles and Chris Johnson have signed deals. For how much?

Johnson: $400,000
Towles: $406,500

And we also see that the Astros officially released Ryan Sadowski from his contract to allow him to sign with a South Korean club.

A little reaction to the Myers signing

Fanhouse's Pat Lackey says:
For a team that's been spending money in rather questionable fashion this winter (three years and $15 million for Brandon Lyon?!?), Myers seems like a relatively good risk. He's only 29 and though he battled injuries last year and spend most of 2007 in the bullpen, he put up some good numbers in 30 starts with the Phils in 2008 (1.379 WHIP, 7.7 K/9 innings, 3.1 BB/9) and could, at the least, be an innings eater in a rotation with very little depth behind Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez.

The Phillies Files:
Myers doesn't solve all of the Astros' problems, of course. He's a risk because of his health, their next three starters are Felipe Paulino, Brian Moehler, and Bud Norris, and most of their roster is still getting old at an alarming rate. GM Ed Wade has managed to scrap together semi-contenders in both of his years on the job in Houston, but even with Myers in the fold it's hard to see how he's going to pull it off for a third straight season.

That sounds awfully negative, but I do like this signing. Myers is a good risk to take for a team that needs rotation help without being able to spend a lot. And if nothing else, the Astros increased their chances to stay ahead of the Pirates!

I still think Myers is a valuable tool, and I do respect certain things about his approach and work ethic. When the Phillies wanted him to be a closer, he did it with no questions asked. When they wanted to move him back into the rotation, he didn't complain one bit. Then, he worked his butt off last year to come back early from hip surgery because he desperately wanted to help the team, even if it was as a middle or situational reliever, a role he was totally unaccustomed to.

He's absolutely a team player and a hard worker.

I wouldn't be surprised if he helps Houston. I don't think he'll put up all-star numbers or ever be a No. 1 starter again, but he's got enough left in the tank to really make an impact.

The Crawfish Boxes:
If the Astros view him as the last link for the starting rotation, this move is at least defensible. Myers pitched just 18 games last season, 10 of which were starts while posting an ERA+ of 88. His FIP was terrible at 6.32 but his xFIP of 4.32 was decent. Myers will turn 30 in August, so he's still young(er than some Astros players), but has topped 100 innings only once in the past three seasons. His strikeout rate has steadily dropped, from 8.59 in 2006 to 6.37 last season. Of all his peripherals, that's the one that worries me the most. Myers was always a strikeout pitcher. If he can't get those, will he still be as effective.

Richard Justice:
The Astros opened last season with a rotation of Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz and Brian Moehler. If things go according to plan, they'll open this season with Oswalt, Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino.

Isn't it funny the difference one potential signing can make? Ed Wade's addition of Myers could be significant.

Astros County:
Justice seems to think that Myers' signing bumps Moehler, and this is what I would prefer. I don't like the idea of Myers bumping Paulino from the rotation. I like it even less if he bumps Norris. What the Astros need is time, and signing Myers to a one-year deal, with an option for 2011, allows for that time. But with the Cardinals signing Holliday, it's going to be a few years before his contract becomes a Carlos Lee-esque deal and starts to screw the Cardinals. So take your lumps, raise up the farm system, and be ready for the time when the Cardinals ask Albert Pujols wait to cash the check until the following Tuesday (do you think baseball players have direct deposit? Can you imagine checking Bank of America and seeing a deposit for $900,000? If that happened to me, then the only explanation would be that I would have to immediately move to a non-extradition country. And do this full-time. From my third patio.)

Am I happy with the Myers signing? Sure. But as TCB astutely notes, he hasn't been a high-strikeout pitcher since 2007. Away from Philadelphia in his career, Myers is 36-27 with a 4.66 ERA / 1.43 WHIP. His Win% is higher on the road, but his home ERA is 4.14, with a 1.28 WHIP. So will his stats improve at Minute Maid? It would make sense that it would, and Tommy Manzella will be better for him than Tejada would.

But let's think: who are the five best starting pitchers on the roster now? You can choose from Roy, Wandy, Norris, Moehler, Myers, and Paulino?

It would make me feel much better if the rotation was as follows: Roy, Wandy, Myers, Norris, Paulino. Sorry, Moehler. This, of course, won't happen. And why not? Because it makes too much sense. And because Moehler will make too much money to do anything but throw him out there every 5th day and hope that you get more Good Moehlers than Bad Moehlers.

It's a good signing, and it improves the rotation, which needed to be improved.

There's our answer

Brett Myers has signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Astros, with a mutual option for 2011 and performance incentives.

That's not an awful lot of money.


A note on Brett Myers

The question that I think we're all asking with the signing of Brett Myers is, "Just how much will the Astros pay him?"

Myers is coming off a three-year deal with the Phillies (and it was Ed Wade who drafted Myers in the 1st Round of the 1999 draft) worth $25.75 million.

But he was hurt in 09 - with a torn/frayed labrum and a strange eye injury - and pitched in only 18 games, with 10 starts, and missing time from May 27 to September 5. Upon returning from the DL, Myers pitched solely in relief.

Given the injury history, I can't imagine Myers getting more than a 2-year deal, with a lower base salary and heavy on the incentives. But the bigger question is what the Astros' rotation will look like.

Seeing as how the Astros already have Moehler locked up, this probably means Paulino is out of the rotation and back in to the bullpen, and those minor-league deals to which the Astros signed Josh Banks and Gustavo Chacin are exactly that.

SP1: Roy
SP2: Wandy
SP3: Myers
SP4: Norris
SP5: Moehler

Sifting through Myers info

Brian McTaggart is confirming the Astros are "trying to add" Brett Myers.

And we'll just go ahead and keep the updates rolling. McTaggart is now reporting that the Astros and Brett Myers are "in serious talks."

3:49pm: Fox 26 is reporting that the deal is done, pending a physical.

3:52pm: McTaggart is confirming the deal, pending a physical.

Astros still looking at Brett Myers

Jerry Crasnick is reporting that the Astros are still looking at pitcher Brett Myers in an effort to shore up the back of the rotation. He goes on to say that money will be an issue, but "Ed Wade likes his former Phillies."

UPDATE: But, oh snap. The Rangers are interested in Myers, as well.

Tejada finding that teams aren't so jazzed about paying 35-year old shortstops $8 million

Jorge Arangure Jr's new blog post discusses the plight of Miguel Tejada.

During the World Baseball Classic this year, then Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada told reporters that he was willing to play any infield position in 2010 -- including third base -- which was a surprising turn for a player who had so steadfastly clung to his beloved shortstop position.

At the all star game, Tejada, a free agent to be, reiterated that sentiment during media sessions at the All Star game. Now in the offseason, the usually reclusive Tejada, made that same declaration once again to a Spanish-speaking reporter from the Associated Press, which may signal that Tejada still hasn't found the free agent marketplace to his liking.

He'll move to 3B, but as Arangure notes, he hasn't really played it. And when the Dominican Republic got bounced out of the 1st round of the WBC last Spring, Tejada was their 3B for all of eight minutes. Now teams aren't so sure about giving $8 million (the money Tejada is rumored to be seeking) to a 3B who hasn't ever really played 3B.

Olney, on Valverde

In Buster Olney's new blog post, he takes on the Valverde Situation:

Heard this: Jose Valverde, the most accomplished reliever on the market, is asking teams for an annual salary of $8 million, and he has made it clear he only wants to be a closer, so far. The Pirates and Marlins, two teams that need closers, certainly won't pay him that much; the Tigers need a closer, but in an offseason in which they've done some financial belt-tightening, it remains to be seen whether they would go that far.

It's obvious that Jose Valverde's agent crapped the bed on the decision to not accept arbitration, and the Astros will - at some point - reap the benefit of it. Valverde's asking $8 million - same as what he made in 2009 - is not likely to happen for the exact reason that Olney put forth, but you have to wonder if he's high-balling potential suitors to make a $5 million deal more attractive.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Valverde has four offers

Yahoo's Tim Brown is reporting this:

Source: Valverde has four offers, two of more than one year, all to be a closer. Arizona and Detroit are in.

Update on Dominican complex

McTaggart has an update on the new Dominican baseball complex, which is apparently six weeks ahead of schedule.

The all-inclusive academy is located in the Guerra Region of Boca Chica, D.R., and just one-half mile from the facilities of the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers and is close to the Kansas City Royals. The complex consists of two and a half playing fields, six pitching mounds, batting cages and an observation tower.

The facility also includes a two-story building with the first floor consisting of administrative offices, educational classrooms, a dining room, a full-service industrial kitchen, weight room, training room, manager and coaches offices, equipment room, clubhouse and laundry room.

The second floor features staff living accommodations, a computer lab with 15-20 work stations and a player entertainment room. Players will be given opportunity to enhance their diets and learn English so that they'll be able to function at a higher level when they move up the developmental chain and reach the United States.

Who will be using this complex?

The Astros will begin holding workouts Monday at their old academy in San Pedro de Macoris for their youngest Dominican players. These are players who will play in the Dominican Summer League in 2010, along with players who will be in Major League camp and Minor League mini camp. Bennett said the group will consist of about 40 players.

The next wave of players begins working out Feb. 2, a group that includes regular Spring Training players and those who will be in the Minor Leagues. They'll work out for a month before coming to the U.S. for the start of Spring Training.

The Dominican Summer League season begins May 30.

So THAT'S why Tejada is still unemployed

Grinnin' Ken Rosenthal is saying that Miggs is looking for a 2-year $16 million deal. Hm.

Neyer looks into the crystal ball

In 2011, Jeff Bagwell will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time. As we already know, a candidate's chances of getting in on the first ballot have much to do with the "competition" of other 1st-time eligibles. So who is up for consideration with Bagwell? John Franco, Kevin Brown, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, John Olerud, and Larry Walker. Now let's turn it over to Neyer:

Jeff Bagwell is the only obvious first-time candidate next year. And while he will lead the way among the first-timers, he's far from a sure thing. Bagwell's career wasn't particularly long, and he hit fewer home runs than Fred McGriff. Bagwell did have exceptional power, but a great deal of his value came from his plate discipline, his stellar defense and his canny baserunning ... all three attributes unlikely to excite any but the most sophisticated Hall of Fame voters.

Only in baseball can you get away with saying things like this

Brad Mills, on his playing days with new Hall of Famer Andre Dawson:

"He was so quiet. He wasn't real outspoken. He just played the game real hard on the field. Every at-bat he competed and he could beat you with so many things. He could beat you with the bat, beat you with his glove, beat you with his arm and beat you with his wheels. There was just so many ways a guy like that could beat you. You throw all that in with him being an outstanding guy, it's pretty special."

Backe's restaurant opens today!

Brandon Backe's restaurant, Backe's Bullpen, opens today at 11:30am. Someone please, please, please go, and take pictures, and send them to

Backe's Bullpen is a sports bar with plans to serve burgers and fries, though it won't serve those things yet. So it's really just a bar. It's at 2709 Dickinson Avenue, near Dickinson.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Comings and goings. Mostly goings.

Thanks to Anonymous, who posted on the Jeff Hulett recap, we now know that Jeff Hulett has been released. Who else have I missed? (and I hereby offer apologies if you already knew about this)

Dec 11-20:
RHP Tio McLean
1B Kyle Miller
2B Jeff Hulett
SS Jan Baldee
SS Brandon Wilkerson
OF Nathan Metroka
OF Eric Suttle
OF Marques Williams

Suttle was signed as a free agent on May 16, and spent time in Lancaster and Lexington, hitting .249/.342/.312 in 94 games.

Williams spent parts of three seasons in the organization, hitting .228/.285/.293 in 86 career games.

We also see that the Astros signed three players:
RHP Matt Ginter, LHP Jon Switzer, OF David Cook

Ginter has spent parts of seven seasons in the Majors, most recently in 2008 with Cleveland, when he went 1-3 in four starts with a 5.14 ERA / 1.33 WHIP. His most productive year was in 2002 with the White Sox, when he pitched in 33 games - finishing 15 - with a 4.47 ERA. In 2004 with the Mets, he made 14 starts, going 1-3 with a 4.54 ERA / 1.47 WHIP.

Ginter spent 2009 in the Brewers organization as a reliever (though he started three games), going 3-3 with a 3.81 ERA / 1.44 WHIP, with 52K:24BB.

30-year old LHP Jon Switzer, from Clear Lake, was a 2nd-round pick by the Devil Rays in 2001. He played for the Devil Rays (minus 2004 when he was injured) until the 2008 season, when he was with Pawtucket in the Boston organization. In 2009, the Mets signed him to a minor-league deal, where he joined the Big Team for four games, and 3.1IP. In 213 minor-league geames, Switzer has posted a 3.63 ERA / 1.29 WHIP, with 466K:150BB.

28-year old OF David Cook has spent all of his seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox. In 754 games, Cook has hit .260/.373/.474, with 285 XBH-399RBI, and 650K:448BB. He also has a .971 career Fld%, with 31 errors and 32 outfield assists.

Sporting News' NL Central Outlook

The Sporting News' Stan McNeal broke off his NL Central Outlook with a bold proclamation that the Cardinals still remain the favorites with the re-signing of Matt Holliday. What does he say about the Astros?

Pedro Feliz will fit in at third base, and the bullpen shouldn't miss Jose Valverde after adding Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon. Houston also has given former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills his first managing job. But all the Astros have done to address their biggest need -- starting pitching -- is sign Gustavo Chacin to a minor league deal. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007.

And what to do?
With Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez and a strong outfield, the Astros have a chance to be good. Don't count on improvement, though, unless they pick up a couple of starting pitchers. Plenty of veterans remain and the prices should not go up as the offseason continues. The Astros also need a shortstop to replace Miguel Tejada.

Hey McNeal, wipe the Hollidrool off your mouth. And it's Tommy Manzella.

And now for some breaking, though not surprising, news

The Astros won't be making a play for Aroldis Chapman.

Ed Wade:
"In all candor, I don't see us a player in that market at this point. The economics are going to run away from us, only from the standpoint that if we're going to make significant investments in the development system we would like to sign [multiple players]...

...If there was an assurance that Chapman was going to be a top-of-the-rotation starter almost immediately, we would take a different approach. The kid has a great arm and stuff, but we'd rather have the flexibility to sign multiples. That's the approach I've taken since I've gotten this opportunity to be here and gotten our international and Latin American programs to the point they're at now.

"I'd prefer to give Felix Francisco and his guys the ability to go out there and sign multiple good, young arms versus putting the lion's share of our money on one particular guy. We took that approach this past year and lo and behold in December we were able to scrape together money already in the budget to sign Ferreira. Those are the types of things we want to continue to try to do. I'm a little leery committing our [international] resources to one particular guy."

It's not surprising, because it's going to take between $10-15 million to sign Chapman. As OremLK astutely pointed out in the post with the Signing Bonuses, the Astros signed their top 10 picks from 2008 and 2009 for less money than the Nationals gave Strasburg. Combined.

Astros Caravan to Corpus Christi

The Hooks are announcing the Corpus stop on the Astros caravan at the Solomon P. Ortiz Center on January 28, featuring Hunter Pence, Jason Castro, Larry Dierker, and Milo Hamilton. Tickets are $25 and doors open at 11:30am.

In addition to this, Easy Eddie will be the keynote speaker at the 6th South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet on February 4 at the Corpus Omni Bayfront Hotel, at 6:30pm. Tickets are $75, and proceeds from this and the Caravan benefit the Hooks Field of Dreams Program.

Tejada #2 on Heyman's best remaining free agents list; Valverde #5

Jon Heyman's new column has to do with the remaining free agents, now that Bay and Holliday have signed. Johnny Damon is #1, but here comes Miggs next...

Even after a terrific offensive season, his market appears surprisingly thin. The Giants and Phillies signed their third basemen, leaving the Cardinals as the most logical landing spot. St. Louis is believed to want to keep it to a one-year deal, perhaps for $8 million, but eventually the sides should be able to work it out. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested the Holliday might diminish the Cardinals' chances for Tejada. But this is probably his best option. Tejada is a solid choice to play third base and replace Mark DeRosa, who went to the Giants without a fight. If Tejada can't work it out with the Cardinals, he might have to turn to one of the two Texas teams, the Rangers or Astros.

With Feliz in the fold, I don't see a return to Houston as an option for Miggs.

And on Valverde:
The terrific closer apparently didn't want to accept arbitration with the Astros, and now may wind up regretting that call. He probably could have earned at least $10 million via arbitration, but it appears now that the teams looking for closers aren't going to be willing to go there. The Tigers and his former Diamondbacks team look like they may be looking for a fire sale on one of the game's more productive relievers.

We should hope it's the Tigers who come calling, as that will result in an extra first-round pick for the Astros. The Diamondbacks 1st-Rounder is protected, which would give us their 2nd-round pick.

Might this be a clue as to where Lyles will start 2010?

Sometime in the next week or so (I hope), we'll get to Jordan Lyles' season/career recap, and we'll see that he took it to the next level at Lexington in 2009. Travis Driskill was his pitching coach, and can take some credit for that.

So to see McTaggart's report that Driskill will be the pitching coach at Corpus, and former Greeneville pitching coach Rick Aponte will replace him at Lexington, certainly is interesting. Especially when Driskill said Lyles may find himself at Corpus in 2010.

Aponte has been with the Astros in some capacity for 34 years. He was the bullpen coach in Washington in 2007-08, and spent last season as the pitching coach with the GCL Astros.

Dust off your resume, because the Astros still need pitching coaches at Greeneville and the GCL.

Cardinals still interested in Tejada

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold addresses the "What Now?" for the Cardinals, now that they've spent $17 million a year until 2017. Seeing as how they still need an SP5, 3B, and another reliever.

The club has been intrigued with free-agent infielder Miguel Tejada, a former MVP and a shortstop who had 199 hits last season for the Houston Astros. The Cardinals' interest is predicated on Tejada's willingness to move to third base and the possibility of fitting him in on a short-term deal. Members of the Cardinals' leadership have eyed Tejada as a trade target in recent seasons, and manager Tony La Russa recently stated publicly that the club has "talked about Miguel."

Lexington Legends: Jeff Hulett

Jeff Hulett
How did he get here?: Drafted, 12th Round (2008)
Stats: 6'0", 185 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22

Splits (with Lexington, following the season totals)!

vs LHP29.310/.394/.4486:33-5
vs RHP79.241/.303/.26625:61-10
Bases Empty58.207/.292/.25918:62-0
Runners On50.320/.368/.38013:32-15

Season Totals

YearK:BB RatioK/PA %K:BBXBH/H %

Hulett spent 27 of his 28 games in the field for Lexington at 3B, committing 11 errors for an .863 Fld%. He also spent time at 1B, 2B, C, and DH between Lexington and Tri-City.

Hulett was hitting .189/.246/.208 in 19 games at Tri-City when, naturally, he got promoted to Lexington (I think it was a playing time issue, and I'm not being snarky). And he fared much, better, hitting .259/.328/.315 for the Legends over the remaining 32 games of the season. Still, Hulett has only put together 297 plate appearances, so there's not much to base any judgments on - but I do like those Runners On/RISP splits. And I also like the away splits over the home splits. Let's see what a full season in Lexington can bring.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Now that the turkey has worn off, baseball apparently will wake up

From McTaggart's new blog post:

Ed Wade:
"It's pretty quiet, even from an industry standpoint. I talked to some other clubs and talked a few agents over the holidays and things seem to be very quiet on just about every front. That will change now that everybody is back from the holidays and we've still got a rather large list of free agents out there. By virtue of the fact you have a lot of players on the free agent market, that could have an impact on trade discussions as well. It's not a great trade environment at this point in time because teams will wait to see if they can satisfy their needs through free agency rather than giving up players in return."

Maybe you've thought that it would be smart to lock up Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn to long-term deals, and that this might even save The Apparatus some money, provided that there's no real reason to think that Wandy and Pence can't repeat their 2009 performances (Bourn...there's a possibility he won't repeat 2009) and avoid what could possibly be contentious arbitration negotiations. You would be wrong.

"At this point, our focus is going to be a year at a time. That could change, but at this point we think it's proven to stay short versus long. Our goal and our expectation is to get all of our eligible players signed and not have to go through the process itself."

How do you feel about this?

Josh Banks signs with Astros

I'd been hearing rumors about this, but didn't have the stones (that's funny, because I'm listening to Sticky Fingers right now. But you're not in the same room as I, so this part is just a waste of your time) to write anything about it.

The Astros have signed Padres pitcher Josh Banks to a minor-league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Banks, a RHP who will be 28 in July, was a 2003 2nd-round pick by the Blue Jays, where he spent part of the 2007 season (another Arnsberg arm). He was released in April 2008 and picked up off waivers by the Padres, where he spent parts of two seasons, compiling a 4-7 record with a 5.25 ERA / 1.48 WHIP in 23 games (17 starts).

Banks was 1-5 last season in six starts for the Padres with his one win coming against, of course, the Astros.

In Triple-A Portland last year, Banks was 7-7 with a 3.46 ERA / 1.25 WHIP.

And now we have some reaction. Take it away, Ricky Bennett:

He had pretty good numbers last year in Triple-A Portland and is another quality arm we feel we can add to our depth. He will be in big league camp and will be competing for a spot in the rotation, and we'll try to get him innings out of the bullpen as the long guy. Once we get to camp and he has a couple of innings under his belt, we'll try to stretch him out and see how he fits...

..."We were having conversations with Banks all along knowing in the back of our minds that Sadowski may choose to go to Japan, and that's actually what happened. We knew going into it that it was a possibility. We went ahead and signed him in the event that it worked itself out, but it wasn't a surprise for us."

Ryan Sadowski, as you may recall, was reported to have signed with a team in Korea. Now I guess it's Japan.

Arbitration Filing begins today!

Today is the day players can file for arbitration, and players and teams can exchange numbers on January 19. If there hasn't been an agreement made by February 1, the case goes before a panel of arbiters (arbitrators?)

Here'san excellent explanation of arbitration from

One interesting stat from the article:
What few envisioned was what happened last year, when the 111 players eligible for salary arbitration (eligibility now begins after three years of service) set a new record by receiving an average pay increase of 172 percent.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Want to see some signing bonuses?

In a post that makes me question my very existence and reason for pursuing what I feel to be a meaningful existence, I decided to do some looking on signing bonuses for draft picks. Let's organize this based on signing bonus:

J. Flores20054-134$217,500
E. Hernandez20096-191$150K
E. Castro200910-311$105K

Caravan time

It's January, and that means it's time for some caravans. While the Astros Caravan itinerary will be announced in the next few days, Round Rock has gotten the jump on it.

The 2010 Astros Caravan Luncheon will be held at Dell Diamond on Tuesday, Jan 26 at 11am.

Along with Astros’ front office representatives, former Astros greats Jeff Bagwell and Jim Deshaies will be featured guests along with current Astros Matt Lindstrom and Bud Norris. Baseball Hall of Famer and 1992 Ford Frick Award recipient Milo Hamilton, the radio voice of the Astros since 1987, also is scheduled to be in attendance.

Tickets are $40 per person, or $300 for a table of eight.

Notes from McTaggart's inbox

McTaggart has a new inbox up. What can we learn?

Berkman probably isn't going anywhere, but Oswalt...?
But I'm sure if the Astros are struggling in July, there will be a few suitors calling general manager Ed Wade to ask about Oswalt. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Oswalt ask for a trade at some point if he feels the window on winning is closing and he could go to another team with a better chance at a ring. Astros owner Drayton McLane wants Oswalt and Berkman to finish their careers in Houston, but I'm sure he's sensitive to both men's desire to get a ring, too.

There may be something to this "Round Rock to the Rangers" thing:
Texas' Triple-A club is in Oklahoma and the Double-A club is in Frisco, just outside Dallas, so those make better sense geographically for the Rangers than Round Rock and Corpus Christi. But I wouldn't be surprised to see some affiliate changes next offseason.

Paulino could be the next Wandy:
I'm excited to see what Arnsberg and a new set of eyes and beliefs can do with some of these young pitchers, and Paulino is at the top of that list. If he stays healthy and can turn it around, the Astros could have themselves another Rodriguez.

How does #19 sound?

Because that's the pick the Tigers have in the 2010 draft. And it makes sense for the Tigers to sign Jose Valverde, according to Smilin' Ken Rosenthal.

In theory, Valverde could increase his possibilities by considering offers to set up – the Cubs, for example, could sign him as protection for Carlos Marmol.

Valverde, however, probably will not want to settle for a reduced role. He led the National League in saves in 2007 and ’08, and converted all 17 of his chances with a 1.64 ERA after the All-Star break last season. His best outcome would be to close for one year, then re-enter the market.

The Tigers would forfeit a first-round pick for signing him – a significant obstacle. A team that finished with one of the 15 worst overall records last season would lose, at worst, a second rounder.

Prediction: Tigers

Lexington Legends: Federico Hernandez

Federico Hernandez
How did he get here?: Signed contract, March 2006
Stats: 6'0", 170 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP89.258/.267/.40417:17-12
vs RHP258.221/.269/.30248:1614-23
Bases Empty185.238/.269/.33536:711-3
Runners On162.222/.267/.32129:1010-32

Season Totals

YearK:BB RatioK/PA %K:BBXBH/H %

Hernandez spent 95 games behind the plate for the Legends in 2009, committing eight errors, with 14 passed balls, for a .989 Fld%. He allowed 57 stolen bases, catching 25 batters, for a 30% caught-stealing rate.

Hernandez did a pretty good job for the Gastros in Greeneville in 2008, hitting .298/.347/.447, so to see him slide back like this offensively - while the SAL isn't exactly known for being a hitter's league - is somewhat surprising. His K/PA rate has stayed pretty much the same throughout his four years in the Astros organization, so we'll just have to see what 2010 brings...and where. Hernandez started off strong, hitting three homers in April, before floundering until August, when he won a Trainee of the Month award from AC. Will he get another shot at Lexington, or move to Lancaster?

A rumor ain't a rumor that won't die

In T.R. Sullivan's mailbag today, there's a question about the Rangers shuffling their minor league affiliations. T.R.:

Nolan Ryan is the Rangers president and he owns Astros affiliates in Corpus Christi and Round Rock. Myrtle Beach, which operates in the Class A Carolina League, might end up being a Rangers affiliate instead of Bakersfield, which has an antiquated stadium. There are also hints that Round Rock could replace Oklahoma City as the Rangers Triple-A affiliate. My vote would be to stay in Oklahoma City.

Lexington Legends: Russell Dixon

Russell Dixon
How did he get here?: Drafted, 7th Round (2007)
Stats: 6'2", 205 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 24

Splits (further breakdown with Lexington)!

vs LHP23.261/.292/.3915:01-4
vs RHP139.151/.232/.20924:138-9
Bases Empty83.145/.228/.16916:72-0
Runners On79.190/.253/.30413:67-13

Season Totals

YearK:BB RatioK/PA %K:BBXBH/H %

Dixon spent most of his time defensively in 2009 in RF, committing four errors for a .975 Fld%.

Dixon bounced around between Lexington and Tri-City in 2009, beginning the season in Lexington, and getting sent down after a disastrous May. He was brought back up on August 11 after hitting .302/.350/.373 for Tri-City in 38 games, where he put together a strong-ish August. Dixon doesn't strike out a lot, but his low average indicates something else at work. Whether it's bad luck or just hitting the ball where those pesky defenders are all the time, I'm not sure.

Bray Day! Episode 13

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 has been a while since I have posted. I hope all of you had a great Christmas and New Years. I know I did and I can't wait to head to Florida to get away from this cold weather. I was in Pennsylvania for Christmas and came back right before New Year's.

So you've graduated and are done with school. How did finals go and what happens now?

My question will be answered now due to the fact that school is over now and exams went well. Now all I have to do is concentrate on baseball. I have been working out hard and getting into shape. My days freed up with no class and go to the gym and the field to work out. Then to an indoor facility to work out at as well. Things have been going well. I have made some changes, talked to some guys that have played pro ball before and got some input. I found out how to take Spring Training. It is long and hard. Being in shape is my number one priority. I am looking forward to going to Florida, it is only a few months away. I hope all of you have a great week.

Thanks, Aaron

Got a question for Aaron? Send it to

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lexington Legends: Phil Disher

Phil Disher
How did he get here?: Drafted, 15th Round (2008)
Stats: 6'2", 215 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 24


vs LHP27.185/.353/.4445:73-6
vs RHP101.149/.237/.21846:113-11
Bases Empty74.122/.235/.21629:113-2
Runners On54.204/.302/.33322:73-15

Season Totals

YearK:BB RatioK/PA %K:BBXBH/H %

Disher spent most of his time in 2009 at 1B, where he committed five errors for a .984 Fld%.

If you followed Tri-City in 2008, this probably wasn't the Phil Disher you were expecting to see. Disher enjoyed a first-year pro campaign in which he posted a .916 OPS, with 13 HR and 56 RBI in 71 games at Tri-City. So for this to happen, there has to be something else going on, right? Well, yep. Disher had surgery on bad hip, and didn't play after May 25. He was playing the instructional league back in October, so we'll hold off judgment.

Lexington Legends: Michael Diaz

Michael Diaz
How did he get here?: Drafted, 37th Round (2007)
Stats: 5'10", 160 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP50.160/.263/.1808:31-4
vs RHP270.256/.291/.33338:1214-27
Bases Empty189.212/.247/.28629:68-3
Runners On131.282/.340/.34417:97-28

Season Totals

YearK:BB RatioK/PA %K:BBXBH/H %

Diaz was all over the place for the Legends, getting at least one game at CF, SS, 1B, 2B, 3B, and DH. He spent most of his time as a DH, but defensively spent most of his time at 2B, where he posted a .981 Fld%.

If you noticed something off about the season totals, you were correct. Diaz got one AB with Corpus, and struck out. But I digress. If Diaz is going to be a DH, he'll need to hit the ball a little bit better. He doesn't strike out much, and his Away splits are more fun to look at than his Home splits, but still. However, his improving slash lines from bases empty to runners on to RISP are impressive.