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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Crane to follow Rangers' model

Here's an interview with Jim Crane from a Florida newspaper covering the re-opening of Crane's golf club:

I think our goal ... is to build the minor league team first and once we have that loaded up and the players start to develop and come up, we will go ahead and sign some free agents as (Rangers) have to help compliment them. We will emulate (the Rangers) model as we try to improve the Astros.

Also contained in the interview is that Crane is exploring moving Spring Training facilities away from Kissimmee, and sharing facilities with the New York Mets.

Pirates look likely for Barmes

Ken Rosenthal says that the Pirates are in the lead for the services of Clint Barmes, with the Giants and Brewers also competing on who gets his slick glove for the next two seasons.

Should this go down, it raises the possibility that the Astros will defer the option of playing shortstop, and just mount a Derek Jeter Fathead on a four-sided piece of cardboard and stick it between 2nd and 3rd base.

Wallace released by Escogido

Duuude, things are not looking good for Brett Wallace. Especially now that he has been released by his Dominican Winter League team, Escogido (managed by OKC manager Tony DeFrancesco).

Ed Wade, who did not know about this:
“He’s been struggling down there, and it’s a very competitive environment."

Wallace has been removed from Escogido's roster and stats page, but Steve Campbell notes that he was hitting .173 (9x52) in 20 games. Remaining 1Bs for Escogido include Willis Otanez and Fernando Tatis. Yes, that Fernando Tatis.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Astros add Clemens to 40-man roster

With tonight's deadline to get Rule 5 eligible players protected from the Rule 5 draft, the Astros added Paul Clemens to the 40-man roster today. They also signed Lance Pendleton (a Rule 5 selection from 2010) to a minor-league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Take Your Mind Off the Sale by Talking Prospects

The Minor League Ball Astros preliminary prospect list is up for discussion here.

Big quote: This one is actually not too long

"This one is actually not too long" ~she

Astros to watch Grady Sizemore exercise

Via Native_Astro, we learn through MLB Network Radio that the Astros will be watching Grady Sizemore run around and try not to break any bones.

Tranzactionz!

On this dark, bleak day, we have some other tranzactionz to report, courtesy of Baseball America. In addition to the signings of Erick Abreu (re-signed), Joe Thurston, Scott Moore, Brad Snyder, and Nick Stavinoha, the Astros have released:

-Joan Belliard
-Danilo Del Rio
-Pedro Gomez
-Mark Jones
-Garrett Bullock
-Travis Smink
-Ronald Sanchez
-Miguel Arrendell
-Jacke Healey

Smink was the 31st Round pick in the 2009 draft, Jacke Healey was the 27th Round pick in the 2010 draft, and Mark Jones was the 22nd Round pick in the 2009 draft. Miguel Arrendell started 2011 at Lancaster and, while he enjoyed a little offensive resurgence (.281/.357/.404), the Astros saw all they needed to see after six seasons of a combined .241/.365/.322 line.

12 minutes into the new regime and there's a short list of GM candidates

Richard Justice's breathtakingly fast article on the new ownership of Jim Crane already (and, fairly, it should be added) questions the longevity of Ed Wade:

General manager Ed Wade appears most vulnerable, but Crane and Postolos have steadfastly refused to comment on his status until after they actually took over the club.Among those believed to be under consideration if a change is made is Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman, a Houston native. Former Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker and Texas Rangers executive A.J. Preller also appear to be under consideration.

Done.

Looks like Danny Knobler was the quickest to 140 characters, announcing that Selig has approved the sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane.

And one minute later, he announces the Astros are moving to the American League.

Jon Heyman says the vote was unanimous.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America posted their Organizational Report for the Astros this morning.

Here are your Top 10 prospects:

1. Jonathan Singleton
2. Jarred Cosart
3. George Springer
4. Jonathan Villar
5. Paul Clemens
6. Domingo Santana
7. Brett Oberholtzer
8. Delino DeShields, Jr
9. Mike Foltynewicz
10. Telvin Nash

Click the link for the big report, but there are a few things to note:

*Six of those top ten were not in the system as of July 1, 2011.
*Ariel Ovando, who received the largest bonus in club history, is not on the list.

Morosi: Houston sucks, so that's why it's easier for them to move

Jon Paul Morosi brings a whole lot of blunt with him in this article on realignment.

But let’s be honest: The Astros can make this transition more easily than most clubs, because their current roster isn’t very good. Ed Wade (or a new GM, if Crane decides to make a change) can rebuild the team in the AL style. The Astros will need to hire a DH after next season, which gives them plenty of time to adjust. And if there is any upside to finishing with the worst record in baseball, it’s a blank canvas...

...The process behind it all was lengthy and imperfect, with repeated interruptions and the uncomfortable history of Crane’s settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the basic outcome – the Astros moving to the AL – is a happy one. That the franchise effectively sold its NL identity for the sum of $70 million tells you something about how much it mattered in the first place.

Might Brett Wallace get moved?

We're four and a half months away from Opening Day, and I'm already pissed about the lineup. Why? Because ESPN's Jim Bowden says that (Insider-only) Carlos Lee is the starting first baseman for 2012.

What does it mean for Brett Wallace? For Bowden, it means that it opens up a trade with the Indians - who are not convinced that Matt LaPorta (the big prospect Cleveland got from Milwaukee in the Sabathia trade) will hit. Sound familiar?

Where's Koby?

Koby Clemens apparently bailed on his Winter Ball team, the Mayaguez Indians, and didn't provide a reason. Here's the original report from Puerto Rico, in which Mayaguez is seeking to keep Koby from playing for any other Winter League team.

Mayaguez owner Daniel Aquino:
"The paperwork will explain that he didn’t give reasons for abandoning the team. With this document we’re meeting the rules of the Caribbean Baseball Confederation, which assert that no one who abandons a team without good reason can play in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or Venezuela … I’d like the fans and everyone else to know that we’re not looking to sanction Clemens. Even less do we wish to do him harm. We’re only following procedure.”

HBT mentions dueling rumors that Koby was worried about getting kidnapped, a la Wilson Ramos, and Roger Clemens told him to leave; and also that Roger told him to stay. It's all very dramatic. More to come.

Maybe there was an easier way

The Seattle Times' Larry Stone has an interesting article, where he looks at how there are a lot of Astros fans who are fairly pissed off about how this whole realignment thing went down (imagine that. I had no idea.)

He also mentions the Crawfish Boxes, so well done to TCB. But here's an interesting little side note:

*It has always been my understanding that original Arizona owner Jerry Colangelo and original Tampa Bay owner Vince Naimoli signed agreements upon their entrance into baseball that they could be made to switch leagues without their approval after two years. I honestly don't know if that agreement is still in place -- I'm doing some digging.

Well, well. Should this prove to be true, I'm going to get my boxers right in a wad. We will also do some digging...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yeah, it looks like Selig bullied Crane

Hey, Here's an AP article in which a source said that MLB wouldn't approve the sale unless Crane approved a move to the American League.

Crane was forced to agree to move the sale along, a person familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made by MLB or the Astros.

NOW how do you feel about Crane?

Carlos Corporan out

Carlos Corporan has cleared waivers and can elect free agency, or can just go to OKC, and not collect $200.

Why the free agency? Because he was outrighted off the 40-Man Roster already this year, and 29 teams passed on him. Since this is the 2nd time, he's been passed on by 29 teams, he can shop his services to those 29 teams a third time.

Bernie's Crew on the value of realignment

Milwaukee blog Bernie's Crew brings it with a post about just how helpful this realignment will be for Major League Baseball. There's a lot of good stuff here, so just click the link.

The "Good News" about the Astros

Here's a story where national baseball writers pretend like they give two craps about the Astros.

The good news is that this team is close to being free of all of its major contracts, and they still have pieces they can deal for prospects (Rodriguez, Myers, even Lyon if a team is desperate for relief help). Crane is taking over to do the job that McLane couldn't bring himself to do: rebuild the Astros. It's going to take a long time to rebuild, considering shopping for supplies has barely begun, but with time, the organization can finally get back on track.

Hunter Pence: Dating a playmate

Check out Philly blog Crossing Broad to see a picture of the playmate that Hunter Pence is apparently dating.

Crane gets his discount, Selig gets his balanced leagues

Okay, so lots of info coming out yesterday evening about the Astros final sale price, and just what kind of a discount Jim Crane is getting for moving to the American League, which - as Mark Berman reports - is a condition of the transfer of the franchise.

Richard Justice reported that the final price was $610 million, $70 million less than originally agreed to. Major League Baseball is kicking in $35 million, and Drayton is kicking in $35 million (although, if you recall, Drayton was kicking in some money to Crane and retaining a minority investment) to lower the final price to $610 million for the Astros and the RSN.

So despite Drayton saying that he wouldn't accept less money because any deal was between Crane and MLB, it seems like Drayton either backed down, or was railroaded.

Why give Crane that discount? One MLB Official:
"We understand that Houston has been a National League city for 49 seasons, and there's some resistance about moving. We also understand there could be some damage (to the franchise), and that's what these negotiations were about. We wanted to be fair."

I'm not going to sit here and rail against moving to the AL, and how unfair it is, and OMGWHYNOTMOVETHEBREWERS, because it does absolutely no good now. Moving the Astros to the American League may hurt the franchise, but as long as it's in the "best interests of baseball," Selig can get away with it. The Astros were vulnerable, and they got moved because it was the path of least resistance.

Nolan Ryan, obviously, is very excited, according to the official:
"I spoke to Nolan Ryan, and he's really excited. He thinks it's going to be a very good thing."

Of course he does. The worst team in baseball just got added to his division.

Ooooh, what does this mean for Brandon Lyon?

Ken Rosenthal (and/or Jon Paul Morosi) talked to Ed Wade, who probably has mixed emotions about the sale of the Astros. Anyhow, they suggest the Astros won't be big players in free agency (no shock), thinking that maybe the Astros will get a shortstop, and some low-cost relief pitching. But how about that closer situation? It's not Brandon Lyon - it's Mark Melancon.

Wade:
“The plan is for us to recognize that we’re rebuilding, to fill our needs with as many young players as we can.”

Wade also goes on to mention that the corner outfield spots will be manned by combinations of Martinez, Shuck, Bourgeois, and Bogusevic.

Wade:
“We’re pretty much the land of opportunity right now.”

Write-up on Jonathan Singleton

The site Seedlings to Stars has a write-up on new Astro Jonathan Singleton.

There's a lot to unpack, so here's your money quote:
There’s a lot to like about Singleton when you consider what he’s accomplished as a teenager, but the offensive bar is set extremely high for a first baseman, and while his polish is admirable, there are serious questions about what more he’ll be capable of providing.

Qs, As with Jonathan Meyer

2009 3rd Round pick Jonathan Meyer has spent three years in the Astros system, advancing a level in each season. In 2009, he hit .190/.301/.299 for Greeneville; .245/.304/.317 for Lexington in 2010; and .264/.343/.399 for Lancaster in 2011. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Let's read, shall we?


AC: You have improved your numbers in each season you've been with the Astros, despite advancing a level in each season. What adjustments are you making, and what have your first three pro seasons taught you about playing?

JM: My first two years I really tired myself out. I've learned that I need to pace myself better throughout the season while still working hard and trying to get better everyday. I also set up a good routine for myself this year in Lancaster: I would come to the field two hours early to just relax and not have to rush to get ready.

AC: One of the things that stands out about your 2011 is that you hit 14 homers - after hitting five homers combined in 2009/2010. While most would chalk it up to the Lancaster Effect, half of those homers came on the road. How did your approach at the plate change in 2011 from the first two seasons?

JM: I did my best in this last off-season to get stronger. I focused mainly on my legs and core strength along with a lot of flexibility. Mentally, I focused on keeping my approach simple at the plate.

AC: You've been noted by teammate Jordan Comadena, as well as your manager and former high school coach, for your work ethic. Where does your drive and motivation come from?

JM: My dad has instilled motivation in me at a very young age. He taught me how to go about my business and what I need to do to be a better player. When I was around 4, I went to a Dodger game and asked my mom how Mike Piazza made money and she told me he made money playing baseball. I turned toward her and said, "That is what I wanna do." Ever since then, I have always been able to motivate myself because I love to play this game.

AC: It's been mentioned in a few interviews that you take pride in your defensive ability. After bouncing (in high school) between pitcher, catcher, and third base, where are you more comfortable, and how have those position changes helped your defense?

JM: In little league and high school I pitched and played short. Before pro ball I played third only a couple times in scout ball. The changes I have had to make at third is the quickness of the play. In Greenville, I rushed everything, I learned I have a lot more time over at third.

AC: What are you working on this off-season to prepare for a 2012 that will likely see you in Corpus at some point?

JM: I am going to work more on my range and strength this offseason.
-

Big thanks to Jonathan Meyer for taking the time to answer these questions!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brewers to meet with Barmes

From Brian McTaggart, we get this report from the Brewers' version of Brian McTaggart:

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin will meet Wednesday with Barry Meister, the agent for free agent shortstop Clint Barmes. The Brewers showed some interest in Barmes before last July’s nonwaiver trade deadline, but never progressed because of a well-timed hot streak by incumbent Yuniesky Betancourt and indications from the Astros they were not inclined to move Barmes.

That's true. Jerry Crasnick mentioned via Twitter that the Brewers were interested in Barmes on July 20, something followed up on by ESPN's Rumor Central on July 26. But on the evening of July 29 (the day the Astros traded Pence), McTaggart said the Astros were telling people Barmes was unavailable.

Typical Astros, keep a guy who could have brought a prospect or two, only to see him walk in the off-season with no compensation coming back. Now let's see the Astros sign him to a 9-year, $63 million deal. And trade him for a bag of balls next July.

The path of choosing a Designated Hitter

So now that it's a slam-dunk that the Astros will be in the American League, they'll have to figure out who will be the Designated Hitter. Who should it be? Let's run a list, eh?

First, let's see who Designatedly Hat in the 2011 road interleague series:

Carlos Lee (5x25).

Okay, so let's rule that out, since 2013 is the first time since dinosaurs roamed the land that the Astros won't pay him gajillions of dollars.

Who should the Astros use as their DH, assuming that this whole "let's not pay anybody" business model holds until Jim Crane can afford to buy random crap out of SkyMall again? Remember, we'd be looking for someone whose defense is shaky or can't exactly cover ground.

In 2011, DHs hit .266/.341/.430 (the 2nd-highest OPS by position, behind 1B). That .771 OPS is higher than any Astro with more than 300 PAs (who also ended 2011 on the Astros), except for Carlos Lee.

Brian Bogusevic has a laser of an arm, which would be a shame to negate. Matt Downs may prove valuable in the field, especially if Barmes does walk. J.B. Shuck doesn't quite fit the DH mold (perhaps the laziest thought I'll ever have). Who does that leave? For me, anyway, it leaves J.D. Martinez.

It's pretty clear in the short time that Martinez has been a pro that he can hit. There have been questions about his defense. I'm trying to find the link, but Martinez may also have a pre-arthritic condition in his knees. So why not use him as the DH, at least for 2013, and see how it goes, before going out and getting Berkman to be the DH - which I can totally see the Astros doing.

Astros might not get a comp pick for Barmes

Part of the reason you may like the Astros to offer arbitration to Clint Barmes is because he would likely fetch a compensation pick, if he declines and is signed by another team (though why he would decline is totally beyond me). But to quote the minor prophet Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend."

McTaggart links to a New York Post report that part of the new CBA could include eliminating compensation picks for Type B free agents.

So, Ed Wade, or Unnamed GM, proceed carefully.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Well, that's that.

Granted, it comes from Jon Heyman, but he just tweeted:

Prospective astros owner Jim crane has agreed to go to AL in 2013. He gets about $50M discount to go. He still needs vote of owners.

More from Heyman:

One ML owner: crane started to look like good guy when he ponied up $600M, looked like great guy when he agreed to go to AL.

So if you had any doubts about this being a power + money play, that should just about settle that.

Meanwhile, USA Today's Bob Nightengale puts the compensation for Crane/Houston at $80 million.

Jordan Schafer has to go back to court

While we wrap up a post on former 100-loss teams, and how long it takes for them to recover, we can all read about how a continuance was filed in the Jordan Schafer vs. Marijuana case. Short version: He'll have to go back to court on November 28.