Thursday, January 12, 2012

Astros sign Hector Corpas

Via Baseball America's transaction page, we see that the Astros have signed RHP Hector Corpas.

As Matt Eddy notes:
Released by the Cardinals in December, Hector Corpas rejoins Jeff Luhnow and other former members of the St. Louis front office in the Astros' remade front office. Corpas signed out of Venezuela in ’07 and advanced to low Class A in the Cardinals system.

Corpas is 6'3", 170lbs, and spent 2011 with St. Louis' single-A team, where he had a rough go of it: 39.2IP, 48H/32ER, 31K:17BB, for a 7.26 ERA/1.64 WHIP.

Call the PO-lice!

Alyson Footer tweeted a picture of the Astros' clubhouse, with all sorts of players getting their swole on.

But we noticed this:

It's never too early to start getting pissed off writers shared their thoughts on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot - you know, the one that comes with a soapbox and a briefcase full of revisionist moralizing.

Here's how it relates to the Astros:

Mike Bauman: Yes on Biggio, Yes on Bagwell
Barry Bloom*: Yes on Biggio, Yes on Bagwell
Hal Bodley: No on Biggio (I do not feel Piazza, Schilling and Biggio are legitimate first-ballot candidates.). Maybe on Bagwell
Peter Gammons: Yes on Biggio, Yes on Bagwell
Ken Gurnick: No on anybody who played in the Steroid Era
Chris Haft: Tentative Yes on Biggio, Tentative Yes on Bagwell
Paul Hagen: No on Biggio, Yes on Bagwell
Richard Justice: Yes on Biggio, Yes on Bagwell
Dick Kaegel: Too complicated
Terence Moore: Undecided
Carrie Muskat*: This year, I plan on doing more homework regarding the new candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot. I want to talk to others in the game and will then make a decision.
Mark Newman: Yes on Biggio, Yes on Bagwell
Marty Noble: Biggio is an "unstained candidate." Undecided on Bagwell
Tom Singer: Yes on Biggio, Yes on Bagwell
Lyle Spencer: Craig Biggio will be given serious consideration, but I'm not sure he's a first-ballot guy. Undecided on Bagwell
T.R. Sullivan: Biggio should be a first-ballot lock. It would be great if Bagwell joins him.

*Barry Bloom, if you recall, had this to say about Bagwell for 2012:
I just think he’s a very good player, but not of Hall of Fame caliber. His numbers are very similar to Steve Garvey...
So I'm not sure what changed from two weeks ago to yesterday where he now thinks that Bagwell is a Hall of Famer. Maybe it was all the brow-beating.

*And, hooray for Carrie Muskat! She's going to do some more homework, which is good, because she only voted for Barry Larkin in 2012, in part because he "was a team captain." Teams with no captains = no Hall of Famers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

So. Many. Outfielders.

In the wake of the Fernando Martinez waiver claim, here are the other outfielders vying for spots in 2012, with 2011 stats:

Brian Bogusevic: .287/.348/.457 (182 PAs)
Jason Bourgeois: .294/.323/.357 (238 PAs)
Carlos Lee: .275/.342/.446 (653 PAs)
J.D. Martinez: .274/.319/.423 (226 PAs)
Jordan Schafer: .242/.309/.315 (337 PAs)
J.B. Shuck: .272/.359/.321 (92 PAs)

Al Pedrique out, Pettini in

Al Pedrique - bench coach for the past two seasons - has resigned his position after he was told that he was being reassigned to Bullpen Coach, a void left by Jamie Quirk's move to the Cubs.

“I’m leaving. I resigned after being told I was going to be the bullpen coach.”

Short. Sweet. To the point. Hemingway would love it.

McTaggart says the Astros have hired Joe Pettini, who had spent the last ten years as Tony LaRussa's bench coach in St. Louis.

Luhnow, on Pettini, to Mark Berman:
"The way he runs spring training. The way he organizes all of the fundamentals, he really brings so much experience to the game. He was a minor league field coordinator for many years before that. He just has a really deep understanding of all the elements of the game. His experience is invaluable and the fact that we were able to get someone like him is an opportunity I really felt we couldn't miss."

Here's a Derrick Goold story on Pettini from May 2011:
Pettini, 56, doesn't have the headlines or longevity of pitching coach Dave Duncan, he doesn't have the former-player following of Jose Oquendo, but he has emerged was La Russa's utility coach. Pettini's daily role is as bench coach, but at times he's filled in for Oquendo as third-base coach, he's taken over at first base when Dave McKay is ailing, and no coach is busier than Pettini when it comes to spring training.

Here's a Pettini interview with the Birdhouse, a Cardinals blog. Spoiler: Pettini uses geometry for infield defensive positioning.
Also, the Astros hired Matt Sinatro as the ML Catching Coach/Advance Scouting Coordinator; Dan Radison is now a special assistant in player development; Mike Elias as a special assistant to the scouting department.

Radison was fired by the Nationals with Jim Riggleman when he said Riggleman was his "best friend in the whole world."
But if you're Bobby Heck or Fred Nelson, don't worry, 'cos you're staying right where you are.

Henry Villar designated for assignment, more Martinez

The Astros have designated Henry Villar for assignment to make room for Fernando Martinez on the 40-man roster.

So, for some more about this much-heralded Fernando Martinez:

*Injuries have hampered his progress. According to the Adam Rubin notes Martinez' arthritic knee "that severely limits his mobility, even when he's technically healthy."

*The New York Daily News' Andy Martino:
The Mets publicly conceded what they had long since concluded internally: Martinez’s long history of injuries, which included arthritic knees at the age 23, outweighed his potential. Though one rival executive said, "The talent is still there."

Seedlings to Stars' Wally Fish:
I don’t think it would be fair to call any 22-year old player a bust as long as he’s still in the game and has shown flashes of being a future major league contributor. In the case of Fernando Martinez he has obviously failed to live up to expectations, but from my perspective those expectations were a little unrealistic.

*FanGraphs asked yesterday if Fernando Martinez was worth a waiver claim.
He’s a low-risk buy, but it’s really tough to argue that Martinez is capable of providing a high reward anymore. It’s always possible that Martinez is just a late-bloomer — which is why a team would take a shot on him — but age and performance are no longer on his side.

Astros may have claimed Fernando Martinez

With a captip to a bunch of you, it looks as though (and here) the Astros have claimed 23-year old outfielder Fernando Martinez off waivers from the Mets.

He only has 145 PAs from 2009-11 for the Mets, but has been a much-heralded prospect. Baseball America ranked him in their Top 30 prospects from 2007-09, and put him at #77 prior to 2010.

In three seasons at Triple-A, Martinez has hit .265/.326/.465, with a .776 OPS in six minor-league seasons.

UPDATE: Yeah, the Astros claimed Fernando Martinez.

Adam Rubin has this quote, from Martinez:
"I hope the change of scenery will help me revive my career. I'm anxious to begin this new stage. ... If I'm healthy and I'm given the opportunity, I'm going to hit. Now I'm healthy and only waiting for my work visa in order to go train in Miami and then spring training."

"The single biggest commitment in the history of the Houston Astros"

When the 2006 season ended, the Astros were coming off an 82-80 record, and a final two-month stretch where they went 33-24. On September 28, 2006 Roy Oswalt beat Tom Gorzelanny and the Pirates, 3-0, to close the Cardinals' division lead to half a game. Roger Clemens lost a 4-1 game to the Braves' Chuck James (while the Cardinals beat Milwaukee, 10-5) to push the Astros back to 1.5GB, the final deficit of the season.

But the Astros, at least on paper, had reason to feel good. They were a year removed from a World Series appearance, and had been 1st or 2nd in the division for six straight seasons (and twelve of the previous thirteen seasons from 1994-2006). If you didn't really look at the minor-league system, the Astros had put together as dynastic a franchise as you could find in the NL Central.

Sure, the average age of the position players was 30.5 (and pitchers 29.8), but the Astros were going to do what they had always done - and that was compete. The Astros didn't rebuild. And they had money to spend. Roger Clemens ($12.2m) and Andy Pettitte ($16.4m) were coming off the books for 2007. Oswalt, Adam Everett, Morgan Ensberg, etc, would be getting raises, but nothing approaching the $28m available for free agents.

In 2006, the Astros were last in batting average (.255), next-to-last in slugging (.409), and were in the lower half of OBP (.332), resulting in a .741 OPS, ever-so-slightly higher than the Cubs, and only better than the Pirates. Preston Wilson was the primary LF in 2006, hitting .269/.309/.405 until he got released on August 12 (and signed with the Cardinals six days later), and the Astros could look at possible replacements.

28-year old Luke Scott got 249 PAs, and hit .336/.426/.661 (including 50 games at LF, where he hit .340/.426/.612). Would they give him a chance to be the everyday left fielder?

When free agency opened, there were some big fish out there. Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, and Aramis Ramirez (who opted out of his deal with the Cubs) were the prime position players in addition to Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt, and a Japanese pitcher named Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The name that stood out to most Astros fans was Carlos Lee. Lee was traded midway through the 2006 season by the Brewers (when they realized they weren't going to be able to re-sign him to a long-term deal) to the Rangers on July 28, who were 2.5GB of the Angels, and 2GB of the A's. But the Rangers weren't interested in re-signing Lee.

During 2003-2006, Lee hit .290/.344/.513 (119 OPS+), with 131 homers, 329K:206BB, for (according to FanGraphs) a 14.1 WAR over those four seasons. Also, Lee had a cattle ranch in Wharton. Surely he would be interested in Houston, with its short left field?

But Houston wasn't the only team looking to spend the owner's money. Nick Cafardo listed the Cubs, Red Sox, Orioles, and Astros as the four major players in the 2006 free agent market. The Cubs were interested in Soriano and Lee, as were the Orioles, the Dodgers, and the Phillies.

Phillies' GM Pat Gillick, on Lee:
"He's a nice looking player, someone who would definitely draw some interest," Gillick said, adding he has spoken to Lee's representatives...Lee is listed at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds and there have been questions about him being out of shape, but Gillick said his size isn't a concern. "Lee is a heck of an athlete," Gillick said.

Baltimore VP Jim Duquette, on Lee:
"We're in the mix, definitely,"

And the Astros were working on signing one of the two - Soriano, or Lee. And then the Cubs signed Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million deal, surprising all of baseball, and surprising Tim Purpura:
"If it's to the numbers that are being reported, we've certainly not been involved to that level. We've certainly been involved to a high level. But to the terms and the dollars (reported for Soriano in Chicago) we haven't been involved that high."

With Soriano off the board to the Cubs (who allegedly outbid the Angels by $50m), those other teams might be persuaded to step up their pursuit of Lee. Meanwhile, Purpura knew he was in a balancing act:
"It's not just about today, it's about tomorrow and on to the future. You don't have the record we've had over 14 years by being shortsighted. It's a real balancing act. You've got to take care of today as well as tomorrow."

The cost of Carlos Lee was getting out of control. On November 21, Justice labeled it an "understatement" to say that the bidding was "far beyond" what the Astros expected.

The Associated Press began free agency predicting that the winning team on Lee would need to go to four years, and $50 million to sign him. But that was before the Soriano deal rocked the market, which meant anyone who wanted Carlos Lee was going to have to fly past the 4yr/$50m mark. Richard Justice said on November 19 that it was down to the Orioles, Phillies, and Astros. And the Orioles were offering six years at $80-90 million, which which Justice suggested the Astros should pass on.

They didn't.

Tim Purpura:
When we met this offseason to plot our strategy, we set up our goals for what we wanted to accomplish in the offseason market in the free-agent market and the trade market. Our first priority was to increase our offensive production in the outfield."

Carlos Lee:
"I know this is a team where I have a good chance to win a championship. I've always liked this team, they're always very good, and I like this ballpark. I like a lot about Houston. That's why I told my agent this was one of the places I'd like to play."

Was it too much money for too many years? Everyone seemed to think so, but it was worth it - at least for now.

Drayton McLane overpaid to get Carlos Lee, but he did get him. And because he got him, the Astros didn’t just get better Friday. They got way better. That six-year, $100-million deal is considerably more than the Astros thought they’d have to spend, but the market took a dramatic turn upward with Alfonso’s Soriano’s $136-million deal.

There were concerns about his fielding ability, but the Astros had two power bats in the lineup for the first time since Bagwell left.

Tim Purpura:
"This is a historic commitment to winning,"

Phil Garner:
Carlos will fit very nicely in the middle of that lineup -- oh, my goodness, that's going to be nice. I'm sure that Berkman is over there enjoying his turkey dinner a lot better right now, knowing there's just no way now they're going to get around him. By adding these two guys we'll be definitely better."

Even The Crawfish Boxes (or at least StrosBro) were fired up:
I think we overpaid for Lee, but I think we should have. I'm ecstatic on both of these signings.

"I remember watching Carlos with the White Sox and with the Brewers and he broke our hearts a few times. His statistics are as good as they get...This is by far the biggest single commitment in the history of the Houston Astros."

Ultimately, the Astros made too long of a commitment at too high a price. But that's what we know now. Sure, there was the pre-diarrhea feeling that things were going to go badly, but at the time, from a major-league standpoint, Lee made the Astros better. And after the run the Astros had since 1994, standing pat would upset the fan base.

The deal worked out exactly as it was supposed to, except the Astros weren't ready for it. And the point of the whole preceding Whatever is to show that Lee was highly sought-after, his salary was inflated by the obscene Soriano contract, and the Astros weren't in a position (from your casual "Hey-let's-go-to-the-game-tonight" fan) to start rebuilding one season removed from the World Series.

If you look at the guys around him, Morgan Ensberg dipped from a .283/.388/.557 line in 2005 to a .235/.396/.463 (still enough for an .858 OPS, but propped up by 101 walks in 495 PAs) line in 2006. He made it through 85 games of weakened numbers in 2007 before getting cut. Biggio was gunning for Hit #3000. Berkman was coming off a 1.041 OPS year. We criticize the Astros for not blowing it up earlier, but the Astros wouldn't be really interested in letting Biggio try to get his 3000th hit in an empty stadium.

It's easy to criticize the Carlos Lee deal now that he's going to take up about a third of the Astros payroll in 2012, the final year of his contract. But the context is important.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Interest in Wandy "seems non-existent"

Take it for what it's worth, but Jon Heyman is tweeting that interest in Wandy "seems non-existent" (perhaps because it didn't come up when he was shining Jack Morris' shoes), and adds this helpful tidbit:

Astros should have let #rox take him on claim last summer

Oh yes, that's very helpful, Mr. Heyman.

Otherwise, it looks like Wandy is going to have to put up a solid first-half to draw interest in regards to a trade.

Over the past three seasons, here are Wandy's 1st-Half splits:

20-33, 316.1IP, 322H/133ER, 265K:113BB, 3.78 ERA/1.38 WHIP.

If Wandy posts a first half similar to the last three seasons, would it be worth pulling the trigger on? Especially with his 2nd-Half over the last three seasons:

16-12, 275.1IP, 235H/88ER, 272K:87BB, 2.88 ERA/1.17 WHIP.

And in non-news...

Fox Sports' Jon Morosi says that:

#Astros hearing from a few teams on Carlos Lee but nothing is close, sources say. He would be a terrific fit for #Indians.

Crazy. It's almost like we suggested the same thing on December 6.

Ross Wolf signs with Baltimore

Looks like there are going to be some spots open at OKC, now that the Orioles have signed Ross Wolf to a minor-league deal.

Wolf appeared in 56 games for OKC in 2011, with a 4.76 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. Wolf came to the Astros' system from Baltimore in 2010, after he was traded to the Orioles by the A's for Jake Fox.

All of you can calm down about Keith Law now

Keith Law tweeted a few minutes ago that he will not be joining the Astros' front office:

I have chosen to stay with ESPN. It was a difficult decision, and I'm very grateful to the Astros for the opportunity.

However you feel about Keith Law, this would have at least made for an entertaining hire.

Astros sign Tomas Lopez

Via DPL Baseball, the Astros have signed 17-year old 6'3" 190lb RHP Tomas Lopez for $70,000 (Update: DPL Baseball responded to a question to clarify that Tomas Perez is 18 years old).

DPL Baseball:
Lopez throws from a High ¾ arm slot with fastball velocity at 90-91(92), he shows flashes of a solid Curveball with tight rotation and his changeup is deceptive with movement down in the zone.

Update: The Astros have also signed 16-year old RHP Carlos Vasquez and 17-year old Edward Santana.

Felix Francisco, on Santana:
“He’s not a big power guy right now and more of a guy you can project will hit 15-20 home runs. His power will come with time, but he does have good bat speed and good extension.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

A geographic breakdown of the No Bagwell contingent

So I have spent the past hour and a half fuming, and decided to plot the writers who are listed as Nays on Bagwell-to-the-HOF (compiled from LeoKitty and the BBWAA lists) on a Google Earth map. The placemarks aren't their addresses, just reflecting of the cities where the writer is based. Here's what I found... (click the image to enlarge)

But this isn't telling the whole story. Take a closer look at the Chicago Bloc:

Seriously? Nine writers from Chicago didn't think that Bagwell is a Hall of Famer? What the hell? Did Bagwell piss in the river, or ruin the St. Patrick's Day Parade?

Bagwell falls short on 2nd try at Hall of Fame

Well, the Base Ball Writers Association had their heads entrenched firmly up their collective tailpipes yet again. On his 2nd year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Jeff Bagwell received 56% of the vote, up from the 41.7% he received in 2011.