Results tagged ‘ arbitration ’

Castro signs with Astros, avoids arbitration

The Astros reached a one-year contract with All-Star catcher Jason Castro for 2014 to avoid arbitration. Terms of the deal aren’t known.

Friday was the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration numbers, and Castro’s signing means infielder Jesus Guzman is the only Houston arbitration-eligible player still unsigned. Negotiations can continue up until an arbitration hearing.

“I think it’s a good deal and I’m glad that we were able to come to an agreement, and now we can just kind of shift the focus to getting ready for the season and everything that I would normally do to prepare for spring,” Castro told MLB.com. “I’m excited and ready to get going.”

Castro, 26, was among the top offensive catchers in the Majors last season, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs before landing on the disabled list Sept. 13 after having a cyst removed from his knee. His on-base percentage was .350, with a slugging average of .485. He was named to the American League All-Star team and was a two-time AL Player of the Week Award winner.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said last year he was open to perhaps extending Castro beyond 2014, but that wasn’t discussed during this negotiation.

“We haven’t actually had any discussion about that,” Castro said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m definitely open to anything.”

The former Stanford star was picked 10th overall in the 2008 Draft, and made his big league debut with the Astros in 2010, appearing in 67 games. He missed all of the 2011 season after suffering a major knee injury during the spring of that year.

Astros manager Bo Porter said last month Castro would be his primary No. 3-hole hitter this year.

“Now the focus shifts back to getting ready and get throwing and getting back into catching and all that stuff,” Castro said. “I’m glad to get it all in the rearview and look ahead to spring.”

Astros reach deals with Norris, Lowrie and Wright

The Astros reached agreements Friday with all three of their arbitration-eligible players, signing shortstop Jed Lowrie to a one-year, $2.4 million deal, right-hander Bud Norris to a one-year, $3 million deal and left-hander Wesley Wright to a one-year deal.

Terms of the Wright deal weren’t disclosed.

Friday marked the deadline for the teams and players to exchange salary numbers in advance of next month’s scheduled hearings, but the Astros were able to avoid going to an arbitration panel.

The 28-year-old Lowrie, who made $1.15 million last year, set career highs in games (97), at-bats (340), runs (43), hits (83), home runs (16) and walks (43) despite missing 52 games with a sprained right ankle and leg injury. He wound up hitting .244 with 42 RBIs.

Norris, 27, was 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 29 starts last year, allowing 165 hits and striking out 165 in 168 1/3 innings. He went 0-12 with a 6.34 ERA during a streak of 18 starts in the middle of the season while he battled injuries and inconsistencies. Norris had a 1.71 ERA at home and a 6.94 mark on the road.

Wright, 27, was 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA in a career-high 77 games last year, which led the Astros and ranked tied for sixth in the National League. His .226 batting average allowed ranked fifth in the NL among left-handed relievers.

“I’m happy to have it behind me and can focus on the upcoming season and going out and doing my best to help us win some ballgames,” Wright said. “It’s good to know that part of the situation is taken care of and we can focus on baseball activities.”

Astros face arbitration decisions

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the club plans to tender contracts to their four remaining arbitration-eligible players – pitchers Bud Norris, Wilton Lopez, Wesley Wright and shortstop Jed Lowrie. Lopez, of course, has been subject of trade speculation, but for now he remains with Houston.

The deadline to tender a contract is 10:59 p.m. CT Friday.

Norris, Lopez and Wright are all eligible for arbitration for the first time, and Lowrie is going through the process a second time. Each player will submit a desired salary for 2013, and the Astros will also submit their offer. That serves as the starting point for the negotiations, and both sides typically meet in the middle

If the sides can’t find common ground, they will take their case before an arbitration panel in February that will determine the players’ salary. In this scenario, this is no middle ground. The panel will side with either the player or the team, but negotiations can continue right up to the hearing.

Astros assistant general manager David Stearns is going to be spearheading the team’s arbitration process.

“He has some experience in that area, both from the labor relations side of Major League baseball, as well as the team side,” Luhnow said. “Our cases are nothing too complex at this point. They’re all first-year guys, with the exception of Jed, who’s a second-year guy. We went through preparing for a cast last year. We’re in pretty good shape, and I feel good about we’re going to get all our guys done.”

Here’s a closer look at each player:

– Jed Lowrie made $1.15 million in his first season in Houston in 2012 and was putting up All-Star numbers before a sprained right ankle suffered in mid July put him on the shelf for 52 games. He wound up hitting .244 with a career-high 16 homers and 42 RBIs. Lowrie could as much as double his salary from a year ago.

– Bud Norris had a strange year statistically, going 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 29 starts. He had 165 strikeouts in 168 1/3 innings, but went nearly three months without a win while battling various injuries and some inconsistencies. He was 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA at home and 3-12 with a 6.94 ERA on the road. He started strong, but was 0-12 with a 6.17 ERA in 18 starts from May 26-Sept. 20. He finished the season having not allowed a run in his final two starts, 13 1/3 innings.

Norris made $511,000 last season and should see a substantial bump based on his body of work, perhaps in the $2 million range

– Wesley Wright, who made $512,000 last season, is one of the longest-tenured Astros, having pitched parts of five seasons with the club from 2008-12. He made a career-high 77 appearances as lefty specialist last year and went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA, including a 19-game scoreless streak. Lefties have hit just .170 off of him the last two years combined and he’ll remain a key cog in the bullpen.

The Astros got Wright in the Rule 5 Draft in 2007, and he’s had an unusual tenure in Houston. He’s been tried as a starter, had his arm slot temporarily changed and bounced between Triple-A and Houston so many times he could start his own shuttle service. But he appears to have entrenched himself in the bullpen and will be paid accordingly.

Wilton Lopez, claimed off waivers in 2009 by Ed Wade, has been a workhorse member of the Astros’ bullpen the past three years, going 6-3 with a 2.17 ERA last year in 64 games. He also had a career-high 10 saves after assuming the club’s closer role following the trade of Brett Myers and ineffectiveness of Francisco Cordero. He posted the lowest walks-per-innings ratio among all NL relievers (1.09) last season after setting the franchise record in 2010 by issuing only five walks in 67 innings pitched. He began last season by facing 78 batters without issuing a walk.

Lopez made $515,500 last season and could wind up around $1 million next season based on his workload and track record. That’s if the Astros don’t trade him.

Astros sign Lowrie for $1.15 million

The Astros on Wednesday agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.15 million contract with shortstop Jed Lowrie that includes bonuses and incentives. The Astros were able to avoid the arbitration process with all their eligible players and have everyone under contract for 2012.

Lowrie, acquired along with pitcher Kyle Weiland from the Red Sox in exchange for Mark Melancon in December, hit .252 with six home runs and 36 RBIs in 88 games for Boston last year. He played all four infield positions, starting 46 games at shortstop and 29 at third base.

Lowrie, who had asked for $1.5 million and was offered $900,000 by the Astros, will make his first public appearance with the Astros on Thursday in northwest Houston as part of the team’s winter CAREavan.

“Jed is looking forward to attending the Astros caravan [Thursday], especially having resolved his contractual status and avoiding an arbitration hearing,” said agent Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball. “In the end, concessions were made by both parties that allowed a deal to be reached amicably. Jed is in the best shape of his life, ready for Spring Training and excited about suiting up for the Astros, and his relationship with the organization is off to a good start.”

Lowrie has played in parts of four Major League seasons with the Red Sox (2008-11), appearing primarily as a shortstop, which included 130 starts at the position. He is a career .252 hitter with 19 home runs and 117 RBIs. He was drafted by Boston in the first round in 2005.

“The biggest issue with Jed is the amount of time he’s on the field as opposed to the training room and the DL, but there’s nothing about his skill set that would suggest he can’t play an everyday role if he’s healthy,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “That’s one of the reasons we traded for him and that’s our expectation and hope.”

He will take over at shortstop for Clint Barmes, who wasn’t re-signed by the team after one year in a Houston uniform.

Avoiding arbitration hearing would benefit all

The last thing the Astros want to do is sit down before an arbitration panel next month and try to explain why Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez aren’t worth the money they’re asking. Pence and Rodriguez are pros, but feelings can and often do get hurt and during the process.

Astros general manager Ed Wade, like he’s done each season since he took over as GM, has set his own deadline of close of business next Tuesday to work out deals with Pence and Rodriguez.

“The spreads are fairly significant and our hope still is that we can get something done, preferably on a multi-year basis with Wandy and would to get Hunter done as well,” Wade said. “The spreads are significant and there’s a lot of ground to cover.”

Rodriguez, who went 11-12 with a 3.60 ERA last year, is asking for $10.25 million, which is substantially more than the Astros’ offer of $8 million. He lost his arbitration case last year and had to settle for $5 million after asking for $7 million.

Pence, named the team’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .282 with 25 homers and 91 RBIs last year, is asking for $6.9 million, with the Astros countering at $5.15 million. Pence made $3.5 million last year in his first year of arbitration.

You can bet Wade and arbitration expert Tal Smith will have done extensive homework to try to continue their strong success rate of winning cases. 

Pence is asking to nearly double his salary, but the Astros don’t want to go that far. The Astros were able to settle with Pence last year, but the gap was only $1 million. Rodriguez’s gap is $2 million more than his gap of last year, and the fact he’s a free agent after 2011 should compliate negotiations.

The Astros are willing to considering signing Rodriguez to a long-term deal, but you can’t help but wonder if Rodriguez’s poor start had something to do with losing his arbitration case. He was 3-10 with a 6.09 ERA in his first 14 starts before going 8-2 with a 2.03 ERA in his final 18 starts.

Had Rodriguez pitched like that all season, he would have gotten a huge raise and perhaps would have a long-term deal by now. The fact is he remains inconsistent and at 32 years old is approaching the ideal time for him to put everything together if he really wants to cash in.

 

 

Astros face arbitration decisions

UPDATE: The Astros signed Humberto Quintero to a one-year, $1 million deal Tuesday, and I’ve updated this entry accordingly…

Thursday is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to players who are eligible for arbitration. For the Astros, the list of players eligible for arbitration goes seven deep: pitchers Wandy Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa and Matt Lindstrom, infielders Clint Barmes and Jeff Keppinger and outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence.

With Rodriguez, Bourn and Pence leading the way – they made a combined $10.9 million in 2010 – the Astros are going to have to commit a sizable amount of their 2011 payroll to arbitration-eligible players. Of course, the club could choose to non-tender some of these players and save money, and last week they outrighted left-handers Tim Byrdak and Gustavo Chacin, who were heading for arbitration.

Last year, the Astros wound up paying out $16.84 million to eight arbitration-eligible players. Rodriguez was the only player to wind up going to an arbitration hearing. He was asking for $7 million and the club won the hearing and had to pay him $5 million.

Here’s a closer look at each of the Astros’ seven arbitration-eligible players and what the chances are of the club tendering a contract:

LHP Wandy Rodriguez
2010 stats: 11-12, 3.60 ERA, 32 starts.
2010 salary: $5 million.
Can become free agent: 2012.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: I really can’t envision a scenario in which the Astros wouldn’t tender him a contract, even though he’s due another hefty raise. He was their best pitcher in 2009 and had a terrific second half in 2010. Heading into free agency, it would behoove Rodriguez to put it all together for next season and repeat what he did in 2009. Good starting pitching isn’t cheap, and the Astros hope they get what they pay for in 2011.

RHP Nelson Figueroa 
2010 stats: 7-4, 3.29 ERA in 31 games (11 starts); 5-3, 3.22 ERA in 18 games (10 starts) for Astros.
2010 salary: $416,000.
Can become free agent: 2014.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: Figueroa is 36 and just now reaching arbitration, so he’s still not making much money in the baseball world. And he had a pretty good season for the Astros in 2010 after they picked him up off waivers, which is why it would make sense to tender him. He’s a solid clubhouse citizen and could compete for a spot in the rotation or give them a steady option in long relief.

RHP Matt Lindstrom
2010 stats
: 2-5, 4.39 ERA, 23 saves, 58 games.
2010 salary: $1.62 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: Lindstrom had an up-and-down first season in Houston, and he really struggled in the second half when his back issues began to mess with his delivery. When he was healthy, he was a pretty solid closer. He’s still relatively inexpensive when you consider his age (30) and his stuff, and I doubt the Astros would give up on him after one rocky half of a season.

IF Clint Barmes
2010 stats
: .235/.305/.351, 8 HRs, 50 RBIs (with Colorado).
2010 salary: $3.325 million.
Can become free agent: 2012.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: The Astros landed Barmes in a trade with the Rockies on Nov. 18 in exchange for Felipe Paulino. He’s likely going to be their starting shortstop next season and will be playing for a contract because he’s a free agent after next year. Considering the offensive shortcomings the Astros had at shortstop last season, paying around $4 million for Barmes for one year isn’t a bad deal.

2B Jeff Keppinger
2010 stats
: .288/.351/.393, 6 HRs, 59 RBIs, 34 2Bs.
2010 salary: $1.15 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: Keppinger is coming off a career season in which he was the Astros’ starting second baseman for most of the season. There’s still a chance the Astros could acquire a second baseman with more pop and better range and return Keppinger to a reserve role, but he’s too much of a steady hand not to want back on the roster. He rarely strikes out or gets into prolonged slumps and had a pretty good on-base percentage a year ago.

CF Michael Bourn
2010 stats
: .265/.341/.346, 3 HRs, 25 RBIs, 52 SBs.
2010 salary: $2.4 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: Bourn didn’t quite have the breakout season on offense in 2010 that he enjoyed in 2009, but he made the All-Star team, won his second Gold Glove and led the league in stolen bases. He was up and down on offense, but finished the season with a flourish at the plate before a strained oblique injury cost him the final two weeks of the season.

RF Hunter Pence
2010 stats
: .282/.325/.461, 25 HRs, 91 RBIs, 18 SBs.
2010 salary: $3.5 million.
Can become free agent: 2014.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: He’s coming of a career season in which he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player after tying career high with 25 homers and setting career high with 91 RBIs. This is Pence’s second year in arbitration eligibility and he’ll still have two years remaining after 2011, so he’s under the Astros’ control for three more years at least. He’s going to get a nice raise in 2011, but he’s earned it.
 

Astros win arbitration case

The Astros’ run of success in arbitration hearings continued Thursday when an arbitration panel ruled in favor of the club in its case against pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, who will make a salary $5 million this year. He was seeking $7 million.

Rodriguez, who led the club in wins (14), starts (33), innings pitched (205 2/3) and strikeouts (193), still nearly doubles his salary from the $2.65 million he made in 2009. Arbitrators Richard Bloch, Elizabeth Neumeier and Frederic Horowitz made their decision after hearing the case Wednesday at the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“We’re pleased with the result,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “Now, it is time to focus on the upcoming season. Wandy is a tremendous pitcher who we think very highly of. We expect great things from him.”

Rodriguez, 31, has a career 51-52 record with a 4.33 ERA and has made at least 20 starts of each of his five Major League seasons. He finished ninth in the National League last year in ERA and was 10th in strikeouts per nine innings.

The Astros have not lost a case since 1996 (Rick Wilkins). They beat Mark Loretta and Jose Valverde in 2008, but their most recent case to go to hearing a prior to that was with Darryl Kile in 1997.

Wade discusses state of market

With more than 100 free agents still on the market and the start of Spring Training six weeks away, things will begin heating up as the month of January progresses. Those hoping for the Astros to open their wallets shouldn’t get their hopes up. The Astros won’t be a player for any of the remaining big-name free agents.

Houston signed right-hander Josh Banks to a Minor League deal this week to compete for a spot in the bullpen. Expect the Astros to perhaps sign another pitcher or two to a Minor League deal before the start of Spring Training, and they are also are in the market for a left-handed-hitting outfielder.

“It’s pretty quiet, even from an industry standpoint,” general manager Ed Wade said. “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.”

Meanwhile, Tuesday is the first day players can begin filing for salary arbitration. Houston has seven players eligible for arbitration – center fielder Michael Bourn, infielder Jeff Keppinger, outfielder Hunter Pence, catcher Humberto Quintero and pitchers Tim Byrdak, Wandy Rodriguez and Chris Sampson.

Wade doesn’t anticipate any problems reaching deals with any of the arbitration-eligible players, and he doesn’t plan on working on multi-year deals with rising stars Bourn, Pence and Rodriguez.

“At this point, our focus is going to be a year at a time,” Wade said. “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.”

The players and clubs can exchange salary figures Jan. 20. If no deal is reached, hearings will be held Feb. 1-21.

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