Results tagged ‘ Astros ’

Rasmus says Astros are enticing

Free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus took a physical in Houston on Tuesday in attempts to reach a deal with the Astros.

Rasmus, 28, spent the last four seasons with the Blue Jays after coming up with the Cardinals, where he was drafted by Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow when he was scouting director in St. Louis. Rasmus is a career .246 hitter with 116 homers and 352 RBIs in six seasons, hitting .225 with 18 homers and 40 RBIs last year.

“He was the scouting director in St. Louis and I’ve always been pretty tight with him,” Rasmus told “He was always good to me. I think he’s been good through this process.”

Rasmus said no deal is in place with the Astros, but a physical is typically the last step towards a deal being reached. Free agent pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was also in Houston on Tuesday to take a physical amid reports he’s in serious discussions with the Astros.

“I’ve always liked playing against the Astros and the way they’ve handled themselves,” Rasmus said. “I played with Lance Berkman, who was loyal to his time here. That was something that was on my mind, hearing him talk about it. Obviously, Jeff being the scouting director that drafted me, it looks pretty enticing.”

If the Astros are able to sign Rasmus they’d have another outfielder to put into the mix just one day after trading away starting center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Dan Straily and infielder Luis Valbuena. Rasmus would give the Astros another left-handed bat.

Rasmus, who is from Alabama, said playing for a team in the south appeals to him, as well as being in the same division as his brother, Cory, who’s a pitcher with the Angels.

“I play hard and I would like to get back on some grass,” Rasmus said. “The turf in Toronto was pretty rough playing up there. Being in this division to be able to stay in some [warmer] climates and my brother is playing with the Angels and to be able to see him on some trips is pretty cool.

“To be in Texas and in the south– some people think that’s crazy – but it would be a beautiful thing to be close to home. I live nine hours away and all those things would help me be a better ballplayer and be relaxed and comfortable, and some of the guys on the team I know are great guys who I’ve played against.”

Vogelsong went 8-13 with a 4.00 ERA in 32 starts for the World Series champion Giants last year. He has a career 49-57 record with a 4.42 ERA in 10 Major League seasons with the Pirates and two stints with the Giants. His best year was in 2011 when he made the All-Star team in a season in which he finished 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA with the Giants.

Vogelsong in Houston as Astros continue pursuit

Free agent pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who is in contract discussions with the Astros, arrived in Houston on Monday. That’s a clear sign Vogelsong is poised to take a physical prior to possibly signing a deal with Houston.

Vogelsong, when contacted by late Monday, declined comment, but the veteran right-hander has been on the Astros’ radar in recent days, and general manager Jeff Luhnow said earlier Monday the team would still like to add a starting pitcher.

Vogelsong went 8-13 with a 4.00 ERA in 32 starts for the World Series champion Giants last year. He has a career 49-57 record with a 4.42 ERA in 10 Major League seasons with the Pirates and two stints with the Giants. His best year was in 2011 when he made the All-Star team in a season in which he finished 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA with the Giants.

The 2011 season was his first in the Majors since 2006. In between, he played in Japan and had Minor League deals with the Phillies and Angels before resurfacing with the Giants. He was 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA for the Giants in 2012.

If the Astros are able to close the deal with Vogelsong, it would be their latest addition to a busy offseason that has included the signing of relievers Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson and shortstop Jed Lowrie, as well as trades to bring in slugger Evan Gattis from the Braves and Monday’s trade that netted infielder Luis Valbuena and pitcher Dan Straily from the Cubs.

Castro, Sipp, Conger avoid arbitration

The Astros reached one-year deals with catchers Jason Castro ($4 million) and Hank Conger ($1.075 million) and left-handed pitcher Tony Sipp ($2.4 million) prior to Friday’s deadline for arbitration eligible players to exchange numbers with their teams.

The club had previously reached deals with designated hitter Chris Carter ($4.175 million) and backup catcher Carlos Corporan ($975,000) this week, leaving them with two players still unsigned: outfielder Dexter Fowler and infielder Marwin Gonzalez.

Castro, who made $2.45 million last year, was arbitration eligible for the second time.

“It was right where we thought we wanted to be, where we kind of fit in with the market and all that,” Castro said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of conversations with the team prior to today, not as much as last year. The gap we were looking last year just wasn’t there this year and we had a more clear picture where’d end up.”

After making the All-Star team in 2013, Castro hit just .222 last year with 14 homers and 56 RBIs in a career-high 126 games. Sipp flourished after signing with the Astros in May, posting a 3.38 ERA in 56 games (50 2/3 innings).

Conger, traded to the Astros from the Angels in November, has played in 251 games with the Angels in the past five years in a backup role and will serve in a similar capacity behind Castro. Conger is a career .224 hitter who last season batted .221 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 80 games.

After the players and the teams exchange desired salary figures for 2015, they can continue to negotiate contracts. If no agreements are reached, the players and the teams will next month present their cases before an arbitration panel, which will choose either the team’s figure of the player’s desired salary. Most deals are reached prior to that, however.

Gattis excited about opportunity with Astros

Evan Gattis, traded by the Braves to the Astros on Wednesday, will hold a conference call with members of the media on Thursday afternoon. But not before he took a few minutes to visit with about the trade and what it means to him.

The Astros traded three prospects – pitchers Mike Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman and third baseman Rio Ruiz – to the Braves in exchange for Gattis, who hit 43 homers in 211 games in his first two seasons in the Major Leagues with the Braves. He’s battled injury problems during his career, but he passed a physical Wednesday and gives the Astros another 30-homer threat at Minute Maid Park with Chris Carter and George Springer.

Gattis was primarily a catcher with the Braves, but the Astros will him in left field, first base and designated hitter as well.

Here’s part of his talk with

Q: What is your reaction to the trade?

A: “I’m excited. We’re going to have a good power lineup and a good young team. I’m just excited.”

Q: The lineup could have some thumpers with Chris Carter and George Springer and yourself. How enticing is that?

A: “And it kind of feeds off each, too. It’s contagious, especially in the lineup. We’ve got back-to-back-to-back-to-back guys that can hit, hit for power. It could be scary, especially when you mix in guys like [Jose] Altuve and Dexter Fowler. They’re getting on base all the time and there’s going to be a lot of RBI potential, a lot of run-scoring potential.”

Q: What are your thoughts on playing left field?

A: “It’s really too early. We’ll see how it shakes out and see where our pieces end up at the end of spring. I think it’s too early to say what I’ll be playing more of. I’m not really worried about positioning and stuff like that right now. I’m just ready to get after it, you know? I was prepared to go play left field with the Braves situation, too, so it’s not like anything will really change on my end.”

Q: How do you feel about hitting at Minute Maid Park?

A: “It’s a good hitter’s park.”

Q: What do you think of the future of the Astros considering the pieces they’re adding?

A: “I think the Astros could have a better year next year than we did last year.”

Q: You were born in Dallas and still live in that area. What does it mean to come home to Texas?

A: “Everybody’s already texted me and made me well aware how many times we go to Arlington and everything else. I’ll have tons of people.”

Foltynewicz, Ruiz and Thurman react to trade

Mike Foltynewicz saw his name in trade rumors for most of Wednesday, but it wasn’t until general manager Jeff Luhnow called him later in the evening did the rumors become a reality. Foltynewicz, one of the Astros’ top pitching prospects, was heading to the Braves.

The Astros traded Foltynewicz, pitcher Andrew Thurman and third baseman Rio Ruiz in exchange for slugger Evan Gattis and right-hander James Hoyt. The hard-throwing Foltynewicz, who made his Major League debut last year, was expected to compete for a spot in the Astros’ rotation.

“You wake up in the morning and all of a sudden your name has been tossed around in some trade rumors and you’re shocked and waiting around all day and not getting back until 9 o’clock at night to find out you’ve been traded is a little shocking,” he said. “The Astros made my dreams come true. They gave me an opportunity to be in the big leagues, and they need something else right now, so they had to do what they had to do.”

Foltynewicz, the No. 19 overall pick in the ’10 First-Year Player Draft, made his Major League debut at the end of last season after going 7-7 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 games (18 starts) at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He’s looking forward to a new start in Atlanta.

“They gave me a call and said they’re happy to have me in the organization and they’ve got some high expectations and they’re real excited to have me,” he said. “They thought I was a big part of the deal to get traded. That’s my main goal is try to be a starter. That’s what I’ve been molded into my Minor League career, but whatever they want me to do I’ll do it.”

Ruiz was taken in the fourth round of the ’12 Draft after being offered a hefty bonus by the Astros, who signed No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa for less money than some other potential top picks so they could sign Ruiz and Lance McCullers Jr. away from college commits.

Ruiz hit .294 with 11 homers and 77 RBIs last year at Class A Advanced Lancaster, but found himself behind Colin Moran on the depth chart after the Astros acquired the former No. 6 overall pick from the Marlins in July. Moran is coming to spring camp and could be in the lineup at some point this year.

“Today was a little overwhelming, but I’m looking at it as another opportunity to showcase my talents and make my way to the big leagues,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said he wasn’t sure if he would come to Major League camp.

“I’m sure they’re going to have me go in early and become acclimated with everybody, hopefully a little quicker than going into regular Spring Training,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll go in there early, whether in big league camp or showing up early and seeing faces and getting to know names.”

Thurman, a second-round pick out of UC-Irvine in 2013, was 11-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 38 games (25 starts) in his pro career. He spent last season at Class A Quad Cities, going 7-9 with a 5.38 ERA.

“I don’t know too much about trades and what goes into it,” Thurman said. “I know Evan Gattis is a good player, and I know the Astros are looking to do well at the big league level. And I know they had to give away some stuff to get a good player like him.”

Still, the trade caught him a little off guard.

“But I’m excited to get the opportunity to play for the Braves,” he said

Gregerson sees a good fit in Houston

In addition to the $18.5 million he will receive over the next three years from the Astros, relief pitcher Luke Gregerson told on Thursday the chance to be reunited with manager A.J. Hinch played a big role in his decision to come to Houston.

Gregerson, in Houston to take a physical, said he had a lot of respect for the first-year Astros manager and talked to him often when they were together in San Diego. Hinch worked in the San Diego front office for four years before joining the Astros. Gregerson pitched for the Padres from 2009-13 before playing for the A’s last year.

“I’m really excited to see A.J. Hinch over here,” he said. “I got to spend some time with him there in San Diego, so that was another deciding factor in me coming in. I see a lot of potential. In San Diego I go to talk to him a whole bunch on plane flights. I got to talk to him about baseball and his life and whatever. I love his knowledge of the game and I think he’s going to have a lot to say about this team.”

The Astros are scheduled to introduce Gregerson and fellow newcomer Pat Neshek at a press conference Friday at Minute Maid Park. The relievers will shore up a bullpen that’s been among baseball’s worst the last few years. Gregerson, Neshek and Chad Qualls were all on the Padres in 2011, though Neshek bounced between the Majors and Minors.

“Obviously, you’ve seen it over and over again,” he said. “If you can’t hold onto a lead late in the game, it’s hard to win a lot of ballgames. They’ve definitely taken the right steps in making sure that doesn’t happen this year.”

Gregerson will make $6 million in 2015, $6.25 million in ’16 and $6.25 million in ’17. The contract also has enough incentives written into it that Gregerson could make as much as $21 million total over the three-year span.

Gregerson, 30, has long been one of the most dependable setup men in the game. His ERA has steadily dropped since his first season, 2009, when he went 2-4 with a 3.24 mark in 72 games for San Diego. Last season, his first with the A’s after five with the Padres, he went 5-5 with a 2.12 ERA in 72 outings. He has made at least 61 appearances in each of his six big league seasons, and at least 72 in five of them.

He hasn’t had a chance to close because he’s been on the same teams as Heath Bell and Huston Street, but he wouldn’t mind the opportunity.

“I’m ready for whatever they’ve got in store for me,” he said. “I’ve always said I feel like the seventh, eighth, ninth inning they’re all very similar. It’s a mental block you have to get past knowing it’s the last inning and that’s one of the most important and make sure you get the last three outs of the game and get your team the win. I’m up for whatever they have in store for me.”

Gregerson faced the Astros nine times last year and was impressed with the improvements the young team made.

“That’s an important part of the game,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of young guys that are transitioning to the big leagues a little quicker than they used to, maybe, and I think the way this team was fun to watch, and not so fun to pitch against.”



Feliz a late addition to Astros roster

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wasn’t joking when he said Wednesday the team planned to use as much time as necessary to set its 40-man roster in advance of Thursday’s 10:59 p.m. CT deadline. And with an hour to spare, the Astros made a late addition.

Hard-throwing right-hander Michael Feliz, who was left off the 40-man in the announcement the Astros made earlier in the day, was added to it about an hour prior to the deadline, putting the roster at 39. Luhnow said the Astros were working on a trade that didn’t come to fruition, prompting them to put Feliz on the roster.

Earlier on Thursday, the Astros added right-hander Vincent Velasquez and infielder Ronald Torreyes to the roster, while losing right-hander Josh Zeid to waivers to the Tigers and outrighting right-hander Anthony Bass to Triple-A Fresno. Bass was arbitration eligible, which gives him the option to elect free agency or accept the outright assignment.

“We intentionally did not say that was our final roster because we knew we had until 11 o’clock tonight,” Luhnow said. “There’s always a lot of discussion the day of the roster setting. It’s a good opportunity for teams to talk and see if someone needs to be protected and maybe another team wants him you could swap guys like that. We had a couple of things cooking and nothing came to fruition.”

When asked if the team was working on a deal involving Feliz, Luhnow declined to elaborate.

“All along, I said we were going to use our available time and we were working on something that didn’t come to fruition and the end result of that is we’re putting Feliz on the roster,” Luhnow said.

The Astros have one roster spot remaining to add a free agent or acquire a player in the Rule 5 Draft, though Luhnow hinted Wednesday the Astros might be inclined not to make a selection. The Astros could still open some 40-man roster spots as well.

Feliz, the Astros’ seventh-ranked prospect, is perhaps the hardest thrower in the system, sustaining mid-90s mph over the course of seven innings. He has starter potential and is making strides developing his secondary pitches.

He went 8-6 in 25 appearances (19 starts) with Quad Cities (Class A) in 2014 with a 4.03 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings pitched. Feliz, who was originally signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, participated in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game as a member of the World Team roster.

“He pitched an inning in the Futures Game, and that was his coming out part to the industry and we definitely feel worthy of a roster spot,” Luhnow said.

Astros face 40-man roster decisions

The Astros, like all Major League teams, face a 10:59 p.m. CT deadline Thursday to set their 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. After the trade two weeks ago that brought catcher Hank Conger to Houston, the Astros have 38 players on their roster, so they have two additional slots to add to players to protect them from getting exposed in the Rule 5 Draft.

Here are the 38 players on the 40-man roster:

Pitchers (19) – Anthony Bass, Jake Buchanan, Kevin Chapman, Luis Cruz, Sam Deduno, Darin Downs, Scott Feldman, Josh Fields, Mike Foltynewicz, Will Harris, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock, Chad Qualls, Tony Sipp, Alex White, Asher Wojciechowski, Josh Zeid.

Catchers (4) – Jason Castro, Hank Conger, Carlos Corporan, Max Stassi.

Infielders (7) – Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, Marc Krauss, Gregorio Petit, Jon Singleton, Jonathan Villar.

Outfielders (7) – Dexter Fowler, Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Jake Marisnick, Alex Presley, Domingo Santana, George Springer.

DH (1) – Chris Carter.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he will use as much time as necessary to decide which players to protect in advance. One of the factors the Astros take into consideration when deciding which players to protect is whether that player is likely to stick on another team’s Major League roster. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the team’s 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original club.

Players not on the team’s 40-man roster who signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years can be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. The Draft his held Dec. 11 at the end of the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

“You have to prepare for the possibility of signing some free agents prior to the Rule 5 Draft, which means that you’ve got to leave a couple of spots open,” Luhnow said. “You have to take a guess as whether that’s one, two three or four spots you need to leave open, and you’ve got to consider the risk of leaving players exposed to the Rule 5, and that’s really the biggest consideration.”

Here’s a list of Astros Minor League players eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft if not added to the 40-man.

Right-handers — Ruben Alaniz, Agapito Barrios, Jamain Cotton, Chris Devenski, Jonas Dufek, Michael Feliz, Edison Frias, Jandel Gustave, Angel Heredia, Krishawn Holley, Juan Minaya, Jose Montero, Tyson Perez, Francis Ramirez, Richard Rodriguez, Jason Stoffel, Fredrick Tiburcio, Vincent Velasquez, Andrew Walter, Kyle Weiland

Left-handers — Colton Cain, Ambiorix De Leon, Evan Grills, Reymin Guduan, Mitchell Lambson, David Rollins, Tommy Shirley, Blaine Sims.

Infielders — Delino Deshields Jr., Matt Duffy, Jose Fernandez, Alex Gonzalez, Jonathan Meyer, Jiovanni Mier, Chad Moon, Jose Solano, Ruben Sosa, Ronald Torreyes

Outfielders — Ydarqui Marte, Jorge Martinez, Brandon Meredith, Telvin Nash, Ariel Ovando, Jordan Scott, Danry Vasquez.

Catchers — Jobduan Morales, Robert Pena.

Astros hire Zinter as assistant hitting coach

The Astros have hired former Major Leaguer Alan Zinter as their assistant hitting coach, general manager Jeff Luhnow said. He had been serving as the Minor League hitting coordinator for the Cleveland Indians.

Zinter appeared in 67 career games – 39 with the Astros in 2002 and 28 with Arizona in 2004 –and has a solid reputation in baseball circles.

“There’s a lot of people in our organization that know him well,” Luhnow said. “He’s really developed as a hitting coach in Cleveland and he came strongly recommended. We’re happy to have him. He’s going to be a great complement to [hitting coach] Dave Hudgens and a good addition to our coaching staff.”

Ralph Dickenson, who served in the assistant hitting coach role last season, will be a roving Minor League instruction, joining Jeff Albert. The hiring of Zinter rounds out the Astros coaching staff.

Here is manager A.J. Hinch’s coaching staff.

Bench coach: Trey Hillman

First base coach: Rich Dauer

Third base coach: Gary Pettis

Hitting coach: Dave Hudgens

Assistant hitting coach: Alan Zinter

Pitching coach: Brent Strom

Bullpen coach: Craig Bjornson

Astros eager to improve club this offseason

With free agency set to start early next week, the Astros are already doing their homework in preparation of being active in the market, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

The Astros, coming off a season in which they improved by 19 wins, are seeking to upgrade their bullpen, corner infield and add some power to the outfield and are willing to increase their payroll by at least $20 million more to achieve those goals.

Luhnow said the Astros have already targeted a list of players they want to go after and will be soon reaching out to their agents to express interest.

“It’s just a matter of how much interest they’re going to get and what kind of timetable they want to run,” Luhnow said. “But we’ll be there, we’ll be involved.”

Luhnow has already reached out to about a dozen teams and had relatively in-depth conversations about offseason needs while starting to explore the trade market. By the time Luhnow gets to the General Mangers’ Meetings in Phoenix early next month, he’ll have talked to every team prior to getting a chance to sit face-to-face with some teams.

“There’s been some turn over in front offices,” Luhnow said. “We think we know what players might be available, but you never know until the season’s over and people are taking stock of their areas of improvement and where they have excess and you never know where there’s going to be a match. You’ve just go to talk to everybody.”

When asked if the Astros would be active this offseason, Luhnow didn’t hesitate.

“I think we will sign a free agents, and I think we’ll make a trade or two,” he said. “That’s status quo for us. I don’t have anything necessarily in the works or specifically in mind right now. You definitely think of ways you improve your team every conversation you have.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 89 other followers