Results tagged ‘ Jeff Luhnow ’

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.”

Astros promote Tucker, trade Chambers

With prospect Preston Tucker on his way to Triple-A Oklahoma City after being promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi on Thursday, the Astros opened a spot on the RedHawks roster by trading outfielder Adron Chambers to the Blue Jays for left-handed pitcher Alejandro Solarte and infielder Will Dupont.

“We felt we’d give Chambers a chance to get with the big league club somewhere else,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

The Astros signed Chambers as a left-handed bat who could play all three positions in a reserve role, but Alex Presley has filled that role in Houston. Chambers, 27, was hitting .281 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 25 games for the RedHawks.

Solarte and Dupont are both 19 and will report to Kissimmee, Fla.

“They’re guys we like,” Luhnow said. “We’re trying to fill out our short-season rosters, and we figured if we could find some guys that were already playing that we liked a little bit, that would a good way to get some value back. Our outfield picture [at Oklahoma City] is getting pretty crowded.”

Tucker, who was named to the Texas League All-Star squad, currently leads the league in homers (17) and RBIs (43) while hitting .276 in his 65 games with 17 doubles and a .536 slugging percentage. He will start in the outfield at Oklahoma City along with Domingo Santana and Austin Wates, and Marc Krauss is splitting time between the outfield, designed hitter and first base.

“We have four guys that can play out there,” Luhnow said. “I think Tucker, Santana and Wates need to get regular time, and Krauss needs to work in and get some time first and DH and outfield so he can be that versatile guy for us. It’s a pretty good mix there.”

When asked about any upcoming promotions in the Minor Leagues, Luhnow said nothing is on the front-burner. Several Astros Minor League players have earned All-Star selections in their respective leagues, and Luhnow wants them to enjoy that experience.

Luhnow gives Draft update

With about two hours to go before they made their first pick in the First-Year Player Draft, general manager Jeff Luhnow on Thursday provided a brief update for the media.

“It’s a lot easier for me than it is for [scouting director] Mike [Elias] and the gang upstairs,” Luhnow said. “They’re still working through a lot of details. We’re touching base with a lot of players and their advisors and families and trying to get a sense for well beyond tonight, really, where everybody is. We’re getting medical updates on all our players, and we’ll still talking through our board. The work will continue up until 6:07 when we make our pick.”

Luhnow wouldn’t say if they’ve narrowed the list down from the six they were at a few days ago.

“We working on it,” he said. “As you get closer, you start to focus on fewer and fewer players, and we’ll have it down to one in a couple of hours.”

Click here for more information on the players the Astros are considering with the first pick.

 

 

Luhnow welcomes Ryan to Astros

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has no inhibitions about the team’s hiring of Nolan Ryan, who’s coming aboard as an executive advisor. Ryan will assist not only Luhnow, but also president of business operations Reid Ryan in the operations of the club.

How big of a role Ryan has remains to be seen. He’s not going to be a daily fixture at Minute Maid Park because he prefers to commute occasionally from his home in Georgetown, Texas, but the Astros certainly would be wise to lean heavily on Ryan. He was the CEO of the Rangers, who were successful under his tenure, and he definitely knows a thing or two about pitching.

“He has so much experience and I think he can be used in a variety of ways,” Luhnow said Tuesday. “He definitely is going to have his opinions about our players and opinions about players on other teams. He’ll help us from a player evaluation standpoint ‘cause the more points of views you get, not only on your own players but on players you’re potentially trying to acquire outside the organization, the better off you’re going to be.

“From a player development standpoint, he’s got experience and can help us there. There’s countless areas where he can assist and help out. He’s been part of the game for so long and done so many different types of things.”

Luhnow has helped rebuild the Astros farm system the last two years, and it’s widely considered the deepest in the game. The club has sacrificed success at the Major League level to get that done, but Luhnow believes the Astros are poised to begin trending upward. The arrival of Ryan won’t hinder his plan, which is based heavily on data analysis.

“Clearly Nolan Ryan on board is huge for the city and organization,” he said. “I did spend over an hour with him [two weeks ago] and had several conversations with him prior to that as well, really trying to understand what the role would look like so he was comfortable with it and it made sense. He’s really anxious to help out, he’s anxious to be involved in various areas. The role that ultimately we created for him is going to allow him to help out across all the areas of the organization, which will maximize his impact.”

The Astros have a wealth of young, promising starting pitching – arms that will be able to learn from Ryan, as well as special advisor Roger Clemens.

“He already knows some of our players by being with the Rangers and living near Round Rock (Texas) and seeing Triple-A players and going to Corpus Christi and so forth,” Luhnow said. “He’s got a pretty good feel for our players right now.

“I do expect he’s going to deepen that understanding of our own players and be able to provide his point of view. I don’t know if he’ll go out and see players for the Draft, but our Triple-A players, Double-A, Major League players, he’ll be able to give us valuable opinions about.”

Astros turn attention to bullpen

The Astros’ focus now is on the bullpen.

General manager Jeff Luhnow said Friday the team has some offers on the table for some relief pitchers. He said he would like sign as many as two veteran relievers to join a bullpen that was the youngest in the Majors last year.

“We’ve got some offers out there we’re waiting on,” he said. “Whether or not things happen this weekend or next week or after that, I’m not sure. We feel pretty good we’re going to get at least one or two of the guys we’re targeting.”

The Astros struggled to close out games after trading reliever Jose Veras in July. Houston went with a young bullpen and finished with a 4.90 ERA that was the worst in baseball and blew a league-high 29 saves. Veras has talked to the Astros about returning.

Luhnow also hasn’t ruled out adding another bat or even another starting pitcher.

“If we have an opportunity to bring in yet another starter, we wouldn’t hesitate to do it,” he said. “Right now, our primary focus is shifting to the bullpen.”

Luhnow checks in from instructional league

The Astros’ pro scouts are in Kissimmee, Fla., with general manager Jeff Luhnow this week to talk through Minor League free agents, Major League free agents and players the club might take with the top pick in December’s Rule 5 Draft, as well as going through offseason planning. The meetings are being held in conjunction with the instructional league, which ends on Saturday.

“They’ve been out seeing players all year, so it’s great to get their firsthand perspective,” Luhnow said. “[Monday] we went over to watch our instructional league team beat the Braves, 12-2. [Outfielder James] Ramsey hit a three-run bomb, and [first baseman Chase] McDonald hit a bomb. We had five pitchers and couple of them were in the high 90s, and one of them [right-hander Jandel Gustave] was over 100. It was really a fun day.”

Tuesday was a camp day, which meant the Astros players remained at the team’s complex at Osceola County Stadium and got their workouts in. On Thursday, the Astros will travel to Viera, Fla, to face the Nationals.

“It’s kind of like Spring Training to a certain extent,” Luhnow said. “I think the program’s been great. They’ve been doing classwork stuff and doing a lot of good stuff. They all know what their marching orders are for the offseason. And looking at some of these kids in this environment, they’re learning the Astros way, and I’m pretty excited about the way we drafted this year.”

Castro injury not series as Astros bolster depth

Looking to bolster their catching situation following a string of injuries, including a knee injury to starter Jason Castro, the Astros on Tuesday acquired Matt Pagnozzi from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for cash considerations.

Castro, who left Monday’s game with a sprained right knee, underwent an MRI on Tuesday that showed a cyst on the medial side of his right knee, which is the same knee on which he underwent surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament in 2011. General manager Jeff Luhnow said Castro is day-to-day.

“We’re breathing a sigh of relief on that,” he said. “It’s a lot better than it could have been.”

Pagnozzi was expected to be in uniform for Tuesday night’s game against the Twins after finishing up the season at Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday. He has appeared in 33 Major League games in his career with St. Louis (2009-10), Colorado (2011) and Pittsburgh (2011) and is a career .310 (22-for-71) hitter with 13 RBIs.

“I’ve got some history with him from my time in St. Louis and so does [catching instructor Jeff] Murphy,” Luhnow said. “He’s an excellent defensive catcher with time in the big leagues with a couple of different clubs, and it’s good fit for us for our catching depth.”

To make room for Pagnozzi on the 40-man roster, the Astros will transfer Edgar Gonzalez to the 60-day disabled list.

Castro, an All-Star this season and two-time American League Player of the Week, is having a career season, hitting .282 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs after going 2-for-2 with two RBIs on Monday. He suffered his injury running the bases in the first inning.

The Astros have two catchers on the seven-day concussion disabled list – Carlos Corporan and Max Stassi. Corporan was injured Aug. 19 when he took a foul ball of his facemask, and Stassi was hit in the head by a pitch two days later and hasn’t played since.

Luhnow said Corporan could see game action later this week.

“Corporan is further along than Stassi, and hopefully we’ll get Corporan into game situations later this week, either it’s with an affiliate or in Houston,” Luhnow said. “We’re feeling optimistic he’ll e back in competition later this week. Stassi has one more hurdle left and until he clears that milestone we’re in a holding pattern.”

Stassi has said in recent days he hasn’t been able to pass his balance tests.

Cody Clark, a 31-year-old who was called up Aug. 23 after 11 years in the Minor Leagues, replaced Castro and went 0-for-3 on Monday, dropping him to 0-for-13 for the season. The Astros didn’t call up a third catcher when rosters expanded. Their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City and Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi are both going to the playoffs.

Springer finishing out season at Oklahoma City

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow for the first time Friday said the outfielder George Springer would stay at Triple-A Oklahoma City for the rest of its season, which could include a trip to the playoffs. Whether Springer gets called to Houston afterwards remains to be seen, but don’t expect him in an Astros uniform anytime soon.

Oklahoma City finishes its regular season Sept. 2, but appears headed for the playoffs.

“The most important thing I want everybody to focus on is he’s having a great year, he’s a guy that unless something changes is going to be in our outfield next year,” Luhnow said. “All this discussion about what day is he coming up is really not that relevant right now. What’s relevant is a he’s a guy we’re excited about, he’s having a tremendous year, we’re going to let him finish his year at Oklahoma City and make a determination after that as far as how much time’s left and whether or not is makes sense to bring him up.

“I see him as a guy who’s going to come to Spring Training next year competing for our every day center fielder job, and I see him as a big part of our team next year. That’s really the message I want our fans to focus on, not worry too much about the date he comes up. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, and we’ll make the best decision for the organization.”

Springer, 23, has split time between Double-A Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City, hitting a combined .303 with a Minor League-leading 33 homers and 98 RBIs with 38 stolen bases entering play Friday. He’s the first player in the Minors to hit 30 home runs and steal at least 30 bases since former Oakland Athletics farmhand Grant Desme in 2009.

“As a general manger, when the fans are asking when your players are coming up because they want to see them in the big leagues, that’s a testament to our scouts and player development people and Springer himself for doing what he’s done this year,” Luhnow said.

Astros take next step in rebuilding, sign Altuve

The Astros announced Saturday they had signed popular second baseman Jose Altuve to a four-year contract extension with a pair of option years, marking the team’s first significant contract commitment under general manager Jeff Luhnow. The deal was first reported by MLB.com.

The extension begins in 2014 and runs through the 2017 season and provides the club with options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Additional terms were not disclosed, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported the deal is worth $12.5 million for four years with two club options for $6 million and $6.5 million.

“Jose values security and we value Jose, and it starts with that,” Luhnow said. “He’s done a terrific job for us ever since getting called up from Double-A two years ago, and he’s been a consistent force in our lineup. He just knows how to hit and he’s a good defender at second base, and when you get a player like that who can add value, not only when he’s at the plate but on the base paths, but also when he’s out there at second base, those are the types of guys we feel we need to have and have long-term. Removing some of the uncertainty for him and for us at this point makes sense.”

The Astros are essentially buying out Altuve’s three arbitration years (though 2017) and doing it in a relatively cost-friendly manner for the team.

Luhnow spent most of his first year on the job trading away players who were in the midst of multi-year contracts in exchange for prospects as the Astros went full-bore in their plan to rebuild through the Draft and player development.  The Astros opened this year with a payroll of about $22 million, with Bud Norris ($3 million) as the highest-paid player.

The Altuve deal, which has been in the work for a couple of weeks with talks intensifying in the last few days, means the club is taking the next step in its rebuilding process by locking up some young players it feels will be building blocks for the future. All-Star catcher Jason Castro could fit that mold.

“This won’t be the last time we tie up one of our young players,” Luhnow said. “In this case, it made a lot of sense, both in terms of timing and length of deal and so forth, but it’s something we’re going to look at.

“We’re going to have a lot of exciting young talent coming through our system and to the big leagues and once we feel there’s enough certainty on our side that the player is going to be around and be able to contribute at the level we need him to for the long haul, we’re going to try to get deals done. It eliminates some of the back-and-forth that goes on year in and year out with arbitration and gives the player some security and gives us some certainly know the player is going to be there for us.”

Altuve, 23, was promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi in 2011 after the Astros traded Jeff Keppinger and plugged into the starting lineup. He batted .284 with three homers and 28 RBIs in 85 games as a rookie before a breakout season in 2012, when he hit .290 with seven homers, 37 RBIs and 33 steals en route to an All-Star Game berth.

He is hitting .280 with three homers, 28 RBIs and 21 stolen bases through 86 games this season.

Luhnow talks with MLB Network

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow spoke with hosts Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds on Tuesday during MLB Network’s “MLB Now,” discussing the rebuilding Astros, roster moves and the team’s tandem pitching project in the farm system. Here’s the video:

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