Posted on: August 19, 2011 7:04 pm

Astros put Wandy, Myers on trade waivers

The Astros put Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers on the waiver wire Friday, according to sources, which could make the early days of next week interesting for teams that need starting pitching help.

While Myers is almost certain to clear waivers, because of his large contract and poor performance, the word in baseball last week was that at least one team had interest in claiming Rodriguez. Rodriguez's contract is also big (he is due $36 million from 2012-14), but he has pitched reasonably well this year, with an 8-9 record and 3.50 ERA.

Rodriguez starts for the Astros Friday night against the Giants, giving interested teams another look before they would need to make a decision on a claim.

Players who clear waivers can be traded to any team for the rest of the season. If one or more teams put in a claim, the Astros would have three options: either work out a trade with the team awarded the claim, or simply allow the claim to go through, or pull the player back off waivers and keep him for the rest of the season.

The Astros would trade Rodriguez, but they've been telling teams that they won't simply give him away. While incoming owner Jim Crane wants the payroll reduced to about $60 million next year, the Astros believe that by trading Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, they have already cut enough salary. They also believe that they could trade Rodriguez this winter, if they want.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 10, 2011 7:42 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2011 8:22 pm

Wandy Rodriguez could go on waivers this week

There's a growing belief in baseball that the Astros will put Wandy Rodriguez on trade waivers this week, and also that at least one team will put in a claim.

The Astros discussed Rodriguez with several teams in the days before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but couldn't complete a deal. Many people thought then that Rodriguez would make it through waivers unclaimed because of a contract that pays him $10 million next year, $13 million in 2013, and includes a $13 million player option for 2014 if Rodriguez is traded.

But with a large crowd of scouts watching Monday night in Arizona, Rodriguez shut out the Diamondbacks on two hits over six innings. It's believed that at least one National League team, and maybe others, were interested enough to risk a claim.

The Astros traded both Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn before the deadline, and incoming owner Jim Crane wants the payroll cut to about $60 million next year, according to sources. But the Astros insist that they won't give Rodriguez away for nothing.

If one or more teams claim Rodriguez, the Astros would have three options. They could simply allow the claim to go through (which they're saying they won't do), or work out a trade with the team that is awarded the claim (the claiming team that is lowest in the standings), or pull him back off waivers (which would basically make him untradeable for the rest of the season).

If Rodriguez went through waivers unclaimed, the Astros would be free to trade him to any team.

The Astros discussed Rodriguez with the Yankees before the deadline, but it's believed now that the Yankees' interest in him has cooled, and that they likely would not claim him.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: July 31, 2011 10:30 am

Braves get Michael Bourn from Astros

The Braves have acquired center fielder Michael Bourn from the Astros.

After starting out looking for a big outfield bat (the Braves were one of the teams most interested in Carlos Beltran), the Braves shifted their focus some after putting two center fielders (Jordan Schafer, Nate McLouth) on the disabled list. Bourn, regarded by some as the fastest player in baseball, should help.

In return for the 28-year-old Bourn, who leads the National League with 39 steals, the Astros get Schafer and three minor-league pitchers, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu. Thus, the Braves were able to add an outfielder without surrendering any of their top pitching prospects (as they would have had to do to get Beltran, Hunter Pence or Carlos Quentin). The Astros also included cash to pay part of Bourn's $4.4 million contract.

Bourn will be under Braves control through next year, when he can become a free agent.

Schafer, still just 24 years old, was once considered one of the Braves' top prospects, but he has mostly struggled in the big leagues, with a .223 career batting average and .613 OPS. The Braves put him on the DL this week with a chip fracture in his left middle finger.

"Michael Bourn is a perfect fit for our club, which focuses on speed and defense to match up with our strong pitching," Braves general manager Frank Wren said in a statement.

The Astros have traded away Pence and Bourn, after trading Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman last July. They could still move pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers, although interest in the two was described as light as recently as Saturday night. New owner Jim Crane, who has yet to officially take over from Drayton McLane, plans to cut the major-league payroll to about $60 million next year (from $70 million at the beginning of this year), and hopes to totally rebuild the organization.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 10:59 pm

With Pence, Charlie Manuel gets his hitter

Charlie Manuel got his way.

He got his hitter.

And Ruben Amaro proved that when given the choice, he doesn't always trade for a pitcher. He may often trade for an Astro, but not always for a pitcher.

Oh, and Hunter Pence steps in as the next Jayson Werth.

That's basically what Friday night's big trade comes down to. The Phillies, who allowed Werth to leave as a free agent last winter (no way were they going to match the $126 million Werth got from the Nationals), have now acquired Pence to take his place in right field, and his fifth spot in the batting order, behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Young Domonic Brown proved unable to handle that spot, at least for now.

Pence is in some ways the perfect Phillies acquisition, because he cost only prospects (very good prospects, but very young prospects), and because they'll have him under control for at least two years after this one. In building a Phillies roster that has won four straight division titles and played in two World Series, Amaro and his mentor, Pat Gillick, have emphasized building a core that could stay together for a number of years.

This week, the Phillies basically passed on Carlos Beltran, who is a more dynamic hitter than Pence, but is a true rental player who they would have only controlled to the end of this season.

That fits the Phillies' pattern. Picking a hitter over a pitcher doesn't.

In fact, this will be the first year since 2005 that the Phillies' big in-season acquisition isn't a starting pitcher.

They don't need another starter, not with a rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and the emerging Vance Worley. They might need bullpen help, but Phillies people remind you that with a four-man playoff rotation, either Oswalt or Worley would pitch out of the bullpen in October.

Even so, earlier this week, Amaro came to the clubhouse to poll the Phillies' coaching staff. Hitter or pitcher, he asked.

You know which way Manuel voted.

The Phillies manager always wants another hitter. He often campaigns openly for Amaro to add another hitter.

This time, he got his way.

Pence is a good fit for the Phillies, just as Beltran fit the Giants well. The Giants needed someone to bat third. The Phillies already had the third and fourth spots covered.

Pence can just fit in, as Werth did for many years. And as a right-handed hitter, he fits in particularly well behind Utley and Howard, who both bat left-handed.

He's also, as one Phillies person said Friday, "reliable."

And you know he has his new manager smiling, even before he gets to town.

Posted on: July 29, 2011 9:01 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2011 10:34 pm

Phillies get Pence from Astros

The Phillies have acquired outfielder Hunter Pence from the Astros, in a trade announced late Friday night.

Pence, a 28-year-old two-time All-Star, gives the Phillies the strong outfield bat that manager Charlie Manuel has been asking for. Pence hit .308 with 62 RBI in 100 games this year for the Astros. Manuel told reporters that Pence will likely bat fifth, behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, in the Phillies' lineup.

While Pence isn't as dynamic a player as Carlos Beltran, the outfielder the Giants got this week from the Mets, he fits the Phillies' pattern of acquiring players they can control past the end of the year. Pence can't become a free agent until the end of the 2013 season. That's why the Phillies were willing to pay a bigger price for him than they would have for Beltran.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro also has a history of being able to make deals with Astros GM Ed Wade. The two worked together when Wade was with the Phillies, and last year they engineered the trade that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia.

In exchange for Pence, the Astros received two of the Phillies' top prospects, first baseman Jonathan Singleton and pitcher Jarred Cosart, who were both at Class A Clearwater. They also get Double-A pitcher Josh Zeid, as well as a player to be named later, who will also be a minor leaguer. The Astros included cash ($1 million, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com), to cover part of Pence's $6.9 million salary.

Pence started for the Astros Friday night, but was pulled out of the game in the fifth inning. He was then shown receiving hugs and handshakes in the Astros dugout.

The Braves had also tried to get Pence, but they weren't willing to surrender any of their top pitching prospects. The Phillies, who valued Pence more, were willing to come up with the players to convince the Astros to make the deal.

The Phillies originally expected that Domonic Brown could take over in right field this year, after they allowed Jayson Werth to leave for Washington as a free agent. But Brown got hurt in spring training and has struggled since then, and Manuel told reporters Friday afternoon that he would be better off developing in the minor leagues.

Earlier this week, the Phillies were still trying to decide whether to prioritize an outfielder or bullpen help. They decided to make Pence their top target, in part because they believe the bullpen will be strengthened in the playoffs by the addition of whichever starter they don't use in their postseason rotation (either Vance Worley or Oswalt).

The big question then was whether the Astros would truly consider dealing Pence, who is a favorite of outgoing Houston owner Drayton McLane. At one point this week, Astros officials were telling friends with other teams that they were much more likely to trade Pence this winter.

Once Beltran was dealt to the Giants on Wednesday, however, the Astros realized that the time to maximize Pence's value was now. Incoming owner Jim Crane intends to start a complete rebuild in Houston, likely dropping the Astros' payroll to around $60 million next year. So moving Pence, who makes $6.9 million this year and will be due for an arbitration raise, began to make more sense.

The Astros have also shopped center fielder Michael Bourn (the Reds are interested), and starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. But Pence was always the one who would bring the biggest return.

The Braves move on to other targets. They could try to make a deal for White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, but the Sox are believed to be asking for the same high-end pitching prospects that the Braves refused to deal for Pence. Atlanta could also step up efforts to get Ryan Ludwick from the Padres, or potentially try to get B.J. Upton from the Rays.

Posted on: July 28, 2011 4:07 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2011 6:44 pm

With Beltran gone, interest in Pence picks up

Interest in Hunter Pence has picked up considerably, even as some rival officials continue to doubt that the Astros will trade their All-Star outfielder.

With Carlos Beltran now off the market, the Braves, Phillies, the Reds and many other teams have spoken to the Astros about Pence, a 28-year-old who has emerged as the face of the franchise in Houston. Pence has a .307 batting average and 62 RBI, and his value is enhanced by the fact that he won't be a free agent until after the 2013 season.

Earlier in the week, the Astros were telling people that it was much more likely Pence would be dealt this winter, rather than this week. But with interest increasing, some people involved in the talks now believe a deal could get done.

Some rival officials, though, continue to doubt that the Astros will complete a trade, saying that outgoing owner Drayton McLane won't permit it.

McLane has an agreement to sell the Astros to Jim Crane, but that deal still awaits MLB approval, so McLane remains in charge. Many in baseball expect Crane to change general managers once he takes over, so there is also doubt that he and McLane would allow Ed Wade the authority to trade their most valuable asset.

The Braves and Phillies both have interest in adding an outfield bat. Besides Pence, the Braves have discussed Ryan Ludwick with the Padres and Josh Willingham with the A's. They have also long had interest in Carlos Quentin of the White Sox.

Posted on: July 28, 2011 4:00 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2011 4:08 pm
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Posted on: July 26, 2011 8:03 pm

Brewers like Beltran, but Barmes is more likely

The Brewers have remained on the fringes of the Carlos Beltran talks, with great interest in adding a big-time player but without much left in the minor leagues to offer for him. Brewers people acknowledge that Beltran was always a longshot for them, but they have had scouts watch him during the Mets' last two series.

What's more likely, according to sources, is that the Brewers make a smaller move, and the name to watch now is Astros infielder Clint Barmes.

Barmes could fill in for weak-hitting Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop, and he could also fill in for struggling Casey McGehee at third base.

The Brewers have also talked to the Dodgers about infielder Jamey Carroll. And they've looked at other outfielders, including Coco Crisp of the A's and Jerry Hairston Jr. of the Nationals.
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