The Astros plan on being buyers for some reason

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Following yesterday’s news that the White Sox were scouting Roy Oswalt — and that he was having none of it — comes two hope-springs-eternal stories from Houston.

First comes all sorts of optimistic rumblings from the Astros over at

As the Astros head into June on the heels of an 11-15 May, the
scuffling team conjures up memories of 2004, when Houston sat 20 1/2
games back on August 22. Or perhaps this year’s slow start is more
equatable to the 2005 squad, which went 19-32 out of the gate. Both of
those Astros teams dug themselves out of the hole — posting respective
runs of 36-10 and 74-33 — to punch a playoff ticket in the seasons’
final days. And while this year’s beleaguered squad has been beset with
injury and has underperformed, the Astros aren’t counting on their
history of second-half surges to guarantee October baseball.

Second, ESPN’s Bruce Levine quotes an anonymous insider who claims that that Astros’ owner Drayton McClane would rather add than subtract:

According to one of the top executives and most respected men in
baseball, the Astros are not in the mode to trade any of their players,
most notably Roy Oswalt. “The Astros owner, Drayton McLane, has always
been steadfast on his direction of the Astros,” the executive told me.
“Mr. McLane will be more prone to adding to his team rather than
trading his present players away.”

I’m of two minds here. I’m 85% that the Astros actually adding players
to make a run is lunacy. They’re eight games out and in last place
already, and that’s with Miguel Tejada playing way over his head, and
Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez and Hunter Pence playing about as well as
they can expect to play. Lance Berkman could certainly do better than
he is, but even if he picks it up, those gains will likely be offset by
the losses when those other guys fall back to Earth. Same goes for the
pitching. Roy Oswalt is better than he has shown thus far, but Wandy
Rodriguez is probably not a 2.26 ERA pitcher. The rest of the rotation
is pretty much what one would expect them to be. The upshot is that
there isn’t any real upside to this team in 2009, and short of adding
several top players — which Houston couldn’t do even if it wanted to
given the poor state of its farm system — there can’t be any serious
expectation of competitiveness this year, can there?

The other 15% of my mind thinks like this: Lee, Berkman, Oswalt,
Tejada and Rodriguez are either old or getting there quickly. There is
nothing to replace them on the farm. In light of that, once the Astros
give up on the current core and actually try and rebuild, the fallow
period is going to be an extended one. So, if McClane doesn’t mind
wasting a bunch of money, why not trade whatever dreck can be scrounged
up for guys with big, unwieldy contracts and see if they can’t catch
lightning in a bottle? Odds of success if such a path were taken: very,
very low, though probably not technically zero. And unless you’re an
Astros fan, it would be really, really fun to watch, wouldn’t it?

The spectacle, I mean, not the actual baseball.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.