$3 million down the drain for Astros

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Apparently satisfied with finishing in fifth place, the Astros have opted to pick up Brian Moehler’s $3 million option rather than exercise a $250,000 buyout.
It was actually a mutual option — the kind that never seems to get exercised — but Moehler was quick to jump all over the kindhearted gesture. Certainly, no one else was going to be quick to pay him $3 million after a season in which he went 8-12 with a 5.47 ERA and averaged only 5 1/3 innings per start.
Because he averaged so few innings per start, he missed qualifying for the ERA title and finishing with what would have been the NL’s worst ERA over Livan Hernandez.
Moehler had more runs allowed than strikeouts this season. He had more than twice as many hits allowed as strikeouts. He even got worse as the year went on, finishing 1-6 with a 6.12 ERA during August and September. In those two months, he allowed 73 hits, walked 21 and struck out 28 in 57 1/3 innings.
There’s just so little upside here. Moehler turns 38 this winter. He hasn’t had an ERA under 4.50 as a starter since 1998. He hasn’t qualified for the ERA title since 2000. He’s spent his entire career pitching for clubs that were average or worse, largely because he’s always been average or worse.
But this is Ed Wade for you. There’s a modest chance Moehler will be worth the $3 million he makes next year, but it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll be worth more and quite possible that he’ll find himself off the roster by June 1. When the Astros spend next year whining about how they can’t afford to take on more payroll, remember this completely unnecessary move. There’s little doubt the Astros could have had Moehler back for $1 million had they just exercised a little patience.

Former Yankees prospect Manny Banuelos signs a minor league deal with the Dodgers

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Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.

OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.

It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.