Quote of the Day: Sports Illustrated on the Astros

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This is really a quote of yesterday — April 15, 1991 to be exact — that reader Christopher Modell dug up while trying to find some more info for me on Craig Biggio’s catching prowess.  The writers of the piece — William Oscar Johnson and Albert Kim — are concerned that the Astros are embarking on a ruinous fire sale:

“Even before the 1990 season was over, the Astro front office had traded away reliever Larry Andersen and second baseman Bill Doran. After the season, the Astros lost six other players as free agents, including starting pitcher Danny Darwin, who led the league with an ERA of 2.21; closer Dave Smith, who saved 23 games; and outfielder Franklin Stubbs, who had a team-leading 23 homers. Houston then completed its winter clearance by trading away slugging first baseman Glenn Davis.

“We want to know, of course, what the Astros got in return. We are told that Davis was dealt to Baltimore for three young but as-yet-undistinguished major leaguers: outfielder Steve Finley and pitchers Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch. For Doran, Houston got two minor leaguers and a second-string catcher. For Andersen, Houston got Jeff Bagwell, a promising young infielder. And that’s it.”

That’s all?  Man. Tough break.

I think the best part of it is that this little bit is merely the opening of a lengthy story about baseball and finances, with the central question being “can the Astros compete on an $11 million payroll,” when some teams are spending as much as — gasp! — $36 million, which was the league-leading Oakland Athletics’ payroll heading into 1991.

Money quote, from Astros’ GM Bill Wood: “We want the most value for our money; it’s that simple. We do not want
to have a $25 million payroll and still finish fourth. For that kind of
money, we want to finish first.”

Things change.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.