Astros fail to reload in Roy Oswalt deal

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They were in a bad position all along, but the fact that the Astros had to kick in $11 million of the $23 million that Roy Oswalt is guaranteed and still didn’t get a top talent in return has to be viewed as a failure on GM Ed Wade’s part.
J.A. Happ isn’t nothing. The 27-year-old finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting after going 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 166 innings last season. He was declared off limits when the Phillies went after Roy Halladay both at the trade deadline last year and over the winter. However, the elbow injury he suffered in April changed things dramatically. It was called a strained forearm, but Happ still hasn’t fully recovered more than three months later. While he returned to the majors this week, his velocity fluctuates and his command has been off.
Happ was never a particularly good bet in the first place. He put up excellent strikeout numbers in the minors, but a good portion of those K’s came off a curveball he decided to scrap a couple of years ago. His slider and changeup are both quality pitches, but he doesn’t overwhelm with an 88-91 mph fastball and he’s always walked too many batters. He’s also a flyball pitcher, and now he’s going to another ballpark that’s particularly kind to right-handed power hitters. At best, he’s a long-term No. 3 starter. He could well be more of a No. 4 or 5, and now that he has the arm issues, he’s just not a particularly valuable property.
The prospects the Astros received back are also underwhelming. Fleet-footed center fielder Anthony Gose is just 19 (20 next month) and has plenty of room for growth, but he’s lacking when it comes to baseball intellect. He’s been thrown out 27 times in 63 steal attempts this year, and he has a 103/32 K/BB ratio in 418 at-bats. His overall .263/.325/.385 line isn’t bad at all considering that he’s one of the youngest players in a tough league for hitters, but he’s far more of an athlete than a baseball player at the moment.
Jonathan Villar, 19, is a switch-hitting shortstop hitting .272/.332/.358 with 38 steals in the Sally League. Like Gose, he struggles to control the strike zone, as he’s fanned 103 times and walked just 26 times in 371 at-bats. He’s also iffy to stay at short. If he retains his range as he fills out and shows he can make steady contact from both sides of the plate, he has a chance to make it as a regular. Still, he’ll probably be a bottom-of-the-order guy.
If the Astros had managed to flip Oswalt for this trio without kicking in a whole bunch of money, I’d be giving Wade some credit. As is, though, one could argue that Happ, Gose and Villar aren’t worth the $11 million the Astros had to kick in to get the deal done. Oswalt wasn’t going to take the Astros anywhere in the next year and a half, so there was little harm in moving him. However, if Wade had simply built a better team in the first place, he wouldn’t have needed to go this route and accept such a modest return for one of the best players in franchise history.
Update: This will help some. The Astros have sent Gose to the Blue Jays for first baseman Brett Wallace.

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.