Astros call up 5-foot-7 second baseman Jose Altuve

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The Astros likely got a little worse Tuesday with Jeff Keppinger’s departure, but they also got a little more interesting.

Jose Altuve is listed at 5-foot-7, but according to just about everyone who has seen him in person, he’s likely much closer to 5-foot-5.  And now he’s the game’s most compact major leaguer after being called up from Double-A to take over at second base.

Altuve was absolutely tearing it up in the minors this season.  He started out at Single-A Lancaster and batted .408/.451/.606 with five homers and 19 steals in what, admittedly, is a fantastic environment for hitters.  He hadn’t slowed too much following the move up to Double-A, though.  He was hitting .361/.388/.569 in 35 games for his new team.  Overall, he was at .389/.426/.591 with 10 homers and 24 steals in 357 at-bats.

The Astros are almost certainly rushing Altuve.  He’s just 21, and it’s not at all likely that he’s ready to hit for power in the majors.  Still, he’s the most intriguing position player they’ve developed since Hunter Pence, and given that the Astros are in need of a little excitement, it’s not too surprising that they chose to give him a look.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.