As if trading away Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn wasn’t enough of a roster shakeup, the Astros also decided to demote first baseman Brett Wallace and third baseman Chris Johnson to Triple-A last night.
They started 91 and 86 of Houston’s first 108 games, but Johnson has struggled all season with a ghastly .286 on-base percentage and .659 OPS and Wallace convinced the Astros he needed more time in the minors by going just 12-for-66 (.182) in July.
Of course, with Pence and Bourn gone Wallace’s overall .720 OPS ranks second on the team behind only Carlos Lee, which isn’t bad from a 24-year-old rookie and makes the demotion based on 66 at-bats an odd one. Even stranger is that Wallace was replaced on the roster by 22-year-old Jimmy Paredes, who was acquired from the Yankees in last year’s Lance Berkman deal and had nearly the same OPS at Double-A (.726) that Wallace did in the majors (.720).
Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle notes that only two of the eight position players in the Opening Day lineup remain starters and apparently the Astros don’t have any patience for 24-year-old rookies with decent overall numbers even when they’re in the midst of a full-scale rebuild and have MLB’s worst record.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.