Rebuilding doesn’t have to be entirely depressing.
The Astros — predicted by many to be a 100-loss team — won their fifth straight game on Saturday night in Houston, and their second straight against the defending World Series champion Cardinals.
Houston is one game under .500 (13-14), good enough for third place in the National League Central.
Jose Altuve, a 21-year-old Venezuelan second baseman, is batting .346/.389/.529. Shortstop Jed Lowrie, acquired in a steal of a trade this winter with the Red Sox, has a .979 OPS and four home runs. Wandy Rodriguez is sporting a 1.64 ERA through six starts. And left fielder J.D. Martinez ranks 13th in the major leagues with 20 RBI.
There will be regression at some point. The rotation isn’t deep and Wandy is likely to be moved near the deadline for prospects. But the ‘Stros seem to be enjoying their flirtation with relevance and Minute Maid Park is outpacing seven other MLB stadiums — including first-place Cleveland’s Progressive (Jacobs) Field.
Cardinals 2, Astros 8
Dodgers 5, Cubs 1
Phillies 1, Nationals 7
Orioles 8, Red Sox 2
White Sox 3, Tigers 2
Diamondbacks 3, Mets 4
Brewers 2, Giants 5
Reds 2, Pirates 3
Rangers 5, Indians 2 (11 innings)
Yankees 1, Royals 5
Athletics 4, Rays 3 (12 innings)
Braves 13, Rockies 9
Marlins 4, Padres 1
Blue Jays 2, Angels 6
Twins 0, Mariners 7
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have inked outfielder Eric Young, Jr. to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Young, 31, played in just six games and logged one plate appearance in the majors this past season with the Yankees. He last played regularly in 2014. While Young doesn’t do much with the bat, he could provide value as a pinch-runner. He also offers versatility, having played all three outfield positions along with second base.
The Angels have Ben Revere as their fourth outfielder and Jefry Marte behind him, so Young would need to have a very impressive showing in spring training to find a spot on the Angels’ roster.
Update (5:20 PM EST): It’s a minor league contract, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. If he makes the major league roster, Saltalamacchia will earn $1.25 million with an additional $250,000 available through incentives.
The Blue Jays are close to a deal with free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet is reporting.
Saltalamacchia, 31, hit a meager .171/.284/.346 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 292 plate appearances with the Tigers this past season. With Russell Martin getting regular playing time behind the plate, Saltalamacchia will serve as his understudy, pushing A.J. Jimenez and Juan Graterol down on the depth chart.
The veteran catcher isn’t far removed from being a productive backstop. He had an .805 OPS in 70 games with the Diamondbacks in 2015 and also helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013 with an .804 OPS in 121 games.