That the Astros are in rebuild mode is no secret. In the past, they had been pawning off veteran players in an effort to usher in a youth movement, but GM Jeff Luhnow says the Astros aren’t likely to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline.
Jesse Crain and Jerome Williams are eligible to become free agents after the season. Meanwhile, Dexter Fowler will be due a raise in his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility, a handful of players will be eligible for arbitration for the first time, and the team will have to attempt to hammer out an extension with catcher Jason Castro.
Via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:
“This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we’re likely to keep them as opposed to move them,” Luhnow said. “There’s always going to be that temptation, especially if you have an area where you think — if come mid-July we’re clearly not contending, and there’s a club that needs a guy that we have and they’re willing to give up enough to get him, we’re never going to shut that conversation down.
“But at the same time, I do think we value the relationship with the fans and we’ll make a — we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress.”
The Astros enter 2014 with a $50.5 million payroll, according to Cot’s Contracts, representing a significant increase over last season’s $26.1 million Opening Day payroll. Luhnow and his team has been disciplined in adhering to a long-term plan that included lots of short-term losing, but it looks like the strategy should bear some fruit in the coming years.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.