Earlier this offseason the Yankees were said to be talking to the Astros about trading for Jeff Keppinger, but those talks apparently fizzled and now the veteran infielder is expected to miss the beginning of the season following foot surgery.
General manager Ed Wade told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that Keppinger’s recovery time is expected to be 3-4 months, which likely means he’ll be sidelined well into April and could be a question mark for much of the first half.
Keppinger hit .288/.351/.393 with six homers and more walks (51) than strikeouts (36) in 575 plate appearances as the Astros’ primary second baseman last season, but with the trade for Clint Barmes and the signing of Bill Hall he was slated for a part-time role in 2011 even before the injury (which likely explains why the Astros were open to trading him).
UPDATE: The swap is now complete, according to Astros social media director Alyson Footer. Houston will receive minor league pitchers Jonnathan Aristil and Wes Musick in return from the Rox.
Aristil, a 24-year-old right-hander, had a 5.90 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over 71.2 minor league innings in 2010. Musick, a 23-year-old lefty, posted a 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 122.1 innings at Single-A.
5:18 PM: That was quick.
About an hour ago Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweeted that “the Astros are working hard on a possible trade of Matt Lindstrom today” and now Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the 31-year-old reliever has been traded to the Rockies.
Colorado has been in the market for right-handed bullpen help all offseason and dealing for Lindstrom allows the Rockies to fill that role without committing to a multi-year contract. Lindstrom is under team control for two more seasons as an arbitration eligible player and figures to earn around $3 million in 2011.
Harding notes that the Rockies first tried to acquire Lindstrom in the November trade that sent Clint Barmes to the Astros for Felipe Paulino, so they clearly like him a lot despite a rough second half that saw him post a 7.50 ERA and lose closer duties to Brandon Lyon. Lindstrom has averaged 96.3 miles per hour with his fastball over the past three seasons, which ranks third baseball, but all that velocity has never equaled great results and he has a 4.00 career ERA.
Huston Street remains the Rockies’ closer, but should he struggle with injuries again Lindstrom gives them a backup option alongside fellow setup men Rafael Betancourt and Franklin Morales.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com “the Astros are working hard on a possible trade of Matt Lindstrom today.”
Acquired from the Marlins for a pair of prospects last winter, Lindstrom ranked among the league leaders with 21 saves in the first half, but then posted a 7.50 ERA after the All-Star break while losing closer duties to Brandon Lyon.
He posted a decent 43/20 K/BB ratio in 54 innings overall, but Lindstrom’s strikeout totals have never matched his mid-90s fastball and opponents batted .306 against him in 2010.
Lindstrom, who’s 31 years old with a 4.00 career ERA, is due to make around $3 million in his second season of arbitration eligibility.
Nelson Figueroa was a non-tender candidate heading into his first season of arbitration eligibility, but the Astros have avoided having to make a decision on him before tomorrow night’s deadline by signing him to a one-year, $900,000 contract.
Figueroa has bounced around for a decade in the majors and minors, but pitched well for the Astros and Phillies this season with a 3.29 ERA and 73/34 K/BB ratio in 93 innings.
General manager Ed Wade indicated that Figueroa will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation and he has plenty of bullpen experience if the Astros decide to move him there instead. Despite being 36 years old Figueroa has just now accumulated enough service time to be arbitration eligible. He was claimed off waivers from the Phillies in July.
Arbitration eligible for the third time, Humberto Quintero and the Astros have avoided the process by agreeing to a one-year, $1 million contract.
Quintero made $610,000 and $750,000 in his first two seasons of arbitration eligibility. He received a career-high 276 plate appearances this year, but hit just .234 with a measly .579 OPS to basically match his underwhelming career marks.
He’s slated to back up second-year catcher Jason Castro in 2011, so the Astros won’t be counting on him for more than a couple starts per week after he was behind the plate for 74 of 162 games in 2010.