Tag: Pat Neshek

Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch Astros

2015 Preview: Houston Astros


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Houston Astros.

The Big Question: Are the Astros ready to contend?

This is Year 5 of the Astros’ scorched-earth rebuilding plan that has seen them lose 106, 107, 111, and 92 games while overhauling the front office, firing a pair of managers, ditching veterans, and stockpiling young talent. Last year’s 70-92 record was the fourth-worst in baseball and might suggest it’ll be another long season in 2015, but the Astros made big strides in the second half and added plenty of veteran help via trades and signings this offseason.

Clearly general manager Jeff Luhnow believes the Astros are ready to take a big step forward.

Houston went 34-38 over the final 72 games of the season, including 20-20 for the final six weeks. And then they started adding pieces. They traded for slugger Evan Gattis, remodeled the bullpen by signing Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, picked up a starting shortstop by bringing Jed Lowrie back into the fold as a free agent, added Colby Rasmus to the outfield and Luis Valbuena to the infield, traded for a backup catcher in Hank Conger, and gave the rotation depth a boost with Dan Straily and Roberto Hernandez.

None of those are championship-making moves, certainly, but most of them were made with the short-term good of the team in mind and together they clearly signal a shift from full-on rebuilding mode to actually building something. Last season’s five best players–Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Chris Carter, Collin McHugh–are all still around and all 28 years old or younger. And stockpiling young talent in the minors has already started to show some dividends, with another wave of high-end prospects on the way soon led by back-to-back No. 1 picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.

Houston will be better in 2016 than in 2015 and better still in 2017, but the Astros have a chance to be a .500 team this season if a few things break right for them.

What else is going on?

  • Houston’s bullpen ranked dead last in baseball last season with a 4.80 ERA. Luhnow tried to address that problem in a huge way by making serious runs as big-ticket free agent relievers David Robertson and Andrew Miller. Those attempts fell short, but the Neshek-Gregerson duo is a damn good consolation prize. They combined to throw 140 innings with a 1.99 ERA and 127/24 K/BB ratio last season and both right-handers have a career ERA under 3.00. Toss in Chad Qualls and Josh Fields from the right side and Tony Sipp and Joe Thatcher from the left side and the Astros’ bullpen may actually be a strength.
  • Dallas Keuchel came out of nowhere last season to rank as one of the league’s best left-handers, throwing 200 innings with a 2.93 ERA and winning a Gold Glove award. He was the easy pick to start Opening Day and his ability to avoid turning back into a pumpkin is one of the biggest keys to the Astros’ season. Keuchel is a ground-ball machine and gets a decent number of strikeouts, which is always a winning combo, but prior to 2014 he had a 5.20 ERA in the majors and a 4.74 ERA at Triple-A through age 25.
  • Springer immediately lived up to the hype in his (injury-shortened) debut, but fellow top prospect Jon Singleton struggled mightily by hitting .168 with 134 strikeouts in 95 games during his first taste of the big leagues. Singleton cracked Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list four times and seems all but certain to hit for big-time power eventually, but his lowly .241 batting average at Triple-A combined with tons of strikeouts mean he still has a lot to prove as an all-around hitter.
  • Lots of power and lots of strikeouts is basically the story of the Astros’ entire lineup, even more so than last year when they led the AL in strikeouts and ranked third in homers. And the amazing thing is that Altuve had the most plate appearances on the team with 707–a hundred more than anyone else–and struck out just 53 times. It may not always be pretty and will lead to some extended slumps, but for the most part strikeouts are just a type of out rather than something to be avoided at all costs and Luhnow sacrificing contact in the name of adding elite power at a time when it’s particularly tough to find is an intriguing strategy. They could top 200 homers for the first time since 2001 and just the third time in franchise history.

Prediction: Another step forward to 75-plus wins, another avoidance of last place, and enough progress to convince everyone they’ll contend for the playoffs in 2016.

Pat Neshek says it was “disappointing” that the Cardinals never tried to re-sign him

Pat Neshek

Pat Neshek’s comeback season with the Cardinals was one of the feel-good stories of 2014, as the side-arming reliever made the All-Star team for the first time at age 33 and bounced back from physical and off-field challenges to post a 1.87 ERA in 67 innings.

And it was great timing too, as Neshek hit the open market as a free agent this offseason. He signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Astros and Neshek revealed Tuesday that he knew all along the Cardinals were never going to make an effort to re-sign him, telling Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

[General manager John Mozeliak] kept saying “lottery ticket” and “we’re not going to be able to sign you back.” Which, you know, you kind of go, “What the heck? You’re the Cardinals.” They’re not a small market. I don’t care what anybody says. Every game there is packed and it’s a baseball atmosphere.

In one sense it was kind of disappointing, but he knew it. He saw better. He could do something cheaper and try to get better. I see where they’re coming from. It was a good run. It worked out for everybody. … I probably would have given a discount at the end, but there was never anything exchanged. I got that hint right away.

On one hand it’s tough to blame the Cardinals for being skeptical about committing to multiple seasons of a pitcher they were able to sign to a minor-league deal a year earlier. On the other hand, $6 million per season for two years is hardly a massive deal and Neshek indicated that, all things being close to equal, he’d have liked to stay in St. Louis.

In addition to being a consistently excellent reliever when healthy throughout his career–he’s got a 2.78 ERA in eight seasons–Neshek is also one of the nicer, most fan-friendly players in baseball. Houston will love him.

Josh Reddick gave up his number to Billy Butler for an X-Box

Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays

John Hickey of the Mercury-News reports that Josh Reddick gave up his number 16 to Billy Butler when Country Breakfast signed with the A’s. The price? Not high: “For Reddick, giving up 16 wasn’t a major hardship, particularly since he got a new X-Box from Butler out of it as a token of appreciation.”

John Lackey gave Pat Neshek an autographed Babe Ruth ball when he was traded to the Cardinals last year. A.J. Burnett started a college fund for Daniel McCutchen’s kid in exchange for a number. Julio Borbon once gave Adrian Beltre his number for an expensive watch. Jim Thome gave Alexi Casilla a Rolex. My favorite of all time — which I mention whenever this comes up — was former Giants punter Jeff Feagles who got Plaxico Burress to pay for an outdoor kitchen at his vacation home in Phoenix in exchange for number 17 and — before that — got Eli Manning to send the Feagles’ family on a vacation to Florida in order to give up number 10.

So, in the grand scheme: an X-Box seems a bit . . . light.

I feel like the price was low, though, thanks to some psychology on Butler’s part. Read in the article how he talked about how it was such a duty — he even calls it an “unwritten rule” — for a player to give up his number to a guy with more service time. Which may very well be true, but the way in which Butler talks up that proposition for the article — like it’s a law — makes me wonder if Butler put that pitch to Reddick too. You know, to lean on him some.

And maybe he sold Reddick some undercoating too. Great deal on that undercoating.

Jeff Luhnow believes the Astros will have a winning record in 2015

astros logo

After losing at least 106 games in three straight seasons, the Astros finished at 70-92 last season. It was a small step in the right direction, but Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow sees more improvement on the way in 2015.

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Luhnow was a guest on MLB Network’s “High Heat” with Christopher Russo on Friday and said that he thinks the Astros will have a winning record this season.

“The Astros, in my opinion, are going to have a winning record this year,” Luhnow said. “I’ll go on record as saying that. I believe this is a winning team, and I think this is the beginning of many years of winning teams.”

The Astros acquired slugger Evan Gattis in a trade with the Braves this week and have also signed infielder Jed Lowrie and relievers Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek this winter. Those additions have the potential to move the needle, but they’ll also need Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh to prove that their breakouts were for real and young players like George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, and Brett Oberholtzer to progress. Still, after years of essentially tanking during their rebuilding process, there’s no question that things are looking up for the franchise.

The Astros haven’t had a winning record since they went 86-75 in 2008.

2015 Free Agent Tracker

Hanley Ramirez

Here’s our annual free agent tracker, which will be updated regularly throughout the offseason. The rankings are based on the Top 150 Free Agents column. Players who didn’t make it into the top 150 are included at the end.

Re-signings are in red. Players signing with new clubs are in blue. The 12 players to turn down qualifying offers (and thus require draft pick compensation) are listed with asterisks.

All ages are as of April 1, 2015.

1. Max Scherzer (RHP Tigers, 30)*: Nationals – seven years, $210 million
2. Jon Lester (LHP Athletics, 31): Cubs – six years, $155 million + vesting option
3. Yasmany Tomas (OF Cuba, 24): Diamondbacks – six years, $68.5 million
4. Hanley Ramirez (SS Dodgers, 31)*: Red Sox – four years, $88 million + $22 million vesting option
5. James Shields (RHP Royals, 33)*: Padres – four years, $75 million + $16 million option
6. Pablo Sandoval (3B Giants, 28)*: Red Sox – five years, $95 million + option
7. Russell Martin (C Pirates, 32)*: Blue Jays – five years, $82 million
8. Victor Martinez (1B-DH Tigers, 36)*: Tigers – four years, $68 million
9. Nelson Cruz (OF-DH Orioles, 34)*: Mariners – four years, $58 million
10. Chase Headley (3B Yankees, 30): Yankees – four years, $52 million
11. Ervin Santana (RHP Braves, 32)*: Twins – four years, $55 million + option
12. Francisco Liriano (LHP Pirates, 32)*: Pirates – three years, $39 million
13. Melky Cabrera (OF Blue Jays, 30)*: White Sox – three years, $42 million
14. Adam LaRoche (1B Nationals, 35): White Sox – two years, $25 million
15. David Robertson (RHP Yankees, 29)*: White Sox – four years, $46 million
16. Brandon McCarthy (RHP Yankees, 31): Dodgers – four years, $48 million
17. Jake Peavy (RHP Giants, 33): Giants – two years, $24 million
18. Andrew Miller (LHP Orioles, 29): Yankees – four years, $36 million
19. Jose Fernandez (2B Cuba, 26): Still in Cuba / unlikely to sign
20. Aramis Ramirez (3B Brewers, 36): Brewers – $14 million mutual option exercised
21. Alex Rios (OF Rangers, 34): Royals – one year, $11 million
22. Jung-Ho Kang (SS Korea, 27): Pirates – four years, $11 million ($5 million posting fee)
23. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP Yankees, 40): Japan
24. Colby Rasmus (OF Blue Jays, 28): Astros – one year, $8 million
25. Jason Hammel (RHP Athletics, 32): Cubs – two years, $20 million + option
26. Nick Markakis (OF Orioles, 31): Braves – four years, $44 million
27. Michael Cuddyer (OF-1B Rockies, 36)*: Mets – two years, $21 million
28. Jed Lowrie (SS Athletics, 30): Astros – three years, $23 million
29. Edinson Volquez (RHP Pirates, 31): Royals – two years, $20 million
30. Torii Hunter (OF Tigers, 39): Twins – one year, $10.5 million
31. Asdrubal Cabrera (2B-SS Nationals, 29): Rays – one year, $7.5 million
32. Kwang-Hyun Kim (RHP Korea, 26): Remaining in Korea
33. Norichika Aoki (OF Royals, 33): Giants – one year, $4.7 million + option
34. Mike Morse (OF Giants, 33): Marlins – two years, $16 million
35. Luke Gregerson (RHP Athletics, 30): Astros – three years, $18.5 million
36. Francisco Rodriguez (RHP Brewers, 33):
37. Sergio Romo (RHP Giants, 32): Giants – two years, $15 million
38. Hector Olivera (2B Cuba, 29):
39. Adam Lind (1B-DH Blue Jays, 31): Blue Jays – $7.5 million option exercised (traded to Brewers)
40. Joakim Soria (RHP Tigers, 30): Tigers – $7 million option exercised
41. Justin Masterson (RHP Cardinals, 30): Red Sox – one year, $9.5 million
42. A.J. Burnett (RHP Phillies, 38): Pirates – one year, $8.5 million
43. Rafael Soriano (RHP Nationals, 35):
44. Zach Duke (LHP Brewers, 31): White Sox – three years, $15 million
45. Jason Grilli (RHP Angels, 38): Braves – two years, $8 million
46. Casey Janssen (RHP Blue Jays, 33): Nationals – one year, $5 million + option
47. J.A. Happ (LHP Blue Jays, 32): Blue Jays – $6.7 million option exercised (traded to Mariners)
48. Aaron Harang (RHP Braves, 36): Phillies – one year, $5 million
49. Billy Butler (DH-1B Royals, 28): Athletics – three years, $30 million
50. Stephen Drew (SS Yankees, 32): Yankees – one year, $5 million
51. Kendrys Morales (1B-DH Mariners, 31): Royals – two years, $17 million
52. Carlos Villanueva (RHP Cubs, 31): Cardinals – minor league deal ($2 million)
53. Pat Neshek (RHP Cardinals, 34): Astros – two years, $12.5 million + option
54. Rickie Weeks (2B Brewers, 32): Mariners – one year, $2 million
55. Ryan Vogelsong (RHP Giants, 37): Giants – one year, $4 million
56. Brett Anderson (LHP Rockies, 27): Dodgers – one year, $10 million ($4 million in incentives)
57. Burke Badenhop (RHP Red Sox, 32): Reds – one year, $2.5 million + mutual option
58. Chris Young (RHP Mariners, 35):
59. Kyle Kendrick (RHP Phillies, 30): Rockies – one year, $5.5 million
60. Joba Chamberlain (RHP Tigers, 29):
61. Chris Denorfia (OF Mariners, 34): Cubs – one year, $2.6 million
NT. Everth Cabrera (SS Padres, 28):
62. Nick Hundley (C Orioles, 31): Rockies – two years, $6.25 million
63. Brandon Morrow (RHP Blue Jays, 30): Padres – one year, $2.5 million ($5 million in incentives)
64. Gavin Floyd (RHP Braves, 32): Indians – one year, $4 million ($6 million in incentives)
65. Geovany Soto (C Athletics, 32): White Sox – minor league contract
66. Luke Hochevar (RHP Royals, 31): Royals – two years, $10 million
NT. Kris Medlen (RHP Braves, 29): Royals – two years, $8.5 million ($10 million in incentives)
67. Chris Young (OF Yankees, 31): Yankees – one year, $2.5 million ($3.825 million in incentives)
68. Tim Stauffer (RHP Padres, 32): Twins – one year, $2.2 million
69. Misael Siverio (LHP Cuba, 25): Mariners – minor league contract
70. Ichiro Suzuki (OF Yankees, 41): Marlins – one year, $2 million
71. Jonny Gomes (OF Athletics, 34): Braves – one year, $4 million
72. Josh Johnson (RHP Padres, 31): Padres – one year, $1 million ($6.25 million in incentives)
73. Mike Aviles (INF Indians, 33): Indians – $3.5 million option exercised
74. Tsuyoshi Wada (LHP Cubs, 34): Cubs – one year, $4 million ($2 million in incentives)
75. Chad Billingsley (RHP Dodgers, 30): Phillies – one year, $1.5 million ($6.5 million in incentives)
76. Neal Cotts (LHP Rangers, 35): Brewers – one year, $3 million
77. Jason Motte (RHP Cardinals, 32): Cubs – one year, $4.5 million
78. Emilio Bonifacio (2B-OF Braves, 29): White Sox – one year, $4 million
79. Tom Gorzelanny (LHP Brewers, 32): Tigers – one year, $1 million
80. Josh Willingham (OF-DH Royals, 36): Retired
81. Joe Beimel (LHP Mariners, 37):
NT. Gordon Beckham (2B-3B Angels, 28): White Sox – one year, $2 million
82. A.J. Pierzynski (C Cardinals, 38): Braves – one year, $2 million
83. Joel Peralta (RHP Rays, 39): Rays – $2.5 million option exercised (traded to Dodgers)
84. Kelly Johnson (2B-3B Orioles, 33): Braves – minor league contract
85. Alberto Callaspo (2B-3B Athletics, 31): Braves – one year, $3 million ($1 million in incentives)
86. Joel Hanrahan (RHP Tigers, 33): Tigers – one year, $1 million ($2.5 million in incentives)
**. Roberto Hernandez (RHP Dodgers, 34):
87. Clint Barmes (INF Pirates, 36): Padres – one year, $1.5 million + option
88. Mark Reynolds (1B-3B Brewers, 31): Cardinals – one year, $2 million ($800,000 in incentives)
89. Colby Lewis (RHP Rangers, 35): Rangers – one year, $4 million
90. David Ross (C Red Sox, 38): Cubs – two years, $5 million
91. Jared Burton (RHP Twins, 33):
92. Delmon Young (OF-DH Orioles, 29): Orioles – one year, $2.25 million
93. LaTroy Hawkins (RHP Rockies, 42): Rockies – $2.25 million option exercised
94. Alfonso Soriano (OF FA, 39): Retired
95. Jose Veras (RHP Astros, 34): Braves – minor league contract
NT. Justin Smoak (1B Blue Jays, 28): Blue Jays – one year, $1 million
96. Corey Hart (1B-DH Mariners, 33): Pirates – one year, $2.5 million ($2.5 million in incentives)
97. John Axford (RHP Pirates, 32): Rockies – minor league contract ($2.6 million)
98. Chris Capuano (LHP Yankees, 36): Yankees – one year, $5 million
NT. Andy Dirks (OF Blue Jays, 29): Blue Jays – minor league contract
99. Jim Johnson (RHP Tigers, 31): Braves – one year, $1.6 million ($900,000 in incentives)
NT. Daniel Descalso (INF Cardinals, 28): Rockies – two years, $3.6 million
NT. Alexi Ogando (RHP Rangers, 31): Red Sox – one year, $1.5 million ($1.5 million in incentives)
100. Jason Frasor (RHP Royals, 37): Royals – one year, $1.8 million + option
101. Matt Belisle (RHP Rockies, 34): Cardinals – one year, $3.5 million
102. Andrew Bailey (RHP Yankees, 30): Yankees – minor league contract
103. Jeanmar Gomez (RHP Pirates, 27): Phillies – minor league contract
NT: Wesley Wright (LHP Cubs, 30): Orioles – one year, $1.7 million
104. Kevin Correia (RHP Dodgers, 34):
105. Mike Adams (RHP Phillies, 36):
NT. Gaby Sanchez (1B Pirates, 31): Japan
NT. Juan Francisco (1B-3B Red Sox, 27): Rays – minor league contract
106. Phil Coke (LHP Tigers, 32):
107. Dustin McGowan (RHP Blue Jays, 33):
108. Ernesto Frieri (RHP FA, 29): Rays – one year, $800,000 ($2.35 million in incentives)
109. Nate Schierholtz (OF Nationals, 31): Rangers – minor league contract ($1.75 million)
NT. Brandon Beachy (RHP Braves, 28):
110. Ramon Santiago (INF Reds, 35): Blue Jays – minor league contract ($1.1 million)
111. Craig Breslow (LHP Red Sox, 34): Red Sox – one year, $2 million
NT. Kyle Blanks (1B-OF Athletics, 28): Rangers – minor league contract ($1 million)
112. Matt Lindstrom (RHP White Sox, 35):
113. Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP Cubs, 34): Rangers – one year, $1 million plus incentives
114. Wily Mo Pena (OF Japan, 33):
115. Mark Ellis (2B Cardinals, 37):
116. Bruce Chen (LHP FA, 37):
117. Jesse Crain (RHP Astros, 33): White Sox – minor league contract
118. Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP Mets, 34): Japan
119. Endy Chavez (OF Mariners, 37): Mariners – minor league contract
120. Rafael Betancourt (RHP Rockies, 39): Rockies – minor league contract
NT. John Mayberry Jr. (OF Blue Jays, 31): Mets – one year, $1.45 million
121. Ryan Ludwick (OF Reds, 36): Rangers – minor league contract ($1.75 million)
122. Paul Maholm (LHP Dodgers, 32): Reds – minor league contract
123. Scott Hairston (OF Nationals, 34):
124. Chris Perez (RHP Dodgers, 29): Brewers – minor league contract ($1.5 million)
NT. Eric Young Jr. (OF Mets, 29):
125. Matt Albers (RHP Astros, 32):
126. Munenori Kawasaki (INF Blue Jays, 33): Blue Jays – minor league contract
127. Yozzen Cuesta (1B Cuba, 26?):
128. Sergio Santos (RHP Blue Jays, 31): Dodgers – minor league contract
129. Franklin Morales (LHP Rockies, 29):
130. Mike Carp (1B FA, 28): Nationals – minor league contract
131. Juan Carlos Oviedo (RHP FA, 33): Rangers – minor league contract
132. Ryan Doumit (C-DH Braves, 33):
133. J.J. Putz (RHP FA, 38): Retired
134. Joe Thatcher (LHP Angels, 33):
135. Gerald Laird (C Braves, 35): Diamondbacks – minor league contract
NT. Logan Ondrusek (RHP Reds, 30): Japan
136. Felipe Paulino (RHP White Sox, 31): Red Sox – minor league contract
137. Jamey Wright (RHP Dodgers, 40):
138. Reed Johnson (OF Marlins, 38):
139. Wandy Rodriguez (LHP FA, 36): Braves – minor league contract
140. Franklin Gutierrez (OF FA, 32): Mariners – minor league contract
NT. David Huff (LHP Yankees, 30): Dodgers – minor league contract
141. Jason Marquis (RHP FA, 36): Reds – minor league contract
142. Dan Uggla (2B FA, 35): Nationals – minor league contract
143. Kevin Kouzmanoff (1B-3B Rangers, 33):
144. Nolan Reimold (OF Diamondbacks, 31): Orioles – minor league contract
145. Sean Burnett (LHP Angels, 32):
146. Rafael Furcal (2B-SS Marlins, 37):
147. Josh Outman (LHP FA, 30): Braves – one year, $925,000
148. Scott Baker (RHP Rangers, 33): Yankees – minor league contract
149. Scott Downs (LHP Royals, 39): Indians – minor league contract
150. J.P. Arencibia (C Rangers, 29): Orioles – minor league contract

Signed pre-rankings:
Orioles re-signed SS J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $40 million contract ($14 million option for 2018)
Red Sox re-signed RHP Koji Uehara to a two-year, $18 million contract
Phillies re-signed RHP Jerome Williams to a one-year, $2.5 million contract
Phillies re-signed OF Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $2.5 million contract

Other signings:
Diamondbacks signed RHP Yoan Lopez for an $8.27 million bonus (minor league deal)
Braves signed OF Dian Toscano to a four-year, $6 million contract.
Cardinals signed INF Dean Anna to a one-year contract
Braves signed OF Zoilo Almonte to a one-year contract
Braves signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract
Blue Jays signed LHP Jeff Francis to a minor league contract
Phillies signed OF Jeff Francoeur to a minor league contract
Royals signed INF Ryan Roberts to a minor league contract
Reds signed OF Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract
Indians re-signed RHP Shaun Marcum to a minor league contract
Pirates signed RHP Brad Lincoln to a minor league contract
Rockies signed LHP John Lannan to a minor league contract
Mariners signed RHP Mark Lowe to a minor league contract.
White Sox signed C George Kottaras to a minor league contract.
White Sox signed RHP Brad Penny to a minor league contract.
Blue Jays signed 1B Daric Barton to a minor league contract.
Rockies signed OF Roger Bernadina to a minor league contract.
Reds signed LHP Jose Mijares to a minor league contract.
Reds signed RHP Michael Bowden to a minor league contract.
Blue Jays signed LHP Andrew Albers to a minor league contract.
Diamondbacks re-signed INF Jordan Pacheco to a minor league contract.
Giants re-signed RHP J.C. Gutierrez to a minor league contract.
Nationals signed RHP Heath Bell to a minor league contract.