Why the Astros' farm system is in the dumper

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There was a story about the state of the Astros’ farm system in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle, painting a bleak yet accurate picture of what happens when you spend a decade signing free agents, skimping on international signings, drafting poorly and failing to come appreciate when it’s time to add talent and when it’s time to rebuild. Today Buster Olney adds another factor:

Here’s the bottom line: The teams that have adhered closely to the
slotting bonus guidelines set forth by the Commissioner’s Office have
seen the quality of their prospects dwindle, and the teams that have
painted outside the slotting system lines — the Tigers, the Red Sox —
have thrived. The Astros have been one of the teams that followed the
slotting guidelines.

This is not terribly shocking, of course. When you have a system in which some clubs agree to arbitrarily limit the things they’ll do to make their team better and others do not, those in the former camp are bound to suffer.  What’s so surprising to me is that so many teams value loyalty to Bud Selig and ownership politics more than they do, you know, winning.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.