Astros demote Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson to Triple-A

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As if trading away Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn wasn’t enough of a roster shakeup, the Astros also decided to demote first baseman Brett Wallace and third baseman Chris Johnson to Triple-A last night.

They started 91 and 86 of Houston’s first 108 games, but Johnson has struggled all season with a ghastly .286 on-base percentage and .659 OPS and Wallace convinced the Astros he needed more time in the minors by going just 12-for-66 (.182) in July.

Of course, with Pence and Bourn gone Wallace’s overall .720 OPS ranks second on the team behind only Carlos Lee, which isn’t bad from a 24-year-old rookie and makes the demotion based on 66 at-bats an odd one. Even stranger is that Wallace was replaced on the roster by 22-year-old Jimmy Paredes, who was acquired from the Yankees in last year’s Lance Berkman deal and had nearly the same OPS at Double-A (.726) that Wallace did in the majors (.720).

Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle notes that only two of the eight position players in the Opening Day lineup remain starters and apparently the Astros don’t have any patience for 24-year-old rookies with decent overall numbers even when they’re in the midst of a full-scale rebuild and have MLB’s worst record.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.