Astros owner Jim Crane told the FOX affiliate in Houston late last week that he would be “open” to discussing a contract with Roger Clemens if the veteran right-hander proved capable of getting outs.
Which is why it should come as no surprise that the Astros were watching closely as Clemens tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday night for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.
Here is Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, discussing the brief but effective outing Sunday in a chat with Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle:
“He looked good,” said Luhnow. “He certainly can compete at that independent ball level. We’ll see how he feels after doing that yesterday, but he certainly is impressive given the fact that he hasn’t pitched in so many years and with his age. I don’t know what he intends to do. I think a lot of that will have to do with how he feels after (Saturday). Recovery time is probably a little different for somebody who hasn’t pitched in so long.”
Clemens hasn’t appeared in a major league game since the 2007 season. He told reporters after his start Saturday in southeast Texas that he will ice up for a few days before deciding what he’d like to do next.
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.