Chris Herrmann
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Astros claim Chris Herrmann off waivers from Mariners

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The Astros started to replenish their options behind the plate on Friday after claiming Mariners catcher Chris Herrmann off waivers. Herrmann will join Max Stassi on the 40-man roster, as both Martín Maldonado and Brian McCann have officially entered free agency.

Herrmann, 30, picked up a minor league deal with the Mariners at the start of the 2018 season. He was called up from Triple-A Tacoma in late May and appeared in just 36 games with the team over the course of the year, during which he batted .237/.322/.421 with two home runs and a .743 OPS in 87 plate appearances. While he spent the majority of his 2018 campaign behind the dish, he’s proven fairly versatile in the past and logged time in the outfield as well as first base.

Per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, joining the Astros is a dream come true for the veteran backstop, who originally hails from Tomball, Texas. “I’ve always been an Astros fan since I was a little kid, watching Biggio, Bagwell, Berkman,” Herrmann told reporters on Friday. “Brad Ausmus was one of my favorite catchers; this is really cool.” McTaggart also notes that the Astros will continue to search for more catching depth this offseason, perhaps targeting the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto or the Royals’ Salvador Perez. Pending the qualifying offer he received from the Dodgers on Friday, Yasmani Grandal may be another option, too.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?