The Astros pulled off their first trade of the new year, sending two minor leaguers to Tampa Bay for Woodlands TX native Austin Pruitt. The righthander is a former University of Houston product who has pitched three partial seasons with the Rays. He has posted a 12-8 record with a 4.87 ERA while in the majors. He has the ability to start as well as come in from the bullpen and will be added to the mix of starter candidates in Spring Training. Pruitt is out of options so he will need to clear waivers if he does not make the team.
Correa: 2020 salary set
(c) Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Astros designated pitcher Dean Deetz for assignment. It's possible he will be waived but, more likely, he will wind up pitching for the AAA affiliate in Round Rock.
Friday was the deadline for teams and players to agree to terms and avoid the arbitration process. Of the six players unsigned, three of them agreed to contracts including shortstop Carlos Correa ($8 million). This is Correa's second year of arbitration eligibility and he increased his salary by three million from 2019. The 25-year-old Puerto Rican former Rookie of the Year has batted .277 over his five year career with 102 homers and 372 RBIs. One concern for Carlos is his health. He has had back problems that have limited him to under 100 games per year over the last three seasons.
Righthander Brad Peacock also came to terms. He will be making $3.9 million, an increase from $3.11 million last year. The veteran, who turns 32 next month, has a 34-30 career record with a 3.99 ERA. He's been with the Astros since 2013 and will be a free agent next winter unless signed to an extension. Peacock is expected to challenge for a starter role but is equally useful in relief.
The other player who avoided arbitration is reliever Chris Devenski who will sign for $2 million after earning $1.525 million last year. The former All-Star had a bumpy 2019 but pitched 69 innings in relief with a 2-3 record and a career-high 4.83 ERA. Over his four big league seasons, he has a 16-15 record and 3.21 ERA with seven saves.
For the remaining three players, the next step is to exchange final offers with the Astros then an arbitrator will choose sometime next month which salary seems more fair after a hearing. The three players are outfielder George Springer, infielder Aledmys Diaz and closer Roberto Osuna. The offers will start leaking out in the next few days.
UPDATE: Osuna agreed to a one year deal for $10 million after this was posted. The numbers for Diaz ($2.6 million wanted by Diaz and $2 million preferred by the Astros) should settle easily. He made $2 million last year. The story for Springer will be the big news. He wants $22.5 million for 2020 according to sources while the Astros countered with $17.5 million. He made $12 million last year. I expect this one to go all the way to the arbitration panel and believe Springer is likely to win.)
The franchise also received some sad news when it was learned that Hal Smith, the starting catcher for the original 1962 Colt .45s, passed away this week at age 89. He homered in Houston's first big league game and was a hero in Pittsburgh's 1960 World's Championship over the New York Yankees.
Smith caught in the majors for 10 seasons (1955-64) for Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Houston and Cincinnati, batting .267 with 58 homers and 323 RBIs.
Hanging over the offseason is the prospect of punishment from the MLB office regarding the use of electronic equipment to steal signs of opposing teams. The official response is said to be scheduled for the next two weeks although a recent development about surveillance by the Boston Red Sox may delay the report. Supposedly, the Commissioner's office is looking at the Houston issue and the Boston issue as two separate investigations. There may also be punishment stemming from the incident involving former Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman which has yet to be ruled.
- Bob Hulsey