Some things to talk about while I learn Ray Durham's nickname is "Sugarman."
1) Houston, meet your next closer
This is the time for non-tenders and outright releases of players due arbitration raises. The deadline for that is Monday, so we'll see more players hitting the market over the next week. But, as this segment heading suggests, we've already found your newest Astros closer: newly free agent Jose Mijares, formerly of the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants have outrighted Jose Mijares to Triple-A Fresno, according to Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Mijares was arbitration eligible and was due $2.1MM, making him a non-tender possibility. The re-signing of Javier Lopez, made official earlier this evening, made him expendable. Rough outings against right-handed hitters gave the 29-year-old a 4.22 ERA, but he still turned in a solid 9.9 K/9 rate (with 3.7 BB/9).
Mijares features great peripherals, a solid fastball and had a consistent FIP for the past two seasons, despite fluctuations in his ERA. He features a 90 mph fastball and a good slider. In other words, a very solid repertoire for a closer.
What would he cost? I could see Mijares signing in Houston for a Jose Veras deal (aka one year, $2 million), closing efficiently in Houston and then getting replaced in the future. Adding a guy like Mijares might not be a splashy move, but adding him in with Moylan and a handful of other names in the coming months will do a lot to fix Houston's 'pen problems.
2) Offseason unfolding normally
Evan Drellich gets going in his new job with this story on how the winter is unfolding so far. Though it feels like a ton of signings are happening unusually early, Drellich concludes nothing is much different from winters past:
But in context, it's still early. The Astros don't see this offseason as one that's moved unexpectedly. Moves like that Kinsler-Fielder deal or even Brian McCann's five-year, $85 million signing with the Yankees can give a public impression it's a little further along than it really is.
It may be fair to say the activity has picked up quickly this year, considering the winter meetings are still nearly two weeks away. But some of the free agents who have come off the board already were probably examples of targeted acquisitions: situations where teams set out this offseason to acquire a particular player and got it done early. That's not abnormal.
Again, don't sweat the waiting game. If Houston is going to make some big-ticket additions this winter, it's far more money-efficient to pick up a player or two who's value has plummeted due to draft pick compensation or to the market drying up.
That will make Houston a "destination" instead of a backwater planet like Tatooine.
3) Thurm on CSN Houston
Wendy Thurm is a close second to David Barron on having this whole CSN Houston mess on lockdown. If you're new to the controversy, check out her great summary article over at FanGraphs, which both outlines what's going on with Houston's RSN and with what that means for the rest of baseball:
The question for Major League Baseball and the teams that have TV deals set to expire in the next few years - including the Phillies, Rockies and Diamondbacks - is whether the situation in Houston is particular to those teams (Astros and Rockets) and that market (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas) or a sign that the sports-rights fees bubble is losing air. Howard Megdal reported on Oct, 21 for Sports on Earth that a new, lucrative Phillies TV deal was expected to be announced within 30 days. We're now five days past that window, and there's been no such announcement. It's a holiday week and all, so an announcement just before baseball's Winter Meetings is still possible. It's also possible the situation in Houston has given several parties pause.
Points to take from the rest of the article include that the Astros only received $25 million of their rights fees in 2013, about half of what they're supposed to get. The team is supposed to be getting $80 million per season from the RSN deal, which is right in line with the higher revenue teams like the Rangers.
It's a mess. We'll know more in two weeks, but for now, the rest of the FanGraphs reading hemisphere will see just how messy things are getting here.