Monday's Three Astros Things

Talking about Ronny Rafael, MLBAM and the Sharknado trade...

Some things to talk about while someone finally makes a baseball/Sharknado reference...

1) Astros sign Ronny Rafael

Houston finally got its last big, rumored international free agent signing, as Jesse Sanchez reports this morning that the team has reached an agreement with Dominican outfielder Ronny Rafael.

In addition to Rafael, Houston announced that it had signed outfielder Angel DeLeon, outfielder Hector Martinez and RHP Cristofer Melendez.

Rafael may be the most intriguing of all Houston's signees. Though scouting reports on a 16-year-old are problematic at best (please, PLEASE don't look for my story on Ariel Ovando), Rafael's are encouraging. Here's what Oz Ocampo had to say about Rafael:

"Ronny Rafael is a Dominican center fielder with a rare power/speed combination and a potential impact bat," said Ocampo. "His body type, overall tool package, and football-type athleticism remind us of a young Brian Jordan. With his athleticism and closing speed, Ronny has the chance to become a plus defender in center field. He stands out for his tireless work ethic, competitiveness, and desire to get better. With the combination of his tools and makeup, we believe he has the ability to make the proper adjustments and impact the game in several ways."

Here's Ocampo on Martinez:

"Hector Martinez is a strong, athletic and projectable Dominican outfielder who projects to have average to solid average tools across the board," said Ocampo. "Our area scout, Rafael Belen, did a tremendous job in identifying Hector as a prospect when he was just 13 years old. He is a line-drive hitter with bat speed, a clean bat path, and occasional over-the-fence power. Hector will start at center field, but depending on his overall physical development, could move to right field with a solid average arm in the future."

And Ocampo on Melendez and De Leon:

"Cristofer Melendez is a tall, projectable Dominican right-handed pitcher with clean arm action and solid mechanics. He throws a fastball that jumps out of his hand, and has solid feel for a curveball."

"Angel DeLeon is a tall, projectable and athletic Dominican outfielder with plus bat speed who projects to hit for both average and power. He shows an advanced approach at the plate as well as solid hitting mechanics, a fluid swing and a clean bat path."

2) MLBAM on Forbes

Some eye-popping numbers from Maury Brown on MLB Advanced Media, who handles MLB.com, MLB.TV and the MLB At-Bat app, along with much more. How successful has it been?

But what if I told you there was a company nestled in New York's Chelsea Market near the Apple AAPL +0.99% Store and across the street from Google's offices that will see revenues of $800 million in 2014; with targeted revenues of $1 billion by 2016.

Launched in 2000 and the original piece of MLB Advanced Media, MLB.com was funded by the 30 clubs in an agreement that had them each investing $1 million a year over four years. The cost was targeted at $120 million. To the joy of the owners and MLB, the web presence for baseball started generating excess revenue in 2003, allowing them to invest only $70-$75 million before beginning to see a return on their investment. The 30 owners in baseball now get dividends annually based on direction of their board of directors and is reportedly expected to be $7-8 million per club for 2014.

I won't pretend to get into the finances of this. I'm not equipped to tell you how this affects the Astros. I will say, however, that my limited understanding of baseball money says that an extra $7-8 million per year from MLBAM basically pays for Scott Feldman. Or Chad Qualls.

The money involved here is staggering, as is the implication of an MLBAM IPO. Even if it doesn't directly affect the Astros, this is worth watching.

PS - forgot to mention this last week, but Zach Lowe's column on NBA revenues is fascinating. The Rockets, partners in CSN Houston, made $40 million last season in basketball-related revenue. Seems relevant to the Astros situation, no?

3) Thoughts on Oakland-Chicago trade

Baseball's toughest division just got tougher. Over the weekend, Oakland picked up Jeff Samarzidja and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs for top-5 prospect Addison Russell, 2013 first-round pick Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily. The rich got richer and the Cubs got a fourth shortstop.

With the move, the A's signal they're all-in on making a run this year and are doing what they did in the Moneyball heyday. They're winning with pitching. Was Addison Russell one of the best prospects in baseball? Sure, but he's at least two years from having an impact on Oakland and it could take him up to five years before settles in and makes a statement for the team.

What's more, the A's made the move because Seattle is playing much better and the Angels have finally tapped into their potential. While it stung that Houston just lost seven straight, let's remember they got swept by baseball's second and third-best teams. Doesn't make it any better, but it does show how loaded the AL West is right now.

You know what this trade really made me wish, though? That Houston had been able to deal Oswalt before he forced his way out. Imagine how much he could've fetched in his prime on this market? Maybe in the #AstrosAltUniverse.

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