Keuchel, Springer sign, avoid arbitration
The Astros settled Friday on salaries for this season with three of their seven arbitration-eligible players, including two franchise cornerstones in starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and outfielder George Springer.
Starting pitchers Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, reliever Will Harris and infielder Marwin Gonzalez remained unsigned after Friday’s deadline for teams and the agents of arbitration-eligible players to exchange desired salary figures. Cases that aren’t settled in the coming weeks are heard in February by a three-person panel, which decides on one side’s proposed number or the other’s.
Keuchel will make $9.15 million this season, the penultimate year he is under team control. The salary represents a $1.9-million raise for the 29-year-old lefthander, whose case for a higher salary in his second year of arbitration eligibility was hindered by his regression in 2016.
The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner had been projected by MLBTradeRumors. com to make $9.5 million through the arbitration process, which takes into account a player’s previous seasons in addition to his most recent. Keuchel had a 4.55 ERA in 26 starts last year, missing the season’s final five weeks because of a shoulder injury.
Keuchel is eligible for one more year of arbitration before qualifying for free agency following the 2018 season. The $7.25 million he made last year coming off his 20-win campaign set a record for a first-time arbitration-eligible starting pitcher. His health and performance will be pivotal to the Astros’ 2017 season.
Springer, 27, will make $3.9 million next season — his first seven-figure salary but $800,000 less than MLBTradeRumors.com’s projection — in the first of the four years in which he is eligible for arbitration.
In his first full healthy season in the major leagues last year, Springer batted .261 with 29 home runs and an .815 OPS. He played Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field — he was one of three finalists for the award, won by Boston’s Mookie Betts — and led the majors in plate appearances (744) while playing in all 162 games.
Springer — like fellow outfielder Jake Marisnick — is eligible for four years of arbitration instead of the typical three because of his Super Two status, achieved by those ranking in the top 22 percent of major league service time among players who have accrued between two and three years of service.
Marisnick, also in his first time through arbitration, was the third player the Astros settled with Friday. The team’s projected fifth outfielder will make $1.1 million this season, exactly the amount MLBTradeRumors.com had projected the 25-yearold to receive.
The Astros have gone to an arbitration hearing only once in general manager Jeff Luhnow’s tenure. It occurred last February, when the team won its case over catcher Jason Castro, who made $5 million rather than the $5.25 million he sought. A week later, the team cut a deal with Evan Gattis on the day of the parties’ scheduled hearing.
McHugh, Fiers and Harris are each in their first year going through the arbitration process. Gonzalez is arbitration eligible for the third of four times because he qualified for Super Two status back in 2014.
Martes among 18 invited to camp
Righthander Francis Martes, the Astros’ top pitching prospect, is among 18 minor leaguers the team has invited to major league spring training.
Martes will be joined by Garrett Stubbs, the team’s top catching prospect, and two of the organization’s closer outfield prospects, Derek Fisher and Ramon Laureano.
Righthanders Edison Frias, Jordan Jankowski, Tyson Perez, Cy Sneed and Aaron West and lefthanders Brian Holmes and C.J. Riefenhauser are the other minor league pitchers invited. Third baseman J.D. Davis, first baseman Jon Singleton, utility infielder Reid Brignac, catchers Juan Centeno and Tyler Heineman and outfielders Jon Kemmer and Alejandro Garcia round out the position players.
Singleton, the former top prospect, was removed from the 40-man roster in November. He is still guaranteed $4.5 million over the next two years of the controversial five-year, $10-million extension he signed in 2014.
The Astros have 28 pitchers and 30 position players scheduled to attend big league camp. Pitchers and catchers report to the team’s new facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 14. The first full-squad workout is set for Feb. 18.
Bregman to play for U.S. in WBC
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman will play for the U.S. in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, he announced Friday via Twitter.
Bregman, 22, is one of at least six Astros who will miss part of spring training to participate in the WBC. Jose Altuve (Venezuela), Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico), Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico), Nori Aoki ( Japan) and Luke Gregerson (U.S.) were previously confirmed as participants in the quadrennial tournament.
This will be Bregman’s fifth time representing the U.S. The former No. 2 overall draft pick previously played for Team USA at the 16-and-under level, the 18-and-under level and twice while at LSU.
The U.S. opens WBC pool play March 10 against Colombia in Miami. The Dominican Republic and Canada are also in USA’s pool.
The WBC runs through March 22 for the two countries that meet in the championship. The Astros break camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., on March 29.
Odds and ends
Ten of the Astros’ 33 scheduled spring training games will be televised live by Root Sports. All but one will be broadcast on radio, with 29 games carried by 790 AM and the other three on 740 AM. Recently retired Bill Brown will be a guest radio broadcaster for a few games during a one-week period in spring training. … Minor league infielder Nick Tanielu will miss “a significant portion” of 2017 after having ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee this offseason, Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias said. The 24-year-old finished last season in Class AA. … Minor league righthander Makay Nelson, a 22-yearold who finished last season in short-season Class A Tri-City, was suspended 50 games after testing positive for amphetamine. The ban begins at the start of the 2017 season.
Dallas Keuchel, from left, George Springer and Jake Marisnick were signed ahead of the deadline for players and teams to exchange desired salary figures.