According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Houston AAAstros are already shopping closer Brett Myers and could be looking to trade him soon.

With San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson being shut down due to structural damage in his right elbow (an affliction that rarely ends in anything but season-ending surgery) and with closers like Chris Perez struggling, there appears to already be a decent market for the confirmed wife-abuser.

Myers was converted to the bullpen’s back end ahead of this season after starting for most of his career, although he did have a stint as the Phillies closer back in 2007. Over the last two seasons with Houston, Myers has made 66 starts and has thrown 439.2 innings. Only 13 pitchers have pitched more innings than him over that span, which is why it seemed a curious decision for the AAAstros to move him to the ‘pen.

Myers is by no means a top-end starter, but he’s a serviceable mid-rotation innings eater and those don’t grow on trees. Throw in the fact that he plays on probably the worst team in baseball (the last thing bad teams need are expensive closers) and the move seemed to make little sense.

However, the AAAstros tried to trade Myers this offseason and were getting no interest (or, at least, no one was willing to meet their asking price) and shortly afterwards they named him the closer. Myers is going to make $11-million this season and is guaranteed at least $3-million more with a $10-million option for 2013 that contains a costly buyout. That’s too much even for a great closer and it’s doubtful Myers will be that.

Still, some speculate that Houston moved him to the bullpen in order to jump-start his trade value and perhaps make it easier for the AAAstros to move him, but one would think they’d have to eat a significant portion of the $14-million guaranteed to him to make the move. Still, maybe they’re on to something.

The trade market for pitchers is a funny one. Starters seem to garner far more in the way of returns during the offseason than they do at the deadline, while it seems to be the opposite for relievers. Take last year’s deadline and this past offseason as examples.

Last July, the Mariners traded a capable (albeit injury-prone) starter in Erik Bedard to the Boston Red Sox in a three way deal that included the Dodgers. In that deal, the Mariners received outfielders Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang and although both should end up playing in the Majors, neither figures to be a particularly impactful regular.

Contrast that with the Rangers acquisition of both Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. Both moves were praised by the wider baseball public, but to get those two relievers, the Rangers parted with a legitimate back-end starter in Tommy Hunter, an admittedly fringy but potential-laden first baseman in Chris Davis, and two fairly highly-touted starters in Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin.

Fast-forward to the offseason and those roles are reversed. The Red Sox acquired A’s closer Andrew Bailey and their starting rightfielder Ryan Sweeney for outfielder Josh Reddick and two rather inconsequential minor leaguers, while two starters from the same organization were traded and netted much more in the way of gains. Trevor Cahill was shipped to the Diamondbacks for a package of decent prospects centred on righthander Jarrod Parker while lefty Gio Gonzalez was dealt to Washington for a bounty of highly-touted players including starters A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock and catching prospect Derek Norris.

Clearly, new Astros GM Jeff Luhnow believes he can get more in the way of returns from Myers as a closer now that the season has begun. His salary is an impediment, but if Luhnow is strictly looking for assets, it might end up paying off, especially with a suddenly emerging market that includes the Giants and their veteran-enamoured GM Brian Sabean.

And the rest:

Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day today.


Earlier today, our own Craig Robinson did his thing and showed us all just how good Robinson was as a baseball player.

Nick Cafardo’s Sunday column at the Boston Globe is usually a must-read, even if he can sometimes say some questionable things when he turns his attention away from reporting and on to analysis. In this week’s piece, however, he talks about the Red Sox tendency to lock up their in-prime players to long-term deals. He invokes Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Josh Beckett as examples. He then goes on to ask what may happen with Jacoby Ellsbury (a Scott Boras agent) who has yet to sign long-term.

As we know, Boras clients tend to avoid signing long-term contracts before they hit free agency in order to maximize their earning power, but with major injuries in two of the last three seasons, is Ellsbury hurting his value by not signing long-term? And would the Red Sox even want to sign him considering his seeming penchant for getting hurt? Ellsbury has one more year of arbitration eligibility following this season.

In the same piece, Cafardo seems to suggest that players have gotten too chummy with one another and this is somehow bad for the game. He invokes the tired and actually quite offensive analogy to war by saying “don’t socialize with the enemy before the battle” and goes one to decry modern players for having friendly relationships with players on opposing teams and for showing it before and sometimes during the game. I would suggest that this kind of stuff doesn’t matter in the least and as a fan, I actually like seeing players on opposing teams fraternize. It shows a human side to them that we can sometimes forget exists.

Things got a little heated in Kansas City yesterday as the Clevelands and Royals had two bench-clearing brawls in the third inning [Dave Skretta, AP].

David Wright is apparently not feeling the effects of his broken pinky finger; he homered in his first at-bat [Anthony DiComo,].

Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was shaky again in his second start yesterday [D.J. Short, NBC Hardball Talk]. Clearly, he’s a bust.

High-priced Marlins closer Heath Bell hasn’t looked good so far this year and although it’s obviously a ridiculously small sample size, his fastball velocity has dropped and he just doesn’t look the same[Juan C. Rodriguez, Miami Sun-Sentinal]. Turns out spending a ton of money on the most volatile position in the game might be ill-advised.

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