HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow returned Wednesday from a three-day trip to the team's complex in the Dominican Republic. Senior vice president Marcel Braithwaite and senior vice president for finance Jonathan Germer also made the trip.
While in the Dominican, the Astros announced they will add a second Dominican Summer League team, giving them seven domestic Minor League affiliates and two in the Dominican. Luhnow said it was necessary to keep up with the team's commitment to land international players.
"We've signed a lot of good players the past couple of years and especially feel like since [international director] Oz [Ocampo] got here we focus a lot on getting the right type of player," Luhnow said. "We need an opportunity for them to play and develop. We have the largest [international bonus] pool again this year. We had it last year, and we'll probably have a decent-sized pool going forward.
"We want to make sure as we invest the dollars in the players, we give them plenty of opportunity to develop, and having two teams over there just doubles the amount of innings and at-bats we have available for the kids to gain the experience they need prior to coming to the states."
An additional team adds to the costs of salaries for the staff and players, food and infrastructure costs. The Astros' Dominican academy, which opened in 2010, was built for one team, so some renovations will be needed.
"It's a nice facility," Luhnow said. "It has everything we need. It wasn't designed with two teams in mind, though it was bigger than what we needed for one team. We're having to squeeze in a little bit, but we're going to make it work."
Astros designate Wallace after signing Williams
HOUSTON -- While officially announcing they agreed to terms on a previously reported one-year deal with right-hander Jerome Williams on Thursday, the Astros opened up a spot on their 40-man roster by designating infielder Brett Wallace for assignment.
Wallace, 27, is off the 40-man roster, was expected to be one of a handful of players competing for the starting job at first base this spring. He appeared in 79 games across two stints with Houston last year and hit .221 with 13 homers, 36 RBIs and 104 strikeouts in 262 at-bats. The Astros have 10 days to trade Wallace, outright him to the Minor Leagues or release him. He is out of options.
Williams, 32, went 9-10 with a 4.57 ERA in 37 games, including 25 starts, for the Angels last year. He began the season in the Angels' bullpen, where he made his first eight appearances before starting 25 of his last 29 games from May through the end of the season.
Williams finished the season by posting a 4-0 record in five September starts with a 4.03 ERA. He has pitched in parts of eight Major League seasons with the Giants (2003-05), Cubs (2005-06), Nationals (2007) and Angels (2011-13), and has posted a career record of 42-47 with a 4.35 ERA.
"You look at his body of work, he's a guy who had to battle adversity just to get where he's at now and the experience factor," manager Bo Porter said. "I think he brings leadership on and off the field, and I also think that his body of work brings a work ethic and perseverance needed on our ballclub."
Williams will make a guaranteed base of $2.1 million with up to $1 million in incentives, structured around innings pitched and starts. He was the only pitcher in baseball last year to make at least 25 starts and 10 relief appearances.
He'll earn an additional $200,000 for his 12th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th starts, which equals $1 million. Or he'll get $100,000 for every 10 innings he pitches beginning at 120 innings and ending at 210 innings. He can get up to $1 million using any combination of starts or innings pitched.
Spring facility begins welcoming players, staff
HOUSTON -- With only nine days until pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to the Astros' Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla., several members of the team's front office and some players will begin heading for Florida over the next few days.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said a few players have been at Osceola County Stadium rehabbing and working out, and there should be an influx beginning early next week. Players who have been working out at Minute Maid Park this winter will travel to Florida on Monday to begin working out Tuesday.
"We obviously have a big [front office] crew here, but some of the guys are starting to peel off and head there," Luhnow said. "Every day, from now until next Saturday, we're going to see an increase in the numbers down there. Some other staff are going to start to arrive early next week, and Saturday [Feb. 15] we'll be ready to go."
The team's equipment truck will be packed Monday to begin the 900-mile drive to Kissimmee, where the Astros are holding Spring Training for the 30th consecutive season.
Astros manager Bo Porter, entering his second year, will leave for Florida on Tuesday. He plans to spend time at the home of Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells in Hobe Sound, Fla. Porter befriended Parcells a few years ago when the football coach paid visits to Marlins camp in nearby Jupiter. Porter will arrive at Osceola County Stadium on Wednesday.
"I'm extremely anxious to get going," Porter said. "You go through the whole course of the offseason and you really try to look forward to the roster taking shape and the additions in which we've made. You want to see the progress these guys have made, and it gets you excited."