It’s time to build the Astros’ house

Stop the streak! It’s time to build the house.

For the past four seasons, the Astros have been sellers at the trade deadline. In fact, two different general managers have traded away more than a full roster trying to find the right combination to create a winner. Bereft of real veterans in the organization, Luhnow is now moving younger players, still seeking to assemble the foundation for an organization in decline since reaching the pinnacle in 2005.

Stop the bleeding, it’s time to build the house!  As any contractor will tell you, it takes 2x4s and bricks to rebuild a house. You can spend only so much time on the foundation. It’s time for the Astros to put the “build” into the “rebuild”.

No, this isn’t an indictment on either Luhnow, owner Jim Crane or their ambitious reconstruction plan. While most baseball savvy fans are in the GM’s corner and are patiently watching the blueprint slowly come to life, the Astros should throw fans a few crumbs along the way. Maybe sooner than later.

Locking up Jose Altuve is nice. Bringing up Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Villar is a good start. George Springer in a few more weeks would be great too.

With Jason Castro approaching arbitration, perhaps it’s time to buy out a few of those arb years in inexpensive fashion. It wouldn’t take an Altuve contract.

Perhaps more importantly, the Astros need to begin to build around those players. Add some key veterans who aren’t of the low-risk, high-reward, release-in-midseason group. They shouldn’t necessarily be free agents. But, with much pitching in the stable and with John Ely and Alex White working their way back with a good young core, it may be time for a well-placed addition or two in the lineup.

Let’s see how Luhnow fashions a trade from the “other” side. In other words, not just selling off the major league roster. But can he put together 2-3 low-level “prospects” for a major league third baseman or outfielder this winter?

He’s proven he can do well in the draft. He can negotiate contracts. He’s shown evidence of being shrewd at signing low-risk, high-reward players (e.g. Jose Veras) in hopes of flipping them later. Say what you will about Rick Ankiel, Carlos Pena or Tyler Greene, but he’s wasted little money in the big picture trying to find a diamond in the rough.

Yes, the Astros have proven very good at one aspect of the rebuild project. The minor league system is now among the best in all of baseball. For his next act, Luhnow will try to put some meat on those bones.

Indeed, there’s a strong foundation, it’s time to build the house.

Here’s a list of those traded over the past few years.

  • Carlos Lee 1B.
  • Jeff Keppinger 2B.
  • Jed Lowrie SS.
  • Chris Johnson 3B.
  • Lance Berkman LF.
  • Michael Bourn CF.
  • Hunter Pence RF.
  • Humberto Quintero C.
  • Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ.
  • Bullpen: Wilton Lopez, Mark Melancon, Brandon Lyon, Jose Veras,
  • Bench: J.B. Shuck, Justin Maxwell, Jason Bourgeois.

So with one third of the season remaining…

  • Has the team reached the bottom yet?
  • Will Houston actually play better now that the deadline has passed?
  • Which position should Luhnow target this winter?
  • How should the Astros proceed over the next 18 months?
  • Have the Astros done well in trading those players listed above?

16 comments on “It’s time to build the Astros’ house

  1. Bottom – Yes. Better: The new guys should be excited, and that will help. Position: Batters Box – need some sticks. The next 18 months will continue on this path. No one of any consequence left to trade. This winter should see multiple releases. The trades were necessary. So they have done as well as could be expected – if not better. As to “the plan” I thought the Altuve signing was a good start. Surprised that Castro with same agent as Altuve have not gotten a deal put away. Makes me think that Castro is on his way out, with youngsters playing next year. To think Astros can compete with a payroll of 1/3 to 1/10 of the leaders, is just a dream. Money needs to start flowing if they are to get above .500.


  2. Well, Chip
    – If I remember right – I’ve written two “Is this bottom yet” guest posts for you. And now that they have sold even younger vets – I would say – yes this is bottom.
    – They’ve played better late the last two years. Late in the season, you have an influx of new blood, you have less rumors swirling around everyone and you are playing against other teams that either have nothing to play for or are tight because they have something to play for. So, yeah – a little better down the stretch.
    – Position to target? A solid bat – overall don’t care where they would go.
    – Next 18 months – They need to call more young folks, they need to sign a couple real free agents (don’t have to be top dogs – but no more bottom feeders) and they need to promote kids quickly up the minors. And I would not mind one of these 3 prospects for a pro trades. Those can be better deals than FAs.
    – As would be expected – they did real well on some trades and not so well on others. Overall good job.


  3. Did you know Matt Dominguez now leads the team in RBI with 54 (Carter is second at 51). He’s still not getting on base very well and doesn’t have light tower power. Defensively, he makes so many great plays that the errors are hard to understand. Villar made a great play up the middle last night. If he hits enough he stays in the discussion. Altuve isn’t going anywhere. Hopefully he can rebound a bit and start to boost the OBP. Castro is likely not going anywhere until next year’s deadline at the earliest.

    Assuming all of that is correct, we need to figure out 1B and the OF. Do we want more Carter in 2014? I assume Wallace comes back in case Singleton is not ready (and he doesn’t look ready yet). The last fans in town may riot if Barnes isn’t in the running for a starting spot next spring. Springer should be in Houston in September (at the latest) and permanently beginning in April. Krauss / Hoes / Grossman / JDM all seem like candidates for a 4th / 5th outfielder spot.


    • I don’t see Altuve’s OBP ever being great. He is Carlos Lee without the power – he swings early and often, and makes contact at astounding rates. That just prevents him from consistently getting deep in counts and drawing some walks. He also makes contact 88% of the time he swings, the major league average is 79%. He simply swings more often and puts more in play, he just isn’t going to walk alot without dramatically changing an approach that he is had his entire baseball life.

      My take on the outfield is that your starters need to be impactful in some major way. Either they can be good power guys, speed/OBP guys, something that generates some OPS and WAR. Guys that are all around fundamental guys, play some good D, hit in streaks, run well, they ar role players that DO help you, but are flawed at 4-5 plate appearances every day. Thats where I categorize Barnes. He helps you in some ways – but at 500 plate appearances everything he does well for you gets negated by those slumps. It’s just not in his skill set. He is better at 200-250, and giving you a boost. For the exact same reason, Krauss and JDM are hard pressed to make my team if they aren’t getting those plate appearances, their minor league track records dicatate that they are OPS guys – but the eyes tell me they are awful pinch hitters (with bad contact rates), bad defensive players, and generally hurt me if I am a manager that has that on my bench in the 7th inning to pick from.

      I would explore the market for a RF’er, I would put Springer in CF, I would keep Hoes and Barnes as part of my bench, I would lock Carter into DH, and I would tell Grossman, JDM, and Krauss they are competing not only for the starting LF job, but they are competing to make the team, and see what happens. My gut is Krauss is the starting LF’er next year.


    • Yes, Dominguez’ production, both at the plate and in the field, are often overlooked. Indeed, if you have production in other parts of the lineup, you can “live” with Dominguez at 3B. He’s still quite young and could still develop a bit more as a hitter. If Springer is the real deal, Villar pans out, Singleton matures and takes over at 1B, it may pay for Houston to look for that RF bat to hit in the middle of the order. And leave Dominguez at 3B.


  4. When you scan the potential free agents for 2014 there isn’t much match for the Astros. Everyone is either B grade (not going to help you in your current situation) or too expensive.

    I would probably make a serious bid at Nolasco if he makes it to free agency. Shields will likely have his option picked up – but if the Royals feel that the money they spent this year for the product they got is off, and Moore is fired, I could see him being out there, albeit maybe out of our price range. Hughes could be interesting – but injury prone and inconsistent.

    One interesting note, since our Chip family loves to discuss nostaligic picks, is Hunter Pence. Would he and the Astros both consider it? Right field is a hole, with him in RF, Springer in CF, and last man standing of a bunch of candidates in LF, it could be a much improved OF. Don’t see it happening, but if I were Astros management for a day, I would make that phone call. Also in nostalgia land, Wandy will probably be bought out (2.5M buyout over 13M contract). I could see the Astros taking out some insurance from a Pelfrey type. Could Josh Johnson be looking for a one year deal to rebuild his status?


    • Hunter Pence will be 31 in April. I wouldn’t mind bringing him back if it’s reasonable, but the odd thing to me is that the teams he’s played for (Philly, SF) haven’t locked him up.

      I’m guessing another team will eventually gobble him up at the going rate since he will be a free agent, but can’t see the Astros’ putting out 3-4 years at the $50-$60 million it might take to bring him back. But, yes, as you say, “I would make that phone call.”

      No, no, no on Wandy. He may not pitch again this season. Interestingly, the Astros will pay $5.5 million of his 2014 salary, so it would cost Pittsburgh only $7.5 million to bring him back next year. The Pirates may feel it’s worth that gamble.


  5. Yes Houston, we have hit bottom. How could this team get any worse? Hoes has a job to lose, at least for now. He’ll play a pretty good outfield, and presumably, with his solid OBP, gives us more opportunities on the bases. Assuming Springer in center, then yes, pick up a real ML outfielder over the winter to play left until someone from in house is ready.

    And I’d start to find out if Castro can play first for awhile. Looks to me that Wallace, for about the eighth time, is a bust, and it looks more and more that Singleton will be at least delayed. And pick up another catcher for a year or so, a guy that is comfortable behind the plate. Castro remains a liability back there. But if he keeps hitting righties, then he’s your 5 day a week DH, maybe even a first base option, and can still play backstop in a pinch. I’d like to see Corporan and a back up catcher that hits lefties as our two primary catchers. Castro will never get a big ML contract as a guy who can’t catch, or hit lefties, but for now, he’s providing the offense, so find a place on this team for him out from behind the dish.

    Otherwise, the infield remains intact, until someone challenges Altuve, Villar and Dominquez.

    I’m looking forward to a wide open spring training from the mound corps. We could have 6 or 7 new faces out there.

    And Pence, that would be a lot of fun, but a long shot. Instant credibility though, and a good guy in a young clubhouse.


  6. And for crying out loud, stop bringing up players from OKC who have failed time and time again.

    Jimmy Paredes? Really? That’s the outfielder/slugger you bring up today? There wasn’t someone else available? Someone who maybe looks ready for the Big Leagues?


  7. Paredes is terrible. He’ll NEVER be an effective major league player. Even AAA prince Wallace has a better shot to make it long term.


  8. “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and BLOW your house down”………this was the Astros farm
    teams in 2010. NOW……..we have so dang many players they have to share lockers! I understand the need to restock the minors, but GOOD LORD, when
    is enough for one year? I bought into this whole rebuilding project, and I’m willing
    to wait until 2015 to become good again, but look around, we have nearly an entire
    team built of AAA guys, with no experience. They are going to lose a LOT more
    games this year than last, because they are so young and inexperianced……..BUT
    I’m going to be VERY pi$$ed off next year if they have this same bunch next year, without adding some bats to this lineup. I have a good feeling about the pitching going into 2014, and if Crane doesn’t spend this off season he will (and SHOULD)
    be run outta town. The “real talent” is still in A and AA ball, but you STILL gotta try and win games, and unless or until, this owner starts to make good on ALL THOSE
    PROMISES (CSN, ect…) he can kiss the fans in Houston goodbye. It may be too late already for most of us. And don’t get me started on Paredes and Wallace, and Carter. Becky

    Glad Bud got the win tonight……I was pulling for him.


  9. Steven, interest stat on Altuve (still in the TV darkroom) previous two years, he makes contact (lots of fouls) with balls over his head, in the dirt, outside, etc. I am amazed at his hitting talent, but if could just lay off some balls. Get a steady 1st baseman, and for 2014 we can live with what we have. Have to have some RBIs from the outfield. Hope Springer can make the transition, but a decent FA is almost demanded if the Astros are to move off 90-100 losses. Agree with Becky on the catcher, in that Castro causes the pitchers to eliminate those breaking balls in the dirt with runners on base. (Speaking of which, Lidge retired and he would have been terrible in Houston without Ausmus. That guy blocked, dug out, upteen jillion wild pitches for strikeouts. If we had “a Lidge” today, he would have to eliminate the slider, or run home on all the potential pass balls/wild pitches)


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