As many of you have pointed out, Jeff Luhnow may face a challenge to lure free agents to Houston this winter. At least quality, viable, contributing free agents.
That’s just the fact when a team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005, has suffered through five consecutive losing seasons and loses more than 320 games in the last three seasons. Not to mention a team that has employed five managers and five general managers over the last decade.
Plus a revolving door that has seen dozens of players shuffle in, then out of major league cities and minor league stadiums.
So how do the Astros add to the foundation this winter? As I’ve suggested before, Luhnow could turn the tables on the trade front this winter and start to add to the major league roster with a selective, shrewd trade that could include a prospect or two.
After a slow, meticulous reconstruction that has included the likes of Carlos Pena, Rick Ankiel, Erik Bedard and even lesser acquisitions like L.J. Hoes and Matt Dominguez, it could be time for Luhnow to make a splash. Astros’ fans wouldn’t object to a notable newsmaker.
With that in mind, here are four players the Astros could use in trade discussions this winter. Only if, however, these discussions result in significant upgrades of the major league roster.
- Jonathan Singleton. Okay, I’ll give you a minute to get up off the floor. The 22-year-old first baseman/DH had a rough 2013 and he won’t likely be ranked #27 when Baseball America’s pre-2014 rankings are released. Would/should the Astros consider trading him for a young, proven major league top-of-the-rotation guy or solid corner outfielder? Huge gamble, but if he’s developed an attitude issue to go along with his two drug instances and 2013 struggles at Oklahoma City, Luhnow might listen.
- Jose Altuve. Okay, we’ve had this discussion before, but this one doesn’t make much sense. The key question: Who would replace him at second base? Nolan Fonanta and Delino Deshields are at least a year or so away and no one else is on the horizon. Say what you will about Jose’s deficiencies, he’s still an above average middle infielder. If he’s involved in a trade, a #1 starter or significant three-hole hitter would need to be on their way to Houston.
- Jordan Lyles. Hardly a prospect in his third pro season, Lyles is still the youngest pitcher in the rotation at 22 years old. Though he’s had glimpses of grandeur, the numbers are less impressive. Over those three seasons and 71 appearances, Lyles has put together a 6.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 1.471 WHIP, not to mention that he’s allowed 50 more hits than IP. Would he bring much in return? Sure, a would-be contender would certainly take a chance on a former first rounder who may not have seen his best days. With a strong stable of pitching prospects, this could be a risk worth taking.
- Jonathan Villar. The bloom may be off the rose on this “prospect” with 14 errors in 52 games. Could provide a decent bat, but will he measure up to Luhnow’s and Bo Porter‘s desire for a strong up-the-middle defense? As much as any other single position, Luhnow has shown a restlessness at shortstop, acquiring, trading, signing and releasing a variety of players at the position. Is he ready to stick with Villar?
Honestly, all four of these players could be starting in Houston next April. But they could also be utilized in a package to acquire a solid, major league corner infielder or run-producing outfielder.
Here’s the Astros’ top prospect list. Take a look at that, along with Houston’s 40-man roster and point out a few young players or prospects Luhnow could use to significantly upgrade the major league roster for 2014. And, no, we’re not talking Jimmy Paredes or Brett Wallace.