Just call it a swing year in the Astros’ reconstruction. Maybe not critical, but perhaps pivotal.
Since Jeff Luhnow has been running the show, he’s sent veterans like Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Jed Lowrie, Brett Myers and Chris Johnson packing. As evidenced by the crazy-low payroll, there’s very little left to deal. Unless you want to start getting down to Oklahoma City or Corpus Christi.
Now, we hear teams may be calling about 26-year-old catcher Jason Castro, who had somewhat of a breakout 2013 season. He hit .276/.350/.485 in 120 games but often struggled defensively, and questions remain about his physical stability as a catcher.
But are there untouchables on this young roster? Would trading the team’s main catching option set back the Astros’ already-thin lineup prospects for 2014? Did Luhnow have a possible trade in mind when he brought up youngster Max Stassi last summer?
Trading Castro this winter could be treading on tenuous ground. But the possible return could provide significant upside if the Astros have actually determined that Stassi can handle the rigorous position at the major league level.
Trading Castro — or any young player — is also worth watching as it will indicate where the Astros believe they are in the rebuilding process. If Luhnow is still trying to reel in prospects, it could indicate he’s still in the restocking process. If it returns major league ready talent, it should indicate the team is ready to take the next step back to respectability.
The Astros established — or somewhat established — a small nucleus for the future this year. We can debate which players are in that nucleus, but trading any of these without reasonable replacements in place could be devastating.
Here’s the small nucleus. Not necessarily saying these guys will be around in 2016-17, but they will provide the bridge and may be the best options for 2014-15 until the reinforcements arrive.
Assuming we all agree that any trades should bring talent for the major league roster, is there an untouchable list? Are there others who should be on the so-called untouchable list? Would trading an Altuve or Castro dramatically set the team back in 2014?