Astros set 40-man roster, prepare for maneuvering


It would seem like a regular ol’ day at the office, but Wednesday was important for the Astros. It’s just another step in the overall winter, off season process, but Houston has now set its roster heading into what should be the most important two months of Jeff Luhnow’s tenure thus far.

Important, why?

Simply put, this winter — more than any other in recent memory — will be a tell-tale of how the Astros will compete in 2014 and perhaps beyond. Houston can’t experience another 100-loss season. The Astros can’t continue to trade off big names at the deadline. Fans already emotionally spent can’t — perhaps won’t — endure another season in the doldrums of any division.

On Wednesday, the Astros positioned themselves for the upcoming Rule 5 draft as well as the free agent season and potential trades. On Wednesday and in recent days, the organization has also confirmed what most fans already knew: Players like J.D. Martinez, Jimmy Paredes and Jake Elmore are not part of the long-term plan.  While the release of John Ely may have been a surprise after missing last season with elbow surgery, it also serves to point out the importance of every spot on the Astros’ 40-man roster this winter.  No room for riff-raff or high-risk reclamation projects.

The Astros activated former first-rounder Alex White from the 60-day disabled list recently and exchanged Elmore for new all-around infielder Ryan Jackson, an upgrade to be sure.

Again, no major news, other than the Astros have set their roster at 37 players, allowing them some maneuvering room over the coming days and weeks. And that, friends, is what keeps the water cooler conversation. What will Luhnow’s big move or moves be?

They missed on Jose Dariel Abreu and Josh Johnson, both of whom would have been reasonable acquisitions. Chris Young says he wouldn’t mind playing in Houston, but with a career .235 average, Luhnow shouldn’t kick those tires too long.

The other, ahem, big news is which players were left off of the 40-man roster. If you recall, I visited this subject a few weeks ago in Astros next quandary. Jake Buchanan and Jiovanni Mier were not protected and, thus, could end up on another team’s roster soon. Same for Bobby Doran, Carlos Perez and Bobby Borchering.

So, which way will Luhnow make his first big splash of the off season? Trade? Free agent signing? Any surprises on the 40-man roster? Or on the list of players left off?

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30 comments on “Astros set 40-man roster, prepare for maneuvering

  1. You are right about not being able to endure another year of the same. There is no way I will support this team next year if they play the same bad players they finished with 15 losses in a row last year.
    I don’t want to hear how great it is for Springer to start the year in OKC. I don’t want to pull for a team with no decent DH and Brett Wallace stinking up the joint at 1B.
    Last year Luhnow lied about the $40mil payroll and I’m waiting to see what $50-60 mil gets us this year. I don’t want us with a leadoff hitter with a .300 OBP or a DH that hits .197. We deserve better as faithful, money spending, long suffering fans.
    I have been the biggest supporter of the Astros minor leagues as ” okwhatever” but I don’t have many years left to live and I’m ready for the bleeding to stop.

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  2. Dan P – no disrespect because you work hard on these columns. But whoever is the 35-40th man means almost -0- to me. The first 25 is where we need to improve. This is FAs time. Put up or shut up to the front office. Rule 5 is interesting at best, but not a major way to improve or lose much on a team. I have had it with “building through Rule 5 and Waiver Wire.” If another team dumps you, probably not headed to the Hall. And please don’t mention the Angels, not talking about Cano or Ellsbury. There are plenty on the list that are better than what we have. Yes, it will take a check book that is not mine to do it, but a promise is only a promise.

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  3. Astro 45 – sorry – as seamless as I may write… this post was by Chip.
    In many ways the 35-40 can be important because this is where you keep minor league players that you don’t want to lose to the Rule 5 draft or who are not yet ready for the bigs but who might be during the season.

    Chip – your Ryan Jackson link goes to the wrong one – but looking at the guy who is the right one – I’m not clear that he is that much of a step up – not great minor league numbers just kind of middle of the road. But he is from the Cards organization so maybe Luhnow knows.

    I’m not sure if anyone will go after Mier – but I bet Buchanan will be a consideration for some teams.

    Thanks for the update and reminder Chip.

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  4. The Astros fans have suffered long enough. It’s time for Crane to open the checkbook and make sure the Astros are not the worst team in MLB. I don’t expect miracles but I do expect respectability.

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  5. I also don’t want to see some Rule 5 pickup and the obligatory diamond-in-the-rough comment. In this day and age the vast majority Rule 5 guys are known commodities by the GM’s and they are not protected for a reason. Luhnow needs to pull the trigger on some quality MLB players or I’m back with the Yankees. (I grew up with them until the Colt .45s came along.)

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    • Darn it Ted, I was a Brooklyn fan, until they moved west. Then I didn’t have a team until the 45’s came along. I aint got a team to go back to.

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      • Ted, when I watched the last game in old Yankee Stadium, the tradition was just overwhelming. I couldn’t believe how classy it was and I thought of that when I read fans talking about the Astrodome and how it ought to be turned into some shopping mall in order to save it.
        What I want to see is a championship in MMP and the start of something good and worthy of baseball tradition. I have had enough of this 51-111. Bring on the players.

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  6. How can the ALastros play in the FA market with no cash? No TV deal in place? Rule 5 and Waiver Wire “upgrades” are to be expected because, frankly, it’s the cheap way to go.

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  7. Sorry – I’ve got nothing here. I want to make a wild prediction that Luhnow will turn some of the dead weight into gold, but I just can’t see a major trade sending anyone to Houston this offseason. Springer needs to play all season in Houston because he’s not getting any younger and is unlikely to fix his flaws through MiLB. Santana and Wojo need to get good looks in the spring. If Singleton starts out the season on fire I’d find a way to get him to the big leagues. Luhnow needs to improve this team by 20 wins over 2013, in my opinion. Otherwise we’re likely looking at the same discussion next November while we salivate over free agents that will be choosing the other major market teams.

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  8. I was waiting for the other shoe to fall in the Comcast debacle, and here it is………
    Crane is suing Drayton McClane for fraud in selling him a “damaged” product.
    I was wondering when Drayton’s named was going to be brought up in this mess.
    As for who the Astros unprotected, there are a few guys I would hate to lose, but
    you can’t keep every body……….and I ain’t holding my breath for any big trade this
    winter.

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  9. I was surprised to see Carlos Perez taken off the 40 man. You can’t have too many catchers. There are easily five guys that I’d drop from the list before Perez.

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    • I agree daveb – he was one of the players I discussed in the “age” column – just average offensively but gunning down 1/2 the runners. You would think he would at least be a good trading chip.

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      • Yes Dan, if nothing else, some trade value. He’ll get picked up unless there are other issues we are not aware of. Either way, it means the club is very high on Stassi, especially with Castro and question marks about his ability to stay healthy behind the plate for a full season.

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    • Boy, do I agree with you on this one! No way Carlos Perez should be left off? Who’s he protecting? Rene Garcia? Anothing Luhnow blunder. Perez = Carlos Ruiz in my book. And Tyler Heineman, I believe, was left unprotected. But Perez is the biggie here! And Bobby Doran was throwing bullets in the AFL in his new relief role. What of that? Luhnow’s licking his chops though. The more good players he loses in the Rule 5, the quicker he can get back to his passion — building and rebuilding the minor leagues. Astros need someone to work the Major League side for awhile.

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  10. Thanks Becky – about the lawsuit. Just read a couple columns, and all I can say is Crane continues to make Bopert look like a genius. And friends, that ain’t easy.

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    • Easy now. I am a not your foe.

      Although I long ago vowed to not support Crane’s toy, and that I, admittedly, want this franchise to fail miserably, it’s for the betterment of all.

      When Crane goes snake-belly up, then the way WILL be paved for a NL franchise to be returned to Houston in due time (namely when MLB expands to an ideal 32 teams). That is a good thing. Something the city can rally behind.

      And for those who think it can’t happen (“IT” being the financial demise of Crane and the ALastros, forcing a move of the club), let me remind you that all signs point to Crane not being able to get a TV deal done. THEN WHAT? Think about the immediate ramifications that.

      No legit TV revenue for Crane in 2014 will break the greedmeister’s back. It’ll certainly be a total disaster for Crane, the other investors, and the club.

      Disaster for the fans? It’s already happened folks.

      One more thing: all the chatter about FA’s and Rule 5 and trades and such is just noise. The focus needs to fall squarely on Crane’s progress of getting a TV deal done NOW. And, it’s not looking good, folks.

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  11. Beyond surprised on Perez. Besides being a fairly young defensive catcher, he walks at a higher rate than most catchers, and has been decent defensively.

    Buchanan might be safe simply because if he is taken he has to be on a major league roster all year or offered back – and as fine as his season was he might not be worth that to anyone but the worst teams (Miami – but then again Miami’s pitching isn’t that bad).

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  12. I wonder which feeling Crane is more in tune with: “buyer’s remorse”, or “fans’ remorse”?

    Actually we all know the answer already. Certainly cares only for himself.

    Problem is it’s bass-ackwards to the way it should be. If Crane EVER focused on the fans from get-go, he wouldn’t be in this quandary.

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    • Bo, I don’t necessarily want to feed my fried chicken to your ego, but you are looking more and more correct.
      I guess this places so much more emphasis on the minor leagues and the draft, because the one thing Crane might be able to afford is a 2016 opening day roster of:
      Deshields CF
      Correa SS
      Springer RF
      Tucker DH
      Singleton 1B
      Santana LF
      Dominguez 3B
      Stassi C
      Altuve 2b
      Starters: Rodon, Appel, Folty, Cosart, Velasquez
      Bench: Heineman, Aplin, Cokinos, Sclafani
      BP: Hader, Feliz, Wojo, Dufek, Tropeano, Thurman, Rodgers
      Two guys on that roster here now, with Ruiz and Teoscar waiting in the wings for someone to fall.

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  13. So many interesting tidbits and Crane-isms from the Twitter-fed press conference.

    Here are my observations/predictions:

    1). it’s pretty darn clear that CSN Houston, as it stands now, will not survive as-is. More specifically, the three entities — Astros, Rockets and Comcast — will certainly part ways, probably by mid-December, forcing Crane to strike out on his own to find a carrier deal.

    2) this is terrible news for Astros’ fans, that is, those who hope this franchise actually can become competitive one day. Why? Because, on his island, Crane has almost zero leverage to strike a lucrative deal.

    3) For former fans like myself who loathe Crane, and who can see decades of mediocrity forthcoming, this is good news. It’s the beginning of the end for Crane, and perhaps even the start of a revolt by the fed up fans of Houston.

    4) Crane’s skill at duplicitous talk is sharp as ever. I spotted at least 10 examples of dude talking out of both sides of his mouth. Here’s a classic example: “We want to once again remind our fans and our goals and reiterate that the plans are coming along well (yes, he used the word WELL) ,” followed by “…our TV deal has been a bust”. LOL! Here’s another: “I did not buy this team to have a (low) payroll and be mediocre,” Crane said. “We bought this team to be champions.”, then “…we’ve set a considerable amount of money aside to spend on free agency,”

    5) IMHO, Crane is in deep if he goes it alone. He can’t piggyback on the demand for the Rockets, and he can’t lure new interest in his crappy product without making a splash this offseason. Classic chicken-and-egg. Everyone knows he needs cash/revenue to make a splash, and he needs to make a splash to raise demand for his product. What’s a crook to do?

    6) Result: empty promises of “considerable raise to payroll”, and “vow to raise payroll” in hopes that Apnoid types will drink the hope-flavored koolaid.

    7) REAL result: franchise doomed for ongoing mediocrity, while empty promises are spewed forth indefinitely

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  14. 8) Final predictions: a) Crane does end up going it alone, and sells lowballed rights to FOX at the 11th hour (that means you were right, Dan) to prevent the team from going under. b) The rhetoric will continue where Crane never takes responsibility for his OWN decisions/greed, and points fingers at everyone but himself. c) He never tells fans sorry that he can’t deliver on $60mil payroll promise in 2014, but will stress “increased” payroll, and “better” team instead.. d) A few low-cost FA’s are indeed signed, but they are retreads and scrubs. e) The silly lawsuit (translate: smokescreen) against McLane/CSN/Rockets (forthcoming) eventually gets tossed, but it drags out well into the 2014 season. It’s strategically used as a PR and excuse-making tool. f) Luhnow will announce after-the-fact that they talked with Choo and, alas, were “almost” able to sign him. g) Crane does not bring back the Wives Gala, and the generous fan with $10mil to help with payroll never steps forward.

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  15. Bopert: My comment “make Bopert look like a genius” was meant as humorous praise, but lets look at it this way. Fox offered Crane the same deal as the Rangers back then. I don’t know why Fox would not offer a “similar” deal. There are many, many people that would watch the Astros just because “Houston” is their first name. And tons again that love an underdog. But that would require Crane to say to Fox – “I made a mistake” and that just does not seem to be in the man. And one would think that a guy that can scrape together $600 Million could find at least one Lawyer and one CPA that would advise him BEFORE he spent the money. (One final comment – does one think the Forbes writer was smoking something when he talked about the PROFIT the Astros were generating because it would appear that at least 1/2 of that “profit” failed to make it to the bank)

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    • What ‘mistake’ did Crane make with Fox? The CSN deal came with the club. When he talked to Fox earlier in the year, he was still under contract with CSN. The only win comes from making CSN work, or dissolving the partnership. It appears that is what is happening, now. I do believe that, if CSN dissolves, Fox will step up with a pretty reasonable offer. FSNH made them good money, and will again if it can be revived.

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  16. I appreciate the humorous praise, and I love fried chicken. Just don’t like the shyster leadership of my once-beloved Stros. And I sincerely do, in my heart of hearts, think the whole thing is ruined thanks to Crane.

    All I can do is keep hoping that Crane comes to financial ruin, he bolts town, and takes his overpriced toy with him. Then it’s likely we’ll watch the NL Houston ProBallplayers play games in Wrigley, Busch, and PNC Park once again. AND ACTUALLY BE COMPETITIVE!

    (As opined before: it can happen! This is not far-fetched.)

    Otherwise, I just keep getting this overwhelmingly dank smell of mediocrity wafting around Crane’s ill-gotten franchise. Can’t help it.

    One more thing. I am not a know-it-all with a Crane-sized ego. Just opinionated. And perhaps a bit trollish on this site.

    If you guys/gals want me to go away, I will. I get it.

    I understand that the bulk of you want THIS team to be successful. You root for THIS team. You probably are leery of Crane too, but the difference is you guys actually believe this team could one day develop into a contender. I don’t. Sincerely.

    Thus, tell me to scat, with a stern “no trolls allowed” directive, and I will. I get it. Not trying to bring anybody down, just express my strong opinion.

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  17. As one that enjoys this blog — I am a firm believer that “When everyone thinks the same, then no one is thinking.” I don’t necessarily buy everyone’s opinion, but that does not keep me from reading them.

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  18. If Crane continues to ugly up this organization, the other club members ( MLB owners group) will at some point step in and take charge. Those guys don’t want to see one club get the first pick four or five times in a row. That would be an embarrassment to MLB. And that’s when things would really get nasty.

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  19. Just sick to lose two guys who really coulda been playing and producing for the Astros last season: Jose Martinez and Brandon Laird. Yeah, yeah, get out the sabermetrics on them and they’re no great shakes. I’m betting though, the Astros would’ve won 5 more games with them on the team rather than some of the junk I saw parading on the diamond at Minute Maid last season. I’m still not convinced Luhnow knows Major League talent. With 150 games Laird hits 25 HRs and drives in 80+ and Martinez hits above .270 and delivers key hits. Laird should’ve been moved off 3B defensively. Martinez is as good defensively as Altuve.

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