Maybe it’s time for Luhnow to adopt the Epstein Thanksgiving Plan


Maybe it’s time for Jeff Luhnow to spend Thanksgiving at somebody’s house. “Somebody”, as in a difference-making pitcher or hitter.

Remember where then-Boston GM Theo Epstein at his Thanksgiving turkey in 2003? While the Red Sox weren’t coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons, they had suffered through a humiliating loss to the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Epstein was determined to upgrade his team and wanted Curt Schilling in Boston. He got his man after spending some time in Arizona with Curt’s family.

Many teams have been active over the past several days, but the Astros have only shuffled their roster in an effort to position movement. Getting a little skiddish? Waiting for that big announcement?

No, I wouldn’t be holding my breath for Luhnow to spend Thanksgiving at the homes of Robinson Cano or Carlos Beltran. However, in a side note, I would have approved if the Astros had signed with Josh Johnson or Jhonny Peralta.

However, if Luhnow decides not to visit players on Thursday, he should at least send turkeys to some of these guys.

Jose Veras.

  • This is an easy one for me. Veras seemed at home in Houston as the closer last year and may have prevented some of the bullpen chaos if he’d remained in an Astros’ uniform. Give the man a 2-year deal and be done with it.

Chad Qualls.

  • I’ve mentioned him before on these pages. He could be available at a great price and would provide stability. Maybe one year, $1.2 million or so perhaps with an option.

Jesse Crain.

  • Okay, this is a band-wagon pick. Every prognosticator and prediction-based blog suggests that the Crain may end up in Houston. When he’s healthy, he can be lights out. Since he didn’t pitch after June this season, he could be a gamble.

Roy Halladay or Ryan Vogelsong.

  • Hey, if the Dodgers can get Dan Haren on a one-year $10 million deal, maybe Luhnow should spend some time with Roy and Ryan.

James Loney.

  • Another player who hasn’t been connected to the Astros, but he could be available on a one or two year deal.

For the outfield corner or first base, there are some options (e.g. Mike Morse, Corey Hart and others), but the best position upgrade may come through trade if the Astros want to make a splash. Here are a couple of thoughts, though it would take a spatula, crowbar and a huge chisel to pry them loose.

Billy Butler.

  • High OBP guy who is only 27. He’d fit nicely as the #3 or cleanup hitter in the Astros’ lineup, but it might take an Jose Altuve or Jarred Cosart to get the Royals to begin a discussion.

Giancarlo Stanton.

  • So many teams have inquired and Miami says no way. But everyone was asking about Randy Johnson in ’98 and Gerry Hunsicker shocked the world at the midnight hour. What would it take to get him in Houston?

No matter who he goes after, Luhnow will have to ante up and be very creative. Spending Thanksgiving dinner away from Houston and in the home of a prospective upgrade could be part of a successful equation.

Any favorites on your short list to join the Astros this winter?

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29 comments on “Maybe it’s time for Luhnow to adopt the Epstein Thanksgiving Plan

  1. The way this team is going – they probably can only afford to sign Brett Butler and Mike Stanton….
    Veras was pretty solid for us. Qualls has had some really rotten years in his 30’s, but pitched excellently last year.
    Halladay and Vogelsong both strike me as Hampton and Ortiz – they hit their mid-30’s and have been pitching like it.
    Loney is a local guy (Elkins HS) and bounced back from a lousy 2012 to a good year last year. Worth a kick of the tires.

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    • Don’t sleep on Schilling – remember he had the bankruptcy thanks to the failed video game company drag him down last year. He might come out of retirement for peanuts.

      Let me throw another name out there…Alex Rodriguez. First off, I do not want him playing in Houston. However, the Yankees don’t want him in NY. He gets on base and can occasionally drive in a run or two. MMP would allow him to chase the HR record. That suspension looming over his head? That’s a problem, but his legal team should be able to get that thrown out, right? So, what if that happens and the Yankees agreed to pay 75% of his salary in exchange for two minor leaguers outside our top 10 prospect list?

      I don’t mind the Pete Moylan signing. He’s had some good seasons and isn’t over the hill. I would like to see another veteran added to the pen. Veras would be fine too.

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  2. A-Rod play here? Hey even at 25% of his salary they would owe him $20+ million plus he has five $6 million bonuses tied to catching the HR leaders ahead of him (there are only 4 ahead of him – so I’m not sure what the 5th one is). Basically last year he had the same OPS as Chris Carter but he could only play 44 games.
    He is 6 HR short of Willie Mays. Would anyone come out to see him pass that great icon? Maybe to boo and toss rotten eggs.
    He ain’t coming here and we don’t want him.
    Besides we already had our own A-Rod – – Aneury Rodriguez…..

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    • Bo — I resist responding since many things are taken out of context — but the “ante up” comment was regarding potential trades and had little or nothing to do with money — monopoly or otherwise. “Ante up”, as in Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton or other prospects, etc. Have a nice day!

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      • Fair enough. Dealing Cosart, Castro or Altuve would indeed qualify as anteing up. A Singleton move seems counter-intuitive at this time.

        Whatever move(s) Luhnow has up his sleeve, money will come into the equation soon enough. You gotta pay to play at the end of the day…

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  3. Chip – I thought Peralta would have been a very good fit here – decent SS with good numbers and not yet 32 – though I’m not sure I would get used to typing Jhonny…..
    Can’t really blame Peralta if he is chasing a WS title for signing with the Cards – they are a contender every year.

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    • When I heard the Cardinals were interested a few weeks ago, I wondered if Luhnow’s “mindset” or “philosophy” might not be similar. Of course, he would have cost Houston more than 4/52, which is why I’m beginning to wonder if Luhnow won’t have to pull off a trade instead of signing a meaningful — note the word “meaningful” — free agent.

      Would love to get a peek behind the veil of MMP to see how difficult it really is for Luhnow in the free agent discussions.

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    • Yes – the longer it goes before a “meaningful” move – the more we wonder if there will be any….
      I really think they will pull a trade, but who and what – no idea.

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    • Hold up a second – why would you eagerly accept Peralta but cannot stomach the idea of ARod playing in Houston? They are both cheats. ARod is past his prime, but Peralta may be as well.

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  4. Maybe off base, but outside of money, a shot at a WS ring, or playng time I doubt anybody would be too excited to come to Houston given the current state of the team. Ofcourse those are those that just want to keep playing or have ties here but I think those are somewhat rare. I just want to see us get better. Tired of the 100 loss seasons as I sure everybody else is too.

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  5. I’ll be glad when we have three or four question marks, instead of twelve or thirteen question marks. At his point free agents are not going to make this team better. And by better I don’t mean going from 111 losses to 98 losses. I mean setting the team up for success in the near term. Any free agent that can’t be expected to contribute in ’15-’17 does not interest me. Veras, Crain, might fall into that category. Stanton certainly does. Choo does. Halladay, Hart, Loney, and even Beltran are just place holders, and, at best, will only serve to make next year marginally better.

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    • “You may be wrong, but you may be right”. Catchy song.
      Where else would he go where he could create a staff like he has here? He’s already gone through the awful. Now the prospects start to hit like a machine gun, and he’s probably going to get two more good ones in the 2014 draft at least.
      If I’m sitting there with Rodon in the bag, the top pick in round 2 and the boss has given me the money to go get Ah-Choo with the supp pick, and I have Correa, Springer, Appel, Folty, and SingleTanaTucker in the on deck circle, I want to stick around and see this through.
      Some other team might want him, but I would think they would want to see his results in Houston before they’d consider it.

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      • I agree oldpro, but at this point Luhnow has to be concerned about all the issues he can’t control. I think he’ll hang in for a couple of more years, but not much beyond if this organization continues to operate as it does now.

        As I noted last week, the other owners will not continue to accept the fact that the Houston club automatically gets the first pick annually. They’ll change the rules. And the other owners want stability throughout MLB. They won’t put up with Crane and a mismanaged operation indefinitely.

        Maybe we’ll get lucky and the guy will get forced out in a few years. But sorry Bo, unfortunately it’ll remain an AL club regardless of who the owner is, unless we get blessed by expansion at some point and get back into the NL as a result.

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      • The DH is coming to the NL whether we like it or not. So, Bo’s big idea of running Crane and the Astros out of town, so that we can get that expansion (wasn’t MLB just discussing contracting two teams?) NL franchise with the brand new, benevolent owner will all be for naught.

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  6. But, Dave, do you agree with me, that if the Rockets and the Astros get a TV deal done in the next few months, and Luhnow finds two good bullpen guys and one new good position player and maybe one decent starting pitcher, that this thing could turn around right then.

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    • Sure oldpro, that’s my hope. That would certainly get us moving in the correct direction. And I’d still be happy to over pay for a guy like Choo. But I’ll see it all when I believe it.

      Flash, I agree. I think we’ll see the DH in the NL sooner or later. And Crane could get run out of town at some point, but certainly not the Astros.

      No need for a new expansion team in Houston. Simply expand MLB to a schedule friendly 32 teams by adding two new American League franchises and moving the Astros back to the NL where they belong.

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  7. My big fear in all this mess is, MLB takes control, Crane is what? No longer the owner? And someone else buys the team and moves it to another city. Isn’t that what happened to Montreal?
    I dont want another franchise here. I’ve been an Astros fan too long to start all over.
    I lke daveb’s idea of getting the Astros back to the NL.

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    • Sandy, I would not worry about someone moving the club. Houston and the surrounding area, if utilized properly, is just too good a market. There are no other available metro areas in the US close to being as attractive.

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  8. I’d have paid Joe Smith 15.75 million to come here for three years. Without state income tax, he’d have made quite a bit more money here. But alas, if he is willing to leave his home state of Ohio, I’m guessing he figures the Angels will be more competitive than a team like the Astros.

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  9. Although Jayson Stark and Buster Olney prognosticate that the DH is inevitable, and that the “money talks” argument is alive and well in the player’s union, I still don’t think the DH in the NL will happen in the near future.

    When I say neat future, I mean for at least a decade, maybe even two decades.

    My argument isn’t too strong, just a hunch. But keep in mind that the baby boomers ain’t dead yet, and neither is the generation after ’em. Some things ARE sacred, after all.

    Will wooden bats be replaced by aluminum bats to protect players from flying wood daggers? Don’t bet on it.

    However, the 32-team structure makes a lot of sense, and that fulfills the “money talks” argument best of all.

    I could see New Mexico and North Carolina ripe for supporting expansion franchises. The Sante Fe Artisans have an appealing ring to it, no? (And would amply serve the Vegas and Albuquerque markets.)

    And, yes, I LOVE the idea of moving the squad back to the NL once Crane goes belly-up. Bring it!

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    • Charlotte comes up frequently as a suggested landing spot for a new ML team. Portland is the other one I hear. Both already have AAA teams. I believe Charlotte is moving from down near the SC border to a downtown (or closer to downtown) stadium in the near future. An MLB franchise there does not make sense. The area does not have a large enough population to support it, the Panthers, and the Bobcats.

      They’ll change the allowable bat dimensions and outlaw maple bats before going to aluminum. The college bats have reduced offensive output, but there is a huge advantage to aluminum bats. With an aluminum bat you can get jammed on a high pitch and easily muscle it over the infield. With wooden bats this results in a broken bat and easy pop-out to the infielders. Changing bats from wood would make life on the pitchers much too difficult.

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  10. Crane isn’t going to get “run outta town”. The Astros are not going back to the NL…
    Bud Selig put that in stone. The Astros are going to get better, of that I have no doubt……..we have a very nice problem, our farm is the envy of a LOT of teams!
    As for going to some guys house for Thanksgiving dinner…….most of the “good”
    free agents would laugh out loud about that. It would be interesting to find out how many conversations Luhnow has had with some of the free agents we keep hearing about. But hey………there’s always Roy Oswalt!!! LOL!!

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  11. a comment from another board. worth the read.

    Last season was the first time in several years that the Astros actually saw IMPROVEMENT. No, it’s not the kind of improvement that shows up in the W/L column (that is the next part of the rebuilding process). The improvement that the Astros made last year was in the form of FINALLY getting answers from several players (previously only Altuve had proven to be of any value) Castro proved worthy of his first-round draft status, Dominguez showed potential with the bat (the one knock on him), Grossman showed promise (albeit after being recalled), Cosart transitioned seamlessly to the majors, Oberholtzer exceeded all expectations, all of their noteworthy prospects made huge strides forward (none regressed), and they were able to lock up a fan favorite to a reasonable extension (Altuve). All of this is improvement. That being said, the Astros were a young team last year. Many of the players were drained and had NEVER played that much baseball in their entire life–potentially a reason for the extremely poor finish (prior to that they were flirting with a sub-100 loss season).

    Crane has been COMPLETELY transparent through this rebuilding process. He has (along with Luhnow) committed to rebuilding the Astros the correct way and I am thankful for that. Crane has long stated a willingness to spend in the free agent market–WHEN the time is right. Many people see the players that are currently at the major league level and are quick to call Crane cheap (among other things); however, this is part of the process–many people just can’t understand that process. Perhaps a year too soon, but Crane has stated a desire to significantly increase payroll this offseason (second tier players–the Astros cannot sacrifice draft picks by signing qualified free agents).

    The signs are horrible, I’ll give you that.

    Crane’s “$10MM comment” was bad as well, although slightly out of context.

    Premium pricing I don’t have an issue with–kind of how the world operates. He has allowed outside snacks and drinks, so there’s that (unheard of).

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