Acquisitions begin to change the face of 2014 lineup, rotation

The past week has taken me to Charlotte, Greensboro and Virginia Beach. Meanwhile, the Astros have also been on a bit of a journey.

And, Jeff Luhnow suggests he’s not done. As this week winds down with two new players in the fold, Luhnow has turned his attention to the bullpen and the Rule 5 draft next week.

Reaction to the Dexter Fowler trade acquisition and the Scott Feldman free agent signing have generally been positive, though it’s clear the Astros have made some early steps to improve the 2014 roster. Perhaps Brian Todd boiled it down best in his comment:

Basically in the last two days we exchanged Barnes and Lyles for Fowler and Feldman (plus that PTBNL). And all it cost us is $17.5 million of Cranes’ money. How this isn’t a win-win, I don’t know.

At this point, even with just the one lineup and rotation additions, here’s what the lineup could look like on opening day, if George Springer carries his torrid 2013 season into spring training. Imagine the amount of drool on Bo Porter‘s chin if Jonathan Singleton also punches his way onto the April roster.

And, at present, the rotation stacks up thusly:

The moves and this now-public direction should put several players on notice and possibly on the bubble. Including, but not limited to:

  • Brett Wallace. Luhnow has publicly said he was searching for a first baseman/outfielder. With Singleton only needing to show he’s got his swing back, Wallace is obviously on the clock.
  • Lucas Harrell. He presently has a job because has can eat innings and is under team control at a relatively cheap price. If the Astros acquire another starter or if Asher Wojciechowski is ready sooner than later, Harrell will be in the same boat as Wallace.
  • Chris Carter. Could the player who led the team in HRs and RBI possibly be on the bubble? With a .223 average, it’s a mixed bag, but if the Astros could upgrade and get something in return via trade, they might be tempted.
  • Any number of pitchers with less than stellar upside, stats or injury history.

39 comments on “Acquisitions begin to change the face of 2014 lineup, rotation

  1. Well, your lineup is ok, but I would sure like to have Singleton batting in Wallace’s place at 1B, Grossman batting eighth in LF, and Springer in RF and Fowler in CF. The world is going to be focussed on the rebuilt, gray-haired, $230million New York Yankees playing the rebuilt, fuzzy-cheeked, low-payrolled Houston Astros on opening night and I would start one of the youngsters on the hill. I would just rather see Singleton in that spotlight than Wallace. Roll the dice.
    MMP will be packed to the rafters and the pressbox will be overflowing. I just have a feeling Cosart’s stuff would be moving all over the place on a night like that.
    If I wanted to set up the Houston Astros for multiple championships, to use Luhnow’s words, I would be the team to pay Tanaka whatever it takes to get him here, A rotation of Tanaka, Rodon, Appel, Folty, and Cosart. gives you five TOR pitchers to have by 2015, and all in their mid to early 20’s. It gives you tons of really special arms in the organization to use in the bullpen, and you don’t have to give up one top prospect to get it. And you have Correa, DDJ, Tucker, Santana, Cokinos, Aplin, ready to go by then.


    • Any team that wants to just *TALK* to Tanka……has to pony up $20 million.
      THEN, they MIGHT be able to lure him to pitch for them. The Yankees…. ‘Nuff said.


      • Becky: before the new rules teams bid for the right to negotiate with him and it always went to the richest teams to win the right to negotiate with him. Now, if you want to negotiate with the player, you post a $20million dollar bid to his team and that gives you the right to freely negotiate with him. If you don’t sign him, you don’t pay the $20 million and you’ve lost nothing.
        This is actually a win for teams like the Astros, because the posting fee is established and the bidding then becomes a contest amongst the teams that posted the fee to woo the player. If the Astros want him bad enought they just need to overbid for him and win him.
        In this case you are negotiating with a 25 yearold pitcher who appears extraordinary. In Seattle’s case they spent $240 million on a 30 year old second baseman, and gave him a guaranteed 10 year deal with a no trade clause. They will be paying over 20million to a 40 year old second baseman in 2023.


  2. i think we need to be patient with Carter. lets see if he hits for better average and less strikeouts as he matures. lots of players do that after 2-3 years of 500 at bats. plus his power is hard to replace. you take wallace out and slip singleton into that lineup (if he is ready) you can kiss 100 loss seasons goodbye. this roster will continue to be churned the next year or so, but things seem to be progressing.


  3. Yes, I did have the perfect comment.

    I like where this is headed. Better OPS, more home run power. The Ks are still there, but I think the total will drift downward in 2014.

    Outfield bat? Check. Not a big, bold check, but check nonetheless.
    Quality starter? Check. Not a TOR guy, but a pretty good guy who eats innings.
    Bullpen help? No check yet, but it’s only Dec. 7.

    Looks like Luhnow has half his Christmas shopping done.


  4. Quality starter? I don’t buy it. He’s had six seasons as a starter. Three of them were stinkers, with ERA’s well over 5. A fourth year was lost to an injury after 32 frames. He’s had two good 180 plus inning years since 2008. Even when tossing out the 32 inning


    • ….injury ending season in 2011, he’s only averaged 157 innings a year since becoming a starter. That’s not exactly an innings eater. This deal is a real crap shoot. I’d love to hear Luhnow’s rationale on this one.

      On the flipside, I’m all in on the Fowler deal. We gave up very little to get our first real everyday outfielder on to the 25 man roster.


      • Baseball Prospectus calls it a decent signing of a MLB pitcher to an appropriate contract. Every unbiased article I have read shows him to be a MOR pitcher signed to a MOR contract. By unbiased, I mean not connected to the Orioles or Astros.
        What every opinion agrees 100% with is that he is a ground ball pitcher and that sounds like Luhnow rationale.


  5. Like I said … and OldPro emphasized … he’s a good, not great, pitcher. He’s easily the best among our returning staff as far as experience and quality combined. Is he 2005 Roy Oswalt? Not by a long shot. But he pitches deep in to games, saving our bullpen some wear and tear, and he has a decent ERA and k/BB rate.

    We got what we paid for, and I’m good with that.


    • You know Brian, our expectations have sunk pretty low after the past four seasons. When we start thinking that a guy is good when he carries a lifetime record of 51 and 56 with a 4.66 ERA, it illustrates just how deprived we’ve all been!

      And I still can’t resolve in my mind the fact that such a guy will get 30 million dollars for his uninspiring resume.


      • Dave, I’m looking more at his recent history. Plus, he had been relatively good (again, not great) from 2011 onward. His WHIP has been good to great. His K/BB has been progressing. And, when you realize he A) spent his first three years as a reliever (not his strength) and B) has had some injuries that have contributed to bad years, it makes his 2013 look like, maybe, that’s the real Feldman. And I’d the 2014 Feldman is anything close to the 2013 one, we got a deal.

        And if you don’t see that, then, sir, I humbly disagree with you.


  6. What happens if Feldman is halfway into one of his even numbered stinker years in 2014, (see 2008, 2010, 2012) and we’ve got a couple of guys tossing zeros in OKC. Do we eat the contract and release him? Or do we bury him in the bullpen where he can provide wisdom to our impressionable young talent?


  7. So Qualls is back. If the great slider part of his “bi-polar” comes with him, it is a great move. Otherwise, he just replaces Wesley Wright. I will keep my fingers crossed for now.


  8. Luhnow said we’d be looking for a vet starter, an outfielder, bullpen help and maybe another bat in the lineup. starter check, outfielder check, bullpen arm check. so maybe another arm for the pen and/or another bat. any guesses who the bat might be?


  9. Brian, I admire your optimism. I hope we get the 2013 version of Feldman. Same for Qualls. Did he rediscover something in 2013 that he lost back in 2010? Again, I hope so.

    I think both signings illustrate what Luhnow is up against. Qualls has made about 13 million over his career. He got 1.1 million plus last year. He’ll get 6 million over the next two seasons. We are having to pay a real premium to get guys to come here.


    • True, but Luhnow IS paying that premium. I think this is a good thing.

      And, sure, Feldman, Qualls and even Fowler aren’t the cream of the crop. But all are improvements to this club. To that, there can be no doubt. Qualls is better than 90-100% of last year’s relievers. Fowler is better than any of our outfielders (except, maybe, Springer), and Feldman is certainly better than most of our starters — if not all of them.

      Upgrades, that’s all we can ask for at this point. And we’re getting them.


      • Brian, I fully agree that Fowler becomes our best outfielder, at least until we get a look at Springer. I said as much. He’s shown consistency. So I think we pretty much know what we’re going to get.

        If Qualls has as a good year in 2014 as he did in 2013, well then yes, he’ll be better than anyone we had in the bullpen last year. But if he pitches like he did in 2012 and 2010, he’ll be a bust. Again.

        Same goes for Feldman. If we get the guy that had a solid year in 2013, then Luhnow made a great deal. But if he’s the guy who pitched in 2008, 2010 and 2012, then we’ve got kids in the system that can put up better numbers. Feldman has been consistently erratic.

        It’s too bad we can’t rely on 2013 stats to determine 2014 production.


  10. Glass half full girl here, and I like having Qualls back! He’s still a pretty good guy outta the pen……PLUS he has an awesome personality! I’d rather see his mug coming outta the pen rather than one of those guys who couldn’t get the ball over the plate last year!


  11. Anyways – getting back to your original premise – there is potential here for a better – but at best – average lineup. I would say that Singleton has a shot if he has a good spring training at Wallace’s expense. I want to see more of Grossman next season along with Hoes – both of them were better than any of the other folks getting time in the OF offensively. A dark horse would be for Stassi to take the starting C spot and Castro to take over 1B. That would make me happy in the long run I think.
    Pitching – I agree on Feldman, Cosart, Peacock and Oberholtzer and I would love to see Asher Wojalphabet get a shot. Roll the dice.
    Qualls will help in the pen – they need to pick up another decent veteran out there. Has Veras been signed yet? We could always sign him every spring and trade him at the deadline every year….


    • DanP: This is a partial list of relievers still out. (Some will stay out for Astros due to monies). Balfour, Benoit, Crain, Rodney, F Rod (Orioles), Axford, Suk-Min Yoon (Korea), Ayala, Downs, O’Flaherty, Chamberlain, Gaudin, Logan, O Perez, A Bailey (Not Chip), Gaudin, Hanrahan, J P Howell, Marmol, J Wright, Albers. Some of these may have “Agreed” but not signed. And this may not be a complete list.


      • And I can’t find where Veras signed or agreed but he is off one list and on another just showing the Tigers declined his option. So not sure on his current status, but at least no news as being “signed:


  12. Now we are starting to see why a $60mil payroll, at best, won’t cut it. But I will give Luhnow credit that he IS improving the ball club.

    Will they ever get to the point where they are legitimately competitive in the AL West? Well, I think you know my opinion on the topic…


    • You can’t be competitive at $60 million? Don’t tell the A’s.

      If you spend like a drunken sailor, you can buy your way into the playoffs? Don’t tell the Angels (and soon, don’t tell the Mariners).

      Bopert, I would listen to your logic if there wasn’t so much real life evidence showing you’re dead wrong.

      We’re at about $40 million to $45 million right now. Another $15 million spent on the right players could make this a pretty good club. Say there was another guy like Fowler available for $7.5 million. Maybe a Jed Lowrie type for $5 million at SS. Then another $3 million reliever who can put up an ERA near 3.00. Maybe that Fowler type is a little less OBP and a little more power, but the same overall OPS and he’s a 1B.

      Bring up Springer and for $60-ish million you’d have a potential contender if the rotation lived up to expectations.

      Of course, the problem right now is that the .750 OPS 1B and the Lowrie-like SS may not be out there. That, and we’d be counting on a lot of things to go our way rotation wise.

      Still, I appreciate you said something halfway nice about Luhnow. But your supposition on spending is, once again, mistaken.


      • All I can say is stay tuned and watch what happens. You can’t point to the past, but have to factor in the trends that are CURRENTLY unfolding.

        For example, ponder this: Robinson Cano, Mariners, $24mil a year, 10 years.

        Then ponder this: no TV deal for the Astros.

        The bar is simply too high. It takes a wild leap to compute that $60mil will even be CLOSE to enough to compete.


  13. There are no significant stats supporting the claim that we are better with Feldman and Qualls in 2014, other than their 2013 numbers. Really, is there something I’m missing?


  14. Daveb: Not sure about “significant” but they both appear to have better control, better WHIP, and ground ball over fly ball more innings for Feldman. But to use the best metric, if this team wins 60-65 games – that would be “significant” – but 55 wins is not much better.


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