Astros’ reset: Dates, arb, draft picks and favorites

Now that the new year is fully behind us, the Texans have a new coach and Astros’ pitchers and catchers report in about month (February 15), there are still a few matters on the immediate horizon.

Here’s a quick update on approaching dates:

  • January 17. Dates for teams to exchange arbitration numbers. It isn’t likely many will go to an actual hearing, but expect these exchanges to move the process along.
  • February 6. Spring training opens (Diamondbacks pitchers/catchers report).

  • February 15. Astros’ pitchers/catchers report to Kissimmee, perhaps for the last time.
  • February 19. Astros’ position players arrive.

So let’s take a look at some issues facing Jeff Luhnow and the Astros between now and the opening of spring training.

The question of Jason Castro.

  • Most people have Jason Castro earning between $2 million and $2.3 million in arbitration (or as the result of a settlement) this spring. However, the Astros have the option of a multi-year deal similar to Jose Altuve‘s.  What may make more sense — instead of a 5-year deal — is a three-year deal that buys out Castro’s remaining arbitration years.  Say, 3 years, $10 million, maybe $12 million? A multi-year deal for Castro could be a risk for both player and team, but probably makes sense. Anything beyond three years, though — unless it’s an fourth-year option — may be pushing the envelope for the Astros. Predictions? Preferences?

The second round pick.

  • There are still a handful of good players who could fall into the mix for the Astros. The only catch: Houston would lose its second round pick. And the slot dollars that go along with it, which provides Luhnow flexibility with other early round picks. You could make a case that Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Kendrys Morales among others, might easily slide into Houston’s plans. Especially, if their price drops as spring training gets closer. Should the Astros give up the pick if they can strike a reasonable deal with one of those players. Or others who come with a lose-the-draft-pick price tag? Predictions? Preferences?

The “new” coaching staff.

  • Okay, so I missed it. How ’bout you? The Astros have a new third base coach, and the “old” third base coach didn’t even get one runner thrown out. Eduardo Perez, last year’s bench coach who was set to be third base coach in this year’s lineup, resigned. He was replaced on the staff by Tarrik Brock, who will now coach first base. Pat Listach, who was set to coach first base, now moves to third base.  Significant? Only in the fact that Listach played his little league baseball games in the same parks I did in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Actually, I’ve always liked Listach and had hoped he would one day be a part of the Astros’ organization.

Best new acquisitions.

  • The Astros have several new players, most all of them in December: Jesse Crain, Matt Albers, Jesus Guzman, Chad Qualls, Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman. Fowler and Feldman got the most ink and will be expected to carry a lot of load this season. But it’s Albers who may quietly become one of the most important additions. Of those mentioned above, he’s the one we may be talking about in August as Luhnow’s prize acquisition of this winter. That’s my thought. Your favorite acquisition, or at least the one most likely to “pay off” for the Astros this season?

8 comments on “Astros’ reset: Dates, arb, draft picks and favorites

  1. Morning Chip –
    – Jason Castro – I’d have no problem with a 3 yr contract to lock in what will be owed him.
    – 2nd round pick – top of the 2nd round. I feel like a politician – waffling on this one. For the right guy – I would be OK with this – not sure that the right guy is available – though Drew is probably the closest in filling a need. (The waffle may be tied to some Kazmat flashbacks – injury wise).
    – So how critical are the base coaches on a low scoring team? If they can throttle these guys in a bit – perhaps helpful – but probably not significant.
    – Best acquisition – could be almost any one of these guys. Albers has been solid for a few years – most of the other guys have been up and down (Qualls, Feldman) injured (Crain) or Colorado inflated (Fowler) – no wacky weed jokes required. I think Crain, Albers and Qualls as a set could have a big effect on a bullpen that was a complete disaster last year.


  2. The improved bullpen may have unexpected reults. Starters may not walk as many battersin middle innings trying to work around hitters to stay in the game. Better bullpen might change the thinking of opposing managers and ours in later innings. Lots of advantages in improving the pen.


  3. I have no issue with three years for Castro. He is the only offensive threat that is dependable. My issue is with the knees. I have bad knees and they don’t seem to get any better with age. Like 1oldpro, I think the bullpen additions will be the best thing since sliced bread for the team this year. If we can simply cut the late inning loses by one-half, we are vastly improved in the win volume. As for the acquisitions and sacrificing the additional draft pick. I say go with the proven acquisition. At some point we will have to depend on our scouts to find players that are not at the no-brainer slot. We might as well start this year. If we can sell the fans on a better team right out of the gate, it will give some leverage to getting the team on television.


  4. First let me say that as one that grew up in Nacogdoches, TEXAS, anyone from Natchitoches, la. is suspect in my mind. But seriously, this team has improved (insert joke about how could they get worse). Don’t want a long term deal from those “falling” that you mentioned, but a decent two (2) year with them being tradable would be worth a 2nd pick. The improved bullpen and I believe even the 2014 starting pitchers should improve the record, especially if Harrell becomes at least serviceable. As to best new player – I like all of them – as being better than what we had in 2013.


  5. I know this is off topic, but I can not believe that MLB players KNEW people like Kirk Radomski, Victor Conte, Brian McNamee, & Tony Bosch. These do not appear to me to be people that I would invite to my grandkids birthday party. Wow, talk about the “dark underbelly.” Most amazing, these guys make Selig “look decent” – which definitely is a huge task.


  6. I have no problem giving Castro a three year deal. There will be a lot of teams that will come calling about him. Jason has GOT to get better
    getting to those pass balls. Who knows if the Astros will ever move him to first base, which is getting a bit crowded these days. Luhnow has inked Cesar Izturis and gave him a ST invite…….so I guess that move
    rules out Drew. I know nothing about the new coaching staff, so I guess we will have to see how good they are. I posted last night, that Bo Porter’s “rah-rah-ree” attitude might be wearing a bit thin on these guys.
    I have ALWAYS liked Matt Albers, and I was NOT happy to lose him in the trade for Miggy T. With the great weather we are having this week in Houston……I’m getting the itch for Spring training to start!


  7. I agree with Becky – even if they give Castro $5 million per year there will be a market for his bat (should Luhnow want to shed salary).

    As for the draft pick, I don’t trust that any of the guys listed improve the team enough to justify losing the draft pick. Given our 1B situation, assuming Singleton plays most of the year in OKC, that’s a pretty bold statement.

    I always liked Listach as a player. Let’s hope he’s a good coach to stick in the box.

    The biggest offseason acquisition is tough to judge. I think it will depend on which one stays healthy. Crain has the biggest upside, but running Qualls / Albers out with consistency should provide stability and calm some nerves. I say flip a coin between those two.


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