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?