CHIPALATTA

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Jerome Williams: What exactly are the Astros getting?


So the Astros have added Jerome Williams to the pitching equation.

Not exactly the next coming of Masahiro Tanaka. But not exactly a reprisal of the Russ Ortiz or Mike Hampton 2009 signings either.

Not exactly.

What exactly are the Astros getting in the pitcher who started 25 games for the Angels last season? Obviously, Jeff Luhnow and Bo Porter believe they’re getting a pitcher with knowledge of the AL West hitters who can bring some veteran leadership to the pitching staff.

If he sticks, it could have a ripple effect on the 12-man staff that breaks from camp next month (yes, next month!).

Either way, he’s not likely to be an All Star pitcher, he won’t have tons of Ks and he won’t dominate on the mound. He could, however, be a contributor, but he could also take innings from younger pitchers.

Consider this: The Astros consider the risk minimal enough that they gave Williams a major league deal, which increases the likelihood he’s on the roster opening day.

And this: We still don’t know the full value the Astros have placed on Williams. Should hear details on the contract soon, but he earned $2 million in Anaheim last year and the Angels balked at increasing his salary to approximately $3.9 million in arbitration in 2014.

Already, the bullpen is beginning to back up with Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain, although Crain may not be ready to start the season. Still, with Josh Fielders, Chia-Jen Lo, Josh Zeid and others vying for position, the bullpen is not only improved over 2013, but already crowded.

NOTE: Check in early Wednesday for Dan Peschong’s complete rundown on the Astros’ bullpen for 2014.

The Astros project Williams as a starter, but worse case scenario, he’s a swing man a la Danny Darwin, though perhaps not as effective.

If the 32-year-old does start, it’s not good news for Lucas Harrell or perhaps Dallas Keuchel or others. However, Keuchel is younger and has options. While inexpensive and still under team control, Harrell is out of options and has had somewhat of a rocky relationship since Luhnow joined the organization.

Still, more immediate, the Astros will need to clear a roster spot before they add Williams to the 40-man on Wednesday. While there is definitely some chaff, that move is not as obvious as it may have been this time last year. With the off season additions of players like Jonathan Singleton, Jesus Guzman, Asher WojciechowskiDomingo Santana along with the aforementioned free agents, each move to outright, release or DFA becomes more of a challenge.

Who should go?

Could be the Astros are working on a trade that would clear a spot. More likely, though, Luhnow will take the road of one of the other options.

  • Does the Williams signing make sense?
  • Who is most in danger, either in the rotation or the bullpen?
  • Will Williams finish the season in Houston?
  • With spring training just days away, project the Astros’ rotation on April 1.
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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in Colorado Springs, CO, and is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 40 years. A native of Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. He came up with Chipalatta, and it’s stuck.

38 comments on “Jerome Williams: What exactly are the Astros getting?

  1. kevin kuns
    February 4, 2014

    Oh My I’m assuming they are hoping they can get 1/2 a year out of him, some maturity, leadership etc and the maybe a trade chip,. They must be thinking a lot of the young guys might need some months in AAA etc. I would not shed a tear if Harrell and Keuchel are in a trade package. Crystal ball staring rotation. Williams, the dude from Baltimore, Cosart, Peacock, Oby.

    Like

  2. daveb
    February 4, 2014

    I suppose, if effective, Williams gets moved at the break and then we start seeing some of our own in house talent midway through the season. But I really expect to see Wojoski have a solid spring and make a strong case for a spot in the rotation. I do not want to see a Jermone Williams signing holding up any of the young pitching in our system. One thing you can do with Williams that you do not want to do with a young starter is use him in multiple situations. He can start, and he can come in when we’re down 8 zip in the third. I guess a team can’t have too much pitching, but if I’m Harrell, I’m packed and prepared to move.

    Like

  3. Dan P
    February 4, 2014

    Thoughts:
    – I’m betting that if we could slice open Luhnow’s brain and knew what his planned chess move (3 moves down the line) was going to be – it would make sense. Williams is a fairly cheap workhorse, not over the hill – and probably moveable at the trade deadline.
    – The Astros have 24 pitchers on the 40 man – heck there is a guy named Collin McHugh that they picked up on waivers during the Christmas holidays that I never heard about.
    – My best guess is they would pull a trade as discussed or waive, Harrell, Rudy Owens or Alex White (depending on whether either of the last two are making any progress towards recovery from injury). Or they could cut someone like McHugh or Darin Downs who they picked up off the waiver wire to begin with.
    – I think Williams will likely be traded at the deadline if he has shown decent value and someone from the minors is knocking on the door.
    – It is giving away one item from tomorrow’s post – but I have this gut feeling that Keuchel ends up in the pen because besides Chapman they are short on lefty relievers.
    – My rotation is the same as kevin kuns – Scott Feldman being the dude from Baltimore.

    Like

  4. 1oldpro
    February 4, 2014

    The Astros paid $30mil for a guy who was .500 for teams that could hit, so I think they want to put 8 promising arms at AAA starting in tandem and 8 promising arms at AA and look at Peackock, Obie, Cosart and the two acquisions as starters and get to 65 wins with them. Hoping 2 of the three young starters turn out to be decent to combine with Folty, Appel Wojo, Rodon and any others in 2015 and beyond.

    Like

    • daveb
      February 4, 2014

      oldpro, I’m obviously on record as one who thinks the Astros should be spending money to move the rebuilding process along, but I also think the Feldman signing will prove to be a bust. We don’t need mediocre journeymen. Especially those anointed ace, handed the ball on opening day.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        February 5, 2014

        dave, I am on record saying give the ball to Cosart on opening night. I want Ober pitching in game two against the Yanks, and Peacock, if he’s still here, in game 3. Give Feldman the ball in the opener against the Angels.
        I think Cosart and Ober are ready to show their stuff in the limelight.

        Like

  5. BrianT
    February 4, 2014

    The minute I saw this move I thought, “This must be the first of a two-move deal.” Maybe there’s a trade involving Villar and Keuchel/Harrell plus someone else (one of the relievers likely headed to OKC such as Cruz or Cisnero) for a shortstop who has a glove AND can hit .250. Not sure who.

    Like

    • BrianT
      February 4, 2014

      Zach Walters from the Nationals might be a good target at SS. Better hitter, slightly better fielder (very slightly). Chris Owings from the D-Backs might be an even better choice. Better fielding percentage and range factor through the minor leagues, and seems like a better hitter.

      Like

    • Dan P
      February 4, 2014

      I got it Brian T – Jed Lowrie returns…..

      Like

      • BrianT
        February 4, 2014

        I actually made a couple of suggestions, but I’m not seeing the comment. Basically, the Nats and Dbacks have some young SS that look like upgrades. Chris Owings from Arizona and Zach Walters from Washington.

        Like

      • Dan P
        February 4, 2014

        I’m not sure you are offering anything the Nats want – The D’Backs might have more interest.

        Like

    • daveb
      February 4, 2014

      Why would you unload Keuchel when we already (as Dan mentioned earlier) have a shortage of lefties on the 40 man roster?

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        February 4, 2014

        daveb, there are 7 LHP on the 40-man right now. Not sure that constitutes a “shortage”. It’s possible Keuchel is at his highest value now…doubtful the Astros or any other project him as top-of-the-rotation guy. I like the guy myself, but he could be the odd man out..or a swing guy. His primary positive attributes: Under team control through 2018, left handed, relatively young (26), able to pitch in relief and start. But if Williams pans out for the rotation, he’s either off to the bullpen or off to another team.

        Like

  6. Steven
    February 4, 2014

    I would assume that we are going to get 140-150 innings of 4.58 ERA baseball from Williams. I think he will fill a role that might have been Harrell’s. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Harrell waived at this point.

    He doesn’t strike out a lot of people. He walks batters then he should given that he doesn’t throw terribly hard. His velcity has been on a slight uptick the last few years, so I guess that could mean the Astros could catch lightning in a bottle and get a good year, maybe his best at 32.

    Like

  7. Bo Weaver
    February 4, 2014

    JANUARY 23, 2014 AT 3:12 PM
    I was real impressed with Jiminez in CLE last year. Just plain wicked at times. But why dream the futile dream? He’s not coming to Houston, nor is Capuano, Arroyo, Santana, Maholm, Hammel or any other legit hurler. It’s NOT going to happen. Luhnow and Crane are posers, and the hopeful fans are the suckers.

    You may say “you don’t know that”, and hope for the best. I’ll reply “watch what happens”.

    Seriously. WATCH what happens. The rest is hyped up noise.

    —————————————-
    –> Did you SEE what happened? Can we now compare the hype to the actual action? Yet another mediocre piece to the “rebuilding” puzzle, ladies and gentlemen…

    Like

  8. Dan P
    February 4, 2014

    To me the rebuilding is tied to the 25 and under crew – Lance McCullers Jr., Josh Hader, Michael Foltynewicz, Mark Appel, Nick Tropeano, Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, Jake Buchanan, Asher Wojciechowski, Vince Velasquez, Michael Feliz and (probably) Carlos Rodon.
    That is the Watch what happens that really matters.

    Like

    • daveb
      February 4, 2014

      Yeah Dan, but if Wojoski has a solid spring and earns a job in the rotation, I don’t want him sent to OKC so that Williams can start the season with the big club.

      Like

  9. Tim
    February 4, 2014

    I am thinking Bo Weaver is Bopert from the Chronicle website. It does not appear he understands the rebuild process and I would challenge him to tell us what he would do differently than what Crane/Luhnow have done so far. Does he want us to sign Stephen Drew and Ubaldo Jiminez, relinquishing our 2nd pick, so the major league team can get to 75 wins instead of 68? I am amazed at the compainers who never provide a solution.

    Like

  10. Bo Weaver
    February 4, 2014

    My point was that it’s patronizing and deceptive to infer to the fans that upper management was in the running for Choo, Abreu, and Tanaka (or any other legit SP, as I pointed out).

    oldpro said it best when he pointed out that ALL GMs ALREADY KNEW that it would take $140mil to even BEGIN to court Tanaka. Yet, there is this phony hullabaloo in the Chron about how Luhnow, Clemens and Crane tried to woo him with huindreds of millions. Yeah right.

    Woo nothing. It’s a bunch of crap cooked up by Crane and cronies to falsely inflate the value of the club to all koolaid drinkers — whether it be cable carriers, season ticket holders, or the average hopeful sucker fan.

    Chip started separate threads on Choo and Tanaka, whereby Koolaid drinkers one and all pontificated how great it’d be to have Choo roaming the OF, and the next Darvish Yu manning the hill. But it’s not the reality.

    Enough already. Don’t drink that koolaid because there’s poison in there! WATCH what happens, instead.

    PS — stockpiling top draft picks is cheap. Building a team that can truly compete in the AL West is not.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      February 4, 2014

      Bo, at the risk of being “the least bit manipulated”, I’ll weigh in a bit here. If every team knew that it would take $140 million to get Tanaka, how come only ONE team (the Yankees) apparently bid that much?

      Were the other six or seven just playing along, hoping the Yankees pulled their offer?

      According to multiple non-Crane, non-Chronicle sources, the Astros indeed bid $100 million. How much does $100 million translate to without a personal income tax? We don’t know at what point the Astros put in their bid (e.g. before/after the Yankees got their bid in) or even if Tanaka told the Astros during their meeting (one of apparently 7 or 8 formal meetings) he wasn’t interested in living in Texas or playing in Houston or whatever. If you listen to some reports (again, non-Crane, non-Chronicle), Tanaka had his sights set on the Yankees all along.

      Yes, it’s easy to speculate that the Astros are just “playing the game” to make people believe they’re doing things they aren’t. But that’s just what it is…speculation

      FWIW, it would have been stupid for the Astros to bid $140 million or more on one player, especially a pitcher.

      Bonus FWIW: I don’t read the Chronicle.

      Like

      • daveb
        February 4, 2014

        You know Chip, I’ll say this for Bopert/Weaver. Crane has allowed him to be pretty accurate in most every regard. That’s the real shame.

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        February 5, 2014

        daveb, not sure that “Bopert” is always right about Crane. The fact is, in many of the instances he “claims,”, there is no actual way to know. In this instance — did the Astros bid for Tanaka or Choo — sources other than Crane and Choo indicated they were involved. One thing we do know. The previous claim that the Astros won’t spend money has now proven to be false and many of the other so-called claims or accusations are either still up in the air or just flat out unproven or unsubstantiated. Some are built on conspiracy-type theories or just based in — to borrow one of his favorite words — propaganda.

        Like

      • Bo Weaver
        February 5, 2014

        “The previous claim that the Astros won’t spend money has now proven to be false…”

        How in the world do you figure? That is one wild leap, Chip.

        To me, the only way to PROVE something like this is to DO something, not say you were trying to do something. Big difference.

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        February 5, 2014

        Okay, Bo. This is a useless discussion. If you aren’t “in” on the plan, then that’s cool. But it appears to many they’re following a successful blue print. But you’re doing exactly what you blame everyone else for doing: Basing your assumptions, opinions and thoughts on what Crane “won’t” do. This year, the Astros have aleady spent $30 million on a starter, guaranteed over $7 million to a decent center fielder and added three bullpen arms and a decent expense. No, there’s no Choo or Tanaka and you can debate — if you want to — if there ever will be.

        From my perspective, it doesn’t and won’t necessarily take $120 million. It will take the RIGHT $90 million. It’s not how much you spend, but how well you spend. Saying the Astros will have to spend $120 million or it proves your “Crane will never spend” is ridiculous. If, indeed, the budget reaches $50-$60 million in 2014, that’s a reasonable escalation since it seems to move the ball down the field and aligns with the rebuild.

        If in the next few years, they don’t lock up some of the future stars (whoever they turn out to be), then, yeah, I’ll have a huge beef. There will come a day, probably in the next 3-4 years, when they have some major decisions to make…just from the sheer number of players who will be reaching arb or free agency. How Luhnow manages that will be interesting and test his mettle.

        Good day…next topic.

        Like

    • 1oldpro
      February 4, 2014

      Bo, I did say that it would take $140. But I also said that I believe the Astros offer was in the neighborhood of $140m and I still stand by that. I don’t think they are willing to say how high they went. I think the Yanks went to $155 to cover the Astros offer plus the NY state income tax and Tanaka got to play for the team he wanted for the money it took to get himover the Astros’ and any other bid.

      Like

  11. Bo Weaver
    February 4, 2014

    Don’t you feel the least bit manipulated? Patronized?

    Like

  12. Bo Weaver
    February 4, 2014

    You’re right, Chip. It is speculation. So is speculating that ALastros were REALLY in the running for the aforementioned.

    But my point remains: WATCH what happens. All the rest — speculation and propaganda, in all its forms — is just noise. The proof is in the pudding.

    Which team has Choo? Which team has Darvish? Having a bunch of inexpensive draft picks stockpiled will not a championship team make.

    Meanwhile, it looks like Crane could again be choked out of a TV deal. The realities that could come from this are staggering.

    It’s time to stop propagating false hope. Let’s deal with reality.

    Like

    • Billy Castillo
      February 4, 2014

      1) The Astros wanted the bankruptcy case dismissed, which would’ve killed the network. The judge chose to place CSN Houston in Ch.11 instead. If anyone is being choked, it’s not Crane but the network. Either way, the real losers in this are us, the fans (or rather, everyone on this blog besides you, as your feelings on the club are clearer than water)

      2) I’m with you on the Williams signing. To me, he’s a young(-ish) Brian Moehler at best. However, your constant vitrol against Crane (deserved) and Luhnow (NOT deserved) ignores the fact that the club has made some significant upgrades, namely the bullpen and the outfield. Of course, acknowledging that does not tie in to your agenda.

      3) Choo was overpaid, and would’ve been a disaster here. Mark my words, he WILL not produce for what he’s being paid. That .423 OBP looks incredible, until you look at the large strikeout total. With a weaker lineup than he had in Cincinnati, he would walk much less and strike out more, thereby negating his value. His CS% already is not great, and he’ll be pushing 40 by the time his contract is over. So you’d rather him in there than Springer? Really?! Just because you’re a Rangers fan doesn’t mean you should ignore logic.

      4) You’re right…watch what happens. If these younger players end up doing well, and then Crane doesn’t pay them enough and they walk, I’m man enough to admit I was wrong. The question is, will you be willing to do the same if/when you’re proven incorrect?

      Like

      • Billy Castillo
        February 4, 2014

        And before you comment, #3 where I said he’d have a weaker lineup, I was referring to if we’d have signed him.

        Like

  13. Tim
    February 4, 2014

    So, Bopert, did you want the Astros to pay more than what the Rangers paid for Choo? Did you want them to offer Tanaka $160M? Can you explain to me how that helps the rebuild process? You still have not offered any thoughts on how you think the rebuild would have been better accomplished. You don’t rebuild through free agency, you supplement a good team ready to compete for a championship via free agency. What Luhnow has done in 3 years is amazing. McLane left Crane with a terrible team and the worst farm system in baseball. The only viable solution was to completely strip down the team and start over. This is exactly what they have done and it si working.

    Like

    • Billy Castillo
      February 4, 2014

      The Yankees’ signing of Tanaka for that huge amount may end up costing them (pun intended). What if he turns into another Daisuke Matsuzaka? NO player without previous major league experience is worth that money.

      Like

    • Bo Weaver
      February 5, 2014

      The rebuild process is not really at question here as stockpiling young talent is extremely cheap, comparatively speaking. And that alone simply will not cut it.

      So that’s the “easy” part.

      Eventually, not only will these young studs (deservedly) have big paydays coming once they become legit pros, but Luhnow (if he’s still around) will need to augment with legit FAs to plug holes.

      THEN, Crane will need to open his wallet year over year for the team to truly become competitive. Payroll probably needs to be north of $120mil per year (in today’s money) to have a fighting chance.

      THIS IS WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN, in my opinion.

      If I am wrong, I am man enough to admit it. But if mediocrity is what unfolds year over year — and the pattern is already showing itself — then what should we expect?

      The money won’t be there, comparatively speaking, because the Rangers have DOMINATED the AL market across the region. And it’s only going to get worse1) as former fans become indifferent, and 2) as TV revenue dries up.

      Crane simply is to greedy, too selfish, and too unconcerned for the fans and the city to be a good steward of this franchise. And the money won’t be there anyway.

      This is what I have been saying for over two years now.

      Don’t drink the koolaid. Crane is NOT leading this franchise to the promised land, ladies and gentlemen.

      Like

      • Tim
        February 5, 2014

        Bo, it is not ‘drinking the koolaid’, but understanding the process and seeing the results. We knew this team was going to be bad for several years, but this was the price that had to be paid to develop the minor league system. Now that they have the top ranked minor league system it is time to, slowly, begin the climb. This does not mean going out and increasing the payroll to $120M right away, but a consistent climb toward tis figure is expected, but the TV issue will need to get resolved.

        Like

      • Bo Weaver
        February 5, 2014

        Tim, you think that Crane will eventually spend that kind of money, and lead the franchise to consistent competitiveness. Fine, that’s your take (hope!).

        I do not.

        Let’s watch what happens, and tune out the noise.

        Like

      • tedf1948
        February 6, 2014

        Bo, you need to get your facts correct. To be mediocre, the Astros need to win about 20 more games per year to be that good. 🙂

        Like

  14. devin_
    February 4, 2014

    How are the Astros going to sign the top free agents when they lose 100 games every year? At some point players want to win more than they want a few extra million dollars in their accounts. If Luhnow was on the money with his draft picks and the team shows signs of being competitive, you will see free agents want to sign here for 1) chance to win 2) favorable tax rules.

    I’ve criticized the Feldman signing because I’m not sure how many more wins they get by slotting him in the rotation for eight figures annually. At three years he might be a bridge all the way to the respectability and competitive teams we anticipate. Williams is a relatively low cost gamble who gives the Astros more freedom to wait to promote at least one youngster until they feel they are ready. He’s like Carlos Pena – cutting him doesn’t hurt you enough financially to keep him if he is a liability. You couldn’t say that about Choo, Tanaka, McCann, or a number of other long term contracts that may end up being poison pills.

    Like

  15. daveb
    February 5, 2014

    Chip, I should have taken a look at the 40 man before making that comment. I guess only a few of those seven stick out in my mind as being helpful down the road. Most any healthy lefty, especially those that can also start, have value. So yes, I agree, Keuchel has trade value, especially being under team control until 2018. I’d hate to lose him at this point though. Lefties tend to bloom a bit later and I like the way he goes about his business.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      February 5, 2014

      daveb, I’d love to keep Keuchel around as well. That said, it seems increasingly that he’s only going to be a reliever or spot starter and may not have a significant role on the staff. He’s always seemed to me to be a battler and, at times, he’s actually had some moments of brilliance. Yes, I’d had to trade him for nobody you’d ever remember and have him become a regular 15-game winner for someone else by the time he turns 30.

      Like

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