Weekend thoughts: Challenges, Porter, payroll and depth


A few weekend thoughts while wondering if the Astros are largely finished with roster significant roster movement before pitchers and catchers report next weekend.

  • Depth may be the biggest obstacle or challenge for the Astros in 2014, especially if they are to get that 100-loss monkey off the back of the organization. While there may be pitching in the pipeline — even enough to string together a staff for the entire season — we’ve already identified plenty of holes in the lineup. For example, what happens if Matt Dominguez goes down with an injury or just flat-out doesn’t perform? Jonathan Villar? Or even Jason Castro? Then, if two or three projected starters are out, it will present a huge challenge for Jeff Luhnow. The organization is not to a point where it can just fill the gap.
  • Make or break year for Bo Porter? Come on, he’s Luhnow’s man. They see eye-to-eye philosophically, on personnel and on the direction of the organization from top to bottom. As long as Porter is moving the ball down the field, he has the job for the next few years.  A firing in mid-season or even at the end of 2014 would signal a huge problem in the rebuild, a move the Astros aren’t going to make.
  • Where is the biggest risk Luhnow has taken in the off-season? Perhaps the bullpen. The Astros’ GM had no choice: He had to move to upgrade after a disastrous 2013. He chose to go the route of experience, but he’s also chosen an aging group as his primary resource: Matt Albers (31), an injured Jesse Crain (32) who likely won’t be ready to start the season, and Chad Qualls (35). They could all be winners for the Astros, but if two of the three falter or fail, again the depth question arises. Somewhat of a gamble, but a good one.
  • If the season started today, the Astros would have a budget of approximately $42-$45 million, depending on the final salaries of players under team control. That’s still a little south of the $50-$60 million owner Jim Crane suggested late last year. Obviously, there’s plenty of time to add payroll this spring and even during the season, which suggests that the team may still be looking to add. If they were to spend another $10 million, where should it go?
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23 comments on “Weekend thoughts: Challenges, Porter, payroll and depth

  1. Great Questions Chip! Looking at the long term plan and goals of the organization , which I agree with as much as it kills me to keep loosing, we need patience. If it was my team and Money, I would see how we shake out the next 3 months , who’s performing at all levels,. injuries,
    etc and then maybe re-boot go to plan B. I wouldn’t spend another 5-10 mill right now just because I said we have the cash IMHO

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  2. God forbid Dominguez goes down……because OKC has no one, and Corpus has Jonathan Meyer. In other words 3rd. base is a dark corner if Matty D gets hurt. I’m not as concerned about Castro, because Stassi and Corporan can take up that position. I’m betting Luhnow is looking for another cheap guy that can play 3rd. in the next few weeks. As it stands now…….we won’t be getting the Astros on T.V. AGAIN this year.

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  3. Depth is a huge question, Chip. To begin with – there are less everydays on an AL roster when they are carrying more pitchers and then – frankly most of the up and comers are below AA or minimal AA coming into the season. The flow is getting closer, but it is not there yet.
    Straight away – there are some things about Porter’s style that I am not enthused with. If your team is bad at stealing bases % -wise, why steal so often. Some things I cannot blame on him – if pitchers are not good and leave the starters in they fail and if you bring in the pen and they fail – that is not your fault. Anyways – I have no problem waiting and seeing how things go – but Bo needs to do grow a little this season just like his team.
    Frankly I think the bucks he spent on Feldman is the bigger risk that he took. They really need him to perform as an anchor – even if it is more on a #2 or #3 starter level. He gives me more worries than Qualls, Crain and Albers. They would have to go aways to come close to as bad as the pen performed last season (injuries are my biggest worry here).
    Chip – we already know how Crane would answer your question if not muzzled – put up your $10 million and you get to decide – haha. This close to ST – I think they may see what they’ve got before making any other moves.

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  4. I live in daily fear (OK, maybe not that much fear) that Matty D goes down. That said, if he does I think Jonathan Meyer, who did well at Corpus last year and has an excellent glove, would get the call. Villar goes down, we have (crickets, crickets) … um, I’m not sure. How’s Correa doing? Has he been promoted to AA yet? If so, I say we bring him up. Robin Yount started at 19. Why can’t Correa in a pinch?

    Castro goes down, Matt Stassi is my guy.

    Basically, I think if we have some big injuries, we’ll see some guys come up about half a season too early.

    I think Porter needs to stop going to the media with his problems. That, more than wins and losses, might get him canned.

    The biggest risk this offseason was thinking Jesus Guzman would be a good risk at first base. I know his non-San Diego numbers are good, but if Singleton doesn’t make this team out of spring training — and I don’t think he will — then not getting a better upgrade than Guzman could be a big mistake. I think Guzman is this year’s Rick Ankiel.

    Save the money. There’s nothing worth buying on the market at the moment.

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    • Brian, if Villar and the SS circus can’t handle the position by June and Correa is pulling his weight in Corpus, I’d say pull the trigger. Just not sure they’d let him make the jump at his age with everything invested…Guessing that all the pieces would have to fall into place for that to happen, though I wouldn’t object.

      The Guzman trade is really a safety net of sorts, at least at 1B. At $1.3 million salary, you’re giving up a few hundred thousand and the possibility of having someone (Ryan Jackson) who could play 2B, SS, possibly 3B and one of the OF spots in a pinch. That may be the bigger part of the gamble. IMO.

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  5. On a team destined to lose 95 games or more I don’t see depth as a problem. If Villar goes down, there’s Marwin and thats where we were last year.
    If Springer is in right we have a much better outfield and better depth than last year’s OF.
    I think the extra money should be saved until the end of ST to see if a decent closer candidate and backup 3B get released and picked up by us.

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    • 1oldpro, if one goes down it creates a domino effect. For example, lose Villar, then Marwin becomes the everyday shortstop. Who’s the back up at 2B to spell Altuve? Indeed, the OF is deeper and easier to fill a hole. The bullpen could be in trouble if Crain doesn’t get back until mid-season and Qualls or Albers stumbles. Depth is an issue and it’s something I’d bet Luhnow “fixes” by opening day. Just sayin’.

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      • If Villar is hurt then Marwin is the backup and you are in the same spot as last year. Mier comes up as the backup and provides an all field/no hit backup. which is not much worse than the no field/weak hit Cedeno we had last year.
        If Qualls or Albers stumbles, we have all those arms in AAA and some of them got their baptism under fire last year. I think the bullpen will be better, especially if we sign a closer late or one steps up.

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  6. After adding Strom, I think Porter needs to produce at least 65 wins or he’s in trouble.
    Luhnow’s biggest risk so far is not finding help at SS.
    I think Crain and Valdes start the year on DL. I would never have signed the lefty.
    That answers the questions. I like Dans answer of signing Feldman as Luhnow’s biggest risk, but it’s the length of it that is so risky to me.

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  7. I am not enamored of Porter’s rah-rah approach. I think it works for football where emotion plays a large role but baseball is more cerebral and calculated as well as more of a marathon versus a series of short sprints. His substitution faux pas last year was only eclipsed by the umpires allowing him to get away with it! I just don’t see him as one who will outsmart the opposition and long term I think his schtick will wear thin. I think it did last year and I’m not sure it is good for young players who need mentoring rather than hectoring.

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  8. The point on Porter is that it would be a huge admission of failure to fire him either a season and a half or two seasons into his tenure. It would have to be a monumental failure for that to happen. Yes, 65 wins should could be a threshold of “success”, though that still means 97 losses. Unless there are some clubhouse skirmishes or more “loud” public problems, Porter should be at the helm to start 2015. THEN, he’s on the clock for real.

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    • But Luhnow, who originally drafted Wallace, didn’t have a problem admitting that was a mistake. I don’t think Luhnow and Co. let ego get too much in the way.

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      • True — and I don’t disagree entirely — but this particular hire is probably more “his” than Wallace was. Plus, it’s missing on such a strategic part of the rebuild while Wallace is just another draft pick who didn’t make it. Just saying that Porter will really — REALLY — have to botch, bungle and muck up a lot to get to that point.

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    • Chip, I don’t think Luhnow’s ego is so big that he would not pull the plug on Porter if the team is in the 30 and 60 range at the break. Crane might insist on it. Don’t forget that Porter is 0 for his last 15.

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  9. It took me awhile to remember that Brad Mills was the manager ahead of Porter. He was a bench coach under Terry Francona, in Boston, if I recall correctly. Francona was the manager in Philly for four years in which they lost 90 games twice and managed to max out at 77 wins. He then won the WS in his first year in Boston. Sometimes we give managers a bit too much credit or blame. If a manager runs his lefty specialist out there against Miguel Cabrera you still expect him to compete. Besides, in my opinion, we’ve seen the same bonehead moves by Garner, Cooper, Mills, Williams, and many others over the years. I agree 100% that he needs to limit his public shamings though.

    Depth is a concern for multiple reasons. What happens in the case of injury is one thing, but what happens if Matty D or Chris Carter start the season 1-31 with 27 K’s? If one or more guys get off to terrible starts the roster may not have enough flexibility in terms of options to AAA and players capable of playing multiple positions. I suspect you guys are right that Luhnow grabs someone the last week of spring training to address this concern.

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  10. I view Porter as more of a placeholder manager, someone to ‘take’ the losses until the club is ready and a ‘real’ manager can be hired. I think he’s better than Mills overall, but has made some real bonehead mistakes that cast question on his ability more than the record could.

    On a different note…the Marlins have already designated Jimmy Paredes for assignment. I’ve said on the blog previously that I don’t think he will ever be an effective major leaguer, but to cut him before he even played one game for the team is a bit odd.

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  11. Did they get to see him in Winterball? Was he on the 40 man or just an nri if he was on the 40 man maybe they needed room for someone new.
    We have a number of guys on the 40 man who could get dropped without going to ST if they needed the space.

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  12. as far as the extra 10 million goes, we may be able to pick up some depth on the waiver wire as rosters are cut down for the beginning of the season, but i dont think the price tag will be anywhere near 10 million. maybe its being saved for a trade somewhere along the way.

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