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?