Monday morning quarterback: Questions from the news

The Astros couldn’t leave well-enough alone. While we could be talking about rookie of the year candidates, fresh young faces, a rebuilding program that finally comes to Minute Maid or how many games you plan to see, instead, other probing questions are in the forefront. And, the news.

So, while you wonder whether Oklahoma City might beat the Astros in a two-out-of-three game series in April (come on, you know you’ve thought it), let’s check out a few of those questions.

Did the Astros send George Springer to the minors as retribution for not signing that seven-year, $23 million deal?

  • This could come down to “…what did the Astros tell Springer and when did they tell him…”? The fact that Springer hit only .161 and struck out one-third of his ABs this spring seems to indicate he needs more grooming. But if that poor performance came in part because he was told last fall he wouldn’t make the team out of spring training, that’s a different story. Shame on the Astros, but shame on Springer as well. If Springer had come out this spring and hit .350 with a few HRs and a dozen RBIs, his OBP would have been well north of .450 and the Astros would have had no choice but to suit him up against the Yankees on April 1.

Since Jim Crane opened up a can of worms (did he really need to do that?), we’ll go to the question we’ve avoided most of this spring.

  • You can formulate this question however you wish, but how many games will the Astros win in 2014? Or how many will they lose? Or will they avoid a 100-loss season? Is it remotely possible they will reach .500? Or…from your perspective, exactly what will represent a “win” in 2014 for Houston?

Which of these players starting the season in the minors should be starting the season in Houston?

And, a Monday lightning round.

  • Will Bo Porter finish the 2013 season? Or will he be replaced by Tony DeFrancesco late in the year?
  • Which happens first this year: Springer to the majors, a TV deal or a .500 month?
  • If it happened, what would be the biggest surprise for the Astros in 2014?
  • Which of these players the Astros have released or traded recently is most likely to succeed with a new team: Brett Wallace, Jordan Lyles, J.D. Martinez, Brandon Barnes?
  • Believe it or not, four likely opening day starters started opening day in 2013. Can you name them?
  • Happy birthday mom! 79, and still kicking!

51 comments on “Monday morning quarterback: Questions from the news

  1. A lot to hit on here:
    – Springer – Base question has to be – if Springer was good enough to be offered a $23 million contract in September – how could he not be good enough to be called up in September, or make the team this spring training or even be put on the 40 man roster? (Could it be that putting him on the 40 man gives him more rights and leverage with the players association?)
    – I’m a fairly optimistic person – I think you have to be from Colorado (and enjoying certain vegetation there) to be thinking this team’s upside is any better than about 72-90.
    – Players that should have had a better shot at making this team – Springer (he should not have entered ST thinking his team was screwing him), Folty (pitched better than 95% of the other pitchers in camp), Correa (it would be nice to not flinch when the ball is hit to SS) and possibly Lo (others have made his case before and I agree).
    – Porter vs. Tony D – Chip did you see that Tony D just was diagnosed with cancer? I think Porter will wear thin – his inability to stop the huge losing streak at the end of 2013 did not bode well coming into 2014.
    – I think a .500 month might come before a TV deal but that could be next season – Springer coming up could happen soon or real late in the year, I’ve given up trying to guess on this.
    – Biggest surprise apparently would be this team bringing up any young studs.
    – Likely to succeed with a new team….none of these guys are giving me too much warm spots – Wallace has not put it together after mulitple chances. JDM has to find a spot and it is likely he will start in the minors. Barnes is battling just to make the Rockies 25 man. Lyles would seem to have the most solid slot – but hoping a pitcher succeeds in Colorado….I just don’t know.
    – 4 opening day starters – Castro, Altuve, Carter and (Dominguez would seem to attract here – but didn’t Grossman make the opening day roster?)
    – Happy birthday Chip’s mom – I bet you are a pip!


  2. First Happy B’Day to your Mom. Second, as a Monday morning quarterback, yesterday you had the wrong photo for Dragnet. It should have been Ben Alexander and the photo should have been in black and white or just show Badge 714. (Young Whippersnappers). To your questions, Astros will improve because you just can’t continue to lose 15-20 games in a row every year. No prospect this year forced the hand of mgmt. in ST. But a month into the season, if they continue to put up good numbers in the minors, and the Astros can’t hit, field, or pitch – there better be some changes.


  3. I think Springer was given a choice: sign or you’ll have to start the year in the minors because of Super2. I think Springer should be starting the year in Houston in CF. I think he will be in Houston in June and I think the Astros will have the worst record in baseball at that time and at the end of the year. I think they may win 60 games and a real “win” for them is if they get their 1.1 draft pick signed.
    I think Porter makes it til the end of the year.
    I think Barnes is most likely to succeed.


    • oldpro, if the Astros were stupid enough — yes, stupid — to use that as leverage, then they deserve what they get. My understanding is that wouldn’t be within the bylaws of the CBA. If I know that, Luhnow knows that like the back of his hand. And, if he used that knowing it would cut across the grain of the CBA, he’s not nearly as smart as I’ve given him credit.

      As a result, I’d be shocked if he used that. Springer didn’t play well enough this spring to make the team.

      Dan, I’m not sure that question is the right question. Many players, including draftees, signed bonuses and get millions before they play in the majors. Many veterans sign major league contracts and get hundreds of thousands and, in some cases, even millions, but don’t make the roster out of spring training. These are risk factors.

      In the case of Springer, the focus is on the arb and free agent years, not 2014. IMO. I haven’t seen a breakdown of the $23 million, so it could easily have been minimal on the front end with most of it back-loaded to the end of the deal.


      • Chip – I know that high draftees can get bonuses in the millions and that some vets get contracts and then get cut – but I am not sure I have seen any player get a contract to knockout his arbitration and some of his FA years before he has made the majors.
        Guys like Evan Longoria were in the league a 2 or 3 years before they got that “buy-out” contract.


      • Chip, if Springer’s .161, .333, .194, .523 line was the reason he got sent down why are Carter’s .194, .204, .319, .523 line, Hoes’s .188, .235, .188, .423 line, good enough to keep them. Your argument is not consistent with the team’s moves. Springer has more to offer defensively and on the basepaths than the other two and he is much more popular with the fans, yet he is gone and they are still here. Springer was sent down because of future money and the club is worse off with him in AAA than they are with him happy and starting in CF in Houston.


      • DanP; I am no expert on Longoria’s contract, but two sources say he came up April 12,2008 due to an injury to Aybar, and 8 days later signed his first contract to buy out his free agent years. He still had at least 2 more option years from that contract. But his first years according to Baseball Reference, he was paid near the league minimum. (2008 story) (Current extension)


  4. Puig hit .122 this spring. And he’s been nothing but trouble for the Dodgers. But certainly they would not send such a talent down. Springer had every right to turn down his 23 million. And I can fully see the guy coming to camp with other things on his mind than hitting .350. One of those things on his mind could have been that he knew he was going down regardless of what he accomplished. I continue to lay this hole mess on the club.


    • daveb, I do think the game has changed over the years. What do you think Tommy Lasorda or Bobby Cox would do with Puig? Now that’s an entire entry, maybe two! I seem to recall that Cox stopped a game in the middle of an inning and pulled a young center fielder named Andruw Jones because he didn’t hustle after a ball. THAT was a long walk to the dugout I’m guessing. Too many lawyers, too many “rights” and too many headstrong agents have gotten in the way.

      Okay, better shut up before I start saying what I really think.

      Again, we’re talking about a player (Puig) who’s already in the majors and one (Springer) who has never been in the majors. A little of apples and oranges.


      • Yes, Chip, maybe a post for later on in the season regarding Puig. My only point is that Springer at .161 in such a small sample should have been a far smaller factor than the body of his work in 2013. And I think we all have to agree that had he signed that 7/23 deal last year, he’d be starting against the Yankees next week, It’s pretty simple. And it’s pretty stinky.


  5. oldpro, on Springer/Carter/Hoes, here are some thoughts. Carter is out of options, so if you cut him, he would be gone. As for Hoes, if you take a look at my previous entry, he’s on the bubble. But they’re all apples and oranges. Springer’s clock hasn’t started, so, that is at least PART of the equation. He hasn’t had major league time and only limited time at AAA, so I get it. Would I like to see him in Houston, of course. Is it going to kill anyone if he starts in OKC and joins the big show in May or June? No.

    NOW, if it turns out the Astros used that as leverage to get him to sign that contract, then, we’ve got an entirely new ballgame.

    And, if he had signed that deal, it wouldn’t necessarily mean he’d have been in Houston last September or even this April. The long-term progression should still be the barometer.

    Hope that makes some sense.


  6. There is absolutely no evidence that Springer was given an ultimatum, or that this retribution. Like Springer turning down the deal, this is just the Astros maximizing their value as they measure it.

    If it were all about baseball, Springer would have accepted the deal and he would everything he ever wanted right now, just maybe not in the quantities he’d have preferred.

    He joins a long line of prospects who have to wait because of Super-two (see Myers, Wil, Posey, Buster). This is SOP for teams that do not expect to compete, and for many that do.

    And Dan, as I recall Longoria played six games in the ML when he got his deal.


    • right on the mark flash.
      there will be no grievance, the players assoc. will look into it, as they do any player related issues, but there is not any actual evidence to work on. this will be settled long before it reaches grievance status. its a common practice every year for more teams than just the astros to delay the start of arb/super two clocks.


  7. The Rays did this same move with David Price. Price’s agent has stated numerous times that while Price is willing to sign a new long term deal with the Rays, he doesn’t want to be “underappreciated.” I truly believe that they did this Super 2 stunt with him when he was dominating the minors is why they are where they are.

    If I am a player, with a family, with plans, and fully understanding that I have earned my opportunity, and the organization decides to not put me in a position to maximize my earnings to save themselves money (while they continue to maintain dreadfully low payrolls), I have little interest in being there long term. The Yankees don’t treat their players this way, the Red Sox don’t, the Cardinals don’t, even the Giants don’t. The Rays are going to end up trading Price, primarily because they can’t afford to give a guy 22 mil a year, but also because he is refusing to budge on any negotiations in seeking a Kershaw type deal.


    • Sounds like reverse retribution. Perhaps the organization sees its organizational depth as a hedge against the cost of goodwill. But it isn’t like $23MM is an insult. They just released a former top prospect with a similar minor league profile. I’d say they were taking a considerable risk.


      • Flash – I wouldn’t approach it, as an organization, of he versus me, and which one can make or keep the money. Springer is going to be part of a flock that add immeasureable value to the franchise, and the franchise needs to be the type of organization that will maximize what they get both for and from Springer.

        No doubt the contract is a risk for the organization – I wrote about this and a another former first rounder in Chris Burke a few days ago. Burke was actually pretty good in 2006 – we forget it in the disaster his career later become – and in Luhnow’s plan of offering all these players contracts he probably would have fit in the Grossman/Dominguez mold and substantiated an offer – and would have ended up money wasted.

        What the organization has effectively done is tell George they are putting off his opportunity to earn big money another year – for their own bottom line – and put themselves first. Every person that calls this “shrewd” probably lacks experience at organizational leadership and how to maximize effectiveness. There is a reason that McDonalds and Wal-mart employees rotate daily in almost every store; but Costco and Chick-Fil-A have much lower turn over rates. Sure, McDonalds and Walmart are more successful, but their reputations as poor employers that put their companies first and “secondary” citizen the guys whose backs they built it on are why they are not looked at as favorable landing spots.

        Springer should be RF right now, and it isn’t about impatience – though fans are. It’s about watching an organization taking steps to minimize the earnings potential of a player for their own benefit – actions that make the Astros and Crane look the way Bo describes them.


  8. As for not “earning” his opportunity, that’s just short sightedness. He had a MVP type minor league season that substantiates his opportunity. What happens in ST is so short in sample that it really shouldn’t be used – not the numbers anyway.

    Now if there are coaches on the ground watching – and they tell you he is swinging at bad pitches, he is pressing, there is a hitch he needs to work out, whatever it is, I can buy that. Simply hitting .161, every player in baseball experiences an up and down roller coaster on their stats throughout a season. I can take any 39 plate appearances and extrapolate whatever I am looking for on anyone.

    Springer’s agent should have already filed said grievance, and we as fans should be upset that we are going to watch Guzman play instead of Springer – as I assume this moves Grossman to right, forcing Krauss to play LF, and putting Guzman on tap to start at 1B. Guzman for Springer is a bad move.


  9. “Sources” say that Springer’s camp countered with a 7 yr. $40 million
    contract. No Idea if this is true, but if it is……no wonder he didn’t sign the deal presented by Luhnow. Marwin G. made the team today, and Zied, Reny Garcia, and Chambers were optioned to OKC. Izturis was released.


    • Personally Becky, I find this figure hard to believe. I think Springer’s camp would’ve countered for a lot more for 7 years.

      Even if what “sources” say is true, and the team actually refused the counter-offer, then…

      …please allow me to enter Exhibit 112, your honor.


    • Wow, thatis a laughable counter. My complaint About springer is that it seemed he was getting at bats late in games early in the spring. Why not give him as many at bats as possible – the only way you put Him on the 25 is as a starter whereas Hoes and Krauss could be justified riding the pine.


    • Chip, allow me to retort. I said IF the figures were accurate, then it further shows just how incredibly darn cheap the Crane administration is, and will continue to be, ergo the Exhibit 112 remark.

      C’mon! On this celebratory day with your momma, you know she didn’t raise no fool! She’s probably say “wipe that kooldaid off your lip, and snap to reality! Get out of denial, y’hear!”. (:


  10. Sorry – I was totally wrong on Longoria – I think I was thinking about when Cleveland bought out a bunch of arbitration and FA years for young guys with a year or two under their belts.


  11. I think the Astros are treating their business like a business. And while Springer’s feelings may get hurt, he and his agent need to stop kidding themselves and realize every other team does it too.
    I think Crane is smoking weed if he believes this team — without 162 games of Springer, Correa by mid season and Foltynewicz asap — can get to .500.
    Foltynewicz, Correa and, of course, Springer.
    He finishes. Then he’s finished.
    Springer to the majors.
    Topping 75 wins.
    Altuve, Dominguez, Carter and Castro?
    Happy birthday, Mama Bailey. And many more.


  12. Memo to all koolaid drinkers: the latest “news” isn’t surprising one bit.

    Even the horsecrap about how Crane thinks the team will play.500 ball in 2014 (with a straight face, mind you) surprises not.

    Look, if the incredibly meager $23mil offer to GSpring, (heaped upon all the rest of his perpetual horse$hit) won’t convince you that Crane’s leading this frachise nowhere, then nothing will bring you to put down the koolaid.

    Chip keeps saying there is “no evidence” that Crane won’t spend money. Allow me to introduce Exhibit 111 your honor.

    Do you realize that if GSpring would’ve accepted that ridiculous offer, he’d very reasonably leave upwards to $80mil on the table over the life of the deal?

    That offer was BEYOND LOWBALL — it was an insult. Dude’s going to be a superstar, and superstars cost a crap-ton to employ these days. Especially ones that you treat with overt disrespect.


    • This latest “comment” is also not surprising.

      I hope you are right though, because it means GS will perform well enough to earn close to thirty million per year in arbitration!


    • Some have projected GS to have similar numbers in the majors as Chris Young. A decent player, but definitely not a superstar. GS still strikes out a ton, so does Chris Young. Both have power and speed. GS does not have the tool set of a Mike Trout so you can’t project he would be leaving $80M on the table.


      • Check that. “Definitely not a superstar?” Really?

        He does whiff a ton, but so did Eric Davis. But he’s a crap-ton better than Chris Young, my friend.


  13. One thing that is perhaps missing is Springer and Castro got nice signing money.($2.52 & $2.0 Million) Altuve $15,000. So some players are up against it for money, but a guy with a couple million in the bank can play hardball with the team. We can say it is “not starting the clock” or “team control” – but at the end of the day – it is all about money for both player and team. Don’t forget that Correa was signed with about 1/2 slot money. He will be another that is going to “want to be paid” when his time comes. The only solution is to continue to keep crappy players on the 25 man roster. Chip’s comment on the “Bottleneck” is about players, but it is also about having to spend a ton to keep your good ones in 3 or so more years. If “the Plan” works, you can afford to let each of them walk as you will have a replacement in the minors to play on the cheap.


    • Astro45, Appel got $6.35 million bonus and Correa $4.8 million. Compared to Springer’s $2.5. Could that also be a factor? At the end of the day, you also have to factor Springer’s age (24). If the Astros had sought to buy out a couple of arb years, possibly leaving an arb year and free agency, he might have gone for it. But 7 years leaves him only one major contract to look forward to and some teams might consider an age 31 deal is borderline. That, IMO, was a miscalculation on the Astros’ part. 4/23 or even 5/30 might have been a bit more balanced…and perhaps tempting for Springer.


      • I think Springer’s age played into it for him. Also, I have never been in the shoes of a 24 year old multimillionaire, but I have been in Altuve’s shoes. And Jose getting that deal was appealing to him. His agent (and Castro has the same agency) probably told him, son, you are never going to get $30 million a year so take it. I really don’t know about GS being a miscalculation, but pushing him into his 30’s, while Longoria is still only 27 today makes them different in my mind. And around the time of the offer (if the rumors are correct), not calling up the Minor League Player of the Year probably stung him also.


      • Good point about Springer’s age. Totally agree with 4/23 – 5/30 range being about the best deal they could possibly muster, and be reasonably fair to Springer.

        Does this mean we agree that Crane is either unwilling/unable to pay GSpring his worth during his prime?


      • Dang Bo, I love you man. But could you just type the first paragraph and quit. And Yes, I too, agree with Chip’s comment. I just looked it up, and Longoria was in the minors for 219 games, and GS has already played 271 games there. And at age 22, Longoria was already in the majors. So there is a couple years difference in their careers.


      • How many players were bought out of free agency before playing a MLB game? The offer was a little low, historically, had it been for 6 years. I’m convinced Apple and Correa are different in that they wanted to come to Houston in the first place. We don’t know whether springer wants to play here, another locale, or if other concerns are higher like max contract value, endorsement oops, or postseason likelihood.


  14. I know man, but don’t miss the point. Crane/Luhnow were not remotely fair in their dealings. The offer, which retains GSpring through his prime, was so ridiculously off-the-mark that it wasn’t even in the ballpark, in the ballpark, in the ballpark…


  15. Regarding unfair dealings with Springer, could this pattern be the very sticking point with the TV deal? Could it be that Crane, again, wants an asset valuation exceedingly off true market value?

    Classic Crane:
    “…we want to get some long term out of these guys that are moving along steadily, and we think if it’s a good deal for them, it’s a good deal for us, and keeps the guys in a little longer… So I think it’s a positive for everybody…”

    It doesn’t matter if it’s the fan, the player, the network executive, the MLB owner, the US taxpayer, the US soldier, his employees… it doesn’t matter, he’ll screw ’em all.

    Thus, be warned. When Crane extends that cup of koolaid, don’t take it!


  16. The Detroit Tigers signed J.D. Martinez to a minor league contract today. Going to have a tough time making it back to the big leagues with the Tigers for sure.


  17. We can go on and on with this Springer ordeal, but is there anyone out there who thinks this is a better team on April 1 with Hoes in right field and Springer in OKC? Anyone? I didn’t think so. It simply comes back to putting the best team on the field. That should happen before any other consideration. And really, wouldn’t it be better business today to have Springer on the field? I know it would give guys in OKC and Corpus a mental boost. And it would sell tickets here in Houston. It would create buzz. It would give a lethargic dugout of underwhelming ballplayers a shot in the arm. Certainly the manager has not been able to get this group to play smart, crisp ball. Heck, Carlos Correa already has more field presence then most of our 25 man roster under Bo Porter. By the way, when do we get to talk about the manager? I digress. Anyway, looking months down the road, if this team is playing as bad as I think it will be, Bo will get his pink slip and we’ll finally have plenty of national press, the worst kind. And the next owners meeting won’t be a happy place for Crane to be either. And one day soon, as in the NBA, there will be draft lottery in MLB, so an organization can’t again take ownership of the first pick for perhaps a half decade.


  18. keuchel probably gets one of the last two spots in the rotation. two lefties in the pen already. im guessing peacock gets the other unless harrell really is lights out his last start. seems like harrell and williams are the two long relievers/spot starters


  19. Speaking on “more questions from the news”, what about this snippet from last Friday:

    “The network has asked Isgur for permission to provide advertisers with “make-good” ads. Make-goods are awarded when a network’s Nielsen ratings fall short of levels guaranteed to advertisers when they purchased ad time.

    Attorneys representing the network say CSN Houston’s relationship with advertisers may “disintegrate” if it does not provide make-good ads to 47 advertisers. They estimated the value of the network’s advertising under-deliveries at $1.505 million.”

    This was reported in this article by David Barron:

    In any event, these are very telling data points. Make good ads to compensate for poor Neilsen ratings? A measley 1.5 mil in ad revenue affected?

    Again, I stress, market demand rules all Mr. Crane.


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