If there’s one thing the Astros should have learned this season it’s this: You can’t play all kids, all the time and hope to win consistently. Sure, there will be some streaks, highlights, breakthroughs and even breakouts, but a team needs some veterans just like a house needs weight-bearing walls.
Today, let’s examine the nucleus that the Astros are trying to build around. Salaries, prospects in the system, agents, team control and production are all determining factors in the Astros’ decisions. And they may come into play as soon as the July 31 trade deadline.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Dexter Fowler will earn more than $10 million in his final arbitration season next year before hitting free agency. Indeed, the Astros have a long line of prospects in the minors, but Fowler is developing into a solid contributor. Depending on the progression of players like Austin Wates or Domingo Santana, the decision could come as soon as this trade deadline if teams are looking for a veteran to help put them over the top.
Jose Altuve would probably thrive in another scenario. Actually, he’s thriving in Houston and he’s only mentioned here since any team worth their salt will inquire over the next 6-7 weeks. Two reasons not to answer the phone: One, there’s no one close to being ready to replace him. Two, do you really want to re-live the Joe Morgan debacle nearly a half century ago? Luhnow will need to make a decision when the phone calls come, but the answer should be obvious.
Jason Castro has drawn much interest and will continue to do so until the Astros make a decision about his future with the club. A year-to-year deal for a player in the top half of catchers in the league will keep other GMs interested. Castro turns 27 next month, but moving the former first round pick could be a gamble, depending on Max Stassi‘s progression not to mention the return in a possible trade.
Scott Feldman. There won’t be any decisions this year, but as the young guns begin to mature and make their way to Houston, something will have to give. If Feldman can stay healthy, the Astros will either want him as a mentor or find out what other teams are willing to give up. It’ll be worth a conversation, but that’s at least a year away. There’s a good chance, though, Feldman won’t finish his three-year deal in Houston, though, wouldn’t you say?
Hands off. Don’t even answer the phone.
We may be starting to see why Luhnow wanted to tie up Matt Dominguez for several years. When is the last time the Astros had a glove and a bat at third base? By the way, looks like Carlos Lee is still giving back to the Astros.
Dallas Keuchel has been a pleasant under-the-radar player to watch since he came up three years ago. The 26-year-old former seventh round pick in 2009 — one of only three Astros’ picks that year to reach the majors — may be developing into a long-term solution for the Astros.
Jarred Cosart was once the top pitching prospect in the Astros’ organization. Now, at 24, he may be one of the more seasoned youngsters. Hard to believe that he came over from Philly along with Jon Singleton and Santana. Thanks Ed.
George Springer. Next question.
Do you really have to ask?
The largest group consists of what many of you call the scrubs, the AAAAers or the place-holders. Sorry, these guys won’t be around in 2-3 years, some perhaps not 2-3 months. While it’s not an exhaustive list, the group includes Jesus Guzman, Chris Carter, Alex Presley, Jerome Williams, Marc Krauss and L.J. Hoes. Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Corporan are both arb-eligible next season, so they will have outlived their usefulness at some point.
You can add your own players to any of the lists above, but the fact remains that the goal of seasons like this is to continue to add to the nucleus of the future.
The list is short to be sure, but here’s what the blackboard in Luhnow’s office probably looks like for 2016-17. At least among current players on the 40-man roster. These are the “hands off” guys the Astros are hoping to build around.
And, a few left-over notes from the weekend:
- The Astros are now 7-9 in May. Last year, they won only 10 games in May.
- Houston is 15-11 when they hit a home run, 1-17 when the team does not.
- All 14 position players the Astros have used in 2014 have homered at least once.
- Wondering who the Astros will choose with the #1 pick next month? Check out the latest predictions.
- The Astros are second in the league in hitting (.272) and OPS (.788) in May. Gulp! First in OBP (.344).
- Yes, the Astros have nine or more hits in each of their last eight games.
- And, one final note. Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Dan Peschong, who celebrated their 34th anniversary.