Astros: From tipping point to turning point

The Astros have arrived at a pivotal moment. While the tipping point obviously occurred months or even years ago, general manager Jeff Luhnow now faces decisions he’s never faced as the leader of the Astros’ baseball operations.

And, it’s not as simple as buy, sell or stand pat.

As the Astros prepare to complete a series in Arizona on Thursday, the times have changed. No one is laughing anymore. The team has as many as four legitimate All Star candidates. Fewer scoffers are showing up on blogs and radio shows. Six teams, in fact, have worse records than Houston.

No, we shouldn’t declare “Mission Accomplished”. We all know how that worked out for another famous Texan. But the game has changed over the last three months. And even the breaks are beginning to go the Astros’ way.

So let’s take a look at the three arguments.

Scenario #1: Buyers.

Hard to imagine, but the Astros could be buyers at the trade deadline. At 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card race, it is certainly tempting. But where would they add? And which prospect or major league player(s) would be the trade bait?

The bigger question: What or who would you trade for? Unless you’re looking for one-or-two-year gap filler at shortstop or some short-term bullpen upgrade, most every other position has a player of the future or has someone pushing their way toward the major league roster soon. Catcher, first, second, third and two outfield positions are strong, if not solid. You can argue the rotation could use a fifth starter, but would Michael Foltynewicz and others will be available soon.

Still, if the Astros are at .500 and/or 4-6 games out of the race, it will be tempting to assess the buyer’s option.

Scenario #2: Sellers.

Not only hard, but very hard to imagine. The high-dollar, aging players are fewer and farther between. Few Oswalts, Pences, Bourns, Myers or others. Sure, there are some players that could draw attention and attract some high-level prospects, but why trade Dexter Fowler, Chad Qualls, or Jason Castro just when the team has turned the corner?

No, this is actually the worst of the three options for the Astros this summer. The only trades Houston should consider would be lesser exchanges involving Jesus Guzman, Alex Presley or perhaps a trade of Tony Sipp or Darin Downs while their stock is high. Chris Carter is also an option if the Astros could upgrade.

Scenario #3: Stand pat.

Perhaps the best of the three scenarios. And the most likely. Jim Crane, Luhnow and the entire organization have been extremely patient to stick with the plan. Why would that change now? With so many viable options a year or two away at a variety of positions, Houston could solve many of its problems and fill many of the existing holes by just hanging on.

The outfield is bubbling with possibilities and that could force Luhnow’s hand soon with Fowler. The team has already faced decisions on the rotation and the tough choices will only continue later this season and into 2015. The middle infield? Second in depth only to the outfield and pitching.

With Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Lance McCullers, Foltynewicz, Delino Deshields Jr., Domingo Santana, Max Stassi and Nick Tropeano at the top of the pipeline, standing pat doesn’t look so bad.

Predictions and other thoughts.

  • The Astros will add from within the rest of the season, sticking to the add-a-player-a-month trend.
  • Luhnow will pull off some minor trades involving some of the players mentioned above.
  • Not an outright prediction — and it would be a tough call — but with a raise in arbitration due, Fowler could be moved and replaced with one of the young guns in Oklahoma City.
  • This one could be a risk, but if the Astros believe Collin McHugh is at his peak, they could sell high before he hits the second or third trip around the league.


43 comments on “Astros: From tipping point to turning point

    • Great news. I was at the game tonight and certainly enjoyed Carter’s performance. I’ve been one who has lambasted him for hitting inconsequential homers but the slam in Minnesota and the first one tonight were important runs. They introduced A J Reed at the game after he signed today and showed some college high light footage. I suspect Carter was paying attention. Tucker should make him pay even more attention. It will be interesting to see Luhnow’s relatively high contact hitters filtering into the system alongside Wade’s high power/high K guys.

      Keuchel is a joy to watch. Reminds me of Tom Browning of Cincinnati fame; work quickly and throw strikes. I wonder if anyone has analyzed the quality of the defense played behind Keuchel, especially the infielders. They were pretty sharp tonight with the exception of Dominguez getting a questionable error on a slow chopper early. Summer is certainly better when the baseball team is performing well.


  1. I am inclined to buy if we are in the race. I’m looking for a stud reliever off a team that is out of it and I’m willing to trade a decent pitching prospect and a high A outfielder mid level prospect for a big young bullpen arm. Right now Keuchel is your ace and you have Feldman who is expensive if he is pitching poorly and cheap if he’s pitching well. Feldman’s next three starts are important. He needs to beat a poor D’backs team tomorrow. I’m not for selling Collin if we get to .500 because I think Villar and Castro start hitting and when they do we could really roll.
    Please don’t tell me about Crain and Albers because even if they come back healthy, they will be rusty and we don’t need Farnsworth, Williams and those two trying to hold leads in a playoff hunt.
    Bottom line is: if our catcher and SS start to hit, we pose a threat to any team we face as long as we have a good bullpen. I’m willing to get that with a couple of medium prospects and call up Folty in August. With Sipp, Folty Qualls, Albers, Crain and a new guy, I like our chances.


  2. Great to see Tucker on his way to OKC, but the promotion makes it easier for Luhnow to move Fowler. Unfortunately, I think it will happen, but I’ll try to reserve judgement until I see what the return might be. I just hate the thought of losing Fowler. He’s been a great addition at the top of the lineup, when finally there is a measure of optimism for the first time in years. This team is playing pretty well. I can’t think of a scenario where whatever we get for Fowler would make this team better today. Today. And I don’t want to take anymore steps back. Hypothetically, even if we got a closer for him, would that make this team better?


    • dave, Tucker’s move may seem to make it easier to move Fowler, but if you look at our schedule, we have a chance to be tied for the wild card by the All-Star break. We are 5 games out. and we have made up 8 games on the Wild card leaders in the last month. We play two games on the road against the Nationals. Every other team we play is either below .500, or in our division, or are over .500 but we get them at home. We have a great schedule to make up ground.
      I just don’t see how moving Fowler helps you win and I think Luhnow is starting to get a taste of winning. Almost every team we are chasing is within 2 games of being .500 and the leaders in the Wild Card are Seattle and the Angels. What a great reason to power up instead of powering down.
      The way Luhnow has worked with Singleton and Springer and Tucker is to give them around 500 PAs at every level and I think Tucker was right there. I don’t see his promo as a trade sign for Fowler. What I do see is Farnsworth, Williams, Presley or Guzman possible going somewhere else.


      • odpro, I hope you’re right and I’m dead wrong! If I’m wrong, it’s a lose-lose proposition. The team suffers and bopert makes us suffer further.


  3. Great post I’ve been thinking about this for a while who do we trade, why would we trade, all the young talent we have in the wings, what a great problem to have for a change. Ill play GM. If we keep winning more than loosing I’m not sure I do much. I think the bullpen will be OK. i would dump Willams. Sorry Old Pro I think Albers will be OK , maybe Crain .Now Feldman could be a bust but no one is going to take him at his $$ if he is, McHugh I would ride that pony as long as we can, if he goes south bring some young arm up and let him go, so what.
    Maybe I’m a bit Walt Disney, but I think we have a lot of great chemistry going on right now, including Fowler, who is Springer’s mentor. How important is chemistry, I don’t know maybe ask the Dodgers and a lot More Big $$$$$ teams. These Astros are believing they can win every night right now, I’m not sure I mess with it. I like Tucker but where does he Go DH, from looking at him maybe he can catch fly balls in LF ?

    Liked by 1 person

      • OK, I’ll speculate. Danry Vasquez and Nick Tropeano for a proven power bullpen arm that we have team control over through 2015. Our two players are Top 20 prospects in positions we are deep in. Vasquez is behind Santana, Tucker, Aplin, Wates, DDJ, Springer, Grossman, Fowler and Teoscar in our system. We have Buchanan, Clemens, Owens, White, Martinez Folty, and Oberholtzer in OKC, and Rodgers, Velasquez, Appel, Feliz, Shirley, Kyle Smith, Kyle Westwood, Andrew Thurman and LMJr right behind him.
        This is what we have been waiting for: a chance to make a move and using our many prospects to get us a piece we don’t have without disturbing the core of the future.


    • The chemistry is an interesting piece for Luhnow to balance. If Villar is not making silly errors you can live with his low offense. Speed plays in so many ways. Also, the energy when he, Altuve, and Springer are together is infectious. At this point I doubt the guys who are underachieving are bringing too much to the table, but you would hate to move a guy like to gain 0.5 WAR negatively impact the team vibe going right now.


      • I hope not Tropeano I really like that dude . Clemens, white,owens, martinez, I could part with in a heart beat. Vasquez would be a good pick up for someone, so a 3-1 (-. throw in Guzman and $50.


      • Unfortunately Kevin, it does not work that way. A batch of marginal prospects, or a few guys we no longer have a need for do not buy a top quality baseball player.


  4. Looking at another angle, what does our 40 man roster look like on Oct 1 assuming stand pat and pick up Fowler’s option? In other words, how many prospects require a move be made so we can protect /retain them?

    I’d sell the filler on the roster in a heartbeat. As for anyone else, I would listen only any bullpen arm. Fowler is younger and cheaper than the two guys in the AL with higher OBP. Why move that?


  5. Austin Wates would probably never pass through a Rule 5 again. Hitting .300 with 15 stolen bases without being caught and a good outfielder, somebody is going to take him for 50,000 dollars if we don’t protect him. But he also might be a very valuable trade piece because he is 25 and perhaps major league ready. I sure wouldn’t mind him replacing Presley on the roster, especially with having a lefty bat already in LF and in CF with the two switch hitters we have.


  6. One small correction Chip – the Astros are at home against the D’Backs tonight. I know it’s confusing because they played 2 in Arizona and then immediately flew to Houston for 2 more.
    Anyways – I don’t want Fowler traded – that top of the lineup is very good and really the anchor of the lineup and his high OBP is critical.
    I think the Astros will only do minor trades – maybe Guzman Presley or Williams like old pro said. Hey it is great not being double digits out of the WC at this point in the season and to be on the rise also.
    They need to make a judgement on whether Crain and Albers are coming back soon. Luhnow may also do some big picture cutting on the organization based on who he wants to move to the 40 man and who might be exposed to the Rule 5.
    It will be fascinating but it is nice that for the first time in a long time they are not obvious sellers.


  7. DAAAAAAANG……I go out of town for a week, and these guys are playing like they are a major league club! I have no idea what or who Luhnow has in mind to trade,
    but breaking up this current team would not be smart. Let’s hope Feldman has a better start tonight…..oh yeah, and MORE HOMERUNS for our guys!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good point Dan. Send her away. Maybe on a train trip around the world. I know those that read my comments here on a regular basis can see that I fight my optimism with cynicism. Maybe I should see a therapist. But it sure is fun watching a bunch of big kids having fun playing a game and doing it pretty well and acting like a bunch of little kids in the dugout when good things happen.


  9. If you guys think you’re going to get rid of me THAT easy………you’re wrong!
    Next time I’ll give you plenty of warning when I’m going outta town! This was a death in my family, and I snuck off for a few days to visit my sister in FT. Worth.
    How ’bout that Jon Singelton tonight! That kid is *strong*! My sister is a “Strangers” fan, and couldn’t pass up a chance to gloat over the kids on our team! Sucks to be a Rangers fan these days.

    I’m not totally sure daveb was kidding……..


    • jeez…Qualls picked the wrong time to go back to his old self. I literally just pointed out to my wife that they’re at or close to .500 since 1 May.


    • oldpro, he had the one bad inning. Can’t find how many pitches he threw, but it’s one time I wish they’d let him go another inning or two. He had a three up/three down third before they lifted him. Not to mention the wind was blowing out (28 mph) at Lancaster. 3IP, 6H, 4ER, 1BB, 3K. All the runs in the second.


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