It’s Friday and the weekend is on. That means a Free Blog Weekend. It’s a 9-year tradition, starting back in 2005 on that other site.
Six months ago, if you’d been offered a 66-96 record — a 15-game improvement and 30-game swing — for the 2014 season, most of you would have accepted the offer, gone to the bank and asked for another hot toddy.
Frankly, it’s easy to look at all the injuries and failed signings and see how much better the season could have been. If things had panned out with Jesse Crain, Matt Albers and players like Dexter Fowler and George Springer hadn’t missed so much time with injuries, Jim Crane’s suggestion of a .500 season was a reasonable expectation.
Now that the trade deadline is passed, a new commissioner is on board and the focus is on a sprint to the finish line, let’s take a look at the off-season to start the weekend. It will not be simple as Jeff Luhnow will need to shuffle the roster due to arbitration, 40-man status and the Rule 5 draft. Not to mention performance.
Here’s a quick recap:
Players eligible for arbitration. Some of these obviously will either be released or non-tendered. Only a few will be addressed by offers or trades.
- Fowler (year 4, final year).
- Jason Castro (year 2). Could request $5 million.
- Jesus Guzman (year 2). Should be gone.
- Alex Presley (year 1). Probably gone.
- Chris Carter (year 1). Extension?
- Matt Dominguez (year 1). Trade candidate?
- Carlos Corporan (year 1). Probably gone.
- Anthony Bass (year 1). Goner.
- Marwin Gonzalez (year 1). Gone?
- Alex White (year 1). Health and recovery will determine.
- Fowler, who could earn $10 million plus next season.
- Scott Feldman, in the second of a three-year deal ($10 million next season).
- Chad Qualls. Need room on the roster, he has a reasonable salary and Michael Foltynewicz is grooming the rest of this season.
- Castro. Under performer and pricey.
- Dominguez. They obviously like him because of the rumored extension last spring, but . . .
Free agent possibilities. It’s time to stop the dabbling and dive in. Houston needs a big, middle-of-the-order bat. Who’s available?
- Nelson Cruz. He’s 34. A 2-3 year deal might be solid.
- Hanley Ramirez. Could he be heading into his prime? Or will be a bust from here on?
- Melky Cabrera. 30. Will the Biogenesis mess bring down his price?
- Stephen Drew. He’s a Scott Boras client, but could be an intriguing possibility is he hits the rest of this season.
Waiting in the wings. These are the players who could possibly contribute next season from the minor leagues.
- Mark Appel. Yes, despite a nightmarish 2014, he could be a mid-season addition.
- Nick Tropeano. If he’s not up next month, he’ll contend for a roster spot in the spring. Should be a shoo-in, no?
- Collin Moran. Hmmm. Intriguing, to say the least. Could he make the jump early next season?
- Domingo Santana. Trade candidate this fall? Or, could he be the ultimate AAAA player?
- Tony Kemp/Nolan Fontana. Keep an eye.
- Preston Tucker. At 24, it could be his time.
Regardless how he does it, Luhnow must use the off-season to bring significant upgrades. Time to recognize which high-level prospects are in, which ones are the proverbial scrubs and make the investment in key free agents.
- What does the roster look like next April?
- Who are the definite keepers from the above lists?
- Best trade candidates?
- Which of the above should be signed to two, three or four-year extensions?
- Which player is the biggest gamble in trading? In other words, by trading or releasing (this player), he could become a key player in another organization.