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Astros’ winter: Ready. Set. Go.


Ready. Set. Go.

It’s not 2017 and the Astros may not be headed to the World Series in 2015, but it’s an off season when hope should surpass skepticism. Now, with the 2014 version of baseball’s Super Bowl behind us, let the player movement festivities begin.

Jim Crane and his still-fledgling baseball organization has apparently put behind its next-to-worst nightmare and will have television in the entire market region next season. (The “worst”, you’re wondering? The move to the AL.). So, with fresh cash close to being in hand, GM Jeff Luhnow should have plenty of room to maneuver between now and opening day.

Several managers and general managers have changed uniforms. The first trades have already been consummated. Many players have already been jettisoned through release or options not picked up.

Ready. Set. Go. There are few formalities in the way of the beginning of the player merry-go-round.

The GM meetings are only days away. By that time, qualifying offers will have been extended (or not) and accepted or rejected. When Luhnow arrives in Phoenix for those meetings, teams will have begun to pare down their rosters, leaving exposed some players who were either too expensive or under performed or have some injury history.

The question today is not necessarily where or how the Astros will upgrade this winter. That horse has already been beaten, dissected and examined in full. Luhnow and every not-so-fair-weather fan in Houston knows the team needs a middle-of-the-order bat, an end-of-the-bullpen arm or two or three and a corner piece for the infield.

The question today is how successful will Luhnow be at taking the next step to success in the reconstruction project that is the Houston Astros? Or will he?

Ready. Set. Go. It will be the most important off-season to date for Luhnow as this next step has been deemed more difficult than the previous two or three.

The general manager will have an additional $20 million to spend this winter, apparently allowing for an increase in payroll to the $65-$70 million range.

That sounds enticing and even promising. However, that will also need to include raises in arbitration for players like Jason Castro, Dexter Fowler, Chris Carter, Marwin Gonzalez and Tony Sipp.

If Luhnow gets creative and trades Fowler, though, he would theoretically have $30 million to put toward those aforementioned upgrades. No one would complain if George Springer started the season in center field book-ended by by Jake Marisnick and an middle-of-the-order bat to be named later.

Ready. Set. Go. Many of the cards are on the table. With new front office leadership in places like Tampa Bay, Arizona, Los Angeles, Atlanta Colorado and San Diego (not to mention the manager shuffle), player movement could be significant this winter.

So, you can discuss specific players and speculate movement if you wish. But today’s questions are simple:

  • How many trades will Luhnow make before opening day?
  • What will be the biggest surprise in player movement for the Astros?
  • On a scale of 1-10 (10 being hugely successful), where will Luhnow land ultimately this winter?
  • On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest of hope), where are you on the hope scale regarding the Astros at this moment in time?
  • With the TV deal in tow, is it possible Houston surpasses the $65-$70 million payroll for opening day?
  • Many fans are cynical. All fans have some level of skepticism. What would it take this winter to win you over to Luhnow’s team this winter?

 

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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in Colorado Springs, CO, and is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 40 years. A native of Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. He came up with Chipalatta, and it’s stuck.

27 comments on “Astros’ winter: Ready. Set. Go.

  1. Astro45
    October 31, 2014

    From memory only – the Fowler for Barnes/Lyles was the only trade for a MLer that Luhnow has made. That improved the team. Anything close to that again would be great. His FA choices have not been as great but he does not have that many to play “MMQback” on. One note about me bragging on Beane and the A’s. Saw where they cut ties with Nakajima. $6.5 million over past two years and he never made it to the majors. HIs fielding stats make Villar look like a Gold Glover. So no GM is BRILLIANT all the time.

    Like

    • Steven
      October 31, 2014

      Beane has been very human lately. Most of the Oakland media thinks another Bay series was coming if not for the Lester trade. I guess enough can’t be made of team chemistry.

      Like

    • Chip Bailey
      October 31, 2014

      Astro45, maybe I’m missing your thought, but Luhnow has actually made a few trades. There was the recent Cosart deal that brought Marisnick here, not to mention the Carlos Lee deal that brought back Matt Dominguez, not to mention the J.A. Happ deal.

      Like

      • Astro45
        November 1, 2014

        A very poor attempt by me. What I was attempting to say was almost all of Luhnow’s trade (from memory) have been primarily swapping a MLer for prospects. Which given the condition of the team, these would be the correct moves. However, Lyles and Barnes for Fowler went the other way. He acquired a proven MLer. Not questioning the future value of Marisnick nor Dominguez, but those were swaps of “proven or semi-proven” for futures. Nothing wrong with any of those trades. As to Happ et al – Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco were probably just taken to make the trade work. But now he must change his style if the team is going to improve the MLB team. (And Yes, Beane has proven himself to be very human)

        Like

  2. Dan P
    October 31, 2014

    Big time critical off-season from my point of view
    How many trades? I’m going to say 3 relative to major leaguers
    Biggest surprise? The Astros do not trade Feldman, Peacock or Dominguez
    Scale of 1-10 – I’m saying 7
    With the TV deal in tow, is it possible Houston surpasses the $65-$70 million payroll for opening day? Nope – I think they are sticking mostly to the plan and not going to sign more than a few strategic FAs
    What would it take this winter to win you over to Luhnow’s team this winter? I want to see some solid additions to the bullpen and I want to see some prospects – Wojo, Tropeano, Sclafani, Tucker, whoever – given a real shot in Spring Training to make the big club.

    Like

  3. Dan P
    October 31, 2014

    Oh and add one big bat…

    Like

  4. 1oldpro
    October 31, 2014

    I think Luhnow will try to add a bat to the infield mix that will enhance this year’s effort to get to .500 but not block a top prospect next year or hamstring the club with a huge salary for the future. I think he will look to add a couple of bullpen pieces and find a fifth starter from within, now that Peacock is out of the spring picture.
    Having Nitro, Folty and Wojo to choose from as a #5 and a long reliever keeps the club moving prospects up, eliminating the ones who can’t cut it and keeps the money low in the rotation.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved a top pitching prospect for a major league position player, but would be surprised if he moved one of our top of the rotation guys.
    I’m at a 6 on the hope scale, would be very surprised if the Astros went over the $65million payroll this year, and would be a Luhnow fan if he signed VMart and had the guts to trade Singleton or Carter for a bonafide bullpen arm

    Like

    • Steven
      October 31, 2014

      VMart is a one bandaid on a gushing wound kind of fix, he eats up the entirety of the increases the Astros are looking forward too in payroll. Houston will have to seriously overpay to get him – and it will take a 4 year deal. This is a player whose durability meter has been all over the place, and signing him for 4 years, to his age 40 season – I don’t know.

      He makes all the sense in the world in lineup next year, he fits perfectly, low strike out, run producer, few weaknesses when he is your DH, a 155 game talent with the bat, but it’s not fantasy baseball. When you look at the moves this front office makes, it’s much lower rung fish. It’s not their style, nor do they appear willing to take the payroll hit.

      Hey – maybe they will surprise us, sign VMart, Neshek, and A Ramirez, up the payroll by 40 million, and win 81 games. I personally doubt it.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        October 31, 2014

        The question was: what would it take to make me a fan of Luhnow? I don’t think he will sign Victor. But I do think a lineup with him in it and with Singleton not in it would be more than an 80 win team. I don’t want a lineup full of strikeout people. The only guy in the league who compared with VMart for highest BA and lowest K rate is already in our lineup. Having two like that batting in front of Springer changes everything, as far as I’m concerned.
        Getting Neshek would be cool.

        Like

  5. Lester J. Gillis
    October 31, 2014

    Astros fan since 1968, long-time reader and fan of this blog, but first-time contributor. I agree with Brian, we’re looking at 3 big league trades before ST. If the goal is a .500 record, we must shore up the corner infield situation and we have to have at least one dynamic bullpen addition. If the upgrade in the infield includes a big bat, our outfield is set, with or without Fowler. Then a starting pitcher might be in the works – otherwise we fill out the rotation from within.

    Like

    • Dan P
      October 31, 2014

      Lester – welcome to the contributing side of the blog. All solid points above….

      Like

  6. Zanuda
    October 31, 2014

    Agree with Lester. The biggest holes are at both the corner positions and the Bullpen. Focus on those and given somewhat the same performance as 2014, I believe that we’ll make the .500 mark. This also includes Springer’s return.

    Like

  7. Devin_
    October 31, 2014

    – 4 trades. Three involving players and one giving away our Rule V pick.
    – I think the surprise is moving one of the guys not on the 40 man who cant be protected. Alternately, the surprise will be floating Altuve’s name in trade talks.
    – 3 going into spring training. I’ve done a 180 and think players will want to come play with Altuve and Springer. The problem is getting guys who are not marginal upgrades. A bench that produces might be the real target.
    – 5. I think some guys regress, but 3B and 1B improve. If we get 150 games from Springer, I think that is good for a big boost – maybe 5 games in the standings.
    – Anything is possible. If we spend some of the money proposed and need a bit more to get another exciting piece, I could see it increasing.
    – Luhnow needs to say all the right things and appear to be someone that other clubs can deal with. Anytime he looks like a smug outsider with unreal expectations my faith that he’ll get it done decreases a little more.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kevin
    October 31, 2014

    i would be excited if we have someone not named Dominguez and Singleton in the line up, I’m not sure what Lunhole would have to do give up to make it so. Get a decent closer. I think we have the arms on the team and in the system to fill the other 11 pitching spots and have everyone on the 40 or in the Minors compete for LF in the spring!.

    Like

    • Kevin
      October 31, 2014

      As back ups Fowler Left, Jake in CF, Spring RF

      Like

    • Steven
      October 31, 2014

      Yea I agree with Marisnick in CF – because you can never have too few walks or enough strike outs.

      Like

  9. Lester J. Gillis
    October 31, 2014

    I like Devin’s thought of a trade of what we get in the Rule 5 draft. I don’t think we can count on a starting pitcher or middle of the order hitter, but a competent reliever or contributing bench player might be possible. And a trading this pick won’t block one of our youngsters making the big league roster.

    Like

  10. daveb
    October 31, 2014

    Sure, I’d take Springer in center but I’m not ready to accept Marisnick as an everyday guy with his .568 OPS against righthanded pitching and a leftfielder to be named later. Not at this point anyway. So yes, I’d complain. I would take Fowler and his agreeable OBP in left. Thing is, I’m feeling more and more as if Fowler is gone, primarily for the salary dump. Interesting that in limited Arizona action, Sclafani has been playing mostly left. I love the kid, but will he be trotted out there next spring with the hope he can produce a Fowler type OPB for 500K? We might finally be getting the TV deal done, but there still is an appeal likely. Regardless, I’m not convinced that we won’t still have the lowest payroll in MLB.

    Yes indeed, I’m one of our leading cynics. What would make me less of a skeptic? Sign Sandoval. Keep Fowler and put him in left. Build a pen.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chip Bailey
    October 31, 2014

    You think the Astros are dysfunctional? How ’bout the Cubs, who announced only today — today — they have fired Rick Renteria and said in their release that “he deserved to return”. I think the world has known for a few days now that the Cubs’ manager next season would be Joe Maddon.

    Like

    • Dan P
      October 31, 2014

      Joe Maddon will do a very fine job for the Cubs. If they get him better players….
      I just looked at the Cubs on baseball-reference and the only everyday players who register with me are Rizzo and Castro ….I guess we have been away from the NL too long.

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        October 31, 2014

        Dan, you’re right! Incredible! What is a Welington Castillo? Or Darwin Barney? Not to mention Arismendy Alcantara or Luis Valbuena? Now, I do recognize Chris Coghlan as a Marlins’ retread. And, there is a guy named Wesley Wright and another named Justin Ruggiano that Astros’ fans might recognize.

        But their minor league system is well stocked and — perhaps the biggest part — the Cubs have plenty of cash on hand to spend to upgrade.

        Ha, the Cubs actually struck out more and had a lower BA than the Astros in ’14. (Of course, the disclaimer is that the Cubs’ pitchers actually had to hit.).

        Like

      • Dan P
        October 31, 2014

        Yeah I almost wondered if I was getting punked – did someone make up all these names to test me?

        Like

  12. Kevin
    October 31, 2014

    Just saw the Angels would trade Fresse. What about a 1 year rental at 6 mill, before he hits FA, and them hopefully Ruiz or Moran ready???

    Like

    • Steven
      October 31, 2014

      I don’t know if Freese is enough of an upgrade over Dominguez to warrant 6 mil for a year – and then deal with his free agency. Doesn’t walk, pretty consistent around .260, power is about the same, defense about the same, also slow, and actually strikes out a smidgen more than Dominguez. He does a few things better – consistently higher BABIP (probably makes contact a little less often but a little harder), and walks a bit more, but bang for buck I don’t know if that’s where you want to put a third of the payroll increase for marginal improvement – not to mention, for 6 mil and marginal improvement, you are going to have to give something up in the trade.

      Like

      • Kevin
        October 31, 2014

        Good info. I didn’t think his stats and ability was that close to Domingo ugh, next idea.

        Like

  13. Becky
    November 1, 2014

    Sandoval is looking for a 9 figure contract…….he’s not coming here. Hey, I’d take Freese in a New York minute! AND……..since Luhnow has strong ties with the guy, he might just try to trade for him.

    Like

  14. Orioles Fan
    November 2, 2014

    If the Astros trade Fowler, what would they look for in return? Fowler would be a great fit in Baltimore.

    Like

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This entry was posted on October 31, 2014 by in Astros.
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