What they said, what they meant: Offseason obfuscations

It is the off-season, but that does not mean there are any less opportunities for the folks in the Astros’ organization to say one thing while meaning another. Again all quotes are pulled from chron.com (spit!!).

Jeff Luhnow on the under performing 1B (Jon Singleton) and 3B (Matt Dominguez) positions.

  • What he said. “Obviously, we’re going to give Jonathan every chance to make this club. We’re going to give Matt every chance to make this club. But we’re not going to hand them those positions. They’re going to have to earn those positions. Because we’re at the point now where the development at the big leagues is behind us, and this is about producing. And if they don’t produce, still both those guys have options. Both of them could end up back in (Class AAA) Fresno.”
  • What he meant. “I could be patient with some of the positions in 2014. But after showing my buddy Bo Porter the door, guess who is in the hot seat in 2015? I’ll give you one guess, plus the hint that it is not AJ Hinch. Produce Jon and Matt or we all could lose our jobs….”

Mark Appel, trying not to answer a question about what he learned in his time at Lancaster (9.74 ERA in 44.3 IP while struggling with the tandem pitching concept).

  • What he didn’t say. “There’s probably too many things – I learned I’ll pass for now, but I’m sure I’ll be able to share everything I learned sometime later in my life.”
  • What he meant. “I’m a pretty smart guy. I went to Stanford. And I noticed that similar to how the Russians sent dissidents to the gulags in Siberia – people who complain around here seem to disappear. So I’m not saying anything until my free agent year and then I’m saying plenty.”

Luhnow commenting on Appel.

  • What he said – “There’s no question that with an injury (to a pitcher) or a strong year from him that he could be in Houston in 2015. Nobody wants him here more than I do and more than he does, and I hope we can make that happen.”
  • What he meant – “OK, my track record for promoting guys quickly is not great and perhaps about three guys are going to have to go down to prod me to action – but there is really nobody blocking this guy from a 4th or 5th spot in the rotation, except himself at this point.”

Astros third base prospect Rio Ruiz on the trade that brought 3B Colin Moran from the Marlins.

  • What he said – “The (Astros) know what they’re doing and they have a plan. I’m excited to be in that plan as of now. I know things can change so I’m just trying to take that next step. This is just another place where I have to prove myself. I think I’ve hung in well with all these guys.”
  • What he meant – “I am a 20 year old who put up impressive numbers at A+ ball (.293 BA / .823 OPS) against competition almost 3 years older than me. I looked ahead and saw nothing between me and the big club at 3B and then they go off and pick up Moran. I guess if I hit about .350 / .900 at AA Corpus they will have to make a place for me in another year.”

Luhnow talking about Jason Castro after the trade for Hank Conger:

  • What he said. “Castro’s earned what he’s got. He’s a regular catcher at the big league level. But even with a regular catcher, there’s plenty of opportunities for back-ups to get a decent number of at-bats and really contribute.”
  • What he meant. “Yeah he’s earned what he’s got, which was about $2.5 million last season. But he is arb eligible now and probably looking for about $5 million this season. I probably can trade off Castro for some good prospects and pair up Conger and Corporan for about $3 million total and not miss that much behind or beside the plate.”

New Astros catcher Hank Conger on pitch framing – the ability to receive a pitch in such a way that gets strike calls.

  • What he said. “It’s kind of interesting to hear all the pitch framing things and how it developed into the big leagues. I really didn’t think there was that much that went into it. For me, my philosophy was, as far as a receiver, just making sure that I was quiet behind the plate, just trying to receive the ball where it was pitched. Not so much trying to drag balls into the zone or out of the zone.”
  • What he meant. “People act like I’m some kind of umpire whisperer or something. In truth the secret to my success is really simple. My grandfather is actually a Korean Mafioso type. Before every game I start – he has his people kidnap the family of the home plate umpire and then release them unharmed after the game. The umps end up calling strikes like they are Leslie Nielsen in ‘The Naked Gun’ movie.”

Dallas Keuchel on the possibility of the Astros signing free agent OF Nick Markakis.

  • What he said. “I did see the Orioles turned down the (opportunity to extend a) qualifying offer for Markakis. I always thought he was a stud. There’s a bunch of good players out there, but I think we have a bunch of good players on our team at the same time. We’re all young, we’re all trying to make names for ourselves.”
  • What he meant. “Yes, we have lots of good young talent – our average everyday player was two years younger than the average for the next youngest team. So – I would not mind putting a 9 year veteran out there to show the kids the way. It would be nice not to lose those 2-1 games next season.”

Jeff Luhnow on whether the payroll could balloon more than the $20 million increase now that the Root Sports regional TV deal is becoming a reality.

  • What he said. “I think Jim (Crane) has always included that ($20 million increase) in his comments about where we thought we would end up this year. It’s really more of a question for him, but I think he’s talked about that … so you have a rough idea where it’s going to go.”
  • What he meant. “Don’t you think I asked Jim that already. He basically thought I screwed the pooch spending additional money on Jesse Crain, Matt Albers, Jerome Williams and Jesus Guzman last season and told me he couldn’t trust me with more than $20 million additional this season. He was playing on the golf course he owned when he told me how tight money is….”

Bonus WHSWHM: Luhnow on the rotation

  • What he said. “I think we feel that we’ve got the three solid horses in the rotation. I don’t necessarily —I can’t tell who’s going to be our opening day starter, that’s up to (manager A.J. Hinch) to figure out. I could see Keuchel doing it. I could see Feldman being it again. I could see McHugh winning it. We’d like to add another starter. Folty (Mike Foltynewicz) is going to come into camp competing for that No. 5 spot. He’s got a chance, he’s got a good chance, but we’d like to have some healthy competition.”
  • What you think he meant……



59 comments on “What they said, what they meant: Offseason obfuscations

  1. Dan, that’s good writing, really funny Stuff. Loved it. Keep it coming. All Of you Chipalatta guys can scribe.

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. You must be having a good week because this is a seriously funny post!
    What Luhnow said about the rotation is that we have three pitchers who have a chance to start Opening Day and Folty has a shot at #5.
    What he meant: Where the heck is Oberholtzer? Oh, boy!
    What Dallas said: There’s a bunch of good players out there and there’s a bunch of good players here.
    What Dallas meant: We need to trade some of ours and get some of theirs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian T and old pro
      Yes the first thing I thought of when I was reading this was – how did he jump from the top 3 to the 5th starter. If I were Obie – I would make sure I am renting not buying.


  3. I like to look deep into what people say – because often there are interesting psychological things going on – like when Rio Ruiz said “I’m excited to be in that plan AS OF NOW.” (My caps)
    But hey if Moran and Ruiz both end up solid major leaguers they’ll figure a way even if one of them has to move to 1B or the OF (or sadly) to another team…..


    • I think it’s actually a good situation for Ruiz. If Moran becomes the hitter anticipated by JL and Ruiz reaches the point where he could also hold down a starting spot, he will get his chance somewhere via trade. Because their ages are so close, the Astros cannot stash one for a few extra years without tying up valuable 40 man space. It’s not like Ryan Howard wasting time at AAA because Jim Tho me had him blocked.


    • Devin – who knows what will happen.
      – Moran could do well at AAA and turn into Brett Wallace at the majors
      – Moran could refuse to sign a club friendly contract and find himself stuck in the minors
      – Moran could be found torturing puppies….

      But there are a lot of possibilities before there is a conflict between the two and at worse one or the other becomes a trade chip.


    • Hey – old pro – reading the tea leaves do you think there is any chance Appel starts the season in Houston…..it at least sounds like Luhnow is open to getting him up here this season.


      • I think Luhnow is rooting extra hard for Appel, because if he succeeds it’ll make Luhnow look better and make us forget about Tiny Elbow Ligaments.


      • Been visiting family in Austin and just saw this. The only way Appel starts the year in Houston is if he totally blows away everybody in Spring Training. But It wouldn’t surprise me if Appel started in Fresno because of his age, four pitches, the fact that Fresno could really use his drawing power and, mostly, because of the plethora of pitchers in AA.


      • Yes old pro – we really need a pitcher or two one step away at Fresno ready to move up and Mr. 1-1 should be able to handle it.


    • Very true Brian T – it is almost like how politicians want to distract you from this crisis or that crisis with something else of their choosing.
      I’m sure Luhnow has to have some doubts (maybe even about himself) after seeing Appel pitch so poorly at A+ in the tandem last season.


  4. What he said:
    “Castro has earned what he’s got”
    what he meant:
    “And we aren’t gonna pay him anymore money, and besides we got Conger the
    other day…….and he’s cheaper”.
    I don’t think any thing MAJOR is going to happen in the Winter meetings. This is where the GM’s jockey for position, on who they need to trade for. meh……..


    • So –
      What Becky said “I don’t think any thing MAJOR is going to happen in the Winter meetings. This is where the GM’s jockey for position, on who they need to trade for. meh……..”
      What Becky meant “I’m damn tired of waiting for some real mlb players to come our direction and it hacks me off that they can get all the GMs together and nothing exciting as far as the Astros go – happen.”


  5. Castro’s name came up a couple of times today at the Winter meetings, but “The price was waaaay too high”. I bet you a dollar BOTH Corporan, AND Castro will
    be gone before opening day. Ok…….maybe a nickel.


  6. More news from Motown! The Tigers just traded their #1 prospect, Devon Travis, to the Blue Jays for Anthony Gose. Now, where have I heard that name? That’s the guy Ed Wade flipped for Brett Wallace immediately after acquiring him, J.A. Happ and Jonathan Villar for Roy Oswalt. He’s expected to be part of a center field platoon for the Tigers in 2015.


    • Interesting trade – while Travis is shown as the Tigers #1 prospect – I don’t think he is considered super high for baseball as a whole.
      Gose, while better than Wallace, has not hit his stride in the majors – pretty low BA and OPS – but he is still young.


      • It is really strange – Gose has always been a speed guy – but never hit much even in the minors.
        The Tigers have Kinsler under contract for the next 3 (or 4 with an option) years – so maybe they saw him blocked. You would think they would trade him for some bullpen help instead.


      • Exactly – I thought the implosion of the bullpen and Ausmus’ distrust in those guys hurt more than losing Austin Jackson.


      • The Tigers had the weakest pitching in the AL side of the playoffs by far. Their starters had the 10th best ERA (3.89), while the other 4 teams were in the top 6 in the league.
        And then they had a bullpen with a worse ERA – 4.29 (13th in the AL) and a 1.48 WHIP (14th in the AL). The other 4 playoff teams had bullpen ERAs in the top 7 in the AL.
        They need help there a lot more than with a backup OF.
        The other way to look at this is maybe they want to build a greyhound OF like the Royals did and hope that helps their pitching too…..


  7. I was never any good at Chess because I can not think 3 moves ahead. But I find it interesting that Castro was NOT one of those (apparently) offered a long term contract. And if the reports are true: Altuve, Singleton, Dominguez, Grossman and perhaps others were. So maybe he was viewed as a “place holder” last year.


    • Quite an interesting point Astro 45…We don’t know for sure that he was not approached, but maybe his multiple injury problems tripped their computers to tell them that he was just a stop gap and to trade him when the best opportunity appears….


    • My suspicion was that either preliminary talks led them to believe he was planning to test the free agent waters (or expect a huge extension) or JL figured his offensive value could yield far greater returns in an eventual trade than his salary would justify.


      • I wonder if he would be a better trading chip if he had “sure” salary commitment for 3 years rather than being arb eligible uncertain.


  8. One thing we learned from the “hacking” of the Astros computers was what is in the papers is NOT what is happening behind the scenes. And we also learned that some of the know-it-all bloggers, know less that I do which is near -0-. I believe that JL will pull the string on a few deals (example Castro or Corporan or both, & an OFer) and some prospects. He will be feeling the heat if the Astros have a similar or worse record in 2015. I would expect more trades in the Conger talent range at other positions or pitching. Some will be head scratchers (like Conger). But in reading other blogs, Chipalatta is much softer to JL than some. Some want red meat.


    • I have to assume that we at Chipalatta are the know-i-some bloggers, not the know-it-all bloggers.
      Obviously we don’t have inner access to anything so a lot of what we do here is educated speculation or educated observation from the outside. There are times when I am not aligned with what JL is doing, but I’m not turning “shark” on him yet.
      But this is a very important year in the rebuilding – it is time to get a solid grip on .500 and beyond and have a lot more long term pieces in place by the end of this season.


    • I’m fine with Conger. I think he will be an upgrade over Castro, and will be interested to see where his bat goes with 500 plate appearances instead of parced playing time.

      Luhnow, not so much. I don’t want to see him gone yet out of morbid curiosity to see where this thing is going – but while he didn’t draft Singleton and Villar, he put them on major league roster, he brought us Carter and Dominguez. So far, he has proven that he will ignore the strikeout, and that befuddles me as a guy who thinks he pays attention to contact rates. Maybe he just couldn’t make lemonade out of lemons and he brought us the best players he thought he could.


      • Hey, I have been fine giving Luhnow some leash – especially based on the budget he has been handed.
        But it is time for the “plan” to show results at the major league level – if you are going to change the manager you have to know that you are next in the line of fire.


  9. It is a good question about Luhnow – who did bring in Carter, Dominguez, Grossman and Marisnick.
    My observation is that Luhnow has shown a strong bent towards drafting players with strong OBP and lower strikeout numbers. Of course he has total control over who he drafts.
    In making trades he has to get the other team to agree to let someone go and considering the AL average for K’s last season was 22% – it is probably a good guess that you are not going to get the exact guys you want when you are trading a Carlos Lee on his last legs.


  10. One of the teams who will be looking for a catcher, is the Rangers. Ok…..let’s just think about this for a minute. Do you trade Castro and?? for a MLB ready short stop,
    or a MLB ready 3rd. baseman?


  11. i think it possible castro gets traded in a package that brings back a middle of the order bat. as far as gose goes…….i dont see him as a legitimate starter, maybe they are thinking 4thOF and pinch runner?


    • The Tigers have enough Offense that I guess they can afford to go pull in someone mostly for their defense.
      Castro will have to be packaged with some pretty major prospect to get a middle of the order bat.


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