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Free blog weekend: Taking the Astros’ pulse…and yours


It’s the Friday before Thanksgiving. Black Friday is a week away. Only a few weeks until Christmas.

While many teams are adding significant pieces — or at least having serious conversations — the Astros have been virtually silent. Thursday’s roster deadline brought only minimal movement. And no surprises. Hmmm. Anyone getting antsy or a little impatient yet?

Rule 5 draft.

  • The Astros will have the fifth pick in next month’s Rule 5 draft. With talent in the pipeline and an already-crowded roster — not to mention additional acquisitions almost certain — there’s no reason to believe the Astros will add a player (at #5) who could hang on the roster for the full season.
  • Prediction: The Astros will draft only if they can make a trade.

High profile acquisitions?

  • There are few rumors linking the Astros to any major players. Which isn’t exactly Jeff Luhnow’s style anyway. And, since the Astros are more likely to acquire second tier players like Scott Feldman. Doesn’t mean that some of the players won’t be impact additions, just not the front line, $100 million free agents.
  • Prediction: Look for a solid Feldman-like addition. Key mindset: Think Cardinals’ style.

Prospects. Just that, prospects.

  • Take a look at Baseball America’s top prospect list prior to the 2014 season. Most experts agree the Astros have one of the top five minor league systems in all of baseball. Still, there appears to be only a few can’t miss type prospects. Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and George Springer may actually be the only three on the list who fit into that category. The take away? This winter’s key acquisitions come through trades, using some of the prospect arsenal while they’re young and their prospect status is still somewhat high.
  • Prediction: Indeed, prospects will be moved this winter. Yes, there could be another J.D. Martinez or two, but it’s the gamble you take when evaluating prospects.

The take away from Thursday’s activity.

  • Perhaps the biggest take away is that there is no takeaway: The Astros’, as usual, are keeping their plans very close to the vest. Luhnow told Evan Drellich of the Chronicle to draw his own conclusions regarding why a player may have been withheld from the 40-man while trade conversations continued. Chances are that executives from other clubs recognize and are privy to some of the Astros’ strategy, but Luhnow is determined not to show his hand. In that respect, nothing has changed.
  • Opinion: It’s like an iceberg. We only see the tip. There’s much more “movement” occurring below the surface. Hang tight.

So, what do we know new?

  • Actually, not much more than we did Thursday morning. Except perhaps how the Astros may or may not value certain players in the organization. Without doing a survey of major news organizations, it’s likely the Astros would be in the bottom half of the league in rumors or actual confirmed conversations about interest in or contact with other clubs or players.

Questions for your consideration.

  • Based on what you’ve seen and heard, how will the Astros make their biggest acquisition this winter: Blockbuster trade or free agent signing?
  • Basic question: What is your trust level withLuhnow?
    • 1. To do the right thing for the Astros?
    • 2. To accurately relate to fans what the Astros’ game plan is?
  • Has your hope level diminished in recent days as other teams add/move players while the Astros essentially lie dormant?
  • Back to a question asked earlier in the fall: What is now your greatest fear for the Astros in 2015?
  • The catcher most likely not to suit up for Houston next April: Jason Castro, Max Stassi, Hank Conger or Carlos Corporan?
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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO, and wakes up each morning to the tallest spot in the region, Pikes Peak. He is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 50 years. A native of another picturesque city, 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. Pastor Bosman came up with Chipalatta, and it has stuck.

37 comments on “Free blog weekend: Taking the Astros’ pulse…and yours

  1. 1oldpro
    November 21, 2014

    Since the Astroleaks messup, the Astros haven’t been able to pull off a decent trade, so I look for another low tier free agent signing.
    – I trust that Luhnow wants to do the right things, but I don’t trust that he knows how to do it and I don’t trust that he will be honest with the fans about his failures. It looks like his plan won’t get us to the promised land, because teams won’t deal with us, they’ll just wait until the 40-man eats us up and pick up the lost pieces.
    The Astros can’t wait until all the good players are tied up with long term deals. They have to be willing to spend money on one or two good players to fill in the bad spots on our roster.
    My greatest fear for 2015 is that we go into it with the same basic team we finished up with in 2014 and call ourselves improved. The Rangers will not be doing that.
    I can’t talk about the Catcher situation. I am so disgusted with the way it is being handled.

    Like

    • Flash
      November 21, 2014

      You forgot to preface your statement with, “I’m convinced…” OP.

      Teams not dealing with Luhnow is bullcrap. First of all, it’s only been four months. I don’t know what you expect in the way of trades given only one real opportunity, at the trade deadline. But, both Cosart and Nitro trades were good, though Luhnow really got fleeced on the Sogard/Carasco deal.

      I don’t understand your whole 40-man roster talk. That makes no sense.

      Since the cat has your tongue, I’ll go ahead and comment on the catching situation. Their fourth catcher would start for some teams. They have a solid if slightly expensive back up, and a guy who is far and away the best in baseball at a skill that, prior to Luhnow making you aware, you didn’t even know existed. And the starter who, is projected as a solid middle of the pack offensive producer with plus defense.

      This in an environment where old former cast offs get $80MM+ and there are many more teams seeking catchers than there are catchers available. I’d say that aside from the half dozen or so teams with elite players at the position, the Astros might have the best catching situation of any other team.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        November 21, 2014

        I’m convinced you are a Luhnow fan.

        Like

      • Flash
        November 21, 2014

        You say that like it is a bad thing.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        November 21, 2014

        Take it however you want it.

        Like

  2. Dan P
    November 21, 2014

    Good job as usual Mr. Chip.
    – Biggest acquisition? The Alex Presley re-signing of course….OK – I have been waffling on this question. I think their biggest acquisition will come via trade where they either package Castro or Fowler with a couple prospects to pick up a player of need. (Though it could easily be argued that Fowler when healthy is a player they need).
    – I’m luke warm on Luhnow right now. I trust he will stick to his Astro plan with little consideration for the fans, but I am not as confident he is going to have more hits than misses along the way. The one thing I do believe is that he should be feeling the heat on his own behind this season to get this team above .500.
    – I don’t have less hope right now – there are plenty of players still available either through trade or FA signing. But Hank Conger and Alex Presley are not keeping my hope alive either…
    – I have a number of fears for 2015:
    – Big regression with some of their breakthroughs from 2014 (Keuchel, McHugh and Altuve)
    – Injuries hitting them when they don’t have tons of depth (though at certain positions like 3B or SS or LF it might force them to bring up someone we want to see early).
    – Lack of development in the minors. There is a ton of talent in the minors – but we need that to translate to guys at the high end of the minors ready to come up during 2015.
    – The catcher most likely to not suit up in 2015 for the Astros – Corporan with Castro an inch behind….

    Like

  3. Kevin
    November 21, 2014

    Like a lot of you I’ve been an Astro die hard for multiple decades. You all know my faith in Lunhole. Sometimes certain people in any business think they are way smarter that they really are (Lunhole) I am torn I want our Astro’s to do well in 2015, but their is a big part of me that would love to see Lunhole shown the Door! I would find it so much more encouraging to see Nolan, Biggio, Bagwell and Berkman become a bigger part of the Astro’s leadership. In the mean time I’m with you all get off your ass Jeff, do something.

    Like

  4. Astro45
    November 21, 2014

    First on JL, I would not enjoy playing poker with him. He would probably go “all in” with a pair of deuces and win the bluff. Then the next hand he would fold with five aces. The only pattern I can see with him is “no pattern.” In the Astroleaks thing, it was obvious that he over valued his hand (players) which will normally lead to very few deals, even if JL is serious about trying. As to 2015, there will be injuries. Not even going to guess who or where, but the 2014 team was 18 games below .500. As constructed, it was not a ,500 team at the end of the season.

    Like

  5. Dan P
    November 21, 2014

    I was reading a chron.com (spit!!) article this morning including a Q&A with JL about his not putting Feliz on the 40 man and then at the last minute including him. Drellich does not seem to believe JL on his reasons or reasoning and after reading the back and forth neither do I.
    I wouldn’t say Luhnow plays his cards close to his vest. I think he looks at his cards and then eats them….

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      November 21, 2014

      I try to stay away from that site, but I do go to Drellich’s twitter and that got me interested so I read his column. Luhnow acted like an exhausted man who was not able to get any deals. There was a lot of edge in his replies and I think he is a frustrated GM. But he made this bed and he’s going to have to sleep in it.
      He fired one of the last holdouts from the old guard in the last few days and there is no one but his puppets running the show. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for something to happen, that’s for sure.
      I can’t wait to read the reviews of his performance in the last two weeks.

      Like

    • Dan P
      November 21, 2014

      I don’t think there is any love lost between Drellich and Luhnow – so it is not surprising that the conversation was a little edgy – I picked up some of this when Luhnow was answering Drellich’s questions at the presser when Porter was fired.
      I’m willing to see what the team looks like going into Spring Training to make overall judgments on Luhnow – but there needs to be progress and holes plugged.

      Like

  6. daveb
    November 21, 2014

    I’m dubious at this point. Yes, Shirley is 26, but lefties sometimes develop later than righties. In him, I see a guy that can help a ML team in the pen in 2015. He’ll get that chance. He’s gone. Presley, a light hitting low OBP guy, gets resigned. Conger gets signed. Yeah, he’s a great pitch framer. A starting rotation that was our strongest area just a few months ago, has become a question mark with the loss of Cosart and then Tropeano. This is an organization that shares so little with its remaining fan base. It’s impossible to guess in which directions this club will go over the next few months, but I would not be shocked if the team regresses in 2015.

    Like

  7. rj
    November 21, 2014

    to answer the questions:
    any big impact will come through a trade.
    luhnow will do what is right (in his mind) for the team
    he will accurately relate the overall gameplan but any specifics won’t and shouldn’t be related. it would be nice as a fan to have more info but you can’t give the other teams any insight into your plans ahead of time.
    my hope level hasn’t changed. its early yet. winter meeting haven’t even started yet
    my greatest fear was the tv deal wouldn’t get done. its done and i suspect the 20 million more in payroll for this year may actually expand beyond that. woohoo
    well conger stays, castro is the starter unless traded, stassi needs another year in the minors playing everyday, corporan seems to be the odd man out BUT i think it likely they trade castro as part of a package to bring a TOR pitcher or big bat to the team.

    Like

  8. Flash
    November 21, 2014

    A trade that many consider to be the worst in Astro history, we haven’t lamented the Lofton/Taubensee trade nearly enough.

    Check this out:

    http://grantland.com/features/mlb-transaction-trees/

    Like

    • Billy Castillo
      November 21, 2014

      Still makes me angry every time i think about it.

      Like

  9. SargeH
    November 21, 2014

    I feel that the Astros will make another addition this winter in the form of a low risk free agent signing. I do not see any big, splashy free agent signings until the team reaches .500 or better.

    We have to trust Luhnow to do the right thing for the team. He is not going to do anything to purposely get himself dismissed from the team. He has his opinion on how to construct the team but it seems to not work by most of the team’s fans, including this one.

    My hope has remained consistent throughout these past couple of years. I recognize that Crane wants to regain his investment and that the team had to be totally torn down… didn’t agree with it but it was necessary. As Crane regains his money, he will begin to put more of it into the team, but that is further down the road. I am okay with that just as long as the Astros do not turn into the Pirates of the last decade.

    The greatest fear I have of the upcoming season is the team performance remains status quo. A “slam the door” closer is needed and a hitting third and first baseman is needed.

    Max Stassi will be in Fresno so he will not suit up in Astros’ gear, and I feel Corporan will be leaving the team.

    Like

    • daveb
      November 21, 2014

      Trust is gained. Luhnow has not gained that trust to date.

      Like

      • SargeH
        November 21, 2014

        Daveb, I am not a fan of Luhnow’s. I still have to ask you, do you really think Luhnow would sabotage his own career?

        Like

      • daveb
        November 21, 2014

        Of course not, but we’re not in any way obligated to trust he’ll do the right thing for the team. He’s already offered up quite a few boners.

        Like

  10. Devin_
    November 21, 2014

    I’m ready for a team that can compete. I’m irritated that Boston will resign Lester and probably convince Sandoval to play there too. I’m still not able to rationally discuss passing on Rodon for Aiken. I was fine getting Appel over Bryant in 2013…and still am happy with that pick. If we lose DDS or others, it won’t crush me…but I would rather not.

    I have low confidence a move will be made before the season starts that will make me happy. I suspect JL is feeling the heat right now, knowing ANA, Texas, and SEA all should be in contention next year. Counting out Oakland would seem to be folly as well. Where does that put us in the rebuild? Have we made any offers to FA yet, or is the plan to swoop in on the leftovers? What does the FO want to do?

    Like

  11. Flash
    November 21, 2014

    I know y’all hate Luhnow, but it isn’t even Thanksgiving. There has been one major trade and one major FA signing and a resigning.

    I wanted Heyward, but the likely price of Appel and McCullers plus a $200MM extension, would have chased me off.

    You don’t need to know what conversations the Astros are having. As a fan I like reading about the Astros talking about this, or considering that, but it is bad strategy.

    Like

    • Astro45
      November 21, 2014

      Flash, I am going to give you the benefit of hyperbole about hating JL. I do not hate him but do not understand some of his moves. Not sure which major trade and major FA you are talking about – but again probably just another exaggeration for emphasis. And I totally agree that reading Astros strategy in at the Chron is bad except — I for one believe JL is pumping BS for a very good reason. Because he seldom does what the Chron SAYS he is going to do.

      Like

      • Flash
        November 21, 2014

        Ummmm, Victor Martinez, Billy Butler, Jason Heyward. Is the Chron not reporting these things?

        Like

      • Astro45
        November 21, 2014

        Sorry, I misread your post. I thought you were saying that JL had done a major trade, and a major FA signing, and the re-signing to be Presley.

        Like

  12. Mr. Bill
    November 21, 2014

    Your Set of Questions?

    1. Biggest winter acquisition – I’m betting on new Christmas lights at Minute Maid. That is all.

    2. Trust level with Luhnow – Still laughing too hard to formulate much of an answer. In the meantime, cue Billy Joel:
    “Some love is just a lie of the soul
    A constant battle for the ultimate state of control
    After you’ve heard lie upon lie
    There can hardly be a question of why
    Some love is just a lie of the heart
    The cold remains of what began with a passionate start
    But that can’t happen to us
    Because it’s always been a matter of trust.”

    3. Hope level? I just hope against hope the Astros don’t totally embarrass the city of my birth again next year – in every way. Porter make-up-the-rules-as-you-go fiascos, Horribly mis-managed minor-league pitching staffs, Astro-leaks, Aiken-gate, “Smoke-Em-Out Jon, Here’s a guaranteed 10 Mill to burn before you see your first MLB Pitch” nonsense, outrage in the clubhouse over an under-performing 1st round draft pick pitching a bullpen session at MMP, Twilight Zone Reruns instead of games on TV, Can it get much worse?

    4. Greatest Fear? Dude, this is Texas. Ain’t Skeered! We’ve already been embarrassed, ridiculed, and beat to smitherenes. What could be worse than that?

    5. Catcher most likely not to suit up for us next year? I doubt we’ll see either Brad Ausmus or Alan Ashby. With the management team we presently have in place though, Pudge Rodriguez and JRTowles should probably be considered legitimate possibilities to be behind our dish in 2015.

    Like

  13. Mr. Bill
    November 21, 2014

    Rule 5 draft? Much ado about virtually nothing. Move along, nothing to see here.

    High Profile Acquisitions? Do you mean trading for or signing someone who is really tall? That’s the closest thing to ‘high profile’ we will see while Crane and JL are in charge.

    Prospects. Just that, Prospects? Really tired of talking about it. So many of the ‘prospects’ come to our organization and fizzle and f*rt. We’ve traded a lot of established talent away for ‘prospects’ over the last few years. What exactly do we have to show for any of it? Happ, Goze/Wallace, & Villar? Singleton, Zeid, Cosart & Santana? Grossman & Rudy Owens? Krauss? Oberholtzer, Clemens, & Shaefer? L.J. Hoes & Josh Hader? Perhaps you can understand why I am not impressed with our track record with prospects – Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, and George Springer notwithstanding.

    The Take away from Thursday’s Activity? What? Did we have a Thursday? Psst – rumor has it our owner and GM were seen Thursday playing miniature golf with Barack Obama, then having cocktails with Annise Parker and Wendy Davis! Silly Astro-bloggers – Thursdays are for politics!

    So what do we know new? We know Feliz is protected and DDS is not. Ho hum. We know Matt Dominguez is still our third baseman, Jon Singleton is still our first baseman, Robbie Grossman, Jake from State Farm, Dexter Fowler, and limpin’ George Springer still compose our outfield, and Chad Qualls is still our [occasional] closer. Around here, the more things change . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  14. rj
    November 21, 2014

    did somebody clone bopert?

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      November 21, 2014

      Good one, RJ. Nope – just channeling a little pent-up Astro-land frustration with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. Bopert/Videogidget can – and I am sure will – still speak for himself. May the Forsch be with you!

      Like

  15. rj
    November 21, 2014

    lol i like that. Ken Forsch was a very good pitcher for us but i still hold a bit of a grudge against him and/or the manager for putting him in as a reliever and losing an important playoff game. i guess i should let it go cuz it was like 30 years ago. sigh

    Like

  16. rj
    November 21, 2014

    geez chip, i didn’t realize you had a mean streak!! j/k yep thats the one.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      November 21, 2014

      Sorry, friend, sometimes I just see an opportunity and want to help. 🙂 Just trying to be a blessing brother. (That wooshing sound was me ducking quickly.)

      Like

  17. rj
    November 21, 2014

    yeah I’m gonna have nightmares now, although it was fun seeing all the names from back then, we had a pretty stacked team.

    Like

  18. daveb
    November 21, 2014

    Actually, Nolan let them back into that game. I remember Rose coaxing a walk out of him to get things started in the 8th. And Nolan rarely gave a game back. An excruciating day in the Dome.

    Like

  19. Dan P
    November 21, 2014

    I cried when they lost that series. We had waited so long for success and that team came so close to winningb it all.

    Like

  20. Devin_
    November 21, 2014

    Flash, on paper I should be one of Luhnow’s biggest fans. In practice, his attitude and actions turn me off more often than not. In fairness to him, I think it’s safe to say he’s playing Go when we want him to be playing Chess (and previous GMs for Houston were playing Checkers).

    The 40 man shuffle illustrates this. When we’re looking at what players to protect we are forgetting that once these guys are added to the 40, it prevents the Astros from making moves. As a fan it’s easy to cut ties with a guy like Hoes or Krauss who haven’t produced, but doing so to ensure we don’t lose a likely LOOGY doesn’t make sense…especially when we are cheering for Luhnow to bring home a top International FA and fill some other voids this offseason. Also, I freely admit many of my wishes for signings/trades are little more than pipe dreams. I want him to move the arrow so that in the coming years the Astros are a legitimate candidate to sign the top free agents and don’t appear in the list of teams that players will not accept trades to.

    What can he do to win me over? Let’s start with admitting his mistakes. Next, don’t feed us a bunch of lies all the time. Some information can’t be shared, and it’s fair to simply say he can’t comment on something…especially when it might tip his hand to the other clubs. Ultimately, he needs to remember that this rebuild is as much about bringing back the fan base as it is stocking the minor league pipeline.

    Like

  21. Becky
    November 22, 2014

    The pitchers and catchers (whoever that might be) will report to Florida in 90 days.
    As my mother used to say….”there’s many a slip twix the cup and the lip”. In other words there is a TON of time to make deals before the guys even report to spring training. Nothing this front office surprises me these days, but I gotta believe Luhnow knows what he needs to improve this team, so I’m going to give him ONE MORE Winter to make this team better, at least on paper. What am I concerned with……..the guys staying healthy. The loss of Springer so early really DID have a negative impact on this season. Some times baptism by fire for some prospects
    can pay off, but unless and until we can get a better picture of who is ready………
    they languish in the minors. Remember Altuve skipped AAA and did just fine!
    The game of trades is just getting started, and after the big money guys are off the board, the moves will get started. If nothing else it should be interesting to see who blinks first this winter! 90 days guys……90 days!!

    Like

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