Before everyone panics about the lack of a big free agent signing by the Astros, it seems a good time to point out how many players are still available for the local team not to sign.
Yes, some of the big enchiladas have been wined, dined and signed off the free agent market, but there are still hundreds of warm bodies (some that can actually play baseball) available to your Houston Astros in this winter of some discontent.
Note: The free agent market is so fluid, a number of the folks mentioned below could easily be gone before this is published or while it is being posted, so just pass along the updates in the comments and we’ll all move on.
Gone, Gone, Gone
If you were interested in the home team signing Victor Martinez, Russell Martin, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Michael Cuddyer, Adam Laroche, Billy Butler or even Zach Duke – turn your interest elsewhere, because they are off the market.
Yes, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are available – but they ain’t coming here.
OK, two guys – OF Cuban Yasmany Tomas and SP Japanese Kenta “Kinte” Maeda do not a legion make. But they are the latest duo of made to order foreign free agents with lots of experience outside the United States. There has been apparent interest in 27 year old Maeda by the Astros – maybe some of the money they did not spend on the 2014 draft choices being applied here? Note – Tomas was just announced as signing with the D’Backs.
Next Tier Available
Nelson Cruz – OF – As long as he stays off the PEDs – how would those 40 HRs look out there next to Fowler and Springer?
Chase Headley – Plays 3B – position of need – but numbers have been on the decline.
James Shields – SP – Solid as a rock the last 4 years and the Astros are a possible destination. Only drawback is he turns 33 this offseason…
Melky Cabrera – OF – Has been good to very good 3 of the last 4 years. But would he bring you that much more than other options
Nick Markakis – OF – Good glove, decent, unspectacular bat – probably not worth what he will get
Ervin Santana – SP – Innings eater and very solid numbers 4 of the last 5 seasons – a step down from Shields, but a little younger
Brandon McCarthy – SP – Change of scenery from Arizona to the Yanks seemed to help him rediscover his mojo. Which McCarthy do you get? 5.01 ERA at Ari / 2.89 ERA at NYY
Asdrubal Cabrera – SS – He is under 30 – is a decent fielder and has OK career stats hitting including some pop. But after a couple All-star seasons his last two seasons have been on the decline.
Help for that “Pig” Pen
In case you are wondering – yes there are some very intriguing upper end arms available for the Astros bullpen.
Andrew Miller – Miller is an elite lefty arm out of the pen who has never been the closer, but has put up good to great numbers the last 3 seasons.
David Robertson – A solid and sometimes spectacular arm out of the pen for the Yanks since 2008, he was finally ordained the closer and saved 39 of 43 chances in 2014.
Francisco Rodriguez – Found new life as the Brewers closer saving 44 of 49 chances in 2014.
Pat Neshek – Had an awesome 2014 – great ERA and microscopic WHIP. Astros have to be interested, but the Cards rarely lose people they don’t want to lose.
Sergio Romo – Spanish cousin of the Cowboys’ QB (this is just a joke) – his numbers worsened in 2014 after 4 very good / lights out years 2010-2013. Is he on the career slide to nowhere?
Rafael Soriano – Has been a very effective reliever for a baker’s dozen years in the league. Did his free fall in the second half of 2014 mean the end is coming?
Age is Just a Number
Do you like some more seasoned choices to help out the youthful Astros? There are a number of players over 35 coming off solid 2014 seasons.
Aaron Harang – SP – Harang who will be 37 headed into 2015 will have had 3 of 4 very solid seasons and one really bad one since 2011. He would be like an older version of Scott Feldman.
Chris Young – SP – People will notice that Young, who turns 36 years Old in May had a very solid season in 2014 for the M’s. They may also notice that between 2008 and 2012 he maxed out at 115 mlb innings in any one season and only pitched 37 minor league innings in 2013.
Torii Hunter – OF – Torii will be 40 in the middle of the 2015 season. He has been an extremely steady bat over the years and has put up 17 HR and 84 /83 RBIs the last two seasons. But the 9 time Golden Glover now fields like ….. a guy who will turn 40 in the middle of next season.
Hiroki Kuroda – SP – There may not have been a more consistent solid pitcher over the last 7 seasons than the soon-to-be 40 year old Kuroda. But, alas, it appears he is packing it in for retirement.
Really Improved or Contact Year Stat Bump?
These guys either are on the bounce back or noticed that if they wanted a big pay day they better produce heading into free agency.
Francisco Liriano – SP – To be fair – Liriano who had almost pitched himself out of the majors with two seasons of 5+ ERA, has had two very solid seasons with the Pirates and would seem to be a nice target at 31 for a team looking for a #2 type pitcher.
Jason Hammel – SP – After a poor 2013, Hammel had a good season in 2014 – though truth to tell he was much better before his mid-season trade from the Cubs to the A’s.
Mike Morse – OF/1B – Morse rebounded from a .215 BA / .651 OPS in 2013 to very solid .278 / .811 marks in 2014. Will this make the 33 year old a target for a team that could use OF and 1B help?
Edinson Volquez – SP – Volquez, like Liriano, benefited from joining the Pirates as his 5.71 ERA in 2013 melted down to a very good 3.04 this past season.
Jake Peavy – SP – Baseball is so strange. In 2013 – Peavy’s ERA was 4.17, but he had a sparkling 12-5 record. 2013 he had a much better ERA at 3.73, but his record crashed to 7-13. So it is a toss-up on whether he “improved” in his contract year.
Luke Gregerson – RP – Gregerson has been a good reliever in all 6 of his seasons in the majors, but his contract year in 2014 was the cherry on the sundae as a 2.12 ERA and a 1.009 WHIP was great.
Colby Rasmus – OF – Back in 2010 Rasmus looked like he would be one of those Cards for life after an excellent .859 OPS that season. Since then he has had only one really good season (2013) and 3 below average years. He is one of the younger FAs available at 28.
Jed Lowrie – IF – After Lowrie stayed healthy and played very well in 2013 with the A’s the Astros did not look very good after trading him. With Chris Carter’s surge and Lowrie’s sink in 2014…the trade seemed to have swung to the Astros advantage. Could there be an encore in Houston for Jed?
Justin Masterson – SP – Masterson was a good major league starter in 2011 and 2013, a poor one in 2012 and a disaster (5.88 ERA in 25 starts) in 2014. He turns 30 in March – so maybe it is time for a bounce back odd year.
Brett Anderson – SP – The good news is that he is not yet 27 and has a 3.73 ERA in 82 major league starts. The bad news is that reliever Chad Qualls has pitched 34 more innings than Anderson the starter in the last 4 seasons. The Astros have reportedly been kicking the tires on Anderson, but they better check closely under that hood.
Kendrys Morales – 1B/DH – After receiving MVP consideration in 2009, Morales had fallen off a bit, but was still a solid hitter until crashing and burning last season. Is he ready for a revival?
Stephen Drew – SS – Drew seemed to be one of the better SS options last off-season coming off a decent 2013. But he signed late for a lot of $$$ and was bad – I mean Jon Singleton bad at the bat for both the Red Sox and the Yanks last season. Scott Boras is probably not going to get him $10 million this time around.
So do any of these players float your boat or excite you relative to the Astros free agency leanings?