Don’t fret Astros’ fans, free agency isn’t over

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.

C’mon Man

Yes, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are available – but they ain’t coming here.

Foreign Legion

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.

The Fallen

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?




83 comments on “Don’t fret Astros’ fans, free agency isn’t over

  1. I think the Astros should begin with a trade rather than big-money signings.

    Perhaps I’ve mentioned this before, but I the Twins need pitchers and have a surplus at third base. I think Trevor Plouffe can be had for an MLB-ready arm and a young bat. I’m not sure what pitcher I’d give up, but Ruiz or Moran could be the bat. Or perhaps Teoscar Hernandez.

    Then the real money should be spent on a reliever. Miller might be better since he won’t cost as much in cash or the future. And maybe one more arm to go with last year’s holdovers.


    • I know you had some dialogue going on Plouffe over the holiday. Sure could use a real 3B.
      Miller has been very good – lots of Ks and a lefty. Would like to see that.


    • No use trading Moran or Ruiz to the twins if they have that surplus of 3B. And the only major leauge ready arms we have are Folty, Wojo, White or Weiland. So think Folty and another young bat for Plouffe.


  2. I am thankful for your excellent summary. And, I’m only interest in players who project to be on the roster of the 2017 World Series Champions. Nelson Cruz and pretty much all of the relievers – with priority for David Robertson – float my boat.


  3. For those wanting to know – the following unsigned FAs were given qualifying offers so they would cost the team sighing them a high draft choice.
    – Scherzer
    – Liriano
    – Shields
    – Cruz
    – Shields
    – Santana
    – Cabrera
    – Robertson


  4. DanP, you have a big oversight. You did not list any catchers. We need to have at least 5 before ST. Seriously, only the RPs are of any interest as FA signing (or sighing if one prefers). I can’t see any reason to drop the “bundle” on any one player for 2015.


    • Yeah – not a lot to choose from for our 5th string C – Geovanny Soto?
      It will tell us a lot about their intended direction when we see who they do pursue.
      RPs better be a focal point that is for sure.


  5. Having Springer back and the real Jon Singleton showing up would be a huge boost. Having an outfield of Marisnick, Fowler and Springer would be so good. Having someone at 3B who will add wins to the team rather than subtracting would be huge. I love our second baseman and I think Marwin deserves to get that SS spot this year and then make himself a lot of money. If Castro could bring his average up to .250 for the year, he helps the team and sets himself up to get rich. I liked it in 2013 when he hit a ton of gapper doubles.
    The bullpen. The bullpen. Fix it. Make a trade, sign a guy, make some changes, get some flame throwers. Fixit


    • If you got all that then the bullpen would be the best place to invest because you would have a decent lineup to go with what looks like a good rotation.


    • If the Astros don’t improve offensively at 3B, SS, and 1B, no way can they afford to play Marisnick, who at his best will post a .260 avg, 10-12 HR, and a .310 OBP, defense or not. Now, if Singleton becomes a middle of the order hitter, and they find some people that make better contact than Villar and Dominguez at those positions, I can live with Castro and Marisnick – if not, I would expect to see more Conger and Grossman. Actually, I just hope to see more Conger either way.


      • If they have Springer for a whole year, a better Singleton, a Castro who is closer to 2014 than to 2013 – they would be OK. The Astros actually had solid offensive production in 2014 from the SS position as a whole compared to the rest of the AL. I really want to see something different at 3B. Something / anything.


  6. I’m interested in Anderson and Miller, but probably not at the prices they are asking. Given we have only thus far paid Alex Presley and expect to bankroll the arbitration increases, I’m getting more comfortable with overpaying from Crane’s bank account every day. They are both huge risks, however. Anderson is a Luhnow kind of pitcher, but the injuries… As for Miller, the only game I recall him closing turned out badly (unless you are an Oregon St Beavers fan).


  7. Remember……the Rangers are looking for a catcher, and they have a stocked
    minor league. Since Beltre has been manning 3rd. base, who know WHO they might deal to get a good catcher, and we just happen to have *three*!
    Robertson is either staying in New York (which I believe he will) or go to another
    AL team willing to give him 4yrs. and a LOT of money. Gotta remember, not too many guys playing well are going to come here. That’s just the facts folks.


    • True, Becky, but eventually three things will happen. 1) There will be more players at a position than there are teams with a desperate need there, 2) the Astros will offer enough to make someone forget our past, and 3) someone will see Houston as a team on the rise and figure himself to be the guy who will get the Astros over the hump. When any two of these three combine, Houston will get its man.


      • Totally agree. Astros need to be willing to overpay to legitimize the organization and make it attractive for top tier free agents to come to Houston. The Tigers were the laughing stock of baseball in 2003 when they set up Pudge Rodriguez for life. They were in the World Series in 2006.


    • I know we are not as likely to get players to come to us than the high end teams Becky but more guys go for the money than for the best team. We don’t need them all to come but some.
      You are thinking right on your trade thoughts – we need to find someone with a surplus of our needs and with needs where we have a surplus.


    • Well, one could definitely argue the use of the word “good” about any of our catchers, but they are 3 proven major leaguers and a good young hitting catcher – which is a lot of depth if anything else.

      Still, I would guess most teams aren’t willing to give up anything that will solve any of our problems for Jason Castro or Carlos Corporan. Stassi, maybe, but I haven’t seen any indication that Luhnow willingly deals young guys away, especially if he sees years of cheap play and under team control in the future.


  8. Was looking at the mlb trade rumors web site and they were saying that the Mets have so much young pitching that they are looking to trade one of their veteran pitchers – Colon, Niese and Gee. I would be interested in the Astros pursuing Jon Niese. He is 28, he has had three very solid years 2012-2014 for the Mets (ERA 3.40 to 3.70) he is owed $7 million this season and $9 million in 2016 with two team options available for 2017 and 2018.
    I think he might be a decent pickup.


    • We are all subject to knowing about 1/10th of the actual information on the Astros. But just to play along, we pick up Niese for $7Million. Altuve, Presley, Corporan, Conger, Fowler, Castro, Singleton, etc. etc. etc will eat the balance of the $20Million payroll increase and we have not addressed the bullpen. So it would appear (God, I sound like my buddy, Bopert) but the Astros can only afford to improve through the Farm because they do not have the money to actually “buy” a couple or three “good” players. It would be like me telling everyone that I am going to Las Vegas to win the WS of Poker, but I only have $3 cash in my bank account, but next year I will have $6 to take.


    • I’m not a proponent for signing Hammel, but I would rather make such a move than trade for the guys the Mets are willing to move. We have a lot of talent on the cusp – we need to either move it for guys who fill positions of need. We should spend Crane’s money to place g holes where it is possible, and rotation spots would appear the easiest target.


      • It is the big question. Here are your options in this example:
        – Probably pay 3 years $27 – 30 million
        – Will turn 33 during the 2015 seasoin
        – Had a 4.97 ERA in 2013 in the AL
        – Had a 2.98 ERA with the Cubs (NL) for 2/3 the season and then 4.26 ERA for the A’s (AL) to finish the season
        – Has existing 2 year $16 million contract in place – which by club option could be 3 year $26 million or 4 year $37 million
        – Just turned 28
        – Would require trading someone for him – probably not pitching
        – Coming off of 3 steady seasons in the NL with a 3.40 to 3.70 ERA

        There are pluses to both choices – in one case you are not giving up prospects but getting an older guy who has not been a consistent pitcher lately or giving up prospects for a younger more consistent pitcher


      • I think your analysis is good. I don’t think NYM will give up a quality pitcher on the cheap. Look at what Oakland gave up for pitchers at the deadline…with two being rentals and one entering his final year of team control (I think). Perhaps even more to the point, look at what TB got from KC for Shields and Davis. KC was slammed at the time for surrendering so much. It worked out, however, and likely raised the bar on the returns to be expected when trading a (legit) pitcher.


      • The other side to it Devin – at the trade deadline there are not that many pitchers available to trade for. Right now – if you are the Mets you are competing against both teams trying to trade a pitcher and the fact that there are literally scores of FAs out there. I would think this would make it more of a buyer’s market trade-wise.


    • Astro 45 – because we are not paying for Wandy anymore, Guzman, Crain, Albers and others – the numbers are not quite right. Let’s look at it.
      Under contract (5) – Feldman, Altuve, Singleton, Qualls, Presley – $18.5 million
      Due for arbitration – (7) – Castro, Conger, Fowler, Marwin G, Sipp, Corporan, Carter – estimated to get total of $21.1million by mlb trade rumors.
      So that puts us at $40 million
      The other 13 spots are right now approx. $500 K apiece or $6.5 million.
      So that is approx. $46.5 million total payroll before adding any additional salary.
      If $70 million is the new total payroll after approx. $20 million add-on
      So that gives you $23 – 25 million to play with. And if you actually trade a Castro or a Fowler – you would have more to play with. It is still not enough – but it is not nothing.


  9. There are still a lot of players out there to be had, but we have learned some things already. The top players are being way overpaid by everybody. Everyone said we would have to overpay for someone like VMart, but, instead, the mighty Tigers had to overpay him just to keep him there. The Astros probably are willing to overpay for a good closer, but the rich clubs will probably overpay more.
    This means that the smarter front offices, like the Astros consider themselves to be, are going to have to improvise with their brains. I’m fine with that, as long as their brains tell them to improvise with players other than the ones who were lousy for them last year. If they go into ST with Dominguez and Villar on the left side of the infield, the few of us left are going to go bananas.


    • It would seem that you might do better picking up by trade from a budget standpoint than bidding on FAs. I understand that is where you are coming from.
      I still would like someone targeted and signed for the bullpen / closer role.


      • With all their data, I would think they might try to identify a potential closer on another team that already has a bona fide closer, focus on a certain need that club has that we could fill with a prospect, and make an offer.


    • I’m way beyond bananas OP. I’ve been taking this off season off to date, much like our GM. I just don’t have the interest right now. When something changes to impress me, then I suppose some enthusiasm will return, but any expectations for me have been tempered.


      • I guess I have to ask daveb. Were you hoping for an early pre-emptive strike either in the FA or trade arena? That does not seem to be their style. Or did Alex Presley and Hank Conger not inspire you to new heights of enthusiasm?


      • Not trying to speak for daveb, but I am wanting Luhnow and his cave full of number crunchers to do or say something that makes other players want to play in Houston. We laugh about the Jason Werth contract, but 1) he has been very good in WAS 2) he has provided offensive and defensive flexibility to a team that won division last two years & 3) he is cited as bringing credibility to the club. The right signing could have invigorated our fanbase and provided a springboard for Luhnow to lure additional FA to town by touting our up and coming prospects as the needed reinforcements for championship runs.


      • Devin – I think you are probably speaking very well for daveb – I think that is what most of us want to see – some sign of life after the baseball “death” we have lived through.


  10. The says that in addition to supposedly making an offer to David Robertson – the Astros also have shown interest in Andrew Miller as their closer for 2015.
    I don’t know why – but those guys just sound more like their lawyers than their players….


  11. I don’t look for Luhnow to do ANYTHING, until after tomorrow’s non tender dead line.
    I think he will get a better picture of who, or what he wants to do as far as trades go. By the way…….Jason Nix has elected to go into free agency today, rather than going to the Royals minor league team. Kyle Banks is another interesting guy……
    just say’n.


    • Nix in less than 100 ABs was awful for 3 teams .120 BA and .325 OPS so he better be glad if he gets another job.
      Blanks was pretty good in a bit of a cameo last year.


  12. It looks like the Orioles and Nick Markakis may be divorcing. Nick received a $2mil buyout, and will not require a draft compensation. He wants a four year deal and won the AL Gold Glove because he didn’t commit an error but he does not have range in RF. So how would he look in LF at MMP and would we have to trade somebody like Carter or Fowler or Castro to afford him. Is Preston Tucker a Rick Markakis in-waiting. If you drafted Canha, and signed Markakis, is your lineup improved enough to put Sclafani at 3B and dump Dominguez. I know one thing: If Sclafani hits a double, he will actually get all the way to second base on it.
    I know what Dallas Keuchel thinks. What do you think?


    • Do you think Canha’s first taste of the majors is an improvement over Krauss’s second shot? If so, I don’t think it is significantly better. But if you want to have a look in ST okay. But don’t come crying to me because we failed to sign a legitimate corner IF.

      Despite what Dallas says, Markakis is exceedingly average. His salary will exceed average, by about 5x. I’ll pass.


      • Canha’s first taste might be better than Kraus’s second because he is a righthanded alternative to Singleton at the plate and Kraus is not. He is also considered a better fielder than Kraus at any position and he will cost nothing to acquire.
        I am all for getting a third baseman instead of Markasis because I like Fowler at the top of the order, but we have had no success, thus far, acquiring good corner infielders who can hit. I sure hope that situation changes soon.


      • Okay, but my first choice is to find an upgrade over Krauss that is not just incremental. Canha does cost a roster spot. If we are to have him, I’d as soon stick with Krauss.


  13. Dan- I wasn’t saying Luhnow should sign Jason Nix……but I would NOT be surprised if he did. NOTHING Luhnow does surprises me any more.


  14. Chris Cwik of reported this morning that the Braves and Astros discussed a possible trade for catcher Evan Gattis. Sadly, the Braves are demanding that the Astros take B.J. Upton as well. Upton still has $46.35 million on his contract, and the Astros were hesitant to take on that much money. The Braves were said to be targeting center fielder Dexter Fowler. Catcher Carlos Corporan’s name also came up in conversations. I would happily take Gattis as the catcher and he can play other positions.


    • I would love Gattis, but I will pass if it requires us to take on B.J. Upton’s contract. An OF of Gattis, Marisnick and Springer would be very nice, but Upton’s contract will limit them going forward if the Astros are required to take him also.


  15. In case anyone is wondering about the Canha reference – he is a corner infielder / outfielder with the Marlins organization who would be available in the Rule 5 draft. He had very good numbers in the minors hitting – not sure about his fielding side.


  16. Philadelphia 76ers. Making the Bo Porter-led, September 2013 Astros look good.
    Oakland Raiders: The Astros thank you.
    So, adding up the rumors, if we sign Miller, Robertson, Markakis, and trade for Gattis, do we still have room for Scherzer in our $100million budget this year?


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