Luhnow is shooting for the stars, may get the moon


The activity this winter — it is winter, right? — has been staggering. Rumors aside, trades and free agent signings are moving at a rapid pace unlike the recent previous off seasons. As for the rumors, who can keep up with them all?

Here’s one thing you can keep an easy record of. The Astros have little or nothing to show for the off season thus far, unless you count “E” for effort.

What does seem evident, though, is that Jeff Luhnow is determined to upgrade the left side of the infield and the bullpen. He’s clearly adopted the “…shoot for the stars, if I miss, I’ll hit the moon” mindset. David Robertson and Andrew Miller were the big closer targets and they signed with the White Sox and Yankees respectively.

Luhnow said he would “absolutely” love to bring back Jose Veras for the bullpen, but Veras can’t be the prize catch this year. Luke Gregerson, though, might be the guy to tag team with Chad Qualls, Veras and Michael Foltynewicz at the back end of the bullpen.

As for SS and 3B, the Astros clearly anticipate an upgrade for at least one of the positions and apparently aren’t thinking stop gap.

The Astros have been sellers for so long that it’s difficult for fans to fathom big dollars being thrown around on closers and corner infielders.

Players like Justin Upton and Chris Johnson may not be upgrades, but Jed Lowrie could provide some pop and speed. And stability until the cavalry arrives.

But here’s the deal: The horse is out of the barn. Luhnow cannot come back completely empty with also rans, retreads or patch quilt solutions. And, if fans still believe that Houston is still engaging in only window dressing with the offers that have been substantiated, they aren’t paying close attention.

Here are some other conclusions that a reasonable onlooker could reach:

  • The Astros are content to let Jon Singleton have another shot at first base.
  • Luhnow is content with the rotation with the current returnees and prospects in the pipeline.
  • Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro aren’t on the front burner of conversations. At this point. However, as other dominos fall, they could move to the forefront later this month or next.
  • The Astros’ image is clearly tarnished, but Luhnow is rebuilding it. He needs only one solid free agent upgrade to add to Scott Feldman to move the train down the tracks a bit farther. Remember, 2016-17 is still the target, right?

And, some questions:

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67 comments on “Luhnow is shooting for the stars, may get the moon

  1. Good to have a post from you Chip!
    Answers
    – Lowrie vs. Matt D and Villar – yes he would be a big improvement
    14% K rate vs. 21% and 27.7%
    9% BB rate vs. 4.8% and 6.6%
    If you get Lowrie from 2013 (.290 BA / .344 OPS / .791 OPS) you have a huge uptick – but if you only get 2014 you get:
    Lowrie (.249 / .321 / .676)
    Matt D (.215 / .256 / .586)
    Villar (.209 / .267 / .620)

    – Upton would be a one year rental -yes he would help you for one year but why do it this year. Chris Johnson – I just have funny vibes – like the prince at the ball when he is dancing with Cinderella and the clock begins striking midnight…
    – Most likely to be on the roster at the beginning of the season – Castro and Conger – though I think they will move Castro by mid-season
    – I don’t understand why they signed Presley first and not Marwin G. MG was pretty darned solid last season.
    – Headley would be an improvement over Matty D – but if you drop the anomaly of an insane 2012 season (31 HR and 115 RBIs) he has had 4 of the last 5 seasons where he averaged 10 HR and 50 RBIs. $16 million a year – really? Carlos Lee money for somebody doing about 1/2 that production? Why?

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    • im leery of lowrie. say that three times fast… you have the dilemma of whether you get 2013 or 2014 production, you also have his problem of being able to stay on the field. he turns 31 in april. I’m not a fan a big contracts for players in their 30’s (with few exceptions) because they are usually on the downward slope and more injury prone. if its a reasonable deal for 1 year 2 max then well maybe ok. I’m wanting to see what moran can do, ruiz as well.

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  2. I’m with Dan.

    Yes to Lowrie. Pair him with Marwin and that’s a left side I can live with. No thanks on Chris Johnson and the albatross that is Upton. I’m happy with the outfielders we have.

    Any of those second-level FA relievers would be just fine. Sign one with Lowrie and I think we’re a .500 team at least.

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  3. Chip, right now, you are probably an upgrade over Matty D. Lowrie, despite his off year this year, would be a nice, low-cost addition and a sizable upgrade from Matty D. I don’t know why Luhnow feels the need to upgade at SS. MarGo is a very capable SS both at the plate and in the field. Spend the money or make the trades to upgrade 3B and the bullpen.

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  4. oops forgot the questions.
    ok villar vs lowrie. villar turns 24 in may. thats mighty young to be given up on. and until a move is made i still say he may be your starter (sorry becky, don’t hurt me!!) he has great range and potentially good offense, can run with the best of them and has a big arm. he just needs to mature and play under control. will he do that? some say never and they may be right, but id like one more good look see before that determination is made. now lowrie vs dominguez. lowrie wins out here, but lets limit it to one or two years max so he doesn’t block up and comers.
    upton and johnson – no thank you.
    without a trade castro and conger start the season, but i think castro gets moved in part of a big trade (maybe not till trade deadline) but if he is gone before the season starts conger and corporan.
    why go to arb with marwin, well one he may be asking to much on a new contract and two you have villa and correa.
    headley no! see above

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  5. Does anybody really “moon” anyone anymore? I mean, except at the respective reunions of the casts of Happy Days and Grease it seems like in our day we have witnessed a pretty much total eclipse of the “moon”.

    But since you brought it out in the open, I can see some of us spunky oldsters from this blog [OTBG lives!] really getting behind the concept, Chip. Far be it from any of us to get caught with our pants down.

    So here is my proposal. If, as some of us suspect, the entire assembly at the Winter Meetings effectively shoots JL the moon this year, how about us on this blog show up at the first game of 2015, wave for the kiss cam, tip our hat, drop our tidy whiteys, touch our toes, spin around quickly , and grin and bare the place where even when the roof is open the sun don’t shine?

    Think of the signs that will come out: “This butts for you, Jeff!” and “Try this Lunar Landing on yer stinkin’ Astros!”

    Forget the Wave and the sausage races; at MMP next year we could have Orbit go for a “Moon Walk’ while we all take the viewing audience on a nice nostalgic trip down “Moon River’!

    But whatever happens, Chip, just make sure you keep your Bo Pert.

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    • Mr Bill, please. I am not a moonie. But I will throw the right persons a ton of Mardi Gras beads for something similar! That is how I roll. Signed, OTBG. Olde Time B**b Guy.

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  6. I said this yesterday……….the Astros are *toxic* right now. I think Luhnow will have difficulty trying to get a “quality” player to sign with this organization.

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  7. The Cubs and White Sox won 3 more games than the Astros. The Red Sox won 1 more game. So I can not buy into “no one wants to sign with a loser.” Something else is going on. Not sure what. Maybe there is a little collusion with agents over the Nix flap. Maybe it is nothing. But it is NOT because we are a losing club.

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    • And I know they are “rumors” – but what a strange comment on the Angels. We cornered the catcher market about as well as the Hunt Brothers cornered silver – apparently. Now people are interested in a catcher we gave up on. “•The player most often asked about by other teams is catcher Carlos Perez, Dipoto said”

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      • I find that difficult to believe. Perez was unprotected in last years Rule 5 draft. He didn’t do anything to raise his stock last year. Sounds like the Angels are drumming up interest. They also have four catchers on the 40.

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  8. “Someone will eventually take the Astros money”……per Houston Chronicle.
    That pretty much sums it up……..oh by the way the two Chicago teams are bulking up for next season. A lot of money to throw at a pitcher, for a team who will likely
    end up at the bottom of the NL central.

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    • I know this is a popular refrain, but if the Astros are indeed *toxic*, how did they get so far down the road on Miller. Miller sounded very sincere in his interest in Houston. It didn’t have the smell of “Houston as leverage”. I don’t think the Astros are any more *toxic* than the Giants who lost out on Panda and Lester, or the Yankees who lost Robertson, or any other team who failed to sign Plan A.

      I think the Astros are *toxic* only to bitter newspaper reporters who don’t get insider tips from this front office.

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      • Miller is smart enough to know his contract would outlast Luhnow’s if the team does not hit .500 in 2015. He is smart enough to know that the system is stocked with talent (value of which is all over the map in eyes of other teams) and there are at least four legit All Star candidates on the team already (Altuve, Springer, McHugh, Keuchel…and Castro as a C and ex-AS is fringe). Why would he immediately turn down the largest offer from such a team? He was in the driver’s seat and could ask all the questions he wanted.

        That is the most optimism you’ll get out of me until we see some progress this winter. I was shocked Luhnow didn’t outbid the Cubs for Miguel Montero in an effort to really corner the C market.

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      • Well, he told us why. He felt being home for two months during spring training was “something you can’t put a monetary value on”. I guess you think that was just a lie to cover up his distain for the Astros.

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      • Flash, if the response was to me, I don’t think Miller turned us down due to toxicity. I think he turned us down because he grew up in FLA, played at UNC in college, and enjoyed his time in the AL East better than his stints with the Tigers or Marlins. If he becomes the NYY closer he will have opportunities to recoup some of the differences in salary. In short, I think we were in the running and that miller’s praise was genuine when he explained his decision.

        I do think there are players who have a problem with Luhnow, but that is short sighted in my opinion.

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      • Luhnow does things differently, and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, even angry. But that doesn’t mean it is wrong. A lot of players can benefit, and have already benefited, as a result of his way of looking at how baseball is played. Players that have a problem with Luhnow and his approach need to be on a different bus. That is not a bad thing.

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  9. I get frustrated waiting and then I see where the Astros are one of the teams chasing Pat Neshek, which I think would be a very good pickup and I take a wait and see attitude.
    I am glad to hear that the Headley offer was probably not true – that made me question the FOs sanity and baseball IQ.
    THere can be a lot of reasons driving certain signings – money is just one of them, others can tie to geographical location vs. their family or whether someone just loves the big cities of NYC or Chicago. Successful history could drive someone to the Yanks or Red Sox, but certainly the Cubs and Chi-Sox don’t out rank the Astros there.
    Don’t need to sign every top hand, but we sure would like to see some success here soon.

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    • Yes to all of this. Neshek and Gregorson could be 2017 pieces, would be delighted to have the Astros acquire either or both. However, relief pitchers are such a crap shoot. Was pleased in the same way last year when the Astros acquired Crain, Albers and Qualls. Similarly, the Tigers shelled out stupid money and prospects for Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria, and both bombed.

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    • You know Steeeve – as Tom Cruise says in Risky Business – sometimes you just have to say “What the heck?” (I know Tom is maybe not the best role model but he was so cool back then and I also know he did not say “heck” but htis is a family blog).
      All I’m saying is that every decision or non-decision can have negative or positive consequences. You trade Castro he could rebound to 2013 – you keep him and 2014 is the norm. You signan injured Crain and he stays injured. You sign a healthy Albers who has no history of injury and he goes down after 10 innings. You pick up Collin McHugh for nothing and he becomes something.
      If you’ve looked at someone in depth and like his makeup and history you take a shot. You can drive yourself to drinking or at least to Singleton’s wacky weed if you agonize over every mistake. You could be all wrong, but you do your best and move on.

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    • Well we went from despair to pretty darned happy really quick – getting those two guys is what the doctor ordered.
      So is Folty going to be directed towards the 5th spot in the rotation now?

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      • Dan, six weeks or so ago Folty said that the Astros told him not to do anything for a month and then get ready to come to camp and compete for a spot in the rotation. . To me, that means he either makes the club out of camp as a starter or goes back to OKC to pitch every fifth day and get ready to be called up when needed as a starter. I think these two signings confirm they intend to keep working with Folty as a starting pitcher for the time being.

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      • I’m with you old pro – heck it might be Peacock or Wojo or Folty in that 5th spot…whoever earns it.
        Now they can go get some help for the lineup.

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      • I think they also have to invite White and Weiland to camp to give them a looksee for that fifth slot with this being their final try with the Astros because of their age. There are way too many arms at CC so one of these veteran minor league pitchers may stick with the club as #5 or they will be traded or released.

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  10. I would like to see (not my money) them sign Sergio Romo also. Just in case one of the three become this years Albers or Crain. I know there will be some lesser known signings and some NRI – but if they fix the bullpen – I can wait for at least 1/2 a year to see what happens with Matty, Jon & Jason.

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  11. Gregorson’s deal can escalate to around 3/21 if he is the closer. Neshek deal is reported to be 2/12.5. Still leaves money to spend on someone else. Who is now the 40th man on the roster? Someone is definitely on the bubble.

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  12. Bullpen shaping up: Fields, Gragorson, Neshek, Qualls, Sipp, Veras, long reliever?
    Options: leave Veras out and add in Shirley or Chapman?
    Leave Veras out and add in Will Harris and Shirley or Wojo as long reliever?
    I would like at least one Astros prospect to make the pen this April, just so we could actually see some progression there.

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  13. 40 man roster options
    – Don’t make a Rule 5 pick or
    – Trade someone – Fowler or one of the 4 catchers
    – Let someone go from the 40 man – like White or Harris or Deduno or …

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  14. Today is day three. I just have a feeling we open up a roster spot with a 2 for 1 or a 3 for 2 trade. It’s just a feeling. Of course, the other team would have to have an extra slot open for that to happen. How many teams have that right now?

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  15. Christmas came early for the Astros fellas! I hope they don’t have any medical problems, last year was a disaster. In 2011, the Diamond back’s had Qualls, Gregerson, and Neshek in their bullpen. Qustion is……who’s gonna close, and do we really NEED Veras??

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      • Okay, Sign Sherzer(playing into the Drellich/TCB fun rumors floating around) and then make that trade. If they don’t want to throw in Choice then get them to throw in a minor league guy not on the 40-man and then we draft Canha tomorrow as a RH 1B backup and power bench bat. Tucker will be here soon anyway for a LH bat.
        OF: Grossman, Springer, Marisnick, Canha(COF/1B}, Presley
        IF: Beltre, Gonzalez, Villar, Singleton, Altuve, Canha
        DH: Carter, Sclafani
        Rotation: Sherzer, Keuchel, McHugh, Feldman, Ober
        Bullpen: name ’em

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      • How about that! a team with no catchers! Ok, keep Sclafani in AAA, Trade Pressley for a song and add Corp and Conger to catch. That’s 25, including seven relievers

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  16. G and N along with Q and F and S make this one solid bullpen. With Keuchel and McHugh and Feldman on the mound, that’s threr of five days teams are going to be scrapping for runs against us.

    I like this.

    Like

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