What they said, what they meant: Astros’ winter meetings’ edition


You loyal readers know the drill for What They Said What They Meant – Astros’ related quotes from chron.com (spit!!!) are analyzed for the not-so-secret true meaning behind them. This installment hits on off-season action and non-action by Jeff Luhnow and a bit on the new manager A.J. Hinch.

For a change of pace, here is an interview by Evan Drellich of Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow is being questioned about a “potential” trade he used as the reason for not protecting Michael Feliz on the 40 man roster until the last minute, when other players such as Ronald Torreyes had already been protected. In this case there will be an interpretation of the questions as well as the answers……

  • What Drellich asked. “But a trade held you up?”
  • What Drellich meant. “I don’t think there was any frigging trade that should have affected Feliz – you had a couple extra spots open on the 40 man already.”
  • What Luhnow answered. “Yeah, we had some discussions with some other clubs and didn’t come to fruition.”
  • What Luhnow meant. “This answer is so vague – even Sherlock would struggle to disprove it.”

 

  • What Drellich asked. “What would the benefit of keeping Feliz off the 40-man roster be in a trade?”
  • What Drellich meant. “Come on – admit it – leaving Feliz off was an oversight and you only rectified it after reading my column about it.”
  • What Luhnow answered. “You’ll have to figure that out, I’m not going to get into what the discussion was.”
  • What Luhnow meant. “Your so d*&n smart – why do you need me to explain anything.”
  • A little aside that Drellich wrote. (Theoretically, if a trade were large enough and Feliz was not a part of it, the Astros could have needed the roster space. It would have needed to be a very large trade, however, and the question would still remain: why would Feliz go unprotected while other players regarded to have a lesser upside were protected?)
  • What he meant. (The SOB is lying to me and I don’t even care if he reads this on chron.com (spit!!!) or not)

 

  • What Drellich asked. “So the trade talks won’t come to fruition?”
  • What Drellich meant. “I don’t believe in Santa, the tooth fairy or these imaginary trade talks.”
  • What Luhnow answered. “Not necessarily. Obviously, there’s a lot of deals going down right now, there was two deals done in the last hour. So there’s always discussion intensified by the fact that teams have to make decisions on rosters. And we were involved in some of those. They affected some of our players, but the end result was we added three guys to our roster today (Feliz, Torreyes and Velasquez).”
  • What Luhnow meant. “Yo mama!”

 Luhnow talking about the catcher situation…

  • What he said. Because we have three major league catchers, I’ve had clubs inquire about all our catchers quite frankly. So we need to figure out some resolution prior to Opening Day. There’s no urgency.”
  •  What he meant. “Man, I would gladly part with Jason Castro or Carlos Corporan, but every time I call the Dodgers about Clayton Kershaw, I go straight to voice mail. Haven’t they seen his post-season stats?”

A.J. Hinch at the winter meetings.

  • What he said. “I’ve experienced winter meetings in different ways. Different front office jobs, also as a manager (with the Diamondbacks in the 2009-2010 offseason). It’s certainly a little easier from the manager’s side, (but) we have our responsibilities. … The intensity of the meetings is down a notch in this job than it was in my previous job, which is good for me.”
  • What he meant. “JL has kind of made it clear that I am the test pilot for this experimental plane and not the architect. So I will just sit back and collect the big pay checks until they fire me. No pressure.”

Luhnow after losing Andrew Miller to the Yanks despite a reported higher bid…

  • What he said. “Well we have a closer. Chad Qualls is our closer. We’re looking for good pitchers to pitch in close games. What exactly how the roles get determined, that’s really up to A.J. (manager A.J. Hinch). But we’re trying to get him as many weapons to add to the pitchers that we have. Certainly Qualls and (Josh) Fields and (Kevin) Chapman and the rest of the guys. We just want to have depth in the bullpen, because last year our depth wasn’t there, especially at the beginning of the year.”
  • What he meant. “Yeah we were offering $40 million for 4 years with a 5th year option for Andrew Miller, long reliever. C’mon….Miller signs and we would have a closer and his name would not be Chad Qualls. And just for fun I did not mention Sipp or Folty. It is kind of like when Gilligan’s Island premiered and the original theme song did not mention ‘the Professor and Mary Ann…’. They just sang ‘and all the rest’. I like playing with everyone’s emotions when I do talk.”

Andrew Miller on the Astros and their offer…

  • What he said. “They made a heck of a pitch. I know they got thrown out there in the rumor mill. But top to bottom, they were really impressive. They’ve got some really smart people. They’re going in the right direction. This was a decision that was not made lightly. And it was not only two teams. I was very — not surprised — but excited to see who was interested. I felt I pitched well enough to put myself in this position. But it was hard to even dream about it turning out the way it did.”
  • What he meant. “Sure they are a bunch of smart guys, but so are the nerds on the Big Bang Theory and I’m not trusting them anywhere near a baseball organization or my career.”

Anonymous player’s agent on the Astros

  • What he said. “(It’s) difficult to gauge intent and interest they have.”
  • What he meant. “I keep hearing these rumors about the crazy money they offered Miller and Chase Headley. All I can say is that when they talk to me and my clients it’s like they took the Hot Tub Time Machine back to the 80’s offer-wise.”

Scott Leventhal, David Robertson’s agent on the Astros’ involvement in losing Robertson to the White Sox.

  • What he said – “No comment.”
  • What he meant – “It is just so upsetting to hear a man crying, you know. Luhnow was pleading that if he lost this gig he would never have a respectable job in MLB. He said he might have to go back to Mexico City and coach some guy named Amador. I felt for the guy, but this is a business. Or it should be.”

New Bench coach Trey Hillman talking about Hinch bringing all his staff together.

  • What he said – “First and foremost it’s just been great to be in the same room. AJ’s got a special way about the way he leads. It’s great because I think everyone can see now that it’s playing out in person that he’s going to empower the coaching staff to coach. There’s no doubt that he’s our boss and he’s going to be the manager of the team. But with his leadership skill set he’s got a nice way of bringing guys together very quickly.”
  • What he meant – “I sure hope the second time is the charm for Hinch, because if he gets fired the bench coach usually gets the interim spot and then I have to deal with Luhnow when I should be looking for a new job.”

Bonus Question from Jose Veras talking about his cup of coffee with the Cubs before returning to the Astros and his prospects for 2015….

  • What he said. “I really made the mistake to sign with the Cubs instead of to sign with Houston early in winter time. But that’s the way it is. You learn by mistakes. It’s like I told you, I’m available to do anything. Be it closer, throw the eighth, throw the seventh. I just want to be on the team (where) I feel like a family, like I feel here. That all these guys respect me, I respect them, I love them, even though we don’t win 100 games like we maybe want to do. At the same time, it’s not about just being in the World Series or playoffs, it’s play baseball and the right thing and right spot where you can be free to do things and free to do your job. And people, you know … they trust you and support you to do your job.”
  • What you think he meant.
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67 comments on “What they said, what they meant: Astros’ winter meetings’ edition

  1. JL on Feliz: “Bhagat in our Sri Lanka Service Center kept saying that his chart showed Feliz # 71 on our depth chart. And Billy Boy from Oakland kept calling about some guy named “Bhagat” calling him about a deal but wanted to know what was behind door number 3 first.” AJ on Winter Meetings: “JL said I am #1, you’re #2 – come to the meetings or I will beat the whoopee out of you.” Other GMs on the catchers: “JL, our computers say you have better catchers in the minors than on your 40 man.” On the Closer query: “Our programmers need to know run differential, umpire behind the plate, and wind velocity before we warm up a closer. That is why we hated to part with Anthony Bass.” Miller comment: “Hey guys, I throw baseballs for a living. My agent told me what to do and I did it. Live with it.” Players agent: “Call Bo Porter, and the three kids that got stiffed in the draft. Then get back with me so I can explain the difficulty in talking with the Astros.” Leventhal: “Just re-read the prior comment.” Hillman: “Look, AJ can’t screw this up like he did in Arizona. Really, can he?” Veras: “I made a mistake with the Cubs. I thought they would be overjoyed with a WHIP of 1.725.”

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    • – Love the Sri Lanka service center connection…
      – Thought it was very interesting reading between the lines with Veras – he did not realize how cold Chicago was in the spring and it sounded like he really had a lot of problems with getting loose and pitching in the cold there.

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  2. What Veras meant: With the Astros I hardly ever had to pitch with a lead. By the time I figured out that the Cubs actually were serious about winning the game, they were unhappy with me giving up hits and walks. I am ready to come home to where they explain what they want me to do before I do it.

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  3. What Andrew Miller said: I was impressed with the Astros and was waiting to see if I could talk to Nolan Ryan about pitching. I was told flat out that the Astros don’t allow OTBGs to talk to pitchers about pitching so I went to New York and they let me talk to everyone. Heck, Andy Pettite was willing to spend three days telling my kids how to pitch and I don’t even have kids.

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  4. Luhnow to Drellich: You were so young and refreshing when you first got here.
    Drellich to Luhnow: I had no clue who I would be dealing with. Now I know.

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    • When Bo Porter was fired – I listened to the presser with Luhnow and it was obvious he and Drellich’s relationship is a bit…ahem…. tense.

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  5. Hinch: I’ve had experience with all kinds of jobs in baseball, so finally I have a job where all the decisions are made for me and I just have to read the screen of my computer and do what it says. This is my dream job. And there are so few fans I don’t hear the boos because the other team has more fans cheering in our ball park than we do. This is like Astroworld Fantasy Land.
    And there’s no pressure here. You lose a ton of games and you get a contract extension. Your players get unhappy and the boss will trade them off. I’m tellin’ ya, this is a dream job.

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    • I would like to see a list of what Hinch plans to do differently this time around to improve his management skills.
      – Get better players
      – Put better players on the field

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  6. I hadn’t read the Veras one. I’d take it at face value though. You have to figure there are a few things to consider when choosing an MLB club to play for: money, location, playing time, teammates, bosses, chances at winning a title, fan base, and intelligence of the local media. I probably left some out.

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    • Devin – I think that a lot of times decisions are made looking at money, money or money and sometimes that just does not work out for the individual.

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    • Ah – Nice Jimmy R reference. But they also traded away their All-star 2B and are down 2 SPs after getting rid of Haren. So is Kike the new 2B? Are they going to fill in those SP spots with the top end FAs like Scherzer or Shields?
      IIt is interesting when you win 94 games and keep shaking up things.

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      • Yep – spend a gazillion here and a gazillion there – pretty soon you are talking about real money.
        You have to wonder how a guy like Friedman feels coming from the tight budgets (and success) of Tampa to the budget freedom of LA. He has to see that he has about 5 times more options.

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  7. How about:
    What he said -“It’s a tricky thing,” Luhnow said. “You never know which teams are going to like which players and what they’re looking for. But it is difficult to keep a Rule V player all year long.”

    What he meant – “No team will be dumb enough to value the speed tool so highly that they would take DeShields in the draft. The Royals lost the WS after we heard so much about their game breaking speed and short game. Billy Hamilton couldn’t even win ROY. Our computer has calculated that DeShields is likely to only be successful on 79.723542853% of MLB steal attempts. For us, anything below 82% and you are better off not running. I mean, he wasn’t my draft pick either and it was Crane’s money…so it’s really not a negative in my book.”

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  8. Rule 5 results – the Astros lost the maximum 3 players – two that have been discussed here before – OF Delino Deshileds Jr and SP Jandel Gustave and one surprise in SP David Rollins, who I believe came over in the JA Happ trade and pitched decently at AA last season.
    In a head scratcher – the Astros drafted a pitcher from the Red Sox Jason Garcia who has not pitched above A ball and has not put up a ton of innings the last couple of seasons. With the Astros bringing Neshek and Gregerson – something has to give on the 40 man unless they drafted Garcia for someone and are going to trade him.

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    • I did notice that the Mariners who took Rollins had twice tried to draft Rollins in the regular draft (2009 and 2010) before the Blue Jays took him in 2011.

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      • Yeah Ariel Ovando was given a big bonus as a 16 or 17 years old out of the Dominican. He was supposed to be the next Ryan Howard. Just never did much after rookie ball and spent last year at low A ball stinking up the joint. He’s young but not a teenager anymore…

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    • I am happy that they did not lose Blaine Sims who is the pitcher I was worried about and believe could pitch in the majors as a starter. I am happy they still have Pena to work with the pitchers at CC and that they still have the lefty starter Shirley.
      I saw Garcia highlighted on MLB this morning as one of the most promising pitchers in the Rule V draft. Since his TJ surgery in 2013, his fastball has jumped into the high 90’s and he has a slider that is his strikeout pitch but needs more command of since his year off recovering.

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      • Sims is that guy who is learning the knuckler as I remember – seemed to have a lot of potential but it takes a while to master that thing control-wise. But if you do – you can have something special.
        I would have thought someone would take Shirley before Rollins.

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      • Yep, that is him. When he started w/ the knuckler Phil Niekro said it was a major league knuckler after seeing him throw only two pitches. Has spent the last year learning what to do with it. I think they kept him hidden well enough in Quad Cities and he could move fast because Niekro told him he could throw it more than 80% of the time. He has a 90mph flat fastball that he can mix in and he throws the knuckler at three different speeds. If you master the knuckler, you can jump from the minors to the majors quickly, because you throw it up there and let it fly whichever way it wants to. It could be so crazy in Lancaster pitching into a 25mph wind so I don’t know if he will even pitch there. Joe Niekro loved throwing the knuckler into the wind
        Wouldn’t it be crazy if he turned out to be a good knuckleball pitcher? By the way, I think he also has a terrific LH pickoff move to first.

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      • Astrocolt 45 – that is hilarious and true. That is why Sims is unusual – normally knuckleballers are tossing an 82 mph fastball (at best).

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    • Luis Flores from the Cub organization – decent unspectacular hitting numbers in the minors – as high as AAA. Had a nice 31 game stretch at AAA last season. Has thrown out 36% of runners during his whole minor league career.
      Kind of weird he has been in the minors for 7 seasons – never played in more than 67 games…

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    • Smaller version of Perez. Improved dramatically in his yr 27 season at the plate. Behind the plate he is a much more dependable fielder with a slight weaker arm than Perez but more accurate. Don’t know about framing and such, but he does not strike out much and does walk at a good clip.

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      • Pena and either Flores or Heineman in CC, Stassi and either Flores or Heineman in AAA and two of three of the MLB catchers make the team, one gets moved.
        That’s how I see it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Garcia gone, Perez gone. We need minor league AA and AAA catchers. Especially in Spring training. We get his contract for $12,000. We cleared $25,000 in the Baltimore draft and trade deal. Oh yeah, We also got $12,000 for Ovando, so this guy is ours for free.

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  10. Very entertaining.

    As for Veras, what he meant was this:

    “My bad. Really. And I don’t want to suffer like this again. I know you are looking at relievers NOT named Jose Veras, and I know I need to give a little discount, but please throw me a bone and offer me a semi-reasonable deal. I promise to take it.”

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      • Just for clarification (and it is not my money) but I never looked at paying Wandy $5 Million a year to pitch for the Pirates as clearing salary. Guess when a club gets into a terrible contract, paying ONLY $30 Million to another club is actually a good trade. Watching the Dodgers spend money may make watching the Yankees (spit, spit) “boring.”

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      • Astrocolt45
        It kind of reminds me how my wife explains to me how much money she saved me by buying something supposedly on sale.
        It just does not feel like savings

        Liked by 1 person

  11. So instead of paying Kemp $21 million a year for 5 years – they are paying him about $16 million per year, Not sure how I feel about it – he is an effective but inconsistent player – I guess if he can stay away from the injury bug in his 30’s it will be worth it for a few years – I wonder about the last 2 seasons.

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    • I think it helps that the Astros are making some actually relevant moves. I think the size of the contracts and the fact that we are past the steroid age (supposedly) has put a lot more guys in play as FAs just because of their age – above 30. So the last few years have been extremely active with so many people looking for a landing spot.

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    • Kevin I think you are correct (at least from my perspective). I am used to a trade of someone for $400K or a PTBNL or a pick. Now it is take him and we will pay 1/3 of your teams total payroll next year and you can keep him. Shields and Scherzer are still on the Board. They may own Hawaii with their contracts.

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  12. Been out a few days – my takes –

    The Astros were lucky they didn’t sign Miller. He is a very expensive piece for a lefty reliever – which don’t typically make good closers without overpowering stuff – very good at what he does, but when he is closing you lose that “selectivity” on who he faces, and righties have given this guy problems multiple years in the past. Great lefty out of the pen, was used correctly, but if the NYY use him as closer and righties hit even .260+ off him he won’t be closing long.

    Fan of the Gregerson signing, Neshek not as much. The good about Neshek – just two years, when most thought it would take 3 to get him, maybe 4 to get him to Houston, but may have overpaid on the annual amount. Opposite of Miller, he has struggled with lefties a bit much.

    As usual most entertaining piece – I think the what he said what he meant is my favorite time of the week –

    What Veras meant – “Look, I have a better chance of throwing two strikes in a row than getting anyone else to touch my walk rate for more than the minimum, please please please please offer me something, anything.”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. To tag the above – using Flash’s methods (without permission) it would probably show that within two (2) years several teams will be holding the Old Maid Card (Like Kemp). These four (4) year deals for someone with one great year is difficult to justify. Considering who we got and who we did NOT get, it appears to be a good week with reasonable contracts – for today’s market.

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  14. Can I just say now, NO to the Stephen Drew rumors. Not interested. I’d rather give Villar another shot, and I think all of you know I’m on Team Becky when it comes to Villar.

    Jed Lowrie or Trevor Plouffe would be fine as long as we don’t overpay more than a bit for one — ONE — of them. But Stephen Drew can stop looking in the Houston real estate listings.

    Like

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