All Things Astros and a whole lot more
With two seemingly simple bullpen signings, the Astros have already plugged the most gaping hole of the past three seasons. And, so it would seem, Jeff Luhnow has poised his organization for the most significant off season in recent memory.
With a rising, yet still fragile optimism, rumors swirl about players like Jed Lowrie and even Cole Hamels, Houston is still Houston. Not the Yankees. Not the Red Sox. Not the Cubs. The payroll is still expected to fall into the $65-$70 million range, though owner Jim Crane has said publicly that his team is prepared to go higher for the right player.
Houston has its own free agents and arbitration players to consider and has re-signed only one to this point: Alex Presley, for $1 million. So, as much as fans would like to see an extension for Dallas Keuchel or tie up George Springer into his arbitration days, Luhnow must consider the bottleneck I’ve written about several times.
Let’s review quickly where the Astros are at this moment:
2015 committed contracts.
Add in the remaining 11 players at or around the league minimum and the Astros’ payroll to date is in the mid 50s. Still maneuvering room for another quality free agent signing or two. Still flexibility, especially if you move a player like Fowler or Castro. Still plenty of wiggle room for significant upgrades.
Perhaps the key movement of the winter thus far for Houston, however, is the lack of movement with the team’s own free agent/arb-eligible players. Luhnow has clearly kept his powder dry and his options open. Why is Preseley different? You can reach your own conclusions, but it does provide Luhnow some depth, especially if he already knows or is planning for significant movement in the outfield in the coming weeks. Read: Jake Marisnick, Robbie Grossman et al.
As the off season has progressed, it’s clear that Houston not only has holes, but that the organization is now moving in the direction of solid, longer-term replacements in lieu of the patch work, retread, stop gap solutions of recent years.
Here are some of my predictions, some of which is based on a glass half full mindset.