Out with the old, in with the new, right? As the “4” becomes a “5”, here are a few random thoughts looking back and looking ahead.
Go get Ben Zobrist. Why not?
- The Astros are said to be way down on the list of teams interested in Zobrist, who actually began his career in the Houston organization. Why not? The only hold up would be the one-year deal he’s currently on ($7 million). No problem, give him a two-year extension and make him part of the 2017 World Series team. He can play everywhere in the field (third base in ’15?), will hit his .270, gets on base at an above average clip and walks almost as often as he strikes out. Yeah, he’s 33, but he’s played full seasons since 2009. He would be an upgrade and he would help the Astros in 2015 and the veteran the team so badly needs.
Don’t get ahead of ourselves.
- Remember, 2015 isn’t the championship season. Doesn’t necessarily mean the Astros can’t or won’t contend next season, but it is another mile marker in the ultimate progression to be the champion Drayton McLane always inquired about. That said, expect frustrations and detours along the way, just not as many as in previous seasons. Expect progress, just perhaps not at the pace you’re hoping or expecting (meaning no Max Scherzer or the like). That 90-win season some have postulated with recent signings and other rumors is perhaps out of reach. Even an 85-win season would be a huge jump. Think about it: A 34-game swing in two seasons. Not impossible, perhaps not even improbable, but certainly a tall order in a league whose teams rise and fall on injuries and slumps and streaks.
Someone needs to be next.
- The Astros tied up Jon Singleton this year. Dallas Keuchel will be arbitration eligible next winter and Jeff Luhnow should consider that contract that will keep him in Houston through his first big paydays and perhaps even into free agency. What would get it done? At 27 (January 1), Keuchel could be dealing for the biggest contract of his career if he’s able to talk Houston into a 5-year deal. Team friendly? Perhaps somewhat, but Keuchel may never have a bigger payday since he could be entering his prime in such a deal. With only one great season under his belt, it would be a gamble worth taking if the Astros could swing a Singleton-like deal, but Luhnow would likely have to ante up a bit in order to convince Keuchel.
A little hindsight.
- A few years ago, Jeff Bagwell left the Astros’ organization. At the time, it was said he wanted to attend to some personal matters and be a little closer to his family. Now, it appears he was disgruntled with the direction of the Astros and just walked. Houston would do well to get him back in the fold, wearing the #5 at spring training alongside Craig Biggio. Bagwell says he wants a meaningful role and does not just want to be a figurehead.
Most likely to succeed unexpectedly.
- There are always players (read: J.D. Martinez) who will succeed despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Obviously, some players on the current Astros’ 40-man roster will pan out, some wearing other uniforms. My picks for players to watch and be wary or trading: Asher Wojciechowski, Alex White, Singleton, Domingo Santana. Some would even put (gulp!) Jonathan Villar on that list due to his skill set and age.
Correa! Correa! Correa!
- There isn’t an Astros’ fan out there who isn’t drooling, hoping, praying, wishing for an early arrival by Carlos Correa. If it hadn’t been for a season-ending injury in 2014, he could have seen Houston late in 2015. Unlike Mark Appel, Correa hasn’t lost any of the glitz and appeal from fans or scouts. Bernie Pleskoff ranks the future Astros’ shortstop as the second best prospect in the majors. One other note: The player ranked ahead of Correa is Kris Bryant, the soon-to-be Cubs’ third baseman. Big deal? Maybe, since the Astros chose Appel just before the Cubs picked Bryant. Just sayin’.