As many of you know, I consider myself a quality conversation starter. While I often compose entries that are based on opinion, speculation or historical in nature, many entries are designed to either stir the pot of your mind or generate water cooler-like conversation.
Today is one of those water cooler conversations. Since the Astros have been dormant for a few weeks after somewhat of a whirlwind of activity, let’s take a look at some of the options still available, either through free agency or trade. Would these players fit? Do they make sense in 2015 for Houston? What might they cost?
Let’s get started.
Max Scherzer. 30 years old. RHP. Free agent.
- He appears here only because Houston has been mentioned — perhaps not prominently — as a possible landing spot. Yes, he’ll have a huge impact wherever he lands, but he’d cost the Astros about $200 million over the next several years, which just seems absurd, especially with the 2019-2020 financial bottleneck that will face Jeff Luhnow soon.
James Shields. 33. RHP. Free Agent.
- Talk about the epitome of a work horse who is durable. He hasn’t pitched fewer than 227 innings over the past four years, but at 33, he’s looking for a five-year deal at nearly $100 million. Yes, again, he’d have an impact, perhaps even more than Scherzer over the next two seasons. But — and this will be a theme with Class A free agents — is he worth the investment, especially at his age. As much as I’d like to say “yes”, the Astros should pass on Shields, at least at that price. By the way, Shields is said to already have turned down a $120 million offer from a team he’d prefer not to play for.
Ryan Howard. 35. LH 1B. Philadelphia Phillies.
- The Phillies are shopping him hard and would likely eat a significant part of the remaining $60 million left on his contract. They would also likely require little in return, which could tempt Luhnow to take a flyer and hope Howard could regain his swing. However, that “swing” resulted in 190 Ks last year and the Astros have plenty of those guys already on the roster. Here’s a “no”.
Cole Hamels. 31. LHP. Phiadelphia Philles.
- Interesting possibility here, but it would require a huge haul for the Astros. The Phillies will only laugh at low-ball offers, so this one would like require names like Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Domingo Santana, Michael Foltynewicz, Josh Hader or others to be involved. Would probably take a couple of those players at least to be involved. Not to mention that Hamels has over $130 million due him through his 35-year-old 2019 season. Price tag is too high, but Luhnow should — and likely already has — investigate. He would bring the Astros instant credibility and perhaps poise them for a playoff role in ’15.
Johan Santana. 35. LHP. Free Agent.
- Could be worth a flyer. When he’s pitched over the past few seasons, he’s looked fairly decent and it’s evident he still has the “stuff” if he’s healthy. But that’s the operative phrase: “…when he’s pitched…” He wants a major league contract and his track record may get him one somewhere. Yes, I’d take a $1-$2 million flyer with higher incentives. It’d be worth it to bring him full circle.
Shane Victorino. 34. RH OF. Boston Red Sox.
- Boston is loaded with outfielders and Victorino may be the odd man out. Probably doesn’t make sense for Houston, but Victorino will need to prove he’s healthy after missing much of 2014. That said, he’s only one season removed from a Gold Glove and a .294/.351/.451 season in 2013. He’ll make $13 million in the final year of his deal, has some speed and makes contact.
Colby Rasmus. 28. LH OF. Free Agent.
- Ah, yes, a player with Luhnow ties in St. Louis; he was drafted in the first round back in 2005. He’s one of the better free agent options who has not yet signed. While he hasn’t necessarily been linked to the Astros — at least publicly — Rasmus had an off-season in 2014. He could get one of those team-friendly, one-year deals, so the Astros would do well to consider the option. Still plenty of time for him to rebound. If Houston could get him on a one-year deal for $5-$7 million, jump on it. Perhaps even an option year.
Yes, you don’t see any third baseman or first basemen (other than Howard) on the list. Frankly, most of the best options that would provide the Astros an immediate upgrade are already spoken for. Not to mention that there are a couple of options in the Astros’ minor leagues who could be ready soon. Doesn’t mean you want get an upgrade, just that the options are minimal and could be cost prohibitive, either in $$ or prospects.