CHIPALATTA

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Free Blog Weekend: Wide open free for all Astros’ conversation


After a flurry of inactivity over the past month, the Astros have created a flurry and perhaps even a storm of sorts with one significant move designed to upgrade the team for the here and now instead of the future and then. Indeed, few acquisitions since 2009 have signaled a win-now attitude more than the trade for Evan Gattis this week.

So that brings us to a free-for-all of sorts on this Free Blog Weekend. Lots of questions. Lots of possible ramifications. Lots of juggling. And, lots of implications on 2015, not just 2017.

So what’s changed? And how do those changes — or potential changes — affect the 2015 season?  Let’s go to the video tape.

There are still questions around Evan Gattis.

  • Indeed, new manager A.J. Hinch added a new piece to his puzzle. A big piece. No matter how you view Gattis and his low-contact, high-power production, he will be a significant addition to the middle of the order. One of the many questions revolves around his health. Can he stay intact enough over the course of a full season to play 140+ games in left field? Do you want to run that risk? Or is he a better fit at DH, even if it means trading Chris Carter or moving him to LF? Because of the price to acquire Gattis, he name of the game is to keep him in the lineup for those 140+ games and that could be tricky.

And, the odd man out is . . .

  • Let the game of musical chairs begin. GM Jeff Luhnow now has a potential overflow from which to deal. Dexter Fowler, Robbie Grossman, Carlos Corporan and even Jon Singleton or Matt Dominguez may be on the clock. It may actually come down to which of those brings the biggest return for Luhnow and which one provides the best fit with another team. Quite possibly, both Fowler and Dominguez will be gone, along with other incidental, not-as-significant players in a package.

Yes, that OBP continues to take a hit.

  • When we met Mr. Luhnow, we all understood he was a low-strikeout, high-OBP guy. The lineup he is now apparently creating — we only have the snapshot of today, not the finished product — could provide Houston with its biggest HR-hitting team in history. Unfortunately, this team as presently constructed could also set MLB records for strikeouts. As we learned this week, Houston presently projects to have six players in the lineup who are among the leaders in strikeout percentage. Ughhh!

And, leading off for your Houston Astros, it’s…

  • If Fowler is traded, the question of a leadoff hitter suddenly moves to the top of the list for Luhnow/Hinch. Gattis, George Springer, Jason Castro and Singleton will all be slotted in the 3-7 spots. Neither Marwin Gonzalez nor Jed Lowrie are leadoff types, so that leaves only Jose Altuve to hit in front of the Astros’ version of Murderer’s Row. Of course, Altuve could hit leadoff followed by Lowrie, who has a decent OBP in his better seasons. Gonzo and Dominguez (at present) would probably hit in the bottom third of the order. Want to submit a lineup recommendation to Mr. Hinch?

The pitching depth is, well, not deep anymore.

  • Luhnow has traded away four young top prospect pitchers over the past 12 months. All four had pitched at the major league level, and all four had provided a level of enthusiasm and expectation. Now, perhaps the deepest position in the system has been reduced to a few top prospects and some other can-miss types. And, it definitely puts the focus more optimally on Mark Appel, Lance McCullers, Vincent Velasquez, Josh Hader and a few others. Can Luhnow replenish the system with an upcoming trade (e.g. Fowler, Dominguez, Castro, Corporan, et al)?

Win now? Jeff on the hot seat?

  • Finally,it’s cleartheAstros have escalated their plan to win by 2017.That movement could be the result of any one or combination of the following.
    1. After some recent failures (e.g. Bo Porter, 2014 draft debacle), ownership has told Luhnow they want more results and to get with the program.
    2. This was the plan all along, to begin to make movement in 2015, still with an eye to compete in 2016 and win big in 2017.
    3. The Hinch-Luhnow “marriage” has reinvigorated the Houston GM and he now feels he has the right team in place to take a big step forward. There may be more to this than meets the eye!
    4. An Altuve batting title and the expected full seasons from Springer and Singleton along with stability in the rotation provide a solid foundation from which to launch a contending team.

Chime in. There is a plethora of discussion points. Pick one and tackle it!

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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in Colorado Springs, CO, and is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 40 years. A native of Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. He came up with Chipalatta, and it’s stuck.

96 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Wide open free for all Astros’ conversation

  1. Devin_
    January 16, 2015

    I don’t see a Fowler trade as urgent. It probably isn’t worth speculating on a lineup without him, as surely a return target would be a corner infielder, right? If I have to play the game, though, I go with Altuve-Lowrie-Springer-Carter-Singleton-Gattis-Castro-Marwin-Grossman. JFSF is my late game, defensive sub.

    There are only so many (125) seats on the bus (25 HOU, 25 Fresno, 25 CC, 25 Lancaster, 25 QC). Ignoring 40 man spots…as surely Jeff “Never enough catchers” Luhnow is focusing on that for us…you have some logjam issues popping up already. We talked about the organization having a surplus of similar pitchers. Well, after adding three big league relievers, something had to give. Option 1 was to move prospects for help at other positions (Folty for Gattis). Option 2 is to dump guys who can’t fit in the immediate plan for PTBNL, cash, longer term prospects, or nothing (waivers). Let’s just say JL and his team have their work cut out for them before the June draft. I think we have a lot of pitching depth, but it is not as close to the majors as we would desire…and some of it will run out of developmental time.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      January 16, 2015

      Devin, I don’t necessarily see a Fowler trade bringing a corner outfield in return. With Marisnick/Grossman in the fold and a prospect or two who could make it to Houston sometime this year, Hinch could be satisfied with a Marisnick/Springer/Gattis OF. The bigger, perhaps more immediate upgrade need is 3B and that could be the target of a Fowler trade.

      If, instead, Hinch has a Gattis, Fowler, Springer OF, then that’s impressive and, yes, the lineup with Fowler, Altuve, Springer, Carter, Gattis, Singleton suddenly looks quite good.

      My money is on a Fowler trade, though..

      Like

      • Dan P
        January 16, 2015

        Chip you pulled what I call a Peschong – your mind read Devin’s suggested trade and changed corner infielder (which he wrote) to corner outfielder. So in reality you guys agree.

        Like

    • Steven
      January 16, 2015

      Well I guess the name should be Jeff “never enough mediocre to below average catchers” Luhnow instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan P
    January 16, 2015

    Chip – I was thinking about this subject this morning and there are so many possible scenarios that the only constant in my head is that ….another shoe or shoes must drop. The Gattis trade gave the team a lot of flexibility in many directions.
    – If Gattis is going to be mostly the LF, then the team could make a small move like trading Grossman or JFSF or even Presley. Or they could say – we don’t need two outfielders that can only stay on the field for about 110 or less games a year and trade Fowler.
    – If Gattis is going to be mostly the DH – then you could make a smaller trade and send Singleton packing and move Carter to 1B or make a bigger trade and move Carter.
    – I’m assuming Gattis (with knee and back problems) will not be spending significant time at C – but he does give them some backup or emergency flexibility there. Still – this shoe was going to fall before Gattis arrived – either a smaller trade with Corporan or Stassi involved or a bigger trade with Castro.
    – Let’s say the Astros moved Castro or Carter and Fowler (about $14-15 million in payroll) would Crane then back them going after one of the last big FA pitchers like Scherzer, Shields or a trade for Hamels?
    Of course the Astros could stand pat and have a lesser defensive lineup but a much better offensive lineup. Fowler, Altuve, Springer, Gattis, Carter, Singleton, Lowrie, Castro and Dominguez/MarGo
    If Fowler goes I think you have to go with Altuve, Lowrie, Springer, Gattis, Carter, Singleton, Castro, Dominguez/MarGo and JFSF – better defensively – not as scary offensively

    A lot will happen between now and ST I think. I believe they will bring in more SP to compete, and they could trade for an SP or a 3B with one of these projected trades. The exciting thing is that they are looking more and more competitive with their lineup and can then add a Moran, Correa, Tucker, Kemp, etc as they are ready.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      January 16, 2015

      I find it fascinating that the Braves had no use for – or at best very limited interest in – any of our available catchers [Castro, Corporan, Stassi, or Conger] – even though they were trading away one of theirs. Everybody needs a stable of catchers. It seems ours, however, are not highly valued by other teams. This does not seem to me to bode very well for us getting much at all from a future trade involving a member of our catching corp.

      Like

  3. 1oldpro
    January 16, 2015

    If Gattis is pegged by Luhnow to play LF(He is #1 in the Depth chart there) then Fowler is pegged to play the CF spot. Can you believe Marisnick is listed as the #4 CF only, behind Grossman? The Astros benefit from Fowler as a CF only in a trade, because his salary is higher than all the other outfielders listed on the depth chart put together! His defensive numbers are bad and his arm is obviously overrated based on what I saw in Japan and last year.
    I like Fowler’s bat and I sure wish they would keep him for the majority of the year but there’s a lot of smoke out there about Fowler and that usually means fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. BrianT
    January 16, 2015

    I think Gattis can play left unless he needs a little rest, then Carter can play left and Gattis can DH. If you let them platoon those two positions, I think we get 150 games from each.

    Grossman and Corporan would be my initial trade bait. Apparently Corporan is already the subject of much discussion. That said, I’d keep Fowler — for now — and have a lineup of Fowler, Altuve, Springer, Carter, Gattis, Singleton, Castro/Conger, Lowrie and Gonzalez. That’s a pretty good lineup.

    Yes, the pitching depth has been thinned a bit, but we still have good, quality arms plus two of the top six picks. I’m sure one of those will be a college pitcher.

    I think the addition of Gattis (along with Lowrie, Gregerson and Neschek and Conger) turned this from a .500 club into a team vying for a wildcard spot. Keep in mind, not many teams have the kind of rotation Houston has, with two guys capable of ace-like stuff plus a solid veteran like Feldman. This is a good team. And I expect it to win 85 games at least as is.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      January 16, 2015

      Now you’ve ripped it, Brian. Had to go out and start predicting a 85+ win season. Just couldn’t resist. Just couldn’t restrain yourself. 🙂 I’m with Dan other shoes to drop or other possiblities beyond the control of either Luhnow and/or Hinch.

      I think it’s still banking on a lot to believe that Altuve, McHugh and Keuchel will perform at or better than 2014 levels. Some regression is likely as they settle in. Some is fine, but it means that the AStros need a full season out of Feldman and that others need to step up too. That includes Springer and possibly Fowler playing 150+ games.

      Not trying to be a downer, but the last two years have been the easy part for Luhnow: Strip the team, draft high, trade veterans for prospects. Getting from 51 wins to 70 was pretty much an Interstate highway. There will be curves, detours and distractions for the next 15-win improvement.

      Indeed, still a lot of variables and I don’t think Luhnow is through exchanging pieces. Just my perspective.

      Like

      • Tim
        January 16, 2015

        I think it is likely all 3 will regress some, but in the case of McHugh and Keuchel, even with some regression, they may have more wins than last year with the improved bullpen and offense. My point being that a regression from those players doesn’t automatically mean we need improvement from others to offset the regression. The other players from lady year may perform equally and we still may have more wins. However, if McHugh and Keuchel perform close to last year, barring any long-term injuries, we might be looking at a big jump in wins.

        Like

    • Steven
      January 16, 2015

      This really isn’t a good team. It strikes out too much. Doesn’t walk enough. All those homeruns won’t matter when they are 1 run shots. Their rotation is built around 2 guys that have done it ONCE. The league is littered with guys that did it once and never repeated. A LOT will have to go right to even be .500.

      I will take that they are improved. They could win 75-80 depending on a hot streak or two. Winning 85 is possible by any team if it gets hot enough at a given time I guess but I think its very unlikely.

      As presently composed I would give them a 75-87 record, north or south a few games depending on hot/cold streaks.

      I understand the publications are not always right, but they do have a better record of accuracy than any of us, and steamers and ZIP both have the Astros sitting in last place in the division.

      Sorry to sound like the half glass empty guy – but reality is reality. Luhnow still has some work to do – Shields, Scherzer or Hamels could send a message to the league, but I don’t think the Astros have the resources nor the fortitude to pull off such a deal.

      Like

      • Devin_
        January 16, 2015

        Yes, I worry that the resources aren’t there as well. As for the record, consider the team from Dallas should have most of their players healthy to start the year and we are likely looking at challenging Oakland for bottom of the bunch this year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tim
        January 16, 2015

        I will say that the 2015 Astros are better after the Gattis trade than they were before the trade. Not significantly better, but better. Folty was possibly going to be our 5th starter, but we weren’t expecting much from him. Neither Ruiz or Thurman was going to be a factor in 2015. So, with that in mind and Luhnow’s statement that more moves are coming I am going to wait and see before I declare us a 75 win team or a WC contender. The big question is are we a better team after 2015 from the Gattis trade. Most say no and I might agree with them, but I am not as high on Folty as others are, but that doesn’t mean I am right. Truth be told I would rather have Cosart back before Folty, but that is just me.

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      • BrianT
        January 16, 2015

        Sometimes a strikeout is just an out. — Sigmund Freud

        It’s really all about setting the table for those big bats. Altuve and Fowler can set the table. That means Gattis — a .260 hitter with a lot of power — Springer and Carter will be waiting to move those runners in.

        Still, I think most teams would take that 1-5. That said, it’d be nice to see a bit more contact.

        Honestly, I was stirring the pot with that “85 wins” thing. Though I thought the additions of Neshek, Gregerson and Lowrie put Houston on the cusp of 81-82 wins. Add in Gattis’ power and sub for him with JFSF in close games after 7 innings and this is a much better team.

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      • Steven
        January 17, 2015

        Well generally I agree that a K is a K. I’ve never really stressed much about whether a guy strikes out at 22% or 17%. They can’t all be Jose Altuve.

        That said, when its epidemic through the lineup, BABIPS overall are going to suffer. Poor overall batting average will be the result, and those OBPs at the top (Fowler especially) are going to end up standing on 2nd with the coach collecting his batting gloves and helmet more than crossing the plate. I don’t worry about a Grossman or Marisnick’s 24-25%, I worry about a Carter and Singletons 33%.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Steven
        January 17, 2015

        Woops – didn’t mean BABIPs will suffer, meant BABIPs will have to be exceptional, but hopefully you get the point. Low average is the result of a million Ks.

        Like

  5. Dan P
    January 16, 2015

    I’m reading that Jason Castro ($4 million) and Tony Sipp ($2.4 million) have settled outside arbitration. That Sipp number is higher than I would have thought, but he certainly was very effective last season for us.

    Like

  6. Chip Bailey
    January 16, 2015

    Yes, Castro was a little lower than I thought, but Sipp was much higher than anyone thought.

    The big one still out though is Fowler. Whether or not he settles or goes to arbitration may tell the tale of whether he stays in Houston or not too.

    Like

    • Dan P
      January 16, 2015

      What do you think he should get Chip? His .375 OBP is tough to replace – but when he can only play 116 games it means you are stuck replacing it 25-30% of the season. He got a $3.1 million raise last season – does he deserve the $10 million being tossed around or would $8.5 – 9 million make more sense.
      He might stick around if he goes to arbitration and loses.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dan P
    January 16, 2015

    Point well taken Chip on how the improvement last season to 70 wins was low hanging fruit – improvement this season will be more heavy lifting. I will say that I think the team they put out on the field the last ~70% of the season (around the time McHugh joined the rotation) that went 53-60 was probably closer to the true base for 2015’s improvement. The bullpen will be better. The rotation may not be but hopefully it is not a big fall-off. The hitting needs to step up the run production and a .500+ season is within reach.
    There is a concern with pitching depth – you need 6 or 7 starters to get through a normal season. Guys like Peacock, Buchanan, Wojo and maybe Deduno or White will have to perform when called upon. Though I keep thinking there is another pitcher coming here….

    Like

  8. Dan P
    January 16, 2015

    And now Conger has been reported as settling for slightly over $1 million. I think I’ll ask my boss if I could settle for $1 million and if that does not work – tell him I’ll take the $500,000 minimum. And then start looking for another job.

    Like

  9. Steven
    January 16, 2015

    I’m not sure Gattis was picked up with any 1 position in mind. To me it was a good pickup for that reason. Grossman isn’t an answer in LF? Throw Gattis at it. Carter has to move to 1B because Singleton just isn’t getting it? Throw Gattis at it. I imagine that if none of the mediocre trio are hitting at C? Throw Gattis at it. Unfortunately he is a minus sum defensively at any position you put him at.

    I think the Astros made a mistake in giving up Folty. It is what it is. They took the known quantity over the unknown. I’m betting that decision bites them in 3 years.

    The other part of the question is what if Grossman is fine in LF as a .260 guy with some power and a great OBP? What if Singleton turns it around? What if Conger and Castro handle the catching duties fine? What if Carter isn’t moved and repeats his second half for a season? What do you with Gattis?

    Like

    • daveb
      January 16, 2015

      Steven, at this point, Grossman won’t get a chance to hit .260 with a great OBP in left unless Gattis blows a disc out early.

      I would have accepted going into the 2015 season with the guys we had last week and a couple of additional pitchers. We’d have been a more athletic, better defensive club, and gotten a chance to see Ruiz and Folty develop further. Like I said yesterday, seems the plan, if there really was one, has changed.

      All that said, at this point, I’d accept Conger/Castro behind the plate and an outfield of Gattis/Fowler/Springer. And I’d live with guys presently in house for the left side of the infield. Gonzalez and Lowrie would provide a significant upgrade in production over any combination we used last year at short and third. Singleton then, remains the only real question mark. But we still need a couple of Major League pitchers. As it stands right now, we’re not real good on the mound.

      Like

      • Steven
        January 17, 2015

        As bad as Robbie has been at times in LF, Gattis is a butcher. Stats say it. Scouts say it. The question of health is also there if he is in the OF.

        If Grossman isn’t playing hopefully the Astros put him at AAA so he can continue to get reps. He profiles as a terrible 4th OF’er regardless with his average glove, average arm, average speed, just average average average. His only advantage is he walks alot, and he can’t walk alot sitting on the bench.

        Like

  10. 1oldpro
    January 16, 2015

    OK, lets get to that OBP you brought up.
    Springer: Minor league career-.398—- 3 months in major leagues-.336. That is not a bad OBP!
    Singleton: Minor league career-.388 which is 111 points above his minor league BA
    Major leagues-.285, which is 117 points above his BA. Even if Singleton hits only .220 this coming year, you have to figure his OBP will be at least .320 or higher if you consider his history.
    Evan Gattis only had 879 PAs in the minor leagues and his OBP was .371 and his K rate was only 15.5%. Those are real good numbers. He has only 783 PAs in the major leagues in his life. Altuve had almost that many this past season, so Gattis is like a 28 year old second year player who was catching, which is very time consuming. His .304 OBP could take a good leap this year, if he just matures like a second year player. This guy has problems with breaking pitches because he never had time to see many good ones. I won’t be surprised to see his OBP near .340 this season.
    Castro-His .286 OBP last season was exactly 30 points below his major league career avg. You have to figure he is going to have his career avg next season which means a big improvement.
    Lowrie figures to have a decent OBP as his OBP was .321 last year in a bad year and his career OBP is .330.
    Altuve is Altuve
    The big question is can we get someone at 3B that can significantly increase the OBP we had from that position last season. The answer is: Hell, yes!
    If we keep Fowler, does he have a good OBP? Hell, yes!
    So go with the players you have and get a third baseman with an average OBP and you have a team with power and a good OBP. That means runs, BABY!

    Like

    • Kevin
      January 16, 2015

      Ye ha go OP

      Like

    • Tim
      January 16, 2015

      I think injuries had a lot to do with Gattis’ struggles in the 2nd half last year. As I stated in the prior blog Gattis had a .292 BA, with an OBP of .340 and an OPS just shy of .900 in the first half of last year. The key for Gattis is staying healthy and getting him out from behind the plate may help. He is never going to have an OBP 100 points higher than his BA, but he isn’t Bill Hall either.

      Like

  11. astrocolt45
    January 16, 2015

    While we are kicking the cat. How many are on the 40 man that are out of options. As an example – is Corporan out of options. If so – why would a team give you anything for him and not wait until he was put on waivers. I am not picking on him or anyone but when you have too many at any position you can not automatically negotiate from a position of strength. Every GM in the lead knows the Astros are not going to carry 7 OFers or 5 catchers. (Stassi goes to Fresno). But the roster is unbalanced for any leverage to trade on the position players. And you can’t just dump Matty until you come up with a serviceable replacement.

    Like

    • Steven
      January 17, 2015

      I don’t think Corporan is held in high enough regard by most organizations to even pick him up.

      Like

  12. BrianT
    January 16, 2015

    Folks, I do want to point out a couple of facts. 1. Gattis had a 2.2 WAR last year in just 110 games. 2. His .810 OPS would have been second on the Astros last season.

    So please don’t say this team got worse with Gattis. That’s just false. It got better. More than just a little bit better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nance (@Bbfanlady)
      January 16, 2015

      The big if: if he stay healthy.

      Like

    • astrocolt45
      January 17, 2015

      BT – more of a question on metrics than trashing your comment – but if he plays at 2.2 as an example and a 1.2 guy sits – is that not just 1 win better. I’ll take it – but do I not understand WAR.

      Like

      • BrianT
        January 17, 2015

        WAR is a very imperfect stat. For example, Gattis’ WAR mainly comes from his offense. But last year he had a positive dWAR (defense) because that is measured against other catchers.

        To me, the big stat is the OPS. Gattis raked last year, pure and simple.

        Think of it this way, he’s Springer’s slow-footed twin. But he Ks less and has a slightly better BA, slightly worse OBP.

        Now, is that a guy worth having?

        I’m not thrilled about the price we paid, but we do have farm depth at pitching and third base.

        Like

    • Steven
      January 17, 2015

      WAR ignores synergy. I don’t consider it much of a relevant stat. It’s not bad if you are comparing apples to apples, i.e. bumping 2 first basemen against each other, but you can do that with a million other stats also.

      I didn’t see anyone say they thought Gattis makes this team worse. If he plays LF and can stay healthy, doing it for 140 games, without the wear that playing catcher can have on you physically affect his hitting, this could be a 30+ HR guy. It could be a major coup. I just hate giving up Folty, who has the makeup and stuff of a plus pitcher, dare I say dominant pitcher, if he can improve his command.

      Like

    • daveb
      January 17, 2015

      Maybe the club did get better on paper for 2015. Maybe this squad would make up a great slow pitch team. Gattis will make Carlos Lee look good in left. We got less athletic with Gattis. And of course, we gave up a couple of really solid prospects, at least per the experts. I’d have taken a platoon of Grossman/Marisnick and kept my valuable prospects. We already have a guy that can hit a homer and do nothing else. My main gripe is that the “plan” was a mirage. I was finally coming to grips with the “plan”. There is no “plan”. Now, unless something else quite significant happens in the coming weeks, this club still has major holes, and much less depth on the mound than a year ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tim
        January 17, 2015

        But Folty wasn’t expected to much this year. So we have improved our depth with the Gattis trade because we added an offensive player that we didn’t have before. Yes, our pitching dipped some, but again, Folty wasn’t going to be a major factor for the 2015 team and I am certain Luhnow will be getting more SP via trade or FA. The key is looking past 2015 as this is where we may have lost on the trade, but for this year the trade improved us.

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        January 17, 2015

        Tim, I don’t buy into the “…Folty wasn’t expected to (do) much this year…” There are always high expectations for a guy with a triple digits fastball and it was clear since the end of last season that Luhnow was hoping he’d either contend or win the 5th starters’ role. With him gone, now Luhnow is looking for more pitching.

        Here’s the bottom line. Did the lineup “improve”? Perhaps. You’ve got a big bopper who essentially is taking the place of either Fowler or Marisnick/Grossman. He does help to solidify the middle of the order. But at what cost? First, three prospects, two of whom are Top 10 guys. Second, you continue to sacrifice on-base guys and have a middle of the lineup now that can single-handedly challenge for the career K charts. In certain situations — and this could happen more than you might think — you could start a big inning with your two leadoff guys getting on base and have the next three strike out without any damage.

        But — and I think this may be the biggest concern — long-term health and viability are key issues. Can Gattis stand the rigors of playing left field for 140+ games? In fact, similar to Jed Lowrie years ago, Gattis has never — never — played more than two-thirds of a season at any level of pro ball. Is it because he has been primarily a catcher? Or is it in part because of those bad knees and back? Look at his minor league games played: 60 in 2010, 88 in 2011, 74 in 2012. 105 in 2013 with Atlanta and 108 last season.

        And, the Astros are projecting him as a left fielder. There is a lot of unknown right there.

        Tim, I won’t outright say this was a bad trade or that Gattis won’t produce. But there are questions, giving valid reasons for pause. And, I think many believe that Folty, Ruiz and others may have been used to pick up a more stable middle-of-the-order bat. Just sayin’.

        Now, as I’ve said in the past, today is only a snapshot and I expect the roster to shuffle a bit more in the coming weeks.Fowler, Carter or even Singleton could shuffle out and the complexion of the lineup changes again. At this piont, however, it seems more imperative to hang on to Fowler because of his top-of-the-order contributions (read: OBP). But Luhnow may have better upgrades.

        Because of all that, I might go out on a limb here and submit to you that there is as much question of Gattis’ contributions in 2015 as you suggest there is/was with Folty. I’m willing to be wrong, but there can be no argument on this: Luhnow has more riding on this trade than any other trade he’s made. Gattis has to live up to expectations…at least close.

        Like

      • Tim
        January 17, 2015

        Chip, if a team is ‘hoping’ someone earns the 5th starter job I think it is safe to say, at least for the current season, he wasn’t expected to be a major contributor. I am not saying Folty can’t be a very good SP down the road, although I stand by my comment that I think his ceiling is Kyle Farnsworth in his prime, but for the 2015 Astros it doesn’t seem like Folty was counted upon to be a major contributor. Now, I agree with you on Gattis’ injury history, but being out from catcher might help there. Just my thought.

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  13. astrocolt45
    January 17, 2015

    My theory on all these “trades” we are going to make with this excess “talent” come ST. Reminds me of the time we had the Neighborhood garage sale. Early in the day, my wife went and bought a bunch of “junk” and was going to pay for it with all the money we were going to get by selling our “junk” later in the day. You know the rest of the story.

    Like

    • BrianT
      January 17, 2015

      Is your wife related to mine?

      Like

    • Dan P
      January 17, 2015

      Brian T – it is just one of those absolutes of wifehood – just like how they have to tell you how much money they saved you by spending a bunch of money on something on sale. Husbands are all the same too – we have been taught to nod and agree no matter what.

      Like

  14. Dan P
    January 17, 2015

    The trades to come could be of two different varieties. Minor trades for guys like Grossman or Corporan (and the Rangers have shown interest in Corporan) or a major trade for a Castro, Fowler and/or Carter.
    Without knowing what will come it is tough to figure what the plan is as dave b was saying. But my gut feeling is that Crane is tired of the slow moving plan and wants Luhnow to speed things up or join Bo Porter in a broadcast booth.
    This would seem to lead to a better team in 2015 if the starting pitching holds up – which again as daveb points out is a good bit more shallow. I’m not sure if the revised plan leads to a better long term team. Will have to see the other shoes drop and the draft plan for 2015.

    Like

  15. 1oldpro
    January 17, 2015

    On the free blog weekend post, the starting pitching depth in the system is a suggested subject. Lets break down the players as they may apply to the team’s top three rosters. I am going to have overlaps here, because some players who could make the Astros 25-man will end up in Fresno, so I will include fringe players in both of those worlds. No particular order here.
    Astroworld starting pitchers: McHugh, Keuchel, Feldman, Oberholzer
    Astroworld fringe starters: Weiland, White, Peacock, Wojo, Deduno, Buchanan
    I think the Astros add one more name to that list from outside the org.
    Fresno Grizzlyworld: Wojo, White, Peacock, Deduno, Brady Rodgers, Mark Appel, Aaron West. Tommy Shirley, Jordan Jankowski
    Corpus ChristiWorld starting pitchers: Hader, Feliz, Velasquez, Smith, McCullers, Aaron West, Mike Hauschild, Kent Emanuel, Blaine Sims, Kyle Westwood, Chris Devenski.
    That is a lot of names! CC will almost have to have a tandem this year, some of the names in the CC World may get traded or stuffed back into Lancaster for another half a year until the logjam works itself out. I think several AA pitchers could be dealt before the season starts
    The Astros have depth in their farm system for sure, but not at the majors.
    Thoughts?

    Like

    • Dan P
      January 17, 2015

      Old pro I’m going to hold comments on a grand scale for the starting pitching until our pre-review in the next few weeks. I completely agree that the Astros will likely add someone like a Ryan Vogelsong to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation. I’m hoping that someone like Wojo hops in there.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Devin_
      January 17, 2015

      Agreed.

      Like

  16. Dan P
    January 17, 2015

    Another interesting conversation starter – the arb numbers exchanged for Dexter Fowler. Fowler wants $10.8 million – the Astros offered $8.5 million (which eerily matches what I thought he was worth – see above).
    I don’t see them keeping him if he gets the $10.8 million and I am not sure they would even be that happy with a compromise number of $9.6 mill or so.
    But the other side to this is….would anyone want to give you much in a trade for a guy who puts up good numbers as a top of the lineup type, but who is likely to be watching from the DL for 25% to 30% of the games – especially at $10 – 11 million for this season and turning FA for 2016?
    It would seem like he might have more value at the trade deadline for a contending team with a big injury or a big need and who would take him as a 1/2 season rental.

    Like

    • Tim
      January 17, 2015

      I can see the Astros and Fowler going to arbitration with the sizable difference in salary demands. If I had to guess I think, with his injury history, the Astros have a better than 50/50 chance of winning in arbitration, but you never know how an arbitrater will rule. I really don’t want to lose Fowler, but I strongly believe the acquisition of Gattis is the impetus to trading Fowler. I would be more inclined to keep him, see where we are at the deadline and, if needed, trade him then.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        January 17, 2015

        Chip, they can still negotiate and sign for something in between all the way up until the hearing. Tim, am I correct in that?

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        January 17, 2015

        OP, sure, and often times they negotiate right up to the door. Did I say something that indicated otherwise?

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        January 17, 2015

        Tim, do you believe a signed-for-a-year Fowler will be easier to move, even if he gets the higher amount, because the team that gets him knows what he is going to cost them?

        Like

    • Chip Bailey
      January 17, 2015

      Dan, I think the Astros shot a little low. Unfortunately, the arbitrator must choose one or the other and doesn’t have the option to reach his own conclusion for another number.

      I had suggested earlier in the year that Fowler might get between $10-$11 million. Part of that thought process was that the Astros would extend him for a couple of years at $10 million or so per season.

      Here’s another thought. The salaries of comparable players (e.g. years in the league, stats, etc.) can be used by either side. Injuries can be a factor, but the Astros would need to show that there is something on going. In other words, can’t just say, “well, you were hurt and might be hurt again”. The arbitration process is strictly about facts. In this case, that would be something like a bad back or bad knees or elbow issues, etc.

      My opinion? Fowler would be much more valuable in trade if you could tie him up for 2015-16. This is his walk year, so he has more trade value in June/July if he has a contract for next season. 2 years/$20-$22 million isn’t that bad of a deal, especially considered his value goes up with next year tied up.

      Like

      • Tim
        January 17, 2015

        That’s a good point about locking him up for a couple years. It definitely makes him more attractive on the trade market.

        Like

    • Tim
      January 17, 2015

      This is in reply to OP. Yes, I think a team would be more inclined to trade for him if they knew he was under team control for 2 seasons. In addition, the Astros and Fowler can reach agreement up until the Arb hearing, including a multi-year agreement. I think if the Astros and Fowler agreed up a 2/$21 contract it would make him more attractive than Fowler just getting the Astros arb number, but for only one season. Is this what you were asking me?

      Liked by 1 person

  17. rj
    January 17, 2015

    ok i have been pounding the table for a power hitting LF for weeks. i didn’t envision Gattis as the guy though. I don’t see him as a 150 game LF, i think he will spend quite a bit of time as DH. he does give you some flexibility in the lineup i.e.. if Singleton is stinking it up Carter can play 1B while Gattis goes to DH. he can play LF, & 1B (if necessary) and he should find the Crawford boxes to his liking. he also will be an emergency catcher.
    i think they are very high on Moran (although prob not this year) and Lowrie can play 3B and will prob move there when Correa comes up (mid season?), so i don’t see a trade for 3B coming. whats that leave? pitching. so i expect to see some sort of trade involving a catcher, an outfielder and a pitching prospect or two for an at least middle of the rotation starter. if that happens i think Luhnow’s prediction of this being a winning team may very well come true. and i don’t think Luhnow is on any hot seat, the man just got a contract extension.

    Like

    • Dan P
      January 17, 2015

      Good overall analysis old pro – I think trading for a starter is a big time possibility. I think in truth that Crane has directed Luhnow to pick up the pace just as direction not as hot seat but I sure don’t mind Luhnow feeling the same kind of competitive pressure that most of the players feel.

      Like

      • Dan P
        January 17, 2015

        Sorry – good analysis rj – not old pro though you both do fine jobs

        Like

      • rj
        January 18, 2015

        no pro dan, its easy to mix up one that is an older and one that is ..well…. old.

        Like

      • rj
        January 18, 2015

        is there a way to turn off this spell check thing? i did better on my own. that should read no prob.

        Like

      • rj
        January 18, 2015

        ok one last try. no prob dan. its easy to mix up one that is an old pro and one that is just old. wooohooo

        Like

      • Dan P
        January 18, 2015

        You guys have similar green symbols

        Like

  18. daveb
    January 17, 2015

    Well, at least this Gattis deal got my juices flowing again. Chip, you’ve added more post post words than you have in moons. That’s a good thing. And many more spirited comments from the customers, as Leon Hale would say. Thanks all. I’m heading down to the beach for grilled wahoo and an old rum or two. I know, it’s not fair. NE and SEA in the Super Bowl?

    Like

    • Dan P
      January 17, 2015

      Torturing us there daveb?
      Yes – good to hear more from Chip and from everyone.
      I am struggling with the Super Bowl match ups – would like someone new in there but the Colts are the Texans nemesis.
      Yeah probably the Pats and the Seahawks will make it

      Like

  19. 1oldpro
    January 17, 2015

    In general I think the Astros have improved their team. The two relievers, with neither being hurt or old, makes the bullpen more credible. Lowrie adds a presence to the left side of the infield and some stability there. Conger may add something to our staff and a little more respect behind the plate that could prove of a value with Hinch that was not there with Porter calling the pitches. I think Gattis is going to help the Astros more than most are expecting, and that is just a gut feeling based on observances I have noted.
    I think Gattis and Lowrie both are very excited to have MMP as their home and have stated so openly.
    Weiland, White, Deduno, Peacock and Wojo are Luhnow guys, so I see all of them getting a chance to make that 5th slot, if Luhnow doesn’t acquire another starter. But I also see those 5 guys as running their course as Astros by the end of 2015 if they don’t perform, because there are too many arms moving up.

    Like

  20. 1oldpro
    January 17, 2015

    Jeff Luhnow’s interview with High Heat on the MLB Network yesterday is featured in an article on astros.com. Luhnow really straps himself when he says the days of winning records starts now and he does NOT rule out going after an ace free agent pitcher if the offseason continues to develop the way he wants it to.
    He also seems to indicate that he likes Altuve and Fowler hitting in front of all the power hitters in our lineup.
    What is truth and what is BS? It’s anybody’s guess.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      January 17, 2015

      OP, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on how the offseason plays out. There are things beyond his control and sometimes you have to roll with it. Already, we’ve seen Shields’ possible contract drop as low as $80 million. That could move him into Astros’ territory, but also opens up several other teams as well.

      However, if Shields goes for $80, then it impacts the rest of the field as well.

      I’ll also adopt a wait-and-see on Fowler. Luhnow does need some cost certainty there and, if no other teams are wanting to ante up for a trade return, I’d certainly pay the $10.8 million if I had to and start the season with Fowler, Altuve, and your favorite combination of Springer, Gattis, SIngleton and Carter.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        January 17, 2015

        Actually, Chip, my favorite combo is Springer, Longoria, Gattis, Singleton, Carter.

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        January 17, 2015

        Yessir, OP, I’ll have what you’re drinking. But curious: Is that Eva or Evan?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dan P
        January 17, 2015

        Too funny Chip

        Like

      • rj
        January 17, 2015

        i vote eva

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        January 18, 2015

        I checked with the wife and she said Eva has spent little time at third base and recommended I trade for Evan.

        Like

      • rj
        January 18, 2015

        dang….

        Liked by 1 person

  21. 1oldpro
    January 18, 2015

    Another topic in the suggested blog list is the top of the order.
    If Fowler is traded, the top of the order is in trouble, because Altuve is a natural batting second and both his 2014 and career stats back that up. Then Grossman becomes your leadoff guy and the last two years he has gotten off to terrible starts resulting in his being sent down. Plus, that gives you an outfield of Gattis, Springer and Grossman which is lousy defensively.
    Torreyes, Sclafani, Aplin or Kemp are leadoff candidates who aren’t quite ready for that position yet. They have abilities with the bat and the abilty to walk but how can you ask one of them to waltz in this spring and take on the leadoff role on this team with no MLB experience.
    It’s not my money, but I would sure like Fowler hitting first in front of Altuve.
    The only other alternative is to play Villar at 3B and lead him off. Hear me out! Villar has great range and glove. His catlike quickness would be an asset at 3B, he would not have to be the leader of the infield, he definitely has the arm and most of his throws are shorter there than at SS. This is only an idea if Fowler has to be moved for his salary, and only an option if Luhnow and Hinch think this kid has done some growing up this winter. I think Villar might be more dependable at 3B where he has to react, rather than think. I could be mistaken, but I think he has had a good year in Winter Ball.

    Like

  22. rj
    January 18, 2015

    I’m with you OP. i believe villar is an asset, but as you say, only if he has grown and matured a bit since his last stint in houston. he’s still a kid, he deserves another chance when the situation is right. now about getting to third base with eva…………..

    Like

  23. Lester J. Gillis
    January 18, 2015

    Finally (and predictably it comes from the Old Pro) someone who understands Altuve is much better suited to hit in the 2 hole than leadoff. It is his natural spot in the order and where his performance is significantly better. Can he leadoff? Sure, but hitting behind a better-than-average OBP that is a threat to steal bases plays perfectly to his strengths. This is exactly why Fowler has value to the Astros.

    At least until Moran is big-league ready, playing Villar at 3B might be the short term answer not only for this year’s lineup but also to allow his ability to emerge as a positive for the future. It’s the perfect scenario for Villar and the Astros. He might be able to finally relax, concentrate on his offense and contribute positively. Perfect solution OP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1oldpro
      January 18, 2015

      With Gattis in LF and Lowrie at SS, Villar has that ability to go back toward the stands that jut out in toward the line in short LF. His speed is a definite asset in covering that foul territory, which Matty does not possess.
      Villar’s ability to mover laterally in either direction and then dive to field a ball is perfect for third base. Don’t think, react. Also, when we are in an extreme shift for a LHB, who better to fill that hole in the middle of the left side than a guy with Villar’s range. Can Villar come in on a low bounce up the third base line and throw a runner out at first. His toolsy fielding has always been his main asset, so I say his athleticism makes that play. His cannon arm really can be an asset on a relay to the plate.
      Having his range to his left, maybe he gets to a dozen balls in the hole that Dominguez can’t reach and Lowrie gets to them on the back of the infield dirt but can’t make a play on.
      OK, so maybe we don’t make a trade and Fowler stays. What’s to keep us from trying Villar at 3B anyway. If he grows up, plays a decent 3B and hits .240 with 7 HR’s and an OBP over .300 he is great as a #8 or #9 hitter with the rest of the lineup we would have. His speed in the nine hole is going to play up hitting in front of Fowler if he can get on base 30% of the time. If that were to happen, Villar becomes a valuable asset when Correa and then Moran are ready!

      Like

      • rj
        January 18, 2015

        right on OP.

        Like

      • daveb
        January 18, 2015

        Heck, I could buy into Villar at third. He’s a great athelete. And someday, he might be a real good ballplayer. No doubt he’d get to more balls. He makes some plays that very few guys can. But will his overall defense improve at the corner? And will he provide a significant offensive improvement over Dominguez? I’d rather go with Lowrie and Gonzalez at this point.

        Like

    • daveb
      January 18, 2015

      I think we all agree that Altuve is an ideal guy to put in the two slot, but, and this is a big but, as long as Fowler is on the roster and in the line up. Regardless, Altuve will hit anywhere you put him. And a quick look at his lifetime stats show a 106 OPS+ leading off and a 102 hitting second. Bottom line is that we’re a much better team when Fowler plays and hits first. Not every team has a one two punch as good as ours. Pay Fowler.

      Like

      • Devin_
        January 18, 2015

        …and remember, you only lead off the game 162 at bats per regular season. The benefit of Altuve at #1 is maximizing his at bats. If you have someone better to lead off, great! Of not, well, I like seeing Altuve at the plate as often as possible.

        Like

      • astrocolt45
        January 18, 2015

        I would have Altuve leading off and Fowler Second. OBP is about the same. If Altuve is on first, Fowler walks a bunch more. So he is willing to take pitches. That gives Altuve more chances to steal. If Altuve has one problem is he makes contact all the time so he is high in GDP. Not so with Fowler. If you are trying to “set the table” – you want both guys on base or at least Altuve to 2nd. And with Fowler batting left – he give Altuve even more protection to steal. (I will say this – if they bat in the reverse order – it is still a GREAT 1-2 to start off the game at bat)

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        January 18, 2015

        Hitting in the #1 slot Altuve’s and Fowler’s stats both for 2014 and lifetime are similar, so those would seem to be a wash. But Fowlers stat’s for 2014 and for his career are a lot lower batting #2 than his stats batting leadoff. Look them up and you will find that Altuve is a much better player in the #2 slot than Fowler is.
        Interesting that Fowlers best stats last year were actually batting in the #4 slot. I would never have guessed that until I looked it up.
        What really impressed me was Fowlers SLG last year in the leadoff slot. His SLG hitting leadoff was .459 and in the leadoff it dropped to .345. He had nine doubles, 2 triples and 4 homers leading off and only 1 of each of those batting 2nd, meaning he is a lot more timid in the 2 slot.

        Like

  24. Devin_
    January 18, 2015

    OK, another Luhnow complaint – how do you justify giving Alex Presley $1m, but only offer $800k to Marwin Gonzalez when the sides exchanged numbers? Let me put it another way…if you wanted to trade Marwin, I’m sure 29 other teams would take the call and consider making you an offer. If you tried to trade Presley, I’m not sure you would see any interest.

    Like

    • daveb
      January 18, 2015

      I would not waste a roster spot on Presley.

      Like

    • Tim
      January 18, 2015

      Yes, I was equally surprised they just didn’t non-tender Presley. I never understood that move. He isn’t an exceptional defensive player (weak arm) and low OBP with little power. I am struggling to find what Luhnow sees in him. Does anyone have any idea the plus to keeping/signing Presley?

      Like

    • 1oldpro
      January 18, 2015

      I am going to sugar-coat my opinion on this one. Luhnow took a look at his outfield options early in the offseason, panicked and made a mistake signing Presley to a million a year.
      Months later he has Gattis as a left fielder for .5mil and asks one of his staff to kick him in the rear and get him a V8.

      Like

      • astrocolt45
        January 18, 2015

        I think the purpose of keeping Presley is so A J can sit him, insert Gattis and pick up that 2.2 WAR that BT was explaining to me. Before anything happened this Winter – Presley at best was the 5th or 6th best option for 2015 IF you eliminated all those in the minors. They must have spent many sleepless nights trying to determine if they should keep Krauss or Presley.

        Like

      • Devin_
        January 18, 2015

        …so your theory is that Luhnow panicked that no replacement OF would be available so greatly that he paid our 5th to 7th best OF option more than he was willing to offer a switch hitting, utility INF who can play all spots and posted superior offensive numbers than Presley in 2015? This feels too much like the Brady Aiken debacle…someone’s accounting got off and they paid more for a couple guys than planned, and now Crane is telling Luhnow to get thrifty.

        Like

  25. Becky
    January 19, 2015

    Chip……somebody hacked your blog because I swear I read some fellas talking about Villar at 3rd, base. NO! NO! and *NO*! If we thought he was a walking, talking ERROR machine at short………just put him over to 3rd. and watch him
    misplay balls ALL OVER THE DIAMOND.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      January 19, 2015

      I remember teenage girl with lots of problems and lots of issues and black nails and black lips and crazy clothes and an attitude. I remember her at 24 with a college degree and teaching English and I look at her now at thirty with a child and a job and a loving husband.
      Every person grows differently, matures differently and every person deserves a chance to develope at their pace and every person deserves chances to fulfill their dreams.
      I see Jonathan Villar as a young, eager talented person and I want him to have the opportunity to use the gifts he was given. He played Winter Ball because he wanted to improve himself and prove himself and I would like him to be successful at baseball and I want him to do that for us. If he fails, I don’t want it to be because we didn’t give him that chance. He is still a lot younger than the average AAA player.

      Liked by 1 person

      • astrocolt45
        January 19, 2015

        Provided Villar can play 3rd Base. Interesting stat comparison between Villar and Matty D. We would pick up another magical 2.1 WAR. Becky, I would never attempt to change a ladies mind – but at 3rd – anything that Villar catches clean – he gets to pound his glove twice and then aim for Singleton with a shorter throw. But to your point an a DP ball, the right fielder may need to head back to the wall to catch the overthrow at 2nd. But interesting thought on Villar.

        Like

  26. Becky
    January 19, 2015

    Sherzer deal 7yrs. $180 million. The Nats must have a Lot more money than we thought.

    Like

    • Devin_
      January 19, 2015

      No, lots of money coming off the books in 2016.

      Like

  27. Steeeve
    January 19, 2015

    This just in. Ugh ugh ugh. There is no plan, there is no direction. Pieces from the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros are getting traded left and right.

    http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/12193462/houston-astros-trading-outfielder-dexter-fowler-chicago-cubs

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      January 19, 2015

      Steeeve, I absolutely never saw Dexter fowler with the 2017 Astros. His defensive numbers in CF and his arm made him a left fielder in MMP. And for a guy to want CF money for the 2017 Astros, there was no way they could afford to pay him 11-14 million a year like he will want.

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        January 19, 2015

        OP, I do believe this creates an issue with the top 2 spots in the order. The only real viable candidate for those spots is Altuve. I suppose you could plug in Lowrie or perhaps Springer is even a candidate for one of the slots with his speed, but I’d rather see him — at least eventually — in the 3 hole I think. Anyway, the roster is beginning to crystallize a bit.

        As chagrined as I might be about the Fowler trade, I keep thinking Houston is not getting the full value for some of the players it is trading. I do agree, however, that Fowler was probably not a long-term piece of the puzzle.

        Like

    • SargeH
      January 19, 2015

      I would bat Altuve as lead off and then bat whichever outfielder isn’t named Springer or Gattis in the second spot to bunt Altuve over to third after he steals second base… Greg Gross and then Terry Puhl did that for years in the second spot.

      Like

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This entry was posted on January 16, 2015 by in Astros.
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