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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!