Astros 2015: The game has changed
Okay, so who is that guy sitting in the GM chair at Minute Maid Park and what have you done with Jeff Luhnow?
If one thing is clear over the past month, the game has changed for the Houston Astros. The tipping point in a transition from rebuilding and reconstructing to win now will be debated for years. Perhaps it was the plan all along to start adding at the MLB in 2015. Perhaps all the planets just aligned perfectly and the organization said “let’s go!” Perhaps Jim Crane lit a fire under his GM or Luhnow simply was handcuffed with the Bo Porter relationship,
Regardless, there are fewer holes in the major league roster than a year ago and perhaps at any time over the past five seasons. But, the number of questions remains the same, although the list is now different from even just a few months ago
First Evan Gattis is acquired. Then Dexter Fowler is moved. Don’t worry, there’s more. Colby Rasmus will now roam centerfield. Oh, and Ryan Vogelsong may be next on the list to become an Astro. We’ve rehashed the lineup and prospective lineups, so let’s reset the new Astros a bit more.
Where does this leave the team’s payroll?
- Good question. Forget everything you knew. The game has changed here too,butLuhnow obviously is workinghiscalcluator. Fifteen players presently take up $63.015 million for 2015, which means that there are perhaps other moves coming, especially iftheAstros plan to fall into the previously advertised $65-$70 million category. (Hint: That ain’t happening.) Other players,includingGattis, will come in at or around the league minimum.
Will the recent movement block anyone in the vastly rebuilt minor league system?
- Again, Luhnow has been shrewd, apparently limiting exposure to primarily the 2015 season. Yes, it appears Gattis may be around longer, but the one-year Rasmus deal and even the reported one-year deal for Vogelsong lines up with the long-term plan that will not block prospects like Domingo Santana, Preston Tucker and Mark Appel. The Plan lives.
Yes, but why now?
- Let the debate begin, but you cannot discount the fact that it may have been part of the plan all along. Everyone knew — yes, you too — that the day would come when Houston would trade prospects for major league players. Many, in fact, have begged for it. That it would be so dramatic and all at once rather than a more gradual approach has caught many by surprise. For better or worse, The Plan has taken a 90 degree turn.
How big of a gamble is the Super K lineup?
- Every team has one or two whiffers, but the Astros may be assembling a record K Krew! Whether or not the lineup can survive as many high home run/high strikeout guys remains to be seen. Luhnow has addressed it, but with so few guys getting on base, the Astros could also be the league leaders in solo home runs. Look at it another way? If the pitching corps keeps it close, Houston is always a batter away from tying the score or winning in the late innings.
And do you remember?
- It’s been only a few days ago we were talking about Marwin Gonzalez at third base and Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock at the end of the rotation. And debating where Jake Marisnick, Dexter Fowler or Robbie Grossman should play in the outfield. Who? This recent rash of moves has relegated many players to the fringe, if not to the brink of the waiver wire. At the beginning of this month, these guys seemed to have relatively secure roster spots heading into spring training: Alex White, Asher Wojciechowski, Gonzalez, Jonathan Villar, Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Alex Presley and your pick of another 3-4 pitchers (maybe Sam Deduno, Jake Buchanan, Will Harris?). Now, they must be wondering where they’ll be playing ball at the beginning of next month.
Closed door to wide open Luhnow.
- Another interesting change this off-season is the apparent openness of Luhnow with the media and others. In years past, Luhnow has not only played it closed to the vest and kept his powder very dry, he’s seemed even to mislead at times. Over the past few months, he’s apparently been somewhat open about the Astros’ plans. For example, he’s confirmed the Astros’ interest in Vogelsong and been up front about the state of the Astros (e.g. left side of the infield, Singleton, etc.). The new and improved Luhnow? Or is just now more comfortable with a new contract, a new pocketbook, a new vote of confidence and a new manager with whom he can build trust?
Strongest part of this team now?
- Just a few short weeks ago, the rotation was the strongest part of the Houston Astros. Now, hard to say? Defense? Hmmm, nope, though the outfield my be decent. The lineup? Probably should take a wait-and-see approach here too, but it could be a strong point. Speed? Forget it. Base stealing? Nope. If the team adds Vogelsong and another prospect (Appel?) joins the rotation this season, Houston’s starting five could claim the top spot for strongest area. Stay tuned.