Laying out possible July scenarios as Astros raise hopes

The headlines in recent days have been horrific.

And, these are only from the last week! Now, as the Astros await news on the Jed Lowrie injury, the team may have suffered its biggest injury in a still-young season that could send the domino effect into motion earlier than intended.

The Astros are 19 games into a 162-game schedule and while the team is off to its best start in nearly a decade, there are clearly holes in the lineup and the rotation. If the Astros reach June or July and still in reach of contention, Jeff Luhnow will have decisions to make. He will obviously need to be a buyer. But of what? With so many injuries to starting pitchers — and even hitters — teams aren’t going to be trading. Or, the available players will be at such a premium, the Astros may have to pay out the wazoo to make it happen.

There is precedent for that, but there are also other avenues available.

Here are three of those possible July scenarios. Some are stretches, some may be very speculative, but this is a weird season. Already. Some of these may even present themselves before the All Star break.

Scenario 1. Add hitter(s) to the lineup.

Add Carlos Correa and Preston Tucker. Use Chris Carter, Luis Valbuena and possibly a prospect, to trade for a quality, established — not necessarily ace — starting pitcher.

Correa goes to shortstop, Jed Lowrie slides to third base, Evan Gattis to first base and Tucker slots in at DH. Of course, this all assumes that Correa and Tucker continue to light it up. It also may assume an intermediary jump to AAA for Correa in late May or early June.

Every indication Luhnow has given outright, telegraphed or otherwise communicated is that he will not rush Correa. However, if a player is hitting .350+ and seems to have mastered a level, is that rushing him? Tucker is clearly on a roll at Fresno and mastery it’s only a matter of weeks if not months before the Springer question takes over.

Scenario 2. Yes, it’s Appel Time!

The Astros have treated Mark Appel with special gloves all the way through. He made a stop in Houston to throw a bullpen (remember how happy Bo Porter was with that?). The organization — if you believe some reports — modified the minor league tandem plan in part because of Appel’s input. He’s actually looking the #1 part over the last half of 2014 and the early games of 2015.

While Roberto Hernandez has performed at or above expectations, something tells me that the Astros could experience problems with the back-end of the rotation all season long. Already, two pitchers (Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock) have been hurt and another (Asher Wojciechowski) hasn’t fared well. Of course, one way to transition Appel into Houston is in the bullpen, the same method the Astros used with Roy Oswalt.

Moreover, you can’t overemphasize the injury factor. Every Astros’ fan, onlooker and anyone with even a remote interest has their fingers crossed with Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Even Scott Feldman.

Scenario 3. Pull off that trade!

Many of you may remember the midnight deal that brought Randy Johnson to Houston. Gerry Hunsicker made one of the most memorable trades in Astros’ history, giving up three huge prospects, but making the Astros relevant in the playoff chase in 1998. In case you’ve forgotten, Hunsicker traded three Top 10 prospects (#6 Freddy Garcia, #7 Carlos Guillen, #8 John Halama). Today, that would be Colin Moran, Brett Phillips and Teoscar Hernandez.

This year, with fewer pitchers likely available, the cost would be high. Extremely high. However, if Luhnow could pull off that trade to anchor the rotation, it could be season-changing. Or perhaps it’s not a pitcher, but a Miguel Cabrera-type middle-of-the-order hitter to play first base or left field.

Certainly the trade dynamics are different from 1998. Virtually every team has a win-now mandate or wish and, as we’ve already seen, most teams are very “proud” of their players and want the moon in return. Still, the Astros could fashion that trade if it meant a big-time player.

You can debate the three scenarios, but as April turns to May, know this: Luhnow and the insiders in the Astros’ War Room have various scenarios of their own. Are they similar to the three listed above? Perhaps, but it’s obvious the Astros have quickly become relevant to the 2015 equation. Becoming relevant to the playoff equation may be a different game altogether.

Debate topics:

  • What are your guidelines, timelines and markers for promoting Tucker? Correa? Appel?
  • As GM, would you trade three Top 10 prospects for the right starter whom the Astros could also maintain under contract for at least three years?
  • Outside of Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, name five players that are absolutely untouchable in any trade scenario.
  • What will be the most critical, most pressing question when June and July roll around?

64 comments on “Laying out possible July scenarios as Astros raise hopes

  1. I love #3 so I am going to try it first. Five players who are untouchable in any trade scenario besides Altuve, Springer and Correa: Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Mark Appel, Jake Marisnick, Lance McCullers, Jr.


  2. My guidelines for promoting Correa: When we need a SS in the majors and that coincides with him being the best SS in our minor league system
    Tucker: When he proves he can dominate AAA and when we need a LH power hitting outfielder on the big club.
    Appel: When he dominates for a couple of months in the minors for at least seven innings per start.


  3. I have to Go 3 also , it might hurt a bit, but to get that ace or #2. !! I cant imagine they would put Appel in the trade, Correa forget about it future perennial all star.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What will be the most critical, most pressing question when June/July comes around: What are we going to do about our starting pitching?


  5. I’m as excited at the possibility of seeing Correa as the next crazed Astros fan. After all, he’s now hitting almost .390 — which is practically Altuvian — in CC. But he’s also been in AA for less than three weeks. I say if there’s a need in Houston in June, I’d support bringing him up, but not yet.

    If you want to package Carter and Valbuena plus someone in the 8-16 range of prospects for a major talent, I’d be OK with that.


    • Jose Altuve’s Lancaster stats for his 20 year old season were not as good as Correa’s Lancaster stats were for his 19 year old season.
      Jose Altuve’s Corpus Christi stats for his 21 year old season were not as good as Correa’s Corpus Christi stats are so far in his 20 year old season.
      Look for yourself. Even though Correa is a year younger, his corresponding stats are better than Altuves were, as of today.


  6. I’m feeling pretty good about our future because we have legitimate talent in the minors and players looking like All Stars on the big league club at the same time. It’s going to be painful to part with many of them.

    Promotion guidelines?
    Correa – can he stick or would we need to demote later? Physically, he looks great…but is he ready to play into Oct?
    Appel – 100 pitch outings without laboring. I suspect they are limiting him now with goal of August call up if results warrant it.
    Tucker – trade of CarterRasmus or long term injury opening spot.

    Trading top 10 guys – Absolutely, but it has to be the right guy. Hamels isn’t on my radar for that much unless Philly ate the salary. Would need to brainstorm this.

    Untouchable? Keuchel, McHugh…and then everyone is available for the right price IMO.

    June – how do we spend those draft picks?
    July – are we buyers or sellers?


  7. Thanks for the timely post – Chip.
    ■What are your promotion guidelines – (note none of the 3 are on the 40 man roster)
    – Tucker? About to turn 25 – I think he only gets promoted if there is an OF (or DH) injury or if Rasmus is traded.
    – Correa? Will turn 21 at the end of the season. If Lowrie is out long term I would promote him now. They won’t do this at this point – but I’m not sure what the trigger would be to promote him in the front office minds. My trigger is that there is a need at SS.
    – Appel? About to turn 24 – If the 5th spot continues to be problematic and/or Hernandez turns to silly putty – Promote him – he’s a college draftee 1-1 – make him show why that was.
    ■As GM, would you trade three Top 10 prospects for the right starter whom the Astros could also maintain under contract for at least three years? It would have to be a #1 starting pitcher with the contract control you specified and it can’t be Correa or Appel (unless the front office knows he is not all that).
    ■Outside of Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, name five players that are absolutely untouchable in any trade scenario. Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Mark Appel, Lance McCullers Jr and (this space for rent – though in a month or two this might be Jake Marisnick)
    ■What will be the most critical, most pressing question when June and July roll around? It is the most critical pressing question to me now – what is the plan – is winning now the key or is it – “We are still pointing to 2016 and 2017, but if we win now it is a bonus, but we are not going to undercut the actual ‘Plan’. “


  8. I have to say seems I remember a lot of Rasmus bashing in Feb and March. Right now he is looking pretty solid , hitting like .370 on this road trip. You all still thinking Springer is going to start seeing the ball soon? I love him in Rf and on the bases but man, his swing is scaring me a bit rioht now.


    • Umm, Kevin, in his last four games, Springer is .235/.381/.529 (.910 OPS). Not to mention he had three walks and three SBs last night. Other than Altuve, Springer is probably the last player who will miss a game or get pulled from the lineup because he’s slumping. Maybe a day off, but not benched.

      To wit: He and Altuve are the only players who have started every game at their respective positions.


      • Chip ive watched very game every at bat and Springer still looks lost bad, so far everyone once in a while he has run into a pitch. I like em but i’m just stating what ive seen. I guess Kudos on BB’s. I ‘m, hoping like hell he finds his swing, he has K’s almost 30 times already.


    • In case you haven’t noticed, Springer has a new swing. The bat head is more level with his hands and the lower half of his body is not twisting out from under his top half, like it was last season. He is starting over and it is definitely taking some time. The guy is super hyper and is just trying to get back into himself. I would be patient with him.
      Yes, his swing and miss tool drives me crazy and he swings so hard. But he has so much going for him. If I could do one thing for him it might be to move him down in the order, but he caused so much disruption against a very mature team last night on the bases that I would hesitate to move him, even with his strikeouts.


      • Agreed. I don’t need to see Springer turn it all around overnight. He is exceptional in so many ways – I just want to see steady improvement in the few areas where he struggles. His impact is felt even when his average is low.


      • Once gain I love him ,I’m not saying trade him , I just hoping he can be a .250 hitter in the Bigs, that’s all.


  9. Correa is a transcendent talent, like Altuve. Personally I would like to see him here now, but I am content letting the professionals figure it out. They could become, given their relative ages, the best middle infield in baseball for the next 12 or so years. Correa could adjust to big league pitching quickly IMO.

    Tucker is on the cusp of saying he has earned his shot. I think he is down because the Astros probably want him batting every day and not up there taking Grossman’s spot as a backup. They also may not want to start his options this year if they don’t have to. Personally I am not sold that the Astros think as highly of Tucker as chipland does, but I am guessing if Gattis does indeed miss time that Tucker will be the guy and not Singleton.

    Appel I don’t feel like is a Correa/Altuve level of talent, I am not sure he would adjust quickly. Let him flow through the system at his pace. If he is looking dominant still around 15 June, get him to AAA and see if it continues. Put him on pace to compete in ST next for a spot.


  10. Tipoff? Fresno plays and early game today. Villar — as in Becky’s favorite Astro — is not in the lineup. Is he on standby pending a certain MRI result?

    Oh, and Correa is in the lineup for the Hooks, also playing early today.


    • That would be so disappointing to me, replacing Lowrie with Villar. Villar is not now and won’t ever be the player Correa is.


      • OP, replacing Lowrie with Villar on the roster is disappointing. However, the one thing that would be more disappointing is to replace Lowrie with Villar at SS. Hopefully that “award” goes to Marwin for a bit.

        When you step back and look at the big picture, another few weeks or even a couple of months for Correa to incubate isn’t a big deal. I believe the break or perhaps late June is a reasonble time to consider that move. Plus, it gives others like Valbuena, Gattis, Carter and even Singleton a little more time to settle out as well.

        When Correa does finally get to Houston, it will signal a major shift in philosophy. The win-soon philosophy I mentioned recently will definitely move into the win-now philosophy. No turning back.

        And no one will argue with your last statement.


      • Ooooooh noooooooo!

        Well, if it is Villar that winds up coming, I hope at least Marwin will be the guy who gets penciled in at shortstop every day, and Villar is just used as a pinch-hitter and emergency outfield or 3B sub.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The only similarity I can see between Villar and Correa is that they both six-letter last names framed around double syllables. Other than that, one is Potsie Weber, the other is Arthur Fonzerelli. Aaaaayyyyyy!

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Question: Seeing what Preston Tucker is doing [again], at what point do we give him a chance in place of Robbie Grossman [.156/.229/.281/.510 with 11 Ks in 35 PAs?


    • Patience grasshopper. 🙂 I don’t think it’s a question when Tucker gets “a chance” to replace Grossman. I think it’s more of a question of when does he get a chance to replace Rasmus/Grossman or perhaps even Gattis when Gattis replaces Carter at first.

      In other words, it’s doubtful Tucker will be brought on the scene until there is a clear opportunity for him to play everyday. Same with Correa. There will have to be a clear path, which means what to do with current players.


      • I see our last fan-favorite prospect, Kike Hernandez, is being called up by the Dodgers today. I just hate to think of guys like Preston Tucker, Joe Sclafani, and Matt Duffy getting sent away to play for other teams while we sit here watching the umpteenth failures of guys going nowhere like Jonathan Villar, Robbie Grossman, and LJ Hoes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thing is, when a club is 7 and 12, you might start seeing drastic meansures taking place. But at 12 and 7, there is no real need now to start bringing guys up to replace the Grossmans of this world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No condemnation of anyone, Steven – just talking about the best options for maximizing the team’s chances and building a solid foundation for the future. As you know, Robbie’s no rookie. He is now 25 years old and has 745 major league plate appearances, extending over a three year period. His lifetime stats are .245/.330/.335/.675 with 186 Ks. Not horrible. Definitely as bad as J. Guzman last year. But that’s not the question. The question is what is best for this team. And with guys like Preston Tucker waiting in the wings – and now 24 years old himself – Robbie’s horrible start this year does little to engender confidence that he’s best option for this team, either short or long term


  12. 1. They come up when they appear to be better players than what is on the current roster. All of this clock starting is BS. 2. Almost never. We have trimmed much of the excess of the prospects. If they are the FO #1-10 and not some sports bureau, NO. If they have given up on some – sure, see what you can get. 3. There are a lot more than five. Unless you get a similar position player. (Example: Dump Castro and play Conger everyday???) 4. This year is the first year that I would be in favor of a “salary dump” with what is available in the minors. 5. (Not asked) – if Correa or Tucker are promoted and drop 200 points in BA, they can still bat 3rd and 4th in this lineup and improve the offense.


  13. Correa was 2 for 2 today with 2 Walks in another Corpus Christi loss. His two hits were a double and a Home run. Now hitting an even .400


  14. Well…………I guess it’s a good thing I can’t watch the game, and after 8:30 the radio goes dark. I will bet money he will have an error if Hinch plays him. I’m tired of all the drama Villar brings, and I’m tired of pi$$ing and moaning about him.


  15. Okay, so Lowrie is out until the All Star break. That is a game changer. I like Marwin in the Super Sub role and I think him as an everyday shortstop will grow old quickly.

    Get ready for a barrage of “When is Correa coming up?” questions…or would you rather have Nolan Fontana?


    • Nolan Fontana was drafted the same day as Correa and is a decent minor league player that has not shown near what Correa has. You would play Fontana over Correa if you were not interested in putting your best players on the field because of money to be spent six years from now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’d have to be a little crazy to promote Correa now. And why not give somebody older like Fontana or even Sclafani a shot to see what they can do. As much as I like MarGo, this team really, really needs an offensive ‘playmaker’ at SS – a scrapper and a winner. Lowrie has surprised me and been that for us. Who will be the next man up?


  16. The O’s and White Sox will play the next two games at Camden Yard……..with
    NO FANS IN THE STADIUM. The first time in MLB that there will be no fans in the seats. *WOW*.


    • Bathos sounds like a character from Beowulf. Picture A.J. Hinch saying to E.G:

      “Wear these bright jewels, belovèd Beowulf; Enjoy them, . . . oh fortunate young Warrior; grow richer, let your fame and your strength/ Go hand in hand; and lend these two boys [Springer, Marisnick] Your wise and gentle heart!”


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