The last few weeks the Houston Astros have been flopping and floundering like a newbie swimmer tossed in a pool, who after good initial effort suddenly realizes they really cannot swim. There has been a huge amount of the fan base, here and on other blogs, who have thrown out a ton of suggestions for the next move the team should make. Most of the suggestions would fall under the influence of General Manager Jeff Luhnow, not with Manager A.J. Hinch or owner Jim Crane.
It would be interesting to know what the mindset of Mr. Luhnow is right now.
- Pre-season platitudes aside, is the first half success surprising to him?
- Is he set on his Plan and not going to do anything to de-rail 2017 by short-sightedness now?
- Is he interested in going for it now, knowing that tomorrow is not promised to anyone?
- How bound is he on making decisions by monetary limits from the owner? Note: It has been suggested that he sold minor leaguer Mitch Lambson to the Braves for the additional money he needed to sign 11th round draft pick Patrick Sandoval.
The next six weeks or so will be a very interesting time for the team and especially for their front office. In no particular order, here are six important decisions Luhnow will make or avoiding during the second half of the season.
- Is he a buyer or a seller? Does he believe this team can be a champion in 2015? Does he believe they will settle back towards .500 while the true contenders fly away with the division and the wild card spots? Does he think a trade will be the difference or are there too many holes in the dike?
- What moves can he make to clear up the 40 man roster heading into the off-season? Is there anyone who is not on the radar for the future, who should be released or at least be part of an attempted trade? What happens with Max Stassi, Robbie Grossman, Luis Cruz, Asher Wojciechowski, Jonathan Villar, Brett Oberholtzer, Kevin Chapman, etc.
- What direction should he take on first base? Stick with Chris Carter? Hand it to Jon Singleton? Hand Preston Tucker a glove and tell him to go learn on the fly? Stick Jed Lowrie in there when he returns?
- If he becomes a buyer, what are his drawn-in-the-sand lines on personnel availability? Who is untouchable with the major league and minor league players? Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Lance McCullers Jr and who?? Are we talking Brett Phillips, A.J. Reed, Jacob Nottingham, Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel? If he hands little groupings of prospects to be considered by the other teams who is on them and who is not?
- If he sells, if he decides to trade for future help what positions does he focus on? Does he believe that there never is enough pitching? Does he value shortstop and catcher higher than other positions? Does he say that this organization struggles with developing third basemen and does he try to strengthen that? Does he try to pick up A level prospects for farther down the line?
- How to handle the innings for Lance McCullers Jr. and for Vincent Velasquez down the stretch will be of great interest here. It is likely that the front office has more detailed analytics to go by vs. a simple 25 percent increase limit of the innings pitched. They have shown part of their hand with their demotion/shut down of VV until after the All Star break (or longer). It may be as simple as saying that LMJ has better mechanics, uses his legs and has less of an injury history vs. VV’s previous Tommy John surgery when considering what limit if any should be imposed.
A few questions for you:
- What do you think are the most critical decisions for Luhnow in the second half of this season?
- Do you think he should “play” for today or for 2017?
- What is the biggest mistake he could make?
- Who would be on your untouchables list?