Who’s on first? I don’t know, third base!

Abbott and Costello could not have been more prophetic when it comes to the Astros’ corner infield dilemma for 2016. With the departure of Chris Carter, the Astros have 111 games to fill at first, and there are plenty of options. Some are good, some bad. Some remain to be seen … or re-seen.

Depending on how you look at it, our biggest offender at first base in 2015 was …

Jon Singleton. Puff Daddy underperformed to the tune of .694 in the OPS department. His 40 plate appearances (small sample size) brought a .350 OBP and just a .344 SLG. Overall, Big Jon was brought up for another tryout and didn’t really workout. Of course, Jon would never have gotten a look if it wasn’t for …

Chris Carter. The big fella has, for all intents and purposes, been sent packing. And none too soon. His marginal (I’m being generous here) OPS of .713 was dragged down by a .196 BA. You could blame his low BAbip of .244, but I spent the season watching Carter hit. He wasn’t unlucky. He just stunk. It’s just too bad he spent so much tie at first base because …

Marwin Gonzalez. MarGo, in 29 games at first, earned an OPS of .799 in those games with the mitt. Apparently, first base agrees with MarGo. His OBP was better than Carter’s (.357) and his SLG was better than Carter’s (.442). Best of all, his .299 BA at first wasn’t terribly dissimilar from his overall BA of .279. Comparing them defensively with stats is like comparing an apple to an orchard; the numbers just are at a different scale. That said, I’m guessing someone could teach MarGo to be a better fielder anywhere than Carter. For those uninitiated, I am an unabashed MarGo fan. Still, the best first baseman Houston had was …

Luis Valbuena. For a guy who stunk at third base, Valbuena was a machine at first base offensively. (It’s the mitt, folks!) His OPS came in at .820. (.820!) Those are nearly All-Star numbers, or would be if he hadn’t played just 28 games at first. Ah, well. Overall, he slashed .263/.360/.461. I’d also guess he can field better than Carter. Of course, if Valbuena could hit that slash line while playing a full season at third, we’d all be pretty happy.

So, who’s on first? (I’ll probe the third base question in a later post.) Well, here are the options. I’m going to give some overall stats (and the levels where those stats were achieved), then we can discuss it.

Jon Singleton: The slash — .254/.359/.505 and an OPS of .865. Now that OPS looks nice, but two trips to Houston have left Single-Puff with a very sub-.700 OPS, and I think we can see why. Between his .254 BA in Fresno and AAA pitching struck him out 99 times in 378 ABs with just 64 BBs means mediocre pitching keeps him from making good contact. Well, other than his 22 HRs in Fresno.

Luis Valbuena: The slash — .224/.310/.438 with a total OPS of .748. So, not the worst OPS, and his unbelievably low BAbip of .236 says a lot about how much better Valbuena can be. Eventually, we’re talking about a guy who crushed 25 HRs, walked 50 times and struck out 106 times. If he can make a little better contact — and previous years’ stats suggest he can — then here’s a guy destined for a bit of a rebound.

Marwin Gonzalez: The slash — .279/.317/.442 for an OPS of .759. Did I mention I’m a MarGo fan? He added 12 HRs, 74 Ks and (my one knock on MarGo) walked only 16 times. Honestly, he’s so valuable in that Super Utility role that pining him down to first base has me torn. But considering Houston won’t need that SU as much as in past years, I wouldn’t mind seeing MarGo’s mitt get a little dirty.

Tyler White: The slash — .325/.442/.496 for a combined OPS across two levels (AA and AAA) of .939. And White really split his time, practically evenly, between Corpus and Fresno. But his best stats came at AAA. Oh, and he only had 73 Ks (403 ABs) and took a stroll with 84 BBs. His 14 total HRs are not huge, but he still drove in 99 runs, which means he’s raking.

Matt Duffy: The slash — .294/.366/.484 with an OPS of .850. For the record, in his cup of coffee in Houston, his OPS was .944. His 90 Ks were less than 20%, his 48 BBs were nice, and he hit 20 HRs. This is a guy who is ready for the major leagues.

A.J. Reed: The slash — .340/.432/.612 for a whopping OPS of 1.044 combined in Lancaster and Corpus. And lest you think this is all a result of playing at The Hanger, his AA OPS was .976 over 238 plate appearances. He led the minors with 34 HR, struck out 122 times (less than 20%) and walked 86 times. And unlike some guys on this list, he’s really a first baseman.

So, let the “Who’s on first?” jokes begin.

 

180 comments on “Who’s on first? I don’t know, third base!

    • Yes – me. Unless Luhnow wants to just hand me the job I think the best plan* is to go to Spring Training with Singleton in the pole position. If Duffy outplays him it is an easy decision to send Singleton to Fresno. If White or Reed outplay him they then have to make the 40 man decision to open the spot. There is a lot of time before they report to Florida. Decreasing Singleton’s value benefits the Astros in no way.

      * meaning we still have Singleton on 40 man when hitters report

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      • I have always wished Jon well. I have no problem with him being given a fair shot to win the 1st base job this Spring. But I would hope that when the Spring drills and games start, he is considered to be in an open, even, and winner-take-all competition – both offensively and defensively – with Tyler White, with A.J. Reed, Matt Duffy, and – if the F.O. thinks it might work – Preston Tucker. We need to compare all these in regard to at least BARISP, OBP, OPS, RBI, runs scored, and K per plate appearance, as well as defensive decision-making, range, stretch ability, scoop ability, and catching and throwing skills. We’ve been absolutely horrible at the corner infield positions for too long just to hand the job to anybody on any basis besides performance.

        The question is, does anybody out there want to play 1st base for the 2016 Houston Astros? If so, get a bat, hustle to the bag, and let’s see how bad you want it and what you’ve got to offer that the other guys don’t.

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      • I’m in agreement with Mr. Bill. I would like to see ST be an open competition for 1B with no one having the edge over another at the start. Big Jon has been given chances and has failed miserably. He wasn’t even as good as Duffy or White at Fresno. What has he done, in comparison to the others, to warrant the 1B being his to lose? Personally, I trust Gattis in the lineup over Big Jon. Thus, I would like to see White starting at 1B and a 3B platoon of Valbuena and Duffy. I like leaving MarGo as our super sub and Gattis at DH. If Gattis continues being meh as DH and Reed is tearing up AAA then bring up Reed and move White to DH, assuming White is hitting better than Gattis.

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      • I really don’t disagree much. I think it is obviously an open (or almost open) competition. Saying Singleton is the favorite paints a target, but doesn’t prevent the other guys from getting their work or having a chance. The other thing in Singleton’s favor is left-handedness.

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  1. I would give White the big shot at 1B in ST knowing that there are plenty of fall back positions with MarGo and Valbuena.
    I see Singleton as filling the Carter role if he is given the job – in other words filling the “why do we keep throwing this blindfolded piñata misser into the lineup”?
    Reed is the eventual 1B – my optimum desire would be for Reed to come up after AAA seasoning and bump White to DH.
    I feel like Duffy helps out at 3B if at all.

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  2. I would like to add one observation from last year. We were very lucky with the rotation at 1st because we only slightly injured Correa (Carter). Margo and V B made some dangerously close plays to a collision at the bag. We need a player that has many reps at first. Playing 1st is a lot more than just catching the ball. And a left hander plays the position better than a right hander on most plays. As to Singleton, I can see letting him have ST and maybe 30 games. If he continues to be the same player, he needs to get his permanent address set up in Fresno (or Quad Cities).

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  3. I like Carter where he is, Marwin in the utility role alternating with Valbuena at 3B, Singleton in Colorado, and White on 1B to start the year, giving Reed his time at AAA.
    Of course, I would prefer Reed at first and White at DH, but I have to settle for the pony because there is no way I’m getting a unicorn for Christmas.

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    • In your post, I am assuming that “Rocky Mountain High” is playing in the background. Am I the only person that is willing to give Singleton one final chance? A short chance.

      I know the people posting on the (Spit?) have talked about him “destroying” Minors pitching. I think that is a little generous, but if you invest (waste?) $10 Million, you should at least let him play “Off Broadway.”

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      • When Houston brought Singleton up in 2014 and 2015 it was at the time when he was hottest as a hitter in AAA. He was hitting .267 in 2014 and was hitting .280 in 2015. First of all, that is not “destroying minors pitching”(White’s .362 is destroying minors pitching).
        When Singleton got to Houston, both times he didn’t hit.
        I don’t see the need to give Singleton the job. He is not going to be the future 1B of the Astros. Reed is.
        I would rather see White at 1B because we don’t need to start the year off with a first baseman hitting .160 for the first two months of the season, like we have the last three years.

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      • Oh, I say give him a chance. But if his BA in spring training mysteriously drops the last 10 days, the clock on his chance is ticking.

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      • Brian, the problem with that is batters don’t see major league pitching in Spring training. So Singleton could hit .400 in ST and still isn’t proving anything because nobody throws their major league stuff until opening day.
        Who was that big rookie lefty hitting 1B we had a couple of years ago that tore it up in the spring and then just bombed the first month of the season when he had to face real pitching? I had to look it up: Marc Krauss.

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    • That is simply Hilarious. I have zero faith in ” Puff Daddy” I just hope White and Duffy get a real shot in ST, not just a token feel good moment. I’m in a minority, but would like the 2016 team Better with no Valbuena. I cant see, baring an injury, that Gattis s not here to start the year, )-:

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  4. I like to look at unimportant stats. (Sort of the antithesis of Steven or Tim). It is interesting to look at last year’s Saves vs. Blown Saves. We start with Mark Melancon (remember him?) 51-2. Trevor Rosenthal (48-3). Come down a little to Huston Street 40-5. Down a little more David Robertson (we really wanted him) (34-7). Luke Gregerson is down the list a little further (31-6), and down to Giles (15-5), Not building a case for or against either of them, but Gregerson did an outstanding job in most cases all year. With he and Giles at the end, this is a formidable one-two or two-one.

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  5. I just read one of the most informative article/interviews about a player I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Check out Jayne Hansen’s piece about James Hoyt in WTHB. Wonderful read! Hats off to Jayne.

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    • I read it earlier, and this kid “could” make it up in 2016. He closed for Fresno, this year and appears he got his MOJO back! He was lights out last spring, and got me fired up for him to break camp with the big club. But….Fresno wouldn’t have finished the season the way they did without him! He will start next year in Frsno, but he will be ready to step up, if we lose a guy in the pen to DL!!

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    • I made the mistake of accusing Jayne of having PAS and she went on a rant saying I was sexist and condescending (I can’t disagree with the latter adjective, but I’m not a sexist, at all). Needless to say, she has blocked me from her website and following her on Twitter. -:)

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      • She must have had a good reason, to block you. Jane was a regular here before she started her own blog. I enjoy her blog, and I don’t know ANYBODY who works as hard as she does, bringing our minor league players to life.

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      • Go read the comments, Becky. I am roundrocktim on her blog. I said I liked her column, but think she has prospect attachment syndrome. She got very offended by this. However, you know I don’t worry about angering people. She obviously took it as a major insult and went off on me. I didn’t really care one way or the other.

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      • Since her blog is devoted to covering the Astros farm system then she probably has PAS. She develops a personal attachment to the kids on the farm.

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      • I read the comments, and I must say you sure do know how to win friends, and influence people. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

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      • Tim I had to laugh at your sort of defense of yourself. It reminded me of Duane Thomas saying Tex Schramm was “sick, demented and completely dishonest.”

        Schramm’s famous reply: “He got two out of the three.”

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      • my goodness. i read the article and yes tim your comment could be considered rude, but i thought the reaction to it was way overblown. many times in here instead of debate we have attacks if someone disagrees, i think her response was the latter. if his comment angered her that much she probably shouldn’t come back in here as even my kids were attacked in here once. so with the holiday season and peace on earth and all, lets debate for sure, but leave out the attacks.

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      • I can say I have said things on here that can be construed as more condescending that my comments to Jayne and no one has gone off the rails like she did, using the ‘V’ word to insinuate I am sexist. Honestly, I was surprised by her reaction, but not everyone gets my sick, demented sense of humor, right AC? 🙂

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      • Tim, PAS isn’t really funny and is condescending. Tossing it out as a “joke” is just being passive aggressive and not constructive to the arguments in play. Jayne does a fantastic, mainly thankless job. Also, consider that she is frequently the target of internet trolls.

        I understand and agree with your standpoint on the players given up…but consider that just the fact four of our players went to Philly in exchange for one with ~100 innings under his belt and you have to see Jayne’s point that it was a haul for Philly and a steep price for doing business these days. Like she said though, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad trade.

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      • Devin,

        I agree I can be condescending, but saying someone has PAS is based upon the comments I have read. I have PDS and I openly admit it. I disagreed with her that it was a haul (this was based on the initial 4 for 1 trade report). I wasn’t offended by her condescending response as I expected it, but to assume my disagreement with her is because she has a ‘V’ was over the top and, clearly, she has a chip on her shoulder about being a woman covering baseball. I never stated or even implied I felt she was unknowledgeable or that the reason I disagreed with her had anything to do with her being a woman. I agree Jayne does a great job covering the minors, but if she’s going to write a blog she’s going to have tougher skin when people disagree with her. I still feel she gets too attached to the prospects in our farm and that thought will not change.

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  6. Ask Altuve how he feels about getting seasoned at AAA. Jose got 52 games in at Lancaster and 35 at CC before he got the call. Reed got 82 in Lancaster and 53 at CC. I’m looking for a competition during Spring Training that pits Singleton against Reed. If we try to look at too many guys for the role, we won’t have enough time to see enough out of any one guy. As far as I’m concerned, if Reed handles the bag well, I don’t think Singleton legitimately wins the job. Reed will outplay him. My ongoing concern with Singleton is that he’s just not passionate enough about the game.

    As for the others, Valbuena is my third baseman. I think he’ll put together a better year. The balls in play stat is significant. Marwin is a fine fallback guy. We know he can hold down the job if needed. But that makes the bench one guy weaker.

    The other guy, White, should be playing in a game everyday this coming Spring. I want to see him get 100 at bats plus. All of his stats at every level indicate to me that we’ve got our first real quality DH in Tyler White.

    I’m going for the unicorn. I’ll need some help though. I think Gattis will still be around. So as I’ve said earlier, we’re going to need a hamstring pull or some other similar benign injury for Gattis to get pipped by White. Singleton might just pipp himself.

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  7. I know it is still December, which means I will change my mind at least 3 times before ST. But I expect JL to make another 3 for 1 trade (or maybe 4 for 2). It will look terrible to me at first, but I will then realize he is finalizing his team for 2016. DanP (I think) and some others disagreed with me but I believe in ST last year, JL was pointing toward improving and then challenging in 2016. When the team advanced ahead of schedule, he made a couple moves at the deadline to improve the team. I look for him to do something like that BEFORE the spring. He will have to add a piece or two to get back to the playoffs. The 40 man sits at 38 today. (Also in dumping Carter and Lowrie, in my opinion, he is NOT handing Singleton nor Valbuena the job. He is still listening.)

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    • Sure, but not at the Shark price, which I think it is going to take to get him, if not more. Whether it be Kazmir or Gallardo it will probably run about $14-16M/year. If we can get Leake for that price I’m open to it.

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    • I would be fine with Leake over Gallardo or Kazmir. I think they all 3 have good stuff, but Kazmir and Gallardo probably have better stuff and a higher ceiling, but Leake comes with a little better track record of consistency.

      Now that said, I am not really down with any of them. 15 mil a year for one of those guys to do what Fiers can probably do given the same starts, I’m good.

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  8. I do believe you give Singleton a shot. I do not believe he will grab the bull by the horns and become the first baseman we thought a few years ago. He is not Carter though. His OBP will be better, he will strike out less, and his batting average will be better. How much better in all those? Probably not better enough to justify not playing Tyler White. If Tyler White was not in the system, and we were waiting on AJ Reed, I could see Singleton getting the shot. He has been bad at the major league level, but lots of guys have hit .280 in AAA and been successful in the majors. He hit .254 in extended playing time last year, not optimal, but guys have hit .254 in AAA before and adjusted and succeeded. He is still young. Before last years BA he had improved at every level with a second look. There wouldn’t be any reason to at least not put your feet in the pool with him.

    But we do have a reason. If Gattis is the DH, and it looks that way, Tyler White is plenty of reason to have sent Singleton packing in that trade with Philly.

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  9. I believe we are overlooking Singleton’s contract. For the Astros to trade him, it will probably require $ 8 million in cash (or a large part of it).

    If anyone wants to throw rocks at JL(I don’t see the need), you can use that and Grossman and Presley and Matty D and perhaps other contracts for the past couple years. But he did the best he could at the time. But today, it is not 2014 or even early 2015. So we can all second guess those he chose to offer long term contracts or why others (if offered) turned them down.

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    • I agree Uncle Jeff I’m sure thought there was upside to signing Puff Daddy. HOWEVER If it were me I would also be pumping him up, hoping he shows up solid at ST, and if so trade his tail as fast as I could while he is looking good!

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      • I will say this about the Singleton contract. $2M/year is, obviously, an over pay for what Singleton has done, but even with the Astros small payroll it only amounts to about 2.5% of the overall team payroll. It really isn’t that big of a deal. I can say this in that I would rather have Singleton at $2M this year than A-Rod at $25M. That type contract is one we would really be fretting.

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  10. Back to BrianT’s post, that bit of “Who’s on First?” is probably as good of a standup as any. I have seen it multiple times through the years and it is still funny. Their timing is unbelievable.

    Back to baseball, I have admitted that I have not personally watched the minors, but it appears that Matt Duffy may only be a trade chip. In reading his write up, he is Minor Leaguer of the Year yet our 30th ranked prospect at age 27 in ST. And is ranked below Moran (3B), Reed (1B) & White (DH).

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    • I hit send too soon.

      Concerning the bullpen. I think too much emphasis was made on Game 4. It is true the Harris and Sipp failed and so did Correa. But we can just as easily go back to Game 2. In the 6th Perez came in and faced 3 batters and got no one out. Then Fields and a walk. Yes, Harris gave up the winning (losing) run. But the 6th was the failure when I watched the game. Eliminate the 6th inning and there never would have been a game 4.

      Qualls and Perez gone. Add Giles, and lets hope Neshek foot heals, and we should be back on track. (In the playoffs with the Royals, Qualls and V V were not on the roster.)

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      • I am of the belief that you can never have a strong enough bullpen. It appears that the most successful teams over the past decade have had some of the strongest bullpens. I wouldn’t even be opposed to adding to our bullpen. If we could get Melancon or Storen at a reasonable cost I would definitely be open. They both would be upgrades over Fields. However, I am fine rolling with what we have as well. I think Neshek will rebound next year. I do expect a bit of a regression from Harris, and maybe Sipp, but overall, I like our bullpen much better today than I did at the start of the playoffs. Giles for Qualls is a huge upgrade.

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      • I agree. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. I feel like Hinch was a bit constrained by convention. What if he’d brought in Gregerson in the 8th inning after Harris gave up the first two hits? Wouldn’t you think Gregerson gets Rios or Cain to hit a ball into the dirt instead of giving up singles? Also, Qualls would have been perfect for that situation, but I’m assuming he was not healthy enough to contribute at that stage of the season.

        Tim, in theory I think the strongest bullpen possible would shut down the opponents with such regularity you could easily make every game last 6 innings. The problem is assigning roles to different players in the bullpen and keeping multi-millionaires happy. Melancon and Storen both want to close. So does Gregerson. We don’t know for certain about Giles, but it would be hard to believe Luhnow went to such lengths to sit the pine. I figure he has to fill the Wade Davis role at least…which would actually please me if he can pull it off.

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    • I think you have touched on the heart of the matter with your comment on Duffy. Duffy is probably a major league player, but Luhnow is smack dab in the middle of a WAR zone and has the least ammunition of the teams in baseball. The Astros have the least revenue of any team in baseball last year because of the lousy TV deal, being in a large market but with not a large fanbase and huge TV contract, not large attendance, not a good debt situation and apparently not an owner who is willing to go out and get the resources it takes to compete for the players other owners want.
      The system is flush with baseball players with talent because of the three years it had all the top picks in mid rounds. Not all those guys are high draft picks, but Luhnow has to get past the stigma of giving playing time to older established players and ignoring the players who have come up in the system successfully and have earned a shot. It’s not going to stop either. Stassi, Heineman, White, Reed, Duffy, Kemmer, Hoyt, Musgrove are here and either Luhnow has to ignore them and waste their mid 20s at the expense of playing “established” players, some of whom did not play well enough last year (in my opinion) and give the more expensive players all the playing time and pay their higher arbitration salaries and pray that somehow they don’t all hit .240 or below again this year, OR take the risk and give the young players a chance to play hoping they are major leagers that provide you good times at low prices until the club generates more revenue and more debt gets paid down and when the stars blossom the team can afford to pay good money to keep them here.
      We all talk fondly about Bopert, but he saw the time coming when it would take a $200million a year payroll to compete regularly for a World Series win and that time is fast approaching with these salaries and the Astros will not be able to compete in that kind of a market unless some changes are made at the top. Luhnow is going to have to stick to his plan of building the major league roster from within, and he has not done that this year.

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      • Again, and I know this is a redundant question, but what exactly is the plan? I still firmly believe that there is no real plan, but rather when opportunity or necessity presents itself, a move is made. I’m not saying that’s all bad, but I get tired of hearing about Luhnow’s “plan”. And I agree that the present way of doing business might get us to a World Series soon, it will not be sustainable.

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      • Also, 1OP, I think Rasmus accepting the QO flipped his plan a little going forward. He is overpaying for a 1 year rental (albeit a good player) but he spent his limited resources (apparently) and lost a comp pick in the draft. He went “all in” and got called on a bluff.

        Winning teams in the minors are of little importance. The purpose is to develop future players. That said, you don’t win every league title that you are in with a box of rocks on your team. Either JL sees them as future players or poker chips. Those are two completely different “plans” and not sure if he has made up his mind yet.

        It is humorous to me when we talk about “overpaying” for pitchers and relievers and yet see nothing out of line with paying $15.8 Million to a slash .238/.314/.475 player.

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      • Dave,

        I think the issue is more with Crane than Luhnow. Luhnow has a budget from Crane, which we can see is very low, compared to other major league teams, but he has only been G.M. for less than 4 years and most G.M.’s have a 5-year plan. I think it’s safe to say the Astros are far ahead of schedule than we thought. The plan, which was mentioned from the beginning, was to rebuild the farm system and once the results start showing on the major league field payroll and the farm system assets would be used to make the major league team more competitive. The payroll has increased slightly, but Luhnow has traded some of the assets on the farm to help the major league team. Now, you can argue, rightfully so, that some of the trades have not had much help, but you can also argue they haven’t hurt the team. Even Conger had 2 big HRs last year that led to victories. Gomez was injured for a large part of the time we had him last year, but he hit 2 big HRs in the playoffs and we still have him for this year, not to mention several years of control for Mike Fiers. The plan is as advertised and, so far, is working.

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      • OP said this, not me:

        “The Astros have the least revenue of any team in baseball last year because of the lousy TV deal, being in a large market but with NOT A LARGE FANBASE and huge TV contract, not large attendance, not a good debt situation and apparently not an owner who is willing to go out and get the resources it takes to compete for the players other owners want…”

        It’s just the truth, people.

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  11. And speaking of Bopert, where is my pal these days? If we could get him to write his first paragraph (which was normally insightful) and then write his second paragraph about his complete dislike for the owner. After that, he can delete the second paragraph and send only the first one. I would love to hear his take on where the team is headed now that the playoffs have been achieved.

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  12. Oldpro, on the financial angle, I think a crash is coming for many of the teams. As I sit, waiting for an appt this afternoon, I’m reading a Verducci article from the 12/14 SI (in print) where het throws out that 13 pitchers previously signed contracts for $120m or above. Of those, only five have pitched at age 32 or older and ALL FIVE have underwhelmed or been busts: Verlander, Johan Santana, Zito, Sabathia, and Mike Hampton.

    These signings this off season, Price, Greinke, Zimmermann, Samardzija are very likely to be busts as well…in my opinion. But, to my point to Becky about the Phillies and Ryan Howard, if they get a team a championship it may be money well spent to the fans. I just don’t see it as sustainable.

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    • The crash came for the Dodgers a few years ago with McCourt, but Selig and MLB did exactly the opposite in LA than they did with Crane in Houston. In LA they came in and found all the buyers and got them the goods and made them the deal and then the TV deal made the buyers and the team super wealthy. MLB did everything they could to hamstring Houston when they made the Astros take a deal that would virtually wipe out a huge part of the Astros fanbase and make the Astros scrape the bottom of the barrel for years.
      Then the baseball writers elite refused to put Houston players into the HOF under the guise of some invisible steroid drama that never existed, all the while ushering in guys like the huge Frank Thomas who went through the exact time period but never faced anything like what Bagwell has faced. Nobody ever wondered out loud how Thomas got his power even though he played in the same town as the now infamous Sammy Sosa and in the same era as Bagwell. That’s because of the prejudices of the old-time baseball writers who don’t give a damn about steroids, they just care about their pet cities and pet teams..

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    • The only guy that comes to mind that was worth the $$ after 32 was Nolan Ryan. I had to go back and look at his stats and was kind of blown away. Came to Houston at 33, ERA of 3.13 and averaged over 200 innings each year (9). Then he goes to Texas (spit) and still maintains a 3.43 ERA and still 200+ innings 2 of 5 years. Who else do we know that did that. He also pitched 250+ innings for 6 years of his career. Pretty phenomenal if you ask me.

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    • No, I am not Adam Spolane, but his last question is most salient. And the answer is a resounding “No!”

      Good article, though.

      Finally people are starting to see the inevitable coming.

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      • You say no, and you quote 1OP, but I would ask this: why should Crane spend $200 million on Price or Greinke? He already has the best rotation top to bottom in baseball. And it wasn’t the rotation that kept Houston from the ALCS. It was a tired, worn out, shallow bullpen.

        What was KC’s payroll last season? What was, say LA’s? Who went farther in the playoffs?

        No offense to either guy, but how many more wins — actual wins — is each worth over McHugh or McCullers or even Fiers?

        Say Greinke makes 35 starts and Arizona wins 27 of them. That’s being generous on both counts. Say Fiers makes 35 starts, he earns 12 wins and the team — this is a guy with a sub 4.00 ERA — wins another 8 of them. Is $31 million worth 7 maybe 8 wins?

        I know, Crane’s a war profiteer and so you’re happy to spend every last cent. But honestly, that’s just unrealistic.

        Like

  13. Ok, I’ll indulge y’all. (And thanks Sandy for reaching out to me personally, as I’ve been scarce to this BLOG ever since Chip blackballed me…)

    Here’s the deal: THE TIME IS NOW. BUT IT WON’T HAPPEN.

    Why? Because Crane is not the right owner. It’s not about his riches or lack therof, it’s just that he’s not really that interested in bringing a Championship to Houston. If he were, his beloved Astros would be our beloved Astros, and he’d still have a fanbase. We’d all be aligned. We’d still be in the NL (because he listened to the fans when it mattered most), and we’d all be gathered in a glorious drum-circle becrying aloud our chances for the coming year — we’d relive the fervor of old. But we’re not. And we won’t. It’s all been ruined.

    But this topic is stale as hale. And I’ve puked the same vomitus many times before.

    The real point is that the Astros are in a VERY envious position across MLB. And Crane is in an impossible position to capitalize on it.

    Dan P said it best: “…the Astros obviously are riding the tide of having three good to great starting pitchers, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr. making between $500 and 525 K last season. This is a big economic advantage…”

    Bundle in the economic advantages of our stellar middle IF, and our reasonably priced OF (Carlos Gomez notwithstanding), and there it is! The chance to capitalize is now!!

    But it won’t happen. Why? Because the team STILL needs help at the key corner IF positions. And this will take a real sacrifice — aRandy Johnson ala-1998-type sacrifice.

    Reid Ryan’s remark tells all: “We need to grow revenues so we can keep guys like that (Correa)”

    I hearken back to our poor fanbase. Back in 1998, the seats were packed. The TVs were watched. The fans cared.

    Now it’s all diluted and lukewarm.

    If I were Team Crane/Luhnow, I’d sell the entire farm and spend all to fill the last (expensive) piece of the puzzle. TURN UP THE HEAT NOW! For example, go out and get Joey Votto. This team craves a power bat that can actually play defense and get on base. An experienced leader. Even if it’s just for a year.

    Hey, after a year, Team Crane/Luhnow have big bills to pay regardless. But at least this way, via a good faith effort, they can buy back some semblance of a trusting fanbase. Spend the $75 mil you were bribed, and then some, and fill that crucial spot in the batting order.

    Buy they won’t, and they can’t. Out.

    Like

    • ‘Why? Because Crane is not the right owner. It’s not about his riches or lack therof, it’s just that he’s not really that interested in bringing a Championship to Houston. If he were, his beloved Astros would be our beloved Astros, and he’d still have a fanbase. We’d all be aligned. We’d still be in the NL …’

      If he had rejected the move to the NL, he wouldn’t have been approved to buy the team. His approval was contingent on that.

      And ‘selling off the entire farm’ would be the worst possible thing the team could do.

      Liked by 2 people

    • You’re assuming revenues won’t grow. You’re assuming fans won’t start flocking to MMP for a playoff team.

      You’re assuming a lot, and while I think I’m in the clear, I think you know what happens when you “assume.”

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Bopert!! How ya doing fella??!! I see getting a little older hasn’t done anything to curb your dislike for Jim Crane! Sorry dude, but personally I like being in the AL!!!
    SO do whatcha….do best, and hate on brothah!!!!

    Like

    • I did not at first, but now I like being in the AL as well. I miss the rivalries with the Braves and the Cubs and the Cardinals, but I do not miss the Brewers or the Reds!

      Like

  15. The points I’m trying to make is: 1) that I think Luhnow needs to be more trusting of the guys in the minors that have done what was asked of them. 2) In the long run, if player costs keep spiraling upward year after year without any restraint(and teams with huge amounts of money will not show restraint), Crane is going to have to inject personal capital into his business in order for it to continually compete OR he is going to have to find someone with the fire and the money to buy out the little worthless co-investers he has, who contribute nothing, and have that guy buy into the business and fork over the money. If none of that gets done, Luhnow will have to operate on a budget far below that of other teams starting in a couple of years or pray that someone buys the team that doesn’t wear the Astros as an insignia on their blazer like some sort of a showpiece that says “look at me, I used to play baseball”.
    You can talk all you want about the Royals and how they pulled it off, but the Royals are not going to have the players next year they had last year because baseball just got great in KC but now it’s getting real again as their 2015 players start to grab the big ornaments other teams are throwing out to them.
    This has been a terrific discussion during an absolutely boring start to a baseball week.
    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

    Like

  16. Glad to see Bopert back, Mainly because he puts me and Tim back in the running for “Most Congenial.”

    The question was asked yesterday about TV revenues. I remember reading that FoxSports offered almost identical contracts to the Rangers and the Astros in 2005??. DK decided he wanted the Big Bucks and went with Comcast and spurned Fox. We all know how that debacle turned out.

    I can find articles showing the Rangers getting $80 Million per year but I have never seen any number for ATT/Direct TV and the Astros.

    But DK made a bad move and then Crane paid good money to buy a terrible deal. So it has to financially hamper the team today. Finally, as to paying money, please don’t forget, each year of owner ship, Crane has paid well over $10 Million for players that were draft picks or international signings. His investment is just now starting to payoff. It may not last but neither does signing big name players to multiyear contracts.

    http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/texas-rangers/rangersheadlines/2010/09/27/Rangers-new-20-year-2344

    This is the closest that says the deal with ATT is for $54 Million a year.

    http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/2014/09/30/jim-cranes-state-of-the-astros-rebuilding-and-new-tv-on-the-right-track/

    Like

  17. Some thoughts on a vacation day:
    – Yes I think it is important that the Astros take advantage of their current economic edge with reasonably priced high production starting pitching.
    – However, I don’t think we should toss out another 3 or 4 for 1 trade – right now.
    – I would like to see them try to fill 1B, 3B and DH from within (White, Duffy, Reed, Singleton) or perhaps with a Valbuena improving for instance – first
    – Lets let part of the season to play out and then make a big move to fill the need at that point. It may be entirely different need after an injury than we see right now
    – The poor fan base is improving with the winning – the Astros home attendance rose about 25% last season to over 2.1 million
    – I would say it would be a slam dunk that their attendance takes another big jump this season to 2.5 million+ except….
    – In a bit of bad luck for Crane – oil prices have fallen through the floor. Here in Houston there are a lot of companies going austere, a lot of people being laid off and a lot of us with jobs hanging on a thread. I expect a much more modest improvement in attendance this season
    – Howdy hey Bopert – the team that was never ever ever ever going to contend – contended.
    – I have surprised myself over the last couple seasons. I don’t miss the NL. I thought I would but I don’t. Yes there is less strategy but I rarely go home from a game saying -“Boy that was a great (automatic) double switch in the 8th”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy vacation, Dan! I’ve forgotten what it feels like to take those.

      A tangent to your comments, but on 3B I wonder how much Valbuena contributed to the Keuchel Cy Young. He came up with some big plays early on in the season that prevented rallies and my memory says Keuchel was the beneficiary.

      Like

    • I thought the Astros defense as a whole was an under-reported and under appreciated part of their improvement. Just like trying to play defense behind a straggling slow poke often results in inattentive on their heels fielders – good fielders give a pitcher the confidence to make good hittable pitches rather than attempt to be perfect. It is good synergy and Valbuena was an important part of that.

      Like

  18. Hey Bo, glad you payed us a visit.
    You and I were in total agreement about moving the team to the AL. I guess I’ve accepted the inevitable and actually like the move. However, the way it came about still makes me see red.
    Personally I like reading your thoughts. It gives insight on how things can go either way.
    Some things I know about you: you love the Astros, hate JC, and were as happy as the rest of us to see them make the playoffs. 🙂

    Like

  19. Even though I wanted the Astros to draft Mark Appel, I never, ever had the expectation that he might be the “savior of the franchise” as he put it this week.
    I wish him luck in Philadelphia and I think he will need it.
    I have always had the impression that the one player in our system who came closest to what Appel was referring to is our current SS and even then, I don’t want that to be an expectation, more like a wish.
    However, referring to the word used to define the job of a closer, a save, Appel could turn out to have inadvertently provided something as close to a savior as my faith and baseball lore allow me to speak of, respectfully.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. For now, I’m OK with the team we have breaking camp to see if a handful of the prospects can make a difference. For yrs I thought Pence’s energy, akin to Springer’s, was a huge catalyst not only for the clubhouse/fans, but just as important than advancing in post-season bc baseball with a round ball and bat – anything can happen. Most people realize that underneath the numbers, it’s how ya appear to play the game. I’ve got no problem with a 15-pitch Rasmus strikeout.

    Along those lines, the thing I’ll be hoping for most — if we’re talking about corner IF’s, or Rasmus, Gattis, Gomez and to wit, Pence — is plate discipline. What defines the Silver Slugger is his unique ability to square up, and not everyone has the confidence of Correa to take first pitch and run deep counts. If V B can improve on his own in this area, while he may lack the range needed, I’m confident in his glove & power to secure the spot next season. I’m also a big fan of Marwin (reminds me of Jose Visciano w very nearly the same slashes at their respective ages), the thing which defines him as a sub is the league makes quicker adjustments than he does. Despite the ‘Stros ranking 6th in overall batting, many of our regulars need more AB’s to work out the kinks, just as our prospects for which we have big hopes. And by so improving in the small ball dept., the dominos fall: starters go deeper, pen stays healthier, and the younger guys get their due look-see.

    Having said that, it’s my general philosophy you’re ALWAYS trying to add a big bat and big arm. It’s just this team has a lot to figure out before we send another haul away for fewer unknowns. Team control, small budget, great core notwithstanding — there’s plenty of talent to be pushing the Feldman and Gattis’ of the world. I realize baseball is a business, but our fans covet the loyalty we got from Biggio/Bagwell/Caminiti. I want a winner as much as those with differences of opinion. Despite the common goal of a championship, the discussion of what we should do at 1B or interchangeably, 3B, we simply have to learn to stop chasing the nasty slider, take opposing pitchers into deeper counts, and capitalize on small ball tactics. We improve that area, all things being equal, this “year-ahead-of-schedule” team was the 2015 World Champs! My rather obvious two cents.

    Like

  21. Ex-Astro, Chris Johnson, was DFA’d by the Indians today. I have no interest in bringing him back, but since he is an ex-Astro I thought it was worthy of a mention.

    Like

  22. “According to Forbes, the Astros’ estimated $99 million income would be more than what the past six World Series champions have earned combined. Astros owner Jim Crane told ESPN the Magazine in June that once the Astros’ minor league system has been filled, the club would sport a payroll in the top 10 or top five of the league.”

    This is a quote from Jim Crane in August 2013. Hmmm? Maybe Bopert is onto something.

    Like

  23. My post from this AM never appeared. so I will try again. The comments earlier were Income and the Astros need to increase the same.

    I read years back that Fox Sports offered the Rangers and the Astros essentially the same contract. The Rangers accepted and D Mc decided to go for the Big Bucks with Comcast. Later Crane paid dearly for that pig in a poke. The Rangers were earning $80 Million a year per the article.

    http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/texas-rangers/rangersheadlines/2010/09/27/Rangers-new-20-year-2344

    Liked by 1 person

  24. So to answer the question, I can not find a definitive amount. In the Barron article it says the Astros were to get $80 a year from Comcast provided it made a profit. That did not happen and it goes on to say they did not receive $54 Million. Then it says the new deal from Root would yield about the same amount. But I am not sure which of the two “same amounts” are anticipated.

    Like

    • I thought I heard a few weeks ago that the Astros got around $59mil from their tv deal this year. The new Cardinal deal is supposed to give them over $200mil per year for ten years. and the Cards get revenue sharing, which we don’t. This is not an even playing field.

      Like

  25. Mike Leake wants a TON of money to sign with a team…..like a 5yr $75mill contract.
    The Dodgers are talking to Kazmir, I haven’t seen any talks of the Astros anywhere.
    I’m curious to see what Luhnow offers Keuchel when they start the arbitration hearings. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d like to see Musgrove open some eyes this spring, I’m not sold on giving some of these pitchers millions, when we have some sparkling pitching of our own. I think Luhnow needs to think twice, before trading any more of out top prospects…..I want them to play for US dang it!!

    Like

    • It will indeed be interesting to see what Keuchel is offered. I read an article last summer about Keuchel wanting to stay here and all he asked for was a fair deal.
      There was never another word mentioned about it. If he tries to low ball the CY Young winner we’re in big trouble.

      Like

  26. I bring you good news! Chip will be returning very soon! Dan, and Brian we owe you sooo much for filling in for Chip, while working at your professions too! Thanks guys you both do such wonderful jobs on this blog!! Thought I’d pass this along. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is good news both for Brian and me and for all visitors to this blog.
      It is a lot easier to cover with 3 of us writing and Chip brings so much knowledge and good pieces to the blog.
      This is fun for me. It brings my passion for spots together with my passion for writing and I love what we have built here and the interaction with all our knowledgeable friends.

      Liked by 2 people

  27. Just a little thought for your Friday. Many have compared Carlos Correa to a young Cal Ripken. Ripken was ROY in 1982 and Correa was ROY in 2015. Ripken was MVP and won the World Series the next year (1983). It only stands to reason that Correa does the same in his 2nd season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I went back and checked the rosters for the Os and Phillies in that series and both of those teams were fairly old in comparison to the Astros of 2016. Ripken was the youngest star on the field in that series.
      Gosh I would love to see the Astros bulldoze their way into the world series this year with a young team!

      Like

  28. Another note on the monies available to Crane/JL. Lets not forget what a monumental bad decision it was to leave Fox Sports. D Mc gave away coverage in the entire state to the Rangers. Also Louisiana etc. So kids are now wearing Ranger gear in the mall or playground, and want to be Beltre or Hamilton. All the while the Rangers were getting $80 Million and the Astros were apparently getting squat which they had to loan back to CSN to get anything.

    Crane was willing to come up with the money to rebuild the farm. Although expensive, it is relatively equal expense for all teams. Crane has money from revenue to pay for players, but he still has much less than at least 10 other teams. He might have the same money available as Oakland. There are 2 teams with TV contracts in Texas. Oakland and California share 5 teams. Yet the Dodgers, Angels, Rangers and others have a much better deal for money. The key to me is for the Astros to reclaim their share of Texas and border states. When they stunk, no household wanted the TV deal. But if they continue winning, these fringe cable providers will step up. But it won’t be overnight.

    Like

    • That turf war with the Rangers is going to be fought on the field. The Astros cannot afford to let the old geezers beat up the young Astros again this season. That rivalry we heard about is here because the Ranger’s players are getting long in the tooth and don’t have many more chances. The younger Rangers’ players have already drawn blood against the Astros so the Astros have to answer that.
      I think 2016 is the year this rivalry is sealed.

      Like

      • Fielder – $18 Million (2021 – rest paid by Tigers) Hamels – $23.5 (2018), Hamilton – $2 Million (rest paid by Angels – 2017), Beltre – $18 this year, Choo – $20 (2021), Colby Lewis (Unsigned), Gallardo (Unsigned), Darvish – $10 (2017). Andrus – $15 (2023). Last Year – $132 Million.

        That was why the Ranger Fans were glad Gallardo turned down the QO. Had he accepted they had no more room for anyone else in 2016 and few choices for 2017.

        Like

    • Living in Round Rock, which used to be almost exclusively Astros fans, but is now almost exclusively Rangers fans, I can tell you a start to winning back the state of Texas fan base is to move the Astros AAA franchise back to Round Rock once the Rangers PDC ends in 2018. I feel confident this will happen and it will help bring back some of the central Texas fans to the Astros fan base. Recently, there was an article by a DFW writer that the Rangers are looking ahead and considering moving their AAA franchise to San Antonio after the 2018 season. The Rangers are a very smart organization and they realize the Astros will probably take back Round Rock so they want to maintain a foothold in this area.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally agree. Fresno does not help the Astros at all especially in the TV marketing. Rangers have two locations in Texas. Conroe would save money on travel, but hardly helps in adding fans. San Antonio or even the RGV make more sense if you are trying to build a fan base.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a good point about RGV. The Rockets have added some fans in that area by having the Vipers as their NBDL affiliate. Personally, and selfishly, I hope they move back to Round Rock, but I can understand moving to the RGV as a means to grow the fan base. One caveat to this is that they have the AA franchise in Corpus Christi, which is not too far from the RGV so I think they should move to Round Rock. 🙂

        Like

  29. I see where Tal Smith talks about MMP becoming too much of a bandbox if Tal’s Hill is taken out, It may be true, but with lineups including Altuve, Springer, Moran Correa, White, Reed, Kemp, Bregman, Heineman, Kemmer and Tucker out there and a good group of groundball starters and a bunch of flamethrowers in the pen, I think MMP will do just fine no matter what they do to it.
    If the Astros prospects continue what they have been doing, they are going to hit for average and will have a lot of power and BBs, too. Let’s roll!

    Like

  30. Adding a comment or two about Reed, he had 127 RBIs in 2015 and he was young for AA and spot on for age at high A. He hit a tad over his regular slash line with 2 outs and RISP and he did not hit lefties as well as righties, although his BA was 20 points higher against lefties as Singleton’s was against everyone. Singletons BA was .252 against all pitchers and Reed hit .271 against Lefties and .342 against everyone.

    Like

  31. Some other sites are talking about Astros needing a RHB to platoon with Singleton.

    I have seen on other sites that (A) Hinch plans to carry 13 pitchers. That leaves 12 position players. (B). Unless you plan to platoon DH, that leaves 11. (C) If your bench has 1 extra catcher, 1 INFer, 1 OFer, with 8 playing, there is no room to platoon anyone with Singleton. I don’t care which side they bat. Either he plays or goes. And I know where my vote lands.

    Like

    • I don’t get carrying 13 pitchers, especially in April with so many off days. You go with 5 starters and 7 relievers, including a long man and the bullpen should be fine starting out. Here are my pitchers: Keuchel, McHugh, LMJ, Fiers, Signed pitcher (Gallardo, Kazmir or Leake), Giles, Gregerson, Neshek, Harris, Fields, Sipp and Feldman. Then you have the 9 offensive players in the lineup, counting DH, that leaves you 4 bench pieces. Clearly, MarGo, Stassi and Marisnick are on the bench, but do they keep Tucker or sign a RH 1B to platoon with Singleton? It sounds like White, Reed and Tucker are going to start the season in the minor leagues unless Singleton proves he isn’t ready and someone else is the starting 1B.

      Like

  32. I still think, despite lack of dollars and the fact that Singlepuff is a lefty, the Astros would benefit greatly from a Joey Votto acquisition.

    Can you imagine the impact a power hitter that can actually hit for average in the middle of the lineup? The benefit of a solid lefty to give Mr. Correa some legit protection? That would be the Randy Johnson of 1998 move to show the fans the Astros are serious at making a run… while they still can.

    Yes, Mr. Crane. Take on the phat contract and move a prospect, and the deal would be done.

    Clearly the Reds are shopping him. Clearly they’re in trim-the-payroll mode.

    And hey, if (a big if) Singlepuff emerges this year, then what a great problem to have! Platoon him at DH and 1B with Gattis… there’s plenty of room on the roster and the bench for those free swingers..

    Sorry, without some legit power at the corner IF positions, the economic/strategic advantages the Astros enjoy at 2B/SS/SP are greatly nullified.

    And we all know that Marwin’s role is a backup IF, NOT a platoon righty at 1B.

    This is the one big hols that needs to be filled, and it can be done in one fell swoop. Trade for Mr. Votto, please!

    Like

    • Hey, neither you nor I have any problem spending Crane’s money, but man $20-25 Million a year through age 40. Crane would have to give Votto about 50% of all of his TV revenue. You are heartless. 🙂

      Seriously, Votto does get on base. So when he comes up with runners on base, you have almost a 50% chance he will get on base and an OPS of 1.000.

      Like

    • Bopert, one big problem you’re forgetting is that Votto has a NTC and he has made it abundantly clear he has no intention of waiving this. He loves playing in Cincy and doesn’t want to play elsewhere.

      Like

      • Good point. But even he can see this equation is a winner. I haven’t read that he loves Cincy and wants to stay during their rebuild.

        Like

    • Wow!!! Votto will cost a HUGE HAUL of prospects PLUS….take on a ton of money.
      I’d rather see another starting pitcher, and let OUR OWN guy take his place at 1st base.

      Like

  33. The Brew Crew Ball has an article about wishing Sterns would trade for Singleton. Singleton to the Brewers for maybe….. “Maverick” Phillips? I know it will not happen but I can dream…

    Like

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