Regrets: Will Astros have to eat crow in 2016?


They say “in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”. Jeff Luhnow has taken many chances and regrets will be part of the ticket over the next few years. The Astros have made many decisions over the past few weeks. Some to sign, some to not re-sign and others to trade away. With that many decisions, it’s more than just water under the bridge and Luhnow and Co. could have some regrets before 2016 gets too far down the road.

Here are a few of those decisions and how they may impact the crow-eating at MMP this season.

  • Scott Kazmir. 3 years, $48 million with Dodgers.

The 32-year-old lefty certainly could have been a solid addition to an already-strong rotation. But at an average $16 million per season and a hefty 3-year, $48 million contract, the numbers just didn’t make sense for Houston. Yes, he has had solid numbers over the past few years, but he has also faded down the stretch.  Depth is important in any rotation and organization and Kazmir could obviously have carried the Astros a long way behind Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr.

The bigger question may be how much did the Astros give up last summer to get the 13 starts, 4.71 ERA and 2-6 record? Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham, both traded for Kazmir, will tell that tale.

Will the Astros regret not signing Kazmir: No, not at that price.

  • Chris Carter. 1 year, $2.5 million with Brewers.

Yes, this one could come back to haunt…possibly. Carter is only 29, but has a consistent top-heavy, swing-and-miss, strikeout repertoire.  However, many a player has come into their own at 29 and if the Astros can not find that replacement at first base, the merry-go-round could continue and Carter could be a winner elsewhere. The contract the Brewers gave Carter may have been a good safety net for the Astros.

Indeed, the Astros would have had to pay Carter close to $6 million in arbitration — that was too much — and most fans were happy to bid adieu to Mr. Carter this winter. But Luhnow could have brought him back on a lesser deal.  However, if Jonathan Singleton, Luis Valbuena or others do not step up, Houston may wish it had Carter’s potential 30 home runs back in the six hole.

Will the Astros regret not re-signing Carter: In a word, yes. At $2.5 million, he would be a bargain.

  • Colby Rasmus. 1 year, $15.8 million.

No, he isn’t — and never will be — worth the $15.8 million the Astros will pay for 2016. And, yes, Rasmus’ decision to accept the qualifying offer may preclude the Astros from adding another significant bat. In that sense, it could come back to haunt Houston and Jeff Luhnow. Indeed, the Astros took a chance by offering Rasmus a qualifying offer. No other player had ever accepted it before and Rasmus became the first. He likely knew he would not and could not command that type of one year salary on the open market and it allows him one more season to re-establish his credentials in a Rasmus-friendly environment.

Will he last the season in Houston? Probably not, unless there are significant injuries, especially if he can use the first half of the season to put up good numbers.

Will the Astros regret offering the QO for Rasmus: No, it was a solid gamble and, while he’s obviously a strong clubhouse partner, he has some pop and some speed, he could provide a decent return at the deadline if he’s in demand.

  • Jed Lowrie. Traded for Brendan McCurry.

Unless Brendan McCurry turns into a useful piece for the Astros, this is a bit of a gamble. Going into the off season, it seemed clear that Lowrie was the stop gap solution for third base. If Luis Valbuena stepped up to the plate, then first base was also an option for Lowrie. Is both spots are filled, what a super sub Lowrie could have been. Of course, he will be 32 before the season is a month old and he does have an injury-riddled history, so Luhnow may have thought the gamble was just a bit much.

  • Brett Oberholtzer, Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, Domingo Santana, Mike Foltynewicz, Andrew Thuman, Rio Ruiz, Carlos Corporan, Nick Tropeano.

All traded for bigger pieces over the past year. Ah yes, here’s the meat of the Regret List. No one has yet proven Luhnow wrong, but the sheer number of players listed here (and others not listed), someone will likely make his look bad.

Phillips or Velasquez could be at the top of the list, but even average, long-term careers from any of these players could bring regret. Does anyone remember John Halama?

Regrets are part of the game and as many moves as the Astros have made the past two seasons, some are likely to come home to roost. In the end however, if the Astros reach the World Series or even have an extended playoff run through the rest of this decade, some of those will be forgotten.

In fact, some already have. Which do you believe will provide the biggest regrets for Luhnow?

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24 comments on “Regrets: Will Astros have to eat crow in 2016?

  1. JL is most vulnerable on the trading of all the prospects. So in a few years, as you mentioned, there is a good chance that one or more of the prospects will shine. Kazmir, Carter & Lowrie leaving should not negatively impact the team.

    I believe that the current rules required the QO, and Rasmus took advantage of it.

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  2. We’ve talked about the numbers crunch, but probably didn’t think it would come so soon. I think, based on the cost of relievers, that Hader might be the biggest loss of everyone you listed.

    I don’t like salary dumps but can’t figure out a 25 man that would have retained Lowrie and Carter without losing guys like Marwin and Gattis. I would take Carter at $2.5 million over Gattis at his arbitration value though, but that wasn’t an option for Luhnow.

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  3. With Singleton, Valbuena, Gonzalez, Duffy, White and Reed in line to play first base and Gattis, Tucker and White in line to play DH, how does Luhnow justify paying Carter $5-6mil to be a .200 hitter and play a lousy 1B?
    He couldn’t and that’s why he didn’t.
    I think Luhnow feels more confident in the combination of Feldman, Peacock, Feliz, and Musgrove than in Scott Kazmir. At this point in time, Kazmir cannot be taught how to hold runners, field his position and pitch a full year for $15million. 29 teams are going to go HaHa I told you so or are going to regret not signing Kazmir. For all we know, maybe Kazmir didn’t want to pitch for the Astros. Maybe he’s the guy who felt like a fifth wheel. He selected the deal he got, so we have to assume Houston wasn’t where he most wanted to be.
    Rasmus. I think Luhnow’s people skills could be the reason he didn’t know how much Rasmus wanted to play here, especially for that amount of money. But, I am happy Rasmus is still here, because he stepped up in the playoffs and I actually like the guy and appreciate him wanting to be here.
    Luhnow’s biggest regret could be signing Singleton to a deal before he ever got to the majors. because he got laughed at by baseball when he did it and Singleton has remained an anchor around Luhnow’s neck. It’s not the money that will hurt Luhnow on that deal, its the going out on the limb with Jon to prove he himself was an innovator and then having Singleton whip out the chainsaw and cut the limb off. It’s not always the fact that you’re a lousy dancer that leads to embarrassment, but, also, who you choose to dance with.

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  4. As a Christian, please forgive anything read in this comment that sounds anti-Christian, because it is not. But pastors are almost always “called” to the church that pays more money. So if we can accept that in our pastors, we need to accept that in baseball players. I see nothing wrong in Kazmir accepting the contract and see nothing wrong in JL not offering him the same or more.

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    • I definitely don’t begrudge Kazmir for accepting the contract. We live in a capitalistic society and every person should have the option to go for the highest contract/salary, if that’s what he/she wants. MLB is big business and there is plenty of money to be spent, primarily from these TV contracts.

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  5. Chip, not reading anything into your post, but just want to comment that I don’t see much difference in Singleton’s contract being a waste, and Carter at $2.5 Million being a good deal for the Astros. 2015 – Carter (.199 .307 .427 .734 with 38%Ks) and Singleton (.191 .328 .298 .625 w/ 36%Ks in limited playing time)

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    • Sometimes you can’t value a guy on just last years performance. Do you pay 2.5 mil for those Carter numbers? No. But do you pay 2.5mil on .230 with 30 HR and a fair walk rate? Maybe, if that is better than the other guy may do (Singleton). I think Chip is only suggesting that those numbers are possible for Carter seeing in that he has done them before.

      For people that are tired of Carter and the strikeouts, its only natural to pick and choose your stats to bolster the argument. Not a Carter sympathizer, but if Singleton bombs it forces the Astros hand if they don’t want to rush Reed. Personally, I say rush Reed. The guy looks ready to me now, like Correa did. Talented guys just do it against any pitching. But its not my team. Unless Singleton starts taking baseball seriously, Carter, for all his faults, maybe better than Singleton next year.

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      • Just to clarify my post. I was not playing one against the other. I wish both were in Milwaukee and then lets see what we have with the youngsters. The luck of the draw will tell you that if you have 3 decent or better AAA players, then one can at least be average in MLB. I believe that Carter and Big Jon have shown us enough to believe the others need a shot and be given as much of a chance as those two.

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      • But you don’t pay Carter that money based on his complete body of work. Career 33.7% K rate and a career BA of .217 and a total WAR of 2.2 accumulated over six seasons.
        Nobody has to pick and choose. They are right there for the whole world to read.
        He’s not getting younger and he’s not getting better.

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    • Singleton’s condntract isn’t/wasn’t a waste. In fact, it was a great deal when he signed it. Thus far, Luhnow has lost that gamble. As young as Singleton is, there would be another team willing to take on the contract (I believe) if Luhnow wanted to move him. Every GM believes he can fix a young player. Now, if there is an attitude issue we aren’t aware of (other than the non chalant approach to the game), then it’s probably well known among opposing GMs.

      On Carter, yes, I’d have taken him this season at $2.5 million if he’d have signed that deal. BUT…Luhnow wants to move forward and try to improve and that means one of the younger guys needs to step up. Cant he Astros do better than Carter? Absolutely. Ab-so-lute-ly! Maybe it’s Duffy or Singleton or somewhere else. Maybe it’s in April or maybe it’s in July. Let’s see.

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  6. Few of those names which have been dealt, or left hanging concern me much. I mostly see this game through these eyes and their body language, rather than sheer numbers bc it’s game situations which are more tangible, and wins. Also, when you just look bad at the plate, like a few of our guys every year (Conger Carter, the worst) it’s time to go! I thought while Lowrie looked more polished than Vb, Carter and Gattis, he wasn’t durable enough, and we already have super sub ala Vizcaino in MarGon. Problem is with Marwin, the league tends to make quicker adjustments if he’s an everyday. No, I think we’re pretty set! All this stirring the pot, when it just needs to simmer and be tasted.. Louisiana parlance? Begging for more spice can upset a balance worked hard to have already been achieved.

    We have to see where we’re at after April. I’m in good company with OP1 on most points, and have even been persuaded of the catcher situation, even though a fan of Castro’s handling of the staff (coaches love him & he called the NoNo vs Yanks, and Fiers’). It’s time to unload that money hopefully after Stassi or Heine get established mid-season, and let the young arms and backstops have a chance.

    Having said that, I’m w JL on “[always] looking to upgrade” SP, and will go further and say “a big bat.” Problem with that blanket statement is it means taking away AB’s for so many waiting in the wings, like Reed, Marisnick, Tucker, Duffy, Moran and so on.. Focusing on what could have been? Every player has an entirely unique situation on a Team Sport, otherwise there’d be no need for coaches, managers and those who make the puzzle look like an intention. Winning as a unit. A lot has to be put together so that a few can shine. Listen to any Biggio interview and you’ll hear more about his teammates than himself.

    Look at those seasons Ryan and Clemens pitched so well. Bet they both wished they had clutch hitters in the fold! Fact is, this team is thinking outside the box like no other Astro team with defensive shifts, utilizing speed, being opportunistic. The huge area of improvement has to be in the swing/miss category. If we find the hopefuls arent getting it done, there are yet more who deserve a shot.

    On Kazmir, he didnt look like he belonged. I was incredibly surprised at his last start and give him credit, but no thanks!

    Guys who are the heart and soul – Springer, Tuve, kidkeuchy, Correa can and have literally carried a team. Lets talk about what we have: a young, inexpensive, hungrier than ever, a healthy showboat in CF, good energy group! We have to figure out how to beat the Rangers and Royals to get to the Cubs or Cards.

    Rasmus is clutch. Not 15 mil clutch, but lets take these draft picks and solid ’16 in Colby and Cargo, cut bait w Castro.

    Channeling my Jim Mora “Playoffs?!” voice. Carlos Corporan?! Carlos Corporan?! Are you kidding?

    Love ya, Chip, always good to see you.
    Get well soon, Becky!

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  7. I agree with Devin that, in hindsight, I would rather have had Chris Carter at $2.5M to be DH than Gattis at, roughly, $3.5M, but, as Devin stated, that wasn’t an option. I didn’t want Chris Carter at $5.5M. I wanted Kazmir back, but not at the price and 1-year opt out he received from the Dodgers. It just wasn’t worth it. Like OP, I like Rasmus as well. He seems to be well respected in the clubhouse and provides 25 HR power with decent defense in LF. Yes, he was a bit of an over pay, but for only 1 year you can live with it, especially if he produces close to how he did toward the end of the year. As with any trades of prospects you may have regrets down the road, but if the Astros parlay those prospects into a World Series win I doubt anyone will regret trading them. The player I think we may regret losing the most is Santana. Maverick may turn out to be a good player, but he doesn’t have the power that Santana does. I also, in hindsight, think Hader could be a tough loss down the road. The projections on him vary widely between a solid #3 to just a LOOGY, but he appears to be continuing to perform well in the minors and winter leagues.

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  8. looking at chip’s list above of players traded away, i guess a list of the players they brought to us and a list of the players (in our system) who take the places of the ones traded gives you a good place to start to evaluate these trades (and maybe the thinking behind them). but as noted by many you just can’t fully evaluate trades until 2-3-4 years down the road. its a drag to lose some of out top prospects, but it gave us playoff games! and we are positioned for that again this year. and to me it looks like we have players in the minors who can do what the ones traded away can do.

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  9. * Which do you believe will provide the biggest regrets for Luhnow? *

    To constitute a ‘regret’, in my book, will take more than someone JL traded away or let go doing well after leaving Houston.

    In the trade world, ‘regret’ would require the people we traded for disappointing if not failing [examples, so far – Conger, Kazmir, Gomez, and Gattis]. For Conger we gave up both Starting pitcher Nick Tropeano and catcher Carlos Perez – to one of our main division rivals, no less! That is serious immediate regret territory. For Scott Kazmir’s 2-6 record with us down the stretch, his 4.17 ERA, and his critical defensive errors, we gave up two really good looking prospects – starting pitcher Menden and Nottingham. Neither of these guys has hurt us yet – but again, they went to the waiting arms of a division rival. This opens up a tinge of regret – but one that could become a series of very sharp, repetitive, and increasing pangs over the next few years. Gomez and Gattis trades are still iffy. Hopefully Fiers future makes Gomez’ struggles last year irrelevant, and hopefully Hoyt’s future makes Gattis’ ‘dead-air’ hole in the middle of our line-up easier to digest. At least neither of these guys required us to empower a division rival. That brings us to Jed Lowrie – and how many time we will face him in the next year when we play the As. Yes, I feel a little regret coming along for that trade. McCurry better keep that strikeout magic working, and prove he can do it against MLB hitters in the late innings – or the regret index could go up substantially. Finally, there is the issue of Ken Giles – and the boat load we gave up for him. He hasn’t recorded a single out in a Houston uni yet. So far, he is like Gomez and Kazmir – a lot of hype and hope, but no tangible reward. Though we have received nothing as of yet from Giles, we have most definitely lost something lost our #5 [and ultimately significantly higher] starting pitcher for the future [Velasquez]. We also lost a replacement starter with some future BOR rotation-worthy upside [Oberholtzer]. These two guys weren’t prospects – they were MLB experienced talent. And along with them we also lost any prospect of ever recovering our investment in Mark Appel. So yes, that trade has ‘regret’ at the front end big time. That regret could diminish, and go away, however, if Giles actually does for us in 2016 and anything like he did for Philadelphia in early 2015.

    As far as guys we have ‘let go’, for no return, there should be no regrets at all. May Christ Carter and Jon Villar both live long and prosper – in beautiful Milwaukee, Wisconsin – a place and a team we won’t see even one time in regular season 2016. Kazmir? He’s a Dodger – and he won’t be in the top 4 of their rotation. So even if we were somehow to face them in the WS, the likelihood of him hurting us is very, very low.

    Now can we find a place to unload Gattis, Valbuena, and maybe Gomez before the season starts?

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      • Dave, you asked, so I will tell you plainly, for what it is worth.

        As I see it Gomez is going to give us one year at most. Then, no matter what he does for us next year – or doesn’t – he is going to want the moon based on a couple year’s of relative success in the past with Milwaukee. And he is not, and will not be, worth it. His offensive stupor last year hurt us badly at a time we were in need of someone to step up and at least perform at league average to help us fend off the surging Rangers. Some say he was injured, but the reality is that he was worse offensively for us before he got injured than he was afterwards. Some say he was once an All-Star; I just respond that he sure wasn’t one for us. To me, unless and until he performs at an All-Star level for us, he’s nobody. For me it’s all about what he’s done on the field for the Houston Astros – not what he did in another day, in another league, for a Milwaukee Brewers team that stunk like dead fish from the head down. The Brew-Crew had to have an AS representative, so he got chosen. But calling him an All-Star quality player now is like calling Jason Castro an All-Star quality player now. It’s a mind game.

        What Gomez did for us was hit like a #7 or #8 hitter. And this was in a lineup without a legitimate 4, 5, or 6. He couldn’t even hit .250. He did not get on base. He did not drive in runs. He did not hit home runs. He mouthed. He showboated. He over-reacted to everything. Add to that the fact that he is an injury waiting to happen, not to mention a lightning rod for bench-clearing brawls and brush-back pitches for our other players, and I see us as being much better off with Springer in center, Rasmus in right and Tucker or Marisnick in left depending on who we are facing and.or what part of the game it is.

        How could he prove me wrong? Let him give the 2016 Astros a 1st half of the season with a BA of .300 or better, an OBP of .350 or better, 15 or more doubles, 15 of more stolen bases, 40 or more RBIs, and 35 or more runs scored. If he does that I will most definitely eat crow. But if he gives us another under .250 BA, under .300 OBP, rare doubles, rare HRs, and rare runs scored performance like last year, and still gets 90 % of the starts in CF that George Springer should be getting – and I’ll say ‘that’s why I was for unloading him before the season started.’

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  10. Players we might regret losing:
    Hader…. (op doesn’t seem to think he was all that…..but I do)!
    Phillips
    Nottingham
    Velasquez
    Kazmir won’t live out his contract…no regrets.
    Carter good guy, but at sometime you have to bite the bullet, and play your best prospects. We havesoo much talent on.our farm…time to put them on the field.
    Rasmus likes it in Houston, and MAYBE for the first time in his pro baseball life he will put his best foot forward, and make the QO a good investment.
    All I can say about the Giles trade, is he had better be the second coming of Mariano Rivera.
    Losing Jed again…meh.

    Thank you for thinking of me today. I did have the bone marrow biopsy, and I’m glad the worst part of my tests is behind me. It was extremely painful, and for the first time since I was a little girl…..I cried. I’m a stubborn, hard headed old gal and I intend to fight this with grit, and humor. Your not gonna get rid of me that easy!! Pitchers and catchers arrive in Florida in 6 weeks, and I am one happy girl!! I have a VERY good feeling about this year…..magical!!

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