Astros 2016: Reading between the lines


Actions often speak louder than words, except when you are watching some WWE actor/wrestler screaming at you on the TV. So, there have been a number of actions made by the front office that are meant to send a message this off-season.

Potentially going to arbitration with Jason Castro over a $250,000 difference

Teams usually don’t want to go to arbitration to begin with and in the modern world of baseball finances $250K is a drop in the barrel. So why are the Astros risking antagonizing their likely starting catcher over this small amount?

  1. He’s not really going to be their starting catcher.
  2. There are so many things that are bothering the GM about Castro that he really wants to tell him face to face.
  3. Jim Crane’s divorce is costing more than anticipated.
  4. They think he will blink.

(Note – this was written before reading Brian T’s post on the Castro arbitration – but so it goes)

Jeff Luhnow announcing that first base is Jon Singleton’s to lose in spring training

It is not normal to give a position away to a guy who has batted .171 with a 36% strike out rate in 420 mlb plate appearances. So what are the Astros trying to tell Singleton, or the rest of the baseball world?

  1. Rest of the baseball world –  Wouldn’t you love to have a sure thing 1B starter for the next 3 years at $2 million per year plus a $500K buyout? Make an offer. Any offer.
  2. They have tried tough love on Jonathan and now they are trying unconditional love to motivate him.
  3. This is one way to really motivate Matt Duffy, Tyler White and/or A.J. Reed to kick bottom in spring training.
  4. Rumor has it that Luhnow was seen visiting a Colorado smoke shop with Singleton right before making the announcement at a Denver area Jack in the Box.

The Astros signing Wandy Rodriguez to a minor league contract

When a 37 year old lefty is coming off a season where he gave up .838 OPS to left handed hitters, has a WHIP north of 1.500 and is again 37 years old, why sign him at all?

  1. After Oliver Perez he may look good.
  2. Thought he might want to be part of the second Astros World Series run like he was for the first.
  3. He’s a lefty and as long as a lefty pitcher is vertical he may have value.
  4. They are all dying to ask him what “Wandy” is short for and why he changed his name from Eny Cabreja.

The Astros trading 5 pitchers, Mark Appel, Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Harold Arauz and Thomas Eshelman to the Phillies for fireballing reliever Ken Giles and skinny infielder Jonathan Arauz

There are lots of unusual aspects to this trade – trading 5 pitchers, including 2 with mlb experience, trading the former 1st over all pick and having two players with unusual last names on either side of the trade. What were the Astros saying?

  1. To former 1-1 draftee Mark Appel – One is the loneliest number….
  2. We don’t care how many players are involved as long as the best one of the bunch ends up in our bullpen.
  3. The bullpen meltdown of the late season and the playoffs was burned into our brains – no matter what we say.
  4. “Arauz by any other name smells just as sweet.”

Announcing the postponement of the project to rid Minute Maid Park of Tal’s Hill

It is a bit unusual to announce a fairly major renovation project and then to back out of it only a few months later. What was behind the reversal?

  1. The expected tidal wave of new season ticket buyers did not occur after the first announcement and it was cheaper to keep the hill as-is.
  2. The original construction company warned the club that they risked uncovering Jimmy Hoffa’s body when they flattened the hill.
  3. They thought it was more likely that the outfielders were going to injure themselves crashing into the new fence than falling on the old hill.
  4. Tal Smith unsuccessfully appealed to owner Jim Crane on behalf of the hill, but fortunes reversed when Crane woke up the next morning with Orbit’s head next to him in his bed.

So, other than the Castro situation which has already been discussed, what message do you think the club was trying to pass along with these moves?

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50 comments on “Astros 2016: Reading between the lines

  1. I think they are going to arbitration with Castro because he isn’t worth $5million.
    I think Luhnow is giving the job to Singleton to lose because it puts the ball in Singleton’s court and they want the world to know they gave him one more chance before they have to eat his contract.
    I think the Astros signed Wandy Rodriguez as an insurance policy against Feldman’s and Peacock’s health. The fact that he accepted the larger portion of the money with incentives made this a good deal. They have two areas of relief from this contract: A) He doesn’t make the staff out of spring training. B) He only makes a lot of money if he does well.
    I think the Astros traded five pitchers for Giles and Arauz because they value what they will get from Giles and Arauz more than what they will get from the other five. Why do they think that? Because of Devenski, Shirley, Martes, Musgrove, Feliz, Kyle Smith, and David Paulino and the rest of their minor league pitchers..
    Why did they postpone the CF Project? A) Too much expense and no return. B) Made the ball park too small. C) The proposed changes looked like crap in the pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. … at a Denver area Jack in the Box.

    I can’t stop laughing.

    I think they are telling Castro that $5 million is generous enough.

    I think they are telling White, Duffy and Reed that the door is open.

    I think Wandy is breathing … and left handed.

    I think it’s the burnt into the brain thing. After all, six outs away is so close you can taste it. I know Royals fans who say, “I knew we had a chance.” And I’m like, “Really? A big lead and six outs? You were crying in your beer, liar!”

    I think they just didn’t think the Tal’s Hill thing through. Personally, I like it. I’ll be sad to see it go. IF it ever goes.

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  3. A couple thoughts:
    – No problem with off-topic things like Ken Burns’ jock doc – he does a tremendous job whatever the topic
    – I never noticed that chopping down Tal’s Hill was going to be paid for by taxpayers but i should have known it.
    – I am not as anti-Hill as I used to be. Have not seen any injuries due to it. I still have a problem with putting a flagpole inside the fence.

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  4. Castro is not a favored member of the family at this point. Is it just me, or did it seem he lacked the enthusiasm showed by the rest of the dugout late last season? He would be replaced if there was a viable alternative. I think that’s the message.

    Luhnow stated the obvious. This is Singleton’s last shot. And the GM has challenged him not to lose that shot. But I think at this point, most everyone assumes he will indeed fail. Anyone think he’ll finally put it together?

    I think they are being nice to Wandy because he is a nice guy. But if he can remember how to get lefties out, then he might have value as the second southpaw in the pen, at least until a guy like Michael Freeman shows up.

    It was apparent that the pen was gassed at the end, and we desperately needed a guy that throws gas. The club realized that a closer is essential if you want to go deep into the post season. Heck, a six out save by Giles in game four would have a been a gas!

    Once the P & L was done, the club realized that new revenues would not pay for the project, especially since there are regularly so many empty seats all around the park.

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  5. * Why did the Astros sign Wandy Rodriguez [to a minor league contract]? *

    To prepare us for the signing of a similarly down-side of his career righty named Doug Fister.

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  6. A 1-year contract with only $7M guaranteed is a very low-risk, high upside move by Luhnow. It gives the Astros some depth and allows them to give the pitching prospects a bit more development time. I really like this signing. I now have F.A.S.!

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    • I certainly agree, Tim, that it is a low-risk move, and that it certainly could give the Astros more depth. That is all that really matters at this point. The Fister signing does, however, create the very interesting issue of who in our existing starting five [Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Fiers, and Feldman] gets to either start in Fresno or with another team. That decision – which is still a good two months away – should show us a lot about who and what Jeff really values.

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      • I think Feldman moves to the pen, but gives them a solid option to start due to injuries, which will happen during the season. Also, this signing might indicate the Astros aren’t convinced Feldman can last the entire season as a starter.

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  7. Fister is a very good signing.
    Costs no draft picks.
    Costs no players or prospects
    Gives us a sixth ML starter at much lower cost than predicted.
    Gives all the youngsters one more season to refine their pitches in the minors.
    His .226 batting average last season was higher than Castro, Singleton or Valbuena’s.

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  8. A couple things
    – rj – Yes Arauz by any other name – it is fun to let my humor Muse sail
    – Tim and old pro – Have to like these reasonable cost 1 yr contracts – if they have something left they may really perform well and if they don’t, cut ties.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin – I think we were all (other than you) picturing Fister getting 3 yrs $35 million or something like that.
      When you look at the kind of season Fister put up one year removed (2014) when he was 8th in Cy Young voting – this seems like a big bargain.

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    • Two weeks ago he was asking for a reported 2/$22mil. That’s a long way from 1/7 with no options! In 2014, Fister was a good pitcher with a good team. In 2015 he was a bad pitcher on a bad team. I’m willing to see what he does this year for seven mil.
      This means that Wandy is even more an insurance policy than he was yesterday. It probably puts Peacock, Straily and Buchanan on the spot, it gives Hoyt less of a chance to break camp with the club, because they will most certainly go with a long reliever. and it also gives them some room to trade either Feldman or Fister at the break, if a position starter is hurt and they need some help. With a sixth starter in the bullpen, they would carry one less short reliever, so Hoyt would just have to blow them away in the spring to unseat Fields or Harris.

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  9. fister gives us starting depth at a reasonable price, something we were hoping for. now lets see if strom can work his magic on him. its inevitable that there will be an injury or two during the season and its nice to have mlb experienced arms available to fill in for a few starts. i like this signing

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  10. on singleton – i think luhnow is trying to give singleton some confidence and lower his anxiety level so he performs. we’ll see if he does.
    on wandy – brian said it, he’s left handed and he is breathing
    on the 5 pitcher trade – we value having a hard throwing closer over those five guys considering we have replacements in our system already
    on tal’s hill – meh

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  11. By my count we have 22 pitchers on the 40 man. Somebody better have an option or two left. 6 starters on the depth chart to include Peacock. And Wandy has to be just so he can retire in his Astros jersey.

    And Fister in an off year put up numbers equal to Kazmir in Houston in 2015.

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  12. It’s great having the luxury of 6 legit starters going into ST. A blister would put one of them on the shelf at the start of the season. Feldman is probably not real happy right now, but he’ll be getting paid regardless of what his role is on Opening Day. Tough business.

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  13. Thought this was going to be serious, then funny, then serious, then funny. Long story short, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. 🙂 😦

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  14. According to an article I read the Fister contract is a guaranteed 7 mil. After incentives it could be as much as 12 mil. Which is a little harder to swallow but I still like this signing

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    • I don’t like it unless he has regained velocity. At the same time, we cleared out some org depth at pitcher and have some insurance. Question, though, would you all prefer Jed Lowrie or Doug Fister on the 25? That salary dump may have made the signing possible.

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      • Exactly! He only gets $12M if he reaches performance incentives. The key is that it’s only 1 year and no buyout or 2nd year option. I love this signing.

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  15. I love it , 7 mill like Op said we didn’t loose a thing and another veteran for injury or trade situations. You all know the rooster stuff better than I, Can Wandy start the year in Fresno?

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    • Wandy only gets the first million if he is on the 25 man roster on opening day. If they see he will not make that roster, they will let him know as far ahead of time as possible, so that he can make a decision about his future. At that point, he could choose free agency, retire or try the minors for awhile.
      I think the minor league signing of Wandy was a sign of respect for each other. I liked that a lot.

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      • Kevin, assuming that everyone is healthy, I would have to go with Keuchel, McHugh, McCullers, McFiers, McFeldman and McFister and let Hinch make the decision as to which of the last three will be the #4, #5 and the long relief.
        Some have suggested using a 6 man rotation but I am completely opposed to that because I want our top best pitchers pitching pitching every fifth game. The object is to win, not to keep people from pitching too many innings. We are now part of the bigtime. The goal in 2016 is to win the World Series. Our best chance to do that is to win the division and have home advantages in the playoffs.

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  16. So how would Dan answer his own questions?
    – $250K arb differential – No doubt they think they gave him too much with the $5 million and don’t want to spend a dime more
    – Singleton – This was a shot across his bow that also splashed in the vicinity of all those contenders for the 1B job
    – Hey, Wandy was liked here, he pitched well here and ….most of all …he’s a lefty
    – The 5 for 2 trade? They think they got the best 1 in the trade
    – Tal’s Hill – they ran that idea up the flagpole (that does not belong in the playing field) and no one saluted with a hand full of money….

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  17. Having been brought up by parents who were Milwaukee Braves’ fans all the way and where there was no question that Hammerin’ Hank was better than Say Hey Willie – it was cool to see that Dallas Keuchel won the Warren Spahn award as the best lefty in 2015.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ok, so when MLB.com gets everything sorted out and posted on the various team sites, the Astros top prospects will be
    Bregman
    Reed
    Martes
    K. Tucker
    Cameron
    All five of these players are on the new top 100 mlb prospects list that came out tonight.

    Like

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