Arbitration considerations: 2017 has begun for Astros


The Astros will have a busy off-season ahead. Perhaps none during Jeff Luhnow’s tenure has been more pivotal. The payroll will be higher, the stakes will be higher and the gulps, SMHs and hard decisions will also likely be greater.

Tim Dierkes has taken a look at the Astros’ likely arbitration numbers for the nine eligible players. Some of these are no brainers. Some the Astros should use as a launching pad to sign longer-term contracts. Others are not as clear.

Let’s take a look.

In my book, all are virtual no brainers with the possible exceptions of Fiers.

Since none of these is entering their final year of arbitration, higher salaries are due even next year this time. As a result, the Astros should explore long-term deals with Keuchel, McHugh, Springer and perhaps even a 2-3 year deal wtih Harris and Gattis.

We’ll explore other pricing options, but setting these salaries early on will allow Luhnow to project his budget and realize what he’ll have to work with when the free agent season opens in a few weeks.

You may say that $3.6 million is too lofty for Gonzalez. Sorry, just pay the man and worry about other positions. Luhnow will pay at least $2 million for a good quality utility man anyway, so another $1.6 million for a known quantity who enjoys playing in Houston is a no-brainer in my book.

Yes, $1.1 million for Marisnick is another easy decision. You’re not putting him in center field as a starter, only adding him to the roster for a fourth or fifth option. If you can settle with him at $900,000 even better.

Depending on what else Luhnow intends to do with the rotation, even Fiers could be considered a good deal for Houston at $4.3 million. Again, you know what you have and all he’s done is start 30 games for the past two seasons. Dependable. Reliable. No, he won’t carry the team, but he can provide some quality IP over the season.

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109 comments on “Arbitration considerations: 2017 has begun for Astros

  1. You look at Fiers’s game logs and his complete stat line and there is no way to account for his 11-8 record. Everything on paper indicates he probably should have been 8-11. If Fiers is a starter on this team next year we will regret it.
    This is the AL and they have Fiers figured out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a strong point and I wish I’d read this before commenting below. Fiers runs allowed:
      5 (@NYY), 3, 4, 2, 2, 4, 1, 2, 2, 7 (@LAA), 1, 4, 2, 0, 3, 0, 4, 6 (@OAK), 3,1, 2, 4, 5 (@TOR), 1, 3, 3, 2, 7(CHC), 0, 2, 4

      If my rotation is Keuchel – McHugh – LMJ – Musgrove – Devesnki then there is no place for Fiers. This doesn’t even allow for bringing in that TOR we have been talking about. I wonder about the durability, however, and whether Musgrove or Devenski can put up as many games where they allow 4 or fewer runs. The stink bombs that Fiers brings out from time to time really do leave a bad smell though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Musgrove threw the most innings he has ever thrown but it was a lot of minor league innings.http://m.astros.mlb.com/news/article/204457114/astros-rookie-joe-musgrove-done-for-season/
        Devenski was a starter who became a reliever, so his 100 innings or so included a lot of appearances and bullpen throwing. I think his arm is ready to start in the rotation and he really wants to be a starting pitcher.
        Fiers might be an innings-eater but contenders don’t utilize innings-eaters. Contenders use good pitchers and mediocre to poor teams utilize innings-eaters. Which will we be?
        In 2016 we had two innings-eaters and we got eaten alive. If we are to be real, we need pitchers who eat Rangers, not innings.

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      • devin i count 31 games in the figures above, but once i take off my shoes my counting reliability goes way down so i may be wrong. but whether it was 30 or 31 that in itself is a positive. and then when you count only 5 games where he gave up more than four runs, he looks like a guy you may want to keep around for depth and trade value if nothing else. throw in a no hitter (i think that was this year?) and i think 4.3 mill looks like a risk worth taking. if he somehow improves he is a viable starter, if not he is insurance against injury and a trade chip. keuchel missed time LMJ missed time, musgrove is new to pitching anywhere near 200 major league innings, same for devenski who very well stay in the pen this year (i prefer he starts) and you start to see the need for reliable depth at a reasonable cost given the starters listed above. now this in no way means i dont wanna get a TOR if we can.

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      • thanks guys. yet again my memory is faulty. but i still say keep him, unless of course there is an influx of better pitchers than he is.

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    • Thanks Chip! The information is very valuable. I’m hoping that the Astros get better this off-season and really are able to make the push through the postseason next year. On the list I agree with 1oldpro about Fiers. Another guy I’d let go would be Peacock. He’s never really given us much. You have to bring MarGo back and try to sign both Keuchel and McHugh to team friendly long term deals. I’m hoping we can keep the young nucleus together and still make a few trades. Like was said earlier we need a TOR guy. I’d love to be able to see us acquire one.
      In closing I’m so glad the the team from arlington is finished! Can you say the most overrated team in all of baseball! Their dominance of the Astros was one of the main reasons that they had the number 1 seed in the AL.

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  2. I don’t have a problem with any of the numbers projected. McHugh made 33 and Fiers 30 starts, respectively, in 2016. Look around the league and the number of pitchers making 30+ starts on teams is lower than you’d expect. In all of baseball, only 62 pitchers managed 30+ starts this year. Houston had three of those pitchers and Keuchel (26 GS) was certainly expected to get there as well.

    In case anyone was wondering..
    Chicago had 4 pitchers start 30+ and Lackey started 29
    Toronto had 3 pitchers start 30+ and two with 29

    Most of the other playoff teams had a couple start 30 and multiple guys in the 20s.

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    • What’s far more important is number of innings per start. McHugh averaged 5.58 with a 1.408 WHIP and a 4.34 ERA. Fiers averaged 5.6 innings with 4.48 ERA and a 1.358 WHIP. Neither one is doing the pen any favors. Honestly, I don’t think we win a championship with either guy in the rotation. I’m guessing we’re stuck with McHugh and we’ll have to hope he pitches more like he did in 2014 and the second half of 2015.

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      • Houston was 17-13 in games started this year by Fiers. They were 18-13 in games where he pitched. I wish he reliably pitched longer as well, but I wouldn’t write him off just yet. At a minimum he has trade value.

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  3. You can always pay Fiers $4.6 million (which is reasonable in today’s unreasonable markets) and if you decide you have 6 or 7 better starters – trade him (and I am saying that being ignorant of the rules which always have some clause that says “that after settling arbitration you cannot trade a player until he turns 37 years old or until 7-1/2 weeks after the vernal equinox”.
    You would think you could work better long term deals with Keuchel and McHugh now than you could have last off-season. How long? 3 or 4 years?
    I have no problem signing MarGo for that figure – I know he has flaws, but he would have less flaws if he was used more situational than playing almost every day.
    I would see if you could sign Springer to a longer deal, but I think he will be taking the short term bucks and waiting for FA time.
    Harris is a no-brainer, but I am not sure I want to sign him to a longer deal in case he starts to fall off due to exposure and scouting.
    Chump change for Marisnick, who might be ready to break out hitting….oh c’mon Dan be real.

    Thanks for the topical topic Chip.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just what if Marisnick does manage to hit 250ish/ What a deal that would be. But we have t decide if 1.1 is a good deal for a defensive specialist? Fiers? If there’s no other alternative use him as the long reliever but I’m not even sure of that.

    On a brighter note I enjoyed (understatement) Toronto beating Texas 3-0 in the series and the game ended on a bad throw to first by our favorite Texas player (Odor). Yes Becky, there is a Santa Claus.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As much as we rail on Marisnick here for his offensive ineptitude he still has significant value as a 4th-5th OFer, especially for defensive purposes, an option to get starts against LHP and a pinch runner late in games (he is probably the Astros best baserunner). I would gladly take back Jake at roughly $1M/year.

      If I’m Luhnow I try and trade Fiers before the arb process is started. I’m starting to really warm up to OP’s idea of Rich Hill as a free agent acquisition. I wonder if they could get him for around 3/$35-40M. This would allow us to move Fiers and keep Devo in the pen (I am fine making him a starter as well, but he was a legitimate weapon in the bullpen). If we can’t find a trade partner for Fiers I am torn on whether I want to spend around $5M for him. He is too inconsistent, but when he’s on he can be one of our best starters. Unfortunately, he seems to be off as much as he is on.

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  5. If Marisnick is going to continue the same path he has taken, he needs to be a fourth outfielder on a team that won’t contend. The moment someone gets injured in a great lineup, Marisnick becomes that weak spot. They’ll walk a hitter to get to him with two outs. You can pinch hit him, but he won’t get you a hit but once every five plate appearances and he won’t get a BB to get you to a better hitter.
    I’m sorry, but does everyone realize that Jake is already arbitration eligible and has never had one average season at the plate?
    Trade Jake for his sake and for ours. We do not even have a month to give the Jake Experiment more time and this last April proved what can happen to a team in just one month. We have to have a fourth or fifth outfielder who can help us win a pennant. We are in this to win a pennant and go to the World Series, right?
    Dave is also correct about him against LH pitchers. He has never hit them well. He has never hit well except for one or two months of his entire major league career.
    Yes, he is a good fielder. How many prospects have made it as half of a ballplayer? That is what Jake has been his entire career, half of a major league ballplayer. All field, no hit.
    The same with Fiers. If you intend to win it all, you cannot be sending a guy to the mound that you know is going to get hit hard 50% of the time and that’s what Fiers is. If you have to ask every time a guy pitches, “which Fiers is gonna show up today”
    then you have the wrong pitcher, unless you intend to be fighting for a wild card spot only.
    Pitchers who are good pitchers get beat often enough that you can’t afford a pitcher that you know is gonna get bombed half the time.
    Mediocre is where we have been. One more year of mediocre is not going to cut it with me or with any of you. It is time to assemble a group of players who can win a pennant and that means leaving mediocre players out.
    I don’t want the Astros to be put in a situation where they need hits from a career .220 hitter with little power and no OBP skills to win games in a league championship series. Because he’s not going to do it and the Astros already know it. If Marisnick is on the 25-man in 2017, the Astros are going to be Settlers once again.

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    • Tim, my point has been that the Astros have the core, they need to fill the holes. This article seems to confirm that.
      This is the time for Luhnow to shine. He has the youth and the talent and seems to have the money to get the rest of it done. I just worry that he and his staff don’t have the baseball wisdom to make the right moves in the area of pitching. Seeing how Luhnow traded for Devenski and then managed to actually to get him to this point where he has three really good pitches, I’m thinking he won’t have the gumption to make the next big moves with Devenski and Musgrove and put them into the rotation.
      Go get that sixth good pitcher and then let the six of them fight it out for the five spots and let the sixth best start in the bullpen. Don’t just put Devenski in the pen. because that’s where he was last season. Get somebody to make Fiers expendable.
      You would still have Martes, Feliz, Rodgers, Paulino and Hauschild in Fresno learning how to be better.
      Fill the holes so that Marwin gets back to being the best utility player in the business. That is a big piece of the puzzle. Make other team’s pitchers work so hard by having them face nine good hitters every at bat. Get that extra bullpen piece that makes it superior, not just good. Get rid of the guy in the bullpen who is just mediocre. The guy you didn’t want out there in the late innings this past season.
      Become the team that’s better than Fangraphs says we can be. Go beyond what we are until we are where we’ve never been. Become the best.
      Finally, I just love the idea of the Rangers filling one of their holes with Carlos Gomez.

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      • I proposed trading Fiers and pursuing your suggestion of Rich Hill. I am not against Devo in the starting rotation, but I also realize he is another great weapon in the bullpen and if the Astros got Rich Hill leaving Devo in the pen wouldn’t be the worst thing. If the Astros get Chapman, but unable to get Hill then moving Devo to the rotation works, but I think Luhnow is going after starting pitching this off-season. I am sure he is concerned with the health of LMJ and Keuchel and we need some more proven starting pitching in the event health issues arise for either or both of them. There is money to spend and Luhnow is already on record as saying this free agency class is better than some are alleging, which indicates to me that the Astros will be buyers this off-season. Unlike many on here I am not worried about Luhnow’s ability to sign free agents or trade for major league caliber players. I am confident he has learned from the Gomez error. I still like the Giles trade.

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  6. You folks need to go visit Jane Hanson’s, blog whattheheckbobby….and read about the unbelievably low salary our minor league guys are paid. And they don’t get paid in the off season, or spring training. They have to pay for their own cleets, gloves bats ect.. I understand they have to start out with nothing but these kids have to live and feed themselves on $1100.00 a month. That is unacceptable. Period. I’m very proud that there are great families that host these kids, and they appreciate everything those families do for them. There are some really great people who have stepped up to host these kids…..if I was still living in Corpus I would LOVE to host a couple of these kids! Unacceptable.

    Tim interesting article, thanks.

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  7. It’s not just our minor league guys. The same working conditions, especially as it applies to salary structure, apply throughout the MLB minor league system. And the low draft picks, regardless of performance, don’t get paid enough to earn a living. It’s the dream of getting to the show that keeps them eating peanut butter sandwiches and drinking Old Milwaukee. Maybe that’s why my favorite former minor league player Joe Sclafani, finally quit and got a real job.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Put me in the no column on Rich Hill. Too many minor injury concerns. Other considerations that may have an impact on decisions. Peacock is out of options I believe. Does Fiers have any left? If there is uncertainty coming out of spring training, which projected starters have remaining options could be a factor in who wins jobs out of spring training.

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    • Hill is going to get some big money for being good, left-handed, and a free agent. Will it be worth it? As many of you can surmise, I’m tired of not getting the best player available. The Blue Jays got David Price, the Royals got Johnny Cueto, the Rangers got Cole Hamels (not Luhnow’s fault) and the Astros got Scott Kazmir. The Cubs got Jon Lester, Boston got David Price, Arizona got Zack Greinke, Detroit got Jordan Zimmerman, and Houston got Doug Fister. If Rich Hill is the best, free-agent starter available this winter then I want him. This is especially true since it won’t cost Luhnow a coveted draft pick…

      …but I agree with you, Nance. If we get Hill then I doubt Luhnow makes a real splash elsewhere. Is 15 starts from Hill worth not getting another OF bat or finding a catcher to pair with Gattis? Who would be our top three pitchers who would shoulder the load in October? Is Hill a guy you want taking the ball over Keuchel (hopefully 2015ish form), LMJ, Musgrove, or Devenski? We don’t have much of a track record to use. Hill took a loss in 2007 against ARI going only 3 IP and giving up 6H, 2BB, and 3R. He took the loss against WAS giving up 4R in 4 1/3 innings the other night off 6H and 2BB. Those are his only two postseason starts.

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      • There is a cap, as far as I’m concerned, on what I’m willing to pay Rich Hill. 3/$40M is just about that cap, maybe a bit more. If someone is going to give him 4/$75-80M then, by all means, the Astros should take a pass.

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    • Rich Hill accumulated 3.8 WAR(Fangraphs) this year. He would have had more if not for the blister which cost him seven weeks of pitching.
      Still, 3.8 WAR in 110 innings is nothing to sneeze at. I still believe he will be worth $20million a year for 3 years and an option which the club does not have to pay if he fades. Hill had more WAR than any of our pitchers and had a top 20 WAR in all of the majors(#18 of all starters who pitched over 100 innings). Collin McHugh had 3.0 WAR in 184 IP.

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  9. I have an off-subject but very critical decision to make and I need the folks on this blog to help me with this decision.
    I have my Astros 2016 calendar hanging up in my office. I had taken it down when I moved from one office to another a couple weeks ago and now I am hanging it up again.
    The problem….October 2016 is ……Scott Feldman.
    And this is a problem that is not going away.
    November 2016 is …….Chris Carter.
    December 2016 is……Jed Lowrie.
    For the moment I was going to solve the problem by backing up one month, but September was Jake Marisnick, which was uninspiring. So I backed up one more month to August and put up Dallas Keuchel (which is like when he stopped pitching for us).

    So if you were me – how would you handle the last 3 months of the year?
    My choices going back to the beginning of the season….
    Jan – Collin McHugh
    Feb – Chad Qualls
    Mar – Evan Gattis
    Apr – Luke Gregerson
    May – George Springer
    June – Jason Castro
    July – Jose Altuve
    August – Dallas Keuchel
    (that is right – no Carlos Correa, no LMJ, not even MarGo, Luis Valbuena or Mike (no-hit) Fiers)

    Based on 2016 – I should stick Altuve up and not take it down….what do y’all think.

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  10. Thanks folks – I think Altuve will be the choice. I can’t wait for my 2017 calendar which will no doubt not include Alex Bregman, Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove or Yulieski Gurriel, but will undoubtedly include Jason Castro, Colby Rasmus, Doug Fister and Tony Sipp……

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did go on line and looked at the 2017 calendar and I was 1/2 right – all the ones I thought would be left off were left off, but none of the ones listed above as included were included. The list is as follows:
      Tyler White
      Preston Tucker (really?)
      Mike Fiers
      Jose Altuve
      Lance McCullers Jr
      Luke Gregerson
      Carlos Correa
      Dallas Keuchel
      George Springer
      Marwin Gonzalez
      Collin McHugh
      Ken Giles

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  11. My grandchildren ALWAYS give me my Astros calender, so I’m gonna have to like whoever is on it! Getting back to Rich Hill, while I would LOVE to have another lefty in our rotation I’m kinda leary about his “nagging” injuries. The blister keeps coming back, and to be quite honestly about it, if I’m paying you $45 million over three years I want at LEAST 22-25 starts outta you. I can’t justify paying a guy that kind of money if he’s gonna only give me 15 starts and only lasting 3 innings because he got another blister. Just my thoughts. Who knows…..”not my monkey…not my circus”.

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  12. I’m thinking Kazmir and Conger, this way while we cry through another year of almost made it ,we can have some laughs , whos in?

    I still say Sale for 5, that isn’t devo, springer, tuve , CC. bregman,

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    • That’s so ironic.
      I’m sitting here reading your post while listening to James Horner’s “Deep Impact” soundtrack.
      You want do overs, and I’m listening to music from a movie where a 14 year old boy gets to marry his girl because the world is ending tomorrow.
      It’s also a world where we get to build our own baseball team for make believe 2017, knowing what we know about the last 54 times we’ve tried to do it.
      I’d like to go back where I was a junior in high school and meet Mrs1OP again and try to be a lot better man. I do live in a dream world, though, when she tells me I’ve done just fine.
      I guess I’ll settle for this life and being a make-believe Astros GM.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Cubs break the Giant’s every-other-year run in fine style with Chapman closing it out. Dodgers and Nationals have one last shot at a chance to play the Cubs.

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  14. The Giants 9th inning gave me flashbacks to the Astros bullpen collapse against the Royals in 2015. Took 5 pitchers to get out of the inning and their season was gone in this case.

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    • I went upstairs in the middle of the eight and came back down with the promo before the bottom of the ninth showing Cubs players and Chapman warming up. I was surprised to say the least. Did anyone watch, and if so could you tell me why Romo didn’t start the inning?

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  15. Numbers would suggest that neither McHugh nor Fiers (or Fister in the aggregate) would be pitching for contending teams.
    Too many poor starts where it seemed the games were decided too early. Too many occasions where crooked numbers were given up in the first or second inning.
    And I will not read any more about McHughs politics. He can go the way of Costas and capernick.

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  16. No you wouldn’t Billy. All I saw was a adult man condemning another for his verbal abuse and total disrespect for women as Locker room talk. That’s not politics that is a society issue. Every time someone today disagrees with someones stand on their belief, that categorize it as political, total BS.

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  17. I never heard that kind of talk in any locker room I was in, but I heard it in other venues. The point being as my mother used to tell me, don’t ever say or do anything that you don’t want someone to hear or find out because someone will eventually do so. My mother was a pretty smart person.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. hey OP, what do you think the odds are on us signing lourdes gurriel? i think we will, so thats better than 50 – 50, so ill say 70 – 30. we know he and his brother want to play together, so only an offer he cant refuse in the way of gargantuan money, say from boston, gets him from us. i hope that is somewhere close to accurate.

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  19. The closer we get to October 23 with no news, the better it is for Houston. I’d say right now it’s 50-50 and those are pretty good odds, considering how many teams like him.

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  20. Anybody watching Rich Hill pitch??? What’s up with the way he finishes pitches?
    He jumps! But….I gotta tell ya, I’d love to see him out on the mound for us next year!
    It will be interesting to see how many innings he pitches tonight. I almost forgot what it was like to play in the NL!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • its curious op, the only thing i can think of is that maybe you cannot be part of a trade if on the DL. for the ones not on the DL, i dunno. some sort of procedural technicalities.

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    • It looks like an automatic thing that happened for rosters of all teams no longer competing. The 15 day DL stays are no longer valid. I don’t recall if the 60 day DL can carry through the offseason or if those guys must be moved back to the 40 man or released. As for the minor league guys, they either stay on the 40 man or must be DFA’d prior to about a week before the winter meetings I believe. Those on the 40 man will have to be optioned to Fresno (if their options remain) at the end of Spring Training.

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    • I think the roster has to convert to the full 40 man roster at season end. I do not think you can have anybody on the DL during the off-season and you can not release anybody from roster while on DL without activating them first. I think it is to help prevent teams from manipulating 60 day DL at end of season to be able to put extra players on 40 man roster to protect them from Rule V. At least that is my understanding that could all be completely wrong.

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  21. My little 10yrs old grandson was at batting practice last night when he was hit with a baseball right above his left ear. He’s out of surgery as of an hour ago, the ball did not cause any brain damage, but he will stay in intensive care over the weekend. He is sooo lucky, the ball didn’t hit him in the temple, or square in the forehead. Tucker has my heart, because we share the love of baseball. His name is Tucker, and I’m asking you to say a prayer for him tonight. He is the most wonderful little boy, and his Mimi’S heart is breaking right now. Thank you everyone….it would mean so much to me if you could say a prayer of healing for my little Tucker.

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    • Who knows? Maybe if we have Miller, we never would have kept Devenski on the major league team and he’d still be pitching in Fresno, and we wouldn’t have traded five pitchers for Giles and VV would have started in our rotation this year. But who am I kidding, VV never was given a fair chance to develop as a starter for us, just like Feliz hasn’t. If VV was ever going to get a chance to develop it was going to be with another team.
      If we had signed Miller, we might never have signed Gregerson. If we hadn’t signed Gregerson, we might still be stuck with Fields.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Becky, So sorry to hear of this. You have had more than your share of struggles lately. It agains brings back the fact that baseball is a game and life is not. Know that we all are thinking of you and Tucker. God Bless.

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  23. There is a lot of hope for a rebound year for McHugh.
    Looking at his stats, his bread and butter stat, ground ball percentage, was down this year and his biggest problem was the home run rate, which zoomed upward.
    He and his coaching staff can analyze this and even go back and see what he was throwing and where he was throwing it and make some changes.
    There is precedent. Kluber was the Cy Young winner in 2014 and then had a big downturn in 2015 and was on the way to having another bad year this year, when he and his people noticed some things and he made some changes. For him, it was a bunch of changes when he was pitching from the stretch.
    Last night he shut out Toronto.
    McHugh is a thinker. He doesn’t have Kluber’s stuff, so he needs to work on the things that made him successful, a high groundball rate and keeping the ball in the park. He needs to keep the ball down more and work on keeping it out of the batter’s hot zones. Maybe he needs to try and add something to his list of pitches.
    Maybe having Springer in CF instead of Gomez, might help his mojo, which is the buzz word for psyche these days.
    McHugh has always earned his pay for the Astros. I expect that will be the case this coming year.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. As MLB salaries continue to skyrocket, so does the impending Qualifying Offer.
    This year it is $17.2 million, an increase from the $15.8 Rasmus accepted last year as he repeatedly broke our hearts and the team’s piggy bank..

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