Some weekend thoughts as the Astros twiddle their thumbs waiting for the real season (read: the off-season) to arrive. Meanwhile, former Astros Dexter Fowler and J.A. Happ hope to play key roles for their teams in the playoffs. Geez, would those guys have fit nicely into the 2016 season?
While others are still putting lineups and rosters together, Jeff Luhnow and his minions are likely crunching numbers, digging up Tal’s Hill and wondering how to fit $150 million worth of players into a $120 million payroll. Here are some weekend notes as weather turns cooler and thoughts turn to the hot stove.
Key dates ahead.
- Five days after the World Series. Deadline for teams to offer qualifying offers to their free agents. In the Astros’ case, that would include players like Jason Castro, Doug Fister and Luis Valbuena among others. Fister and Castro likely won’t receive the $17.2 offer, but given the thin market for third basemen, Houston could make the offer to Valbuena in hopes he declines and the Astros gain a draft pick in return. Of course, that same strategy backfired last season with Colby Rasmus when he become the first player ever to accept the QO.
- 12 days after the World Series. Players’ deadline to accept a QO if offered.
- December 1. Perhaps the biggest is the deadline to put a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in place. Many changes are rumored to be in play, including the number of pitching changes in a game, a time clock and other rules that would potentially speed up the game. Drug testing and penalties, roster numbers have also been among the discussions, but back in August, new Commissioner Rob Manfred was said to be suggesting the most radical changes to the game in its history. Honeymoon anyone?
- December 2. This is the last day teams may offer contracts to players on their 40-man rosters. In other words, Houston will have to decide by this date which players it will offer contracts to for 2017. Arbitration-eligible players like Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick are on this list. The operative words are tender and non-tender. If Houston offers a contract for these players, they will be considered signed and enter the arb process early next year.
- December 5-8. Winter Meetings in Washington D.C. These meetings could actually begin under a new set of rules if the CBA is in place. Stay tuned. Other note: These meetings will also be happening down the street from where the newly-elected president will be measuring The White House for new drapes!
Other key notes.
- The Astros must decide soon on options for Pat Neshek ($6.5 million) and Evan Gattis ($5.2 million). Gattis is a no-brainer, but the Astros can get out of their deal with the 36-year-old Neshek for only $500,000.
The Brett Wallace Memorial Award
- Yep, this one goes to Jon Singleton. Singleton, like Wallace, were highly touted players all the way through the system. Singleton came to Houston with a host of characters in the Hunter Pence trade. He played so well throughout his minor league career, Jeff Luhnow rewarded him with a supposedly team-friendly, long-term contract that will run through 2021, though the final three years are team options.
Still stuck on the untouchables.
- Jose Altuve appears to be a perennial All Star. Carlos Correa should also be in the middle of the Astros’ order for years to come. But why doesn’t George Springer get the same accolades and appreciation? When you mention the names of Correa, Altuve, Alex Bregman and Springer in the same sentence, 9 out of 10 Astros’ fans say Springer is the one to trade for a haul. Is that simply because he’s the one of the four whom those fans can part with? Or do those fans simply not see him as part of the core going forward?
- Question: Can the Astros actually keep all four and still make a blockbuster trade?
Questions for your weekend.
- The Pirates are shopping Andrew McCutchen. Wouldn’t he look nice in an Astros’ Tal’s Hill-less center field?
- What is your biggest apprehension about the Astros’ off season?
- Is there another St. Louis-Jeff Luhnow reunion brewing in Matt Holliday? DH/1B?
- Flashback/nightmares: Did the Astros really draft Brady Aiken, Mark Appel, Jiovanni Mier and Brian Bogusevic? In the first round?
- Extra credit essay: Drayton McLane or Jim Crane?