Looking ahead: Key dates, arbitration, thoughts and questions


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?
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30 comments on “Looking ahead: Key dates, arbitration, thoughts and questions

  1. Haven’t posted in a long time but have really enjoyed reading and following you folks. With regard to Springer I think it may be that some folks think he underperforms offensively. There seems to be a perception that he ought to be a middle of the order run producer but his numbers with RISP are underwhelming while not being horrible. I kind of like him as a leadoff hitter but his poor base stealing numbers puzzle me. But the Astros refusal to put their best everyday outfielder in his natural position of center field is even more mystifying. I get the impression that George is not well regarded as a building block so perhaps let him go even though I have every confidence that if he goes elsewhere he will make the JD Martinez faux pas seem trivial in comparison.

    As for Valbuena I think dangling a $17 million dollar QO would be payroll suicide. I just don’t see him turning that down and he can be easily replaced with Guriel and Bregman for sure and White/Reed possibly.

    My biggest fear for this off season is another lopsided trade for a pitcher that this time won’t just cost us prospects but one or even two of our young up and comers. I’m hoping we give our young pitchers some rope and if they fail and/or injuries come crashing down then Lunhow may have to do some wheeling at the trade deadline if we’re still a factor.

    From my vantage point the Astros are the only team in the AL West on the rise. The Rangers may pull some more rabbits out of their hats but their age is working against them and their farm system is not as strong as it once was. Seattle might be good again and the Angels could be occasionally dangerous but I think they just have too many holes and nothing but money to patch them up.

    One thing I hope comes out of the playoffs is a renewed fire in Carlos Correa. The guy he edged out for ROY last year is showing up huge for the Indians and if Carlos isn’t up to the task it will be Francisco Lindor who will be the perennial AL all star SS for the next 10 years. My 2 cents and looking forward to the rest of your opinions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill, sounds like you were not impressed with the effort of our 21 year old shortstop. I see our guy Correa with a slightly better overall WAR than Lindor, at least by one rating system. And I’d love to have Springer, another high WAR guy hit right behind him. I think that would make them both better. But Springer put up numbers that most lead off guys don’t. I’m a firm Springer keeper. He’s one of the best overall center fielders in the game and he has not even gotten a chance to play there.

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  2. The Pirates are shopping Andrew McCutcheon. Wouldn’t he look nice in an Astros’ Tal’s Hill-less center field? NO! He screams Carlos Gomez 2.0, but with worse defense. His defensive metrics dropped significantly this year and at his cost I will pass on McCutchen.
    What is your biggest apprehension about the Astros’ off season? Whether they can get quality free agents to come here. I think the Gurriel signing will help with the Latino players, but I hope they can get 2-3 quality free agents this year.
    Is there another St. Louis-Jeff Luhnow reunion brewing in Matt Holliday? DH/1B?
    I’m fine with Holliday as a primary DH on a 1-year contract, but anything more and I prefer to pass.
    Flashback/nightmares: Did the Astros really draft Brady Aiken, Mark Appel, Jiovanni Mier and Brian Bogusevic? In the first round? Yes, unfortunately, but I have no problem with the Aiken choice as it led to Alex Bregman becoming an Astro.
    Extra credit essay: Drayton McLane or Jim Crane?
    As much as I don’t care for Jim Crane as a person I think he understands the game of baseball much better than McLane and is a better choice as an owner. Drayton was a good ole boy Texan through and through and a likeable guy, but he really messed up this franchise after the 2005 WS appearance.

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  3. * I think McCutchen is a good bounce back candidate and has a real good two years left on his contract, but I don’t want to give up the players it’s going to take to acquire him. Plus, if they did trade for him that means Springer will stay in RF and I don’t want that.
    * I’m not opposed to Holliday at DH, but I sure would rather a guy who can bat LH, with all the righties in our lineup.
    * My biggest apprehension about this offseason is the club continuing to believe Mike Fiers is good enough to be in the rotation.
    * I think we have beaten the bad draft pick subject to death.
    * Drayton McLane just got dumber and dumber as he went on. Since Crane shut his dumb pie hole and spent some money, he has become a much better owner than a buyer. I just can’t believe we, as fans, got stuck with both of them, and McMullen, too!

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    • OP, I don’t disagree with your premise on McCutchen. However, based on history and what we know, Springer will either be traded to fill some holes…or he will be in right field. The Astros have said or done nothing to indicate they will move him to center.

      And, yes, unfortunately, I fear the Pirates will expect a team to pay on past performance (pre-2016), despite the fact those past performances is not necessarily indicative of future results.

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      • I’m just saying that Reddick would be a better choice for me because
        1. He probably wouldn’t get a QO, so no draft penalty
        2. You wouldn’t have to trade tons of prospects
        3. He and the team agree on the years in his contract, whereas you get McCutchen for only two years.
        4. With Reddick, the team might be more inclined to put him in RF and move Springer to CF where he belongs.
        5. Reddick is LH batter.

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      • Just to clarify that Reddick can’t receive a QO since he was traded during the past season. Both him and Rich Hill would have no QO attached to them, which makes them even more enticing as free agent targets.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. From a recent historical perspective, the Astros won’t have enough payroll to risk having to pony up 17.2 million for Valbuena. But at the same time, I personally don’t care how much the Astros have to spend in order to make the club good enough to go deep into the playoffs. I still think Valbuena provides most of the immediate solution at first with his solid defense and left handed hitting against righty pitching.

    We had an inning go and hour and six minutes a couple of days ago when the Dodgers and Nats broke the record for pitching changes in a playoff series. That’s an extreme, but that’s also baseball. I’m sure Manfred is taking heat from the networks to insure MLB games do not take longer than an NFL game. But you can’t put a clock on baseball. And if you want to restrict the number of pitching changes, do you also put a cap on pinch hitters? Let’s not ruin the game.

    Watching most every playoff game so far, I’ve noted a couple of things. I miss National League baseball, even with all those damn pitching changes. In the post season, we bunts again, and squeeze plays and double switches and pinch hitters in the 5th inning. I don’t care how long it takes. I guess I’ve got more time on my hands.

    I’ve also noticed that our club is just not good enough. On any given day, we’ll beat the best teams in the game, but we just don’t have the talent on our 25 man roster to win the World Series. And If we keep coming into a new season with some of the same issues, it’s just not going to happen for us in Houston.

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  5. Watching these games I have to agree Dave we are far less talented than these playoff teams.)-:. I look at their pitching staffs and then I revert back to a hurt LMJ and an bunch of soft throwers who need pin point control Fister, Fiers DK, just to hold a team under 5 runs.

    My fear is that Uncle Jeff doesn’t really have that much payroll flexibility and we will once again make a bunch of B moves and add more B players to the 25.

    I think the FO needs to make a couple Holy Crap that hurt, but we now have a chance to win the west moves. Otherwise I see a lot of years fighting for the wild card.

    Liked by 1 person

      • At this point I fear if we don’t all we will be talking about is how great our farm system is rated. We need some proves stars, it may hurt a bit, but I want a Championship. It seems to me we have a choice, love all our young guys and be middle of the pack or go for it!!

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  6. OK, let’s talk turkey about this.
    Everyone agrees that the Astros need four or five players to add to the guys we had in 2016 in order to be world series contenders and I think everyone knows that some of those guys need to be of the Left Hand variety, either on the mound or at the plate.
    Initially, we need to sign Lourdes Gurriel. If the club thinks he is going to be an everyday player and a BIG prospect, they are going to spend money on him. Probably whatever-it-takes money. The Astros may look at Lourdes as another Bregman, a guy who will move into our lineup in the next year and be there for years. Lourdes has been playing competitive baseball in Cuba against players like his brother since he was 16. He is seasoned, young and has learned baseball in a league that encourages hits and walks and discourages strikeouts. He hasn’t faced major league stuff every day but has faced major league stuff occasionally for six seasons.
    Now, with Gurriel in the fold, you start building by subtraction.
    You let Neshek walk and use the money from the savings to replace him with a legitimate bullpen piece by trade or by free agency. Chapman is the prize and there are five or six teams who legitimately have the money to sign him and Houston is one of them. But I’m not sure Luhnow is smart enough to realize that we need him in our pen, since we already have his boy, Giles. Chapman gives Houston the best reliever in the game and also a lefty reliever who could come into the game in the 8th or the ninth to save a game depending on how the other team’s lineup falls. If Trout/ Pujols (or two devastating LH batters) are coming up in the eighth and the bottom of the order in the ninth, maybe I want Chapman in the eighth and Giles in the ninth.
    Jansen is going to get a QO, right, Tim? So he’s going to cost money and a draft pick.
    More turkey in the next post.

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    • Yes, Jansen will get a QO while Chapman can’t receive one. Of course, with a QO attached to Jansen he will probably cost less than Chapman, but I hope they spend the extra $3M/year and sign Chapman and keep their first round pick. My 3 FA targets, Chapman, Reddick and Rich Hill will have no QO’s attached to them.

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  7. The acquisition of Lourdes to the top 2 prospects lists as an IF/OF, gives the Astros trade pieces: Moran, Fisher, K Tucker, Davis, are tradable prospects as are White, Teoscar and P Tucker. You don’t trade all of them, but Lourdes, Yuli and Bregman make these players available to trade.
    If you sign Hill( it won’t be easy, but he doesn’t cost a draft pick), then Martes, McHugh, Feliz, Paulino, Fiers, Rodgers and even Devo or Musgrove, all become prospects available for trade to acquire an important piece, maybe a top notch 1B.
    Personally, I think signing Hill makes Martes available.
    The acquisition of Lourdes and two top free agents, no matter who those free agents are, frees up top 10 and top 15 prospects to use in trade to get the other two or three pieces the Astros need to make a run. Neshek’s money helps out and Hoyt more than replaces his arm in the bullpen.
    If the Astros have Keuchel, LMJ, Hill, Devo and Musgrove in their rotation, then every other pitcher in their system is available to get that next good player in a trade.
    If the Astros have Lourdes in the fold, then they can use some of the other players mentioned above in a trade and they won’t be missed because the Astros will already have their lineup set.
    The acquisition of free agents not only fills holes, but frees up players in the minors to go get the rest of the pieces needed to fill the remaining holes.
    Looking at the rest of the teams, payrolls and players, I think the Astros have to go for the big moves this offseason while other important teams have most of their money tied up, but will be reloading in 2018 and 2019. The Astros are poised to do it this year.

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  8. The Pirates are shopping Andrew McCutchen. Wouldn’t he look nice in an Astros’ Tal’s Hill-less center field?
    Nope – I think he is on the wrong side of the hill (which is my side of the hill).
    What is your biggest apprehension about the Astros’ off season?
    My biggest apprehension is that the Astros front office does not do enough. My second biggest apprehension is that they do too much. (I’m going to be tough to please).
    Is there another St. Louis-Jeff Luhnow reunion brewing in Matt Holliday? DH/1B?
    He just got paid $17 million to play 73 games really well in 2015 and then $17 million to play 110 games in a mediocre fashion in 2016. I’m not against it totally – but do agree we would be better off with a LH hitter like Reddick.
    Flashback/nightmares: Did the Astros really draft Brady Aiken, Mark Appel, Jiovanni Mier and Brian Bogusevic? In the first round?
    Yeah – we did do that – most teams have some 1st rounders they wish they could take back. Hey they got Keuchel in the 7th round.
    Extra credit essay: Drayton McLane or Jim Crane?
    Six of their ten all-time playoff appearances were with Drayton. Their only playoff series wins were with Drayton. Their only World Series appearance was with Drayton. Jim Crane can take the mantle with a WS championship. But he has not done that yet. So Drayton.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When it gets down to the final four teams, I don’t think anybody is going to lay down.
    Dodgers win 1-0. One home run and a shutout. That is what it takes to beat the Cubs.
    And then they come at you with Arrietta in game 3.
    These teams are good.

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    • I went to bed after the Dodgers closed put the Cubs. Some good baseball being played. The Texans were going in the wrong direction at that point. I thought it was going to be another Prime Time letdown. Devin, there I go being wrong again.

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      • The beauty of being arm chair quarterbacks is that when we’re wrong only the internet has to see our tears. The ugliness with being a real GM is that when they’re wrong, the internet takes glee in their $70 million worth of tears.

        …but a win’s a win!

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