The Astros’ off-season is early, but will it be fruitful?

Note: This was written this afternoon and before it was published Brian McCann and Josh Reddick are Astros. Well there you go.

There are so many good points being tossed randomly around about the 2017 Astros vs. the recent versions of the Astros, that it feels like a dart tournament for the blind.

The Astros aren’t as good as the Cubs.

The Astros are not the dog they were a few scant years ago.

The Astros never seem to make the big move that will put them over the top.

The Astros have made some solid moves that got them into the playoffs in 2015 and into contention in 2016.

The Astros have traded away a lot of prospects and have little or nothing to show for it.

The prospects traded away have mostly done little to this point.

And on and on….

There are two facts that need to be remembered by proponents of both sides of these arguments:

  1. No previous version of the Astros under this or any other front office has ever won the big one and there are a lot of folks that are sick of going to the doctor hoping to squeeze enough years out of their lives to see it happen.
  2. No matter how the off-season has started and no matter who the Astros have signed so far, there is a lot of time and a heck of a lot of budget to be covered before anyone knows what this team will look like.

Charlie Morton may be the next Collin McHugh. He might be the more expensive version of Roberto Hernandez. He might not even be in the rotation.

Nori Aoki may be an older version of Terry Puhl. He might be a washed up version of Kaz Matsui. He might be the starting left fielder. He might be the 4th or 5th OF.

The fans need to be patient with each other more than with the team. The ones (and you know who you are) who are being impatient and judging this team before Thanksgiving, need to stop assuming what the team won’t do in the next couple months based on what it did not do previously. The ones (and you know who you are) who are being impatient with the cynicism and negativism of the other fans need to have some empathy for folks who have been through the ringer and disappointed for so much of their too fast dwindling lives.

The half full view of this team is as follows:

  • It was pretty miraculous that they were anywhere close to contending last season considering how little they got out of Lance McCullers and how much bad they got out of Dallas Keuchel. The team had some toughness and spunk (when not playing the Rangers).
  • If they made no more moves from this day forward, a lineup that can boast Jose Altuve, Nori Aoki, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Yulieski Gurriel, and Evan Gattis is a heck of a lot deeper than the lineup that started the 2016 season. Adding Luis Valbuena or some DH/1B help can only make this lineup more solid and more potent.
  • The bullpen, was solid after the failures of the early season and could be a top 5 ‘pen in 2017.
  • The rotation is the biggest question, but a number of these guys were very good just one year removed back to 2015.

Yes, it would be nice to think that the team will outbid other teams for someone other than an iffy, injured starter. And they could still do that. It would be even nicer to know what the team will look like come February by looking in our crystal balls. That will only happen with time, not magic.

The bottom line is there is no reason to doubt this front office for what has not happened yet. There is no reason to have unreasonable expectations and praise for this front office for what has happened before.

It is going to be an interesting off-season, if we all survive.


133 comments on “The Astros’ off-season is early, but will it be fruitful?

  1. What do you mean, Dan, have patience? The World Series was over 2 weeks ago. We have already elected a President. Vegas is already posting odds on who will win the Presidency in 2020. The Astros are being left behind. Hurry up. (Where is that sarcasm font??)

    Seriously, a very well thought out post……..


  2. I like the moves so far. I would like them a lot more if they were about starting pitchers instead of position players – but pitching always comes at a premium and good ones are harder to get.

    It looks like Luhnow has his hard hat on and is taking this offseason a little more open. They are definitely not shy about spending money this offseason, I think its in the neighborhood of 35 mil already for next season – and we’ll see if their willingness to find an ace is real when the prospects become the cost with the money.

    At this point they have improved the offense to the point that I would hate to see them not win the division because they can’t get enough quality starts.


  3. First of all, there is the chance that the league may add a player to major league rosters in this new CBA. That could make a big difference in the Astros’ thinking. The signing of Morton and the acquisition of Aoki gives the Astros more options to utilize that additional player. Marwin Gonzalez gives the Astros a big advantage over other teams because he is a super utility guy who switch hits and plays all of the infield positions and all the outfield positions in a pinch. He also has a very underrated arm in the outfield.
    Jumping out ahead of others gives the Astros players they want, while other teams may be looking around to find somebody who is just out there after the more desirable players are gone.
    If the rosters do indeed get increased to 26 players, I would expect the Astros to get the best starting nine they can possibly find and carry 13 pitchers. They already have a much better catching tamdem and they have one bench guy who does everything. They are in pretty good shape. I could see them going after Beltran to lock down that DH position and making sure they always have their two good catchers available for the entire game, no matter how long it lasts.
    Having already 8 or 9 pitchers who could start right now if they needed them to:
    I could see them perhaps looking to move a couple of them in their attempts to land a TOR guy.
    With a 13 pitcher staff, I could also see them going with two swing guys in the bullpen to keep from wearing down the six short relief guys by the end of the year.
    Thanks for giving us fresh meat to chew on.


    • The more I think about it the more I want to keep Aoki, even if the Astros get Beltran. He would be a great 4th OFer and someone you can rely upon to make contact as a PH when it is needed. I hope the Astros find a way to fit him into the 25-man (or 26) roster.


      • Tim, I have been mulling over the Astros’ lineup and have come to the same conclusion. I like Aoki on the team. I’m just not fond of his money on this team.
        The two things that are bothering me the most about the Astros are the continued holes at DH and 1B and the fact that the Astros’ website still has Fiers listed as the Astros #5 starter and Musgrove as an alternate.
        On the whole, I like the changes they have made, but I still think they are not good enough to go all the way.


      • I think they are the front-runners, right now, to win the division. They are not the leaders to win the World Series, but once you make the playoffs anything can happen. I think we are close, but not quite there yet as the team to beat for the World Series. Fangraphs projects us to be tied with Boston for the best record in the A.L., if that means anything to you, and I think Luhnow still plans to add to this team. Considering the strong core already in place with Altuve, Correa, Springer and Bregman there is plenty to like about this team in 2017, but also 2018 and 2019.

        A $6.8M salary for a bench player (Aoki) is hard to swallow, but it is only for 1 year so I can live with it. I just like what he adds to this team as a contact hitter that gets on base. Maybe they can work out a slight reduced salary with his agent instead of non-tendering him.

        All in all, after reading that Fangraphs article with the link I posted below has got me very excited about the outlook for this team going forward.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t see us beating the Rangers. Their rotation is 3-4 deep better than our best guy. That’s where it starts. Reddick and McCann are nice additions, Aoki and Morton can have roles, but none of these players are all stars, we shouldn’t delude ourselves into believing that we did anything more than bring about 3-4 wins in.

        If we go into this season with this rotation, then you need 2015 Keuchel and a healthy McCullers, both iffy propositions.

        We are improved, but I doubt most experts would pick us to win the division.


      • I disagree, Steven. Most experts are data-driven in this era and the sabermetrics community loves the Astros and is really down on the Rangers. It’s highly unlikely the Rangers can repeat their 1-run game record from 2016 and, as it stands now, they haven’t improved from last year. There’s still plenty of time in the Hot Stove League so this could change, but on November 19, 2016 I’m surmising most experts would have the Astros as the team to beat in 2017 for the A.L. West title.


  4. Interesting 2016 stats for Astros. 3rd in team passed balls at 18. Lead all of baseball with 98 Wild Pitches. Was #27 in walks with only 453. I saw a lot of WPs that Ash and/or Blummer said should have been blocked. Or they said “poor technique.” Not going to argue the “eye test” but I am not so sure that our defense at catcher is not also improved.


  5. By the Ghost of Gloria Gaynor, Dan, I say with all sincerity: “We Will Survive”. Sing with me, everyone . . . .

    At first we were dismayed; we were just mystified.
    How could we get so stinkin’ close . . . and then go into such a slide?
    We all made way too many posts about how Luhnow got it wrong,
    we all felt strong; and just could not get along,
    But now we’re back . . . from the jagged cliff . . .
    getting Riddick and McCann seems to have healed our little tiff.
    We’re gonna stop and hit ‘delete’, we’re gonna care how others feel;
    we’re gonna filter our opinions and try to stay somewhat genteel.
    Come on now, Bro! And sister Too!
    Let’s loosen up now, and share a toddy or a brew.
    Aren’t we all fans who share a dream, who want to see our heroes thrive?
    Will we grumble? And quit this blog cause we don’t jive? NOT YOU AND I!
    Yes, as long as Dan and Chip are around this blog will stay alive,
    We got the hot stove, then ST,
    and Opening Day on April 3,

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Well I’m still here feeling a bit embarrassed. I regretted my remarks but it was too late to take them back
    ( sure do need a delete button guys).
    Being called an impatient woe-is-me fan, I could laugh off but being told to basically stay out of the conversation was a little too much. So I reacted by throwing a tantrum.
    I feel very blessed to be able to call all of you friends. And appreciate each and every one of you taking the time to reach out to me, letting me know you care.

    So shall we get back to putting this team together?

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Sandy, they’s the in-crowd and they’s the out-crowd, and the former knows exactly who they is. The latter ain’t always quite sure, but they keeps a-postin’ nevertheless. Used to be it was about the Astros, but let’s face it, the times they done changed.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Internecine disagreements will always exist where passion is the common trait…and this is a very passionate blog! Fortunately, it seems we are all united in our passion for the Astros.

    There is fair basis for argument whether the McCann/Reddick deals were the “best” deals, or even “good” deals…the proof is in the pudding. But I think there can be no argument that both acquisitions fill needs and improve the team, assuming both players continue at or near established performance levels. And I’d be surprised if JL is through. Not so sure he can do much with the pitching, but I can see Fowler, Desmond, or Valbuena being added to the mix.


  9. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading.
    The Lone Star Ball bloggers don’t think much of the Astros moves, but this article was posted on their website via Beyond The Box Score, so I thought it might be a decent read:
    Brian McCann might be ready to grow a beard, now that he is not a Yankee anymore.
    Are Dave and I the only people who think George Springer is a good center fielder?
    Doug Brocail says he can fix Andrew Cashner.
    Doug Fister was 12-13 with the Astros and Chris Archer was 9-19 with the Rays. But
    Fister was one of the worst pitchers in the league when it came to FIP and xFIP. Chris Archer was one of the best pitchers in the league when it came to those two stats. Those stats were from Fangraphs.
    Tampa Bay was one of the worst hitting teams in baseball and their defense was middle of the pack.
    Chris Archer has five seasons before he is a free agent if his team picks up his more than reasonable last two year’s options. He would be a free agent in his age 33 year.
    It seems that teams like Beltran’s reasonable value more than Encarnacion’s, right now.
    The Astros are the only team to not add a minor league player to their roster at the Rule 5 deadline. They currently have 39 players on that roster, as Reddick has yet to sign.


  10. Also, Singleton was placed on outright waivers. The Astros expect him to clear waivers and then be assigned to AAA off the 40-man roster. That clears another spot on the 40-man roster.


  11. ok. i have been trying to comment for days, but for some reason it does not post, i could like but not post. so i switched to logging in thru face book. i guess you have to look at an old pic of my mug now. my apologies for that. i used to be rj.
    i will summarize what i have been trying to say.
    1. Tim you arent alone here, i agree with you most all of the time, not 100% but close.
    2. Tim is a valued commenter here and takes more shots/abuse than anybody, i think he deserves some slack and credit.
    3. Sandy please come on back home, we all miss you and value your input.
    4. great article dan!!
    5. i like the moves made so far, not jumping up and down with glee, but like em.
    6. Mr. Bill – that last song was killer!!
    7. springer can play an excellent CF in my opinion.
    8. i believe the astros are the favorite to win our division and i think we will see a slow crash/disintegration of the team in arlington, caused in no small part by terms of finances/contracts that limit moves/flexibility.
    9. God Bless my mom who turns 92 today!!!!


  12. Getting Singleton off the 40-man is a good thing.
    Since that means that the Astros are making room, they must have some more plans. Maybe those plans include a first baseman.


  13. When I saw that the White Sox were open to trading lots of players tonight, his name was the first one I looked for. Abreu at 1B frees up Gurriel to be the DH, which lengthens his career by helping him stay healthier, adds power to the lineup, which lets the Astros use Aoki’s OBP at the bottom of the order.
    Altuve, Reddick, Correa, Abreu, Springer, Bregman, McCann, Gurriel and Aoki is the very definition of stretching the lineup. Before pitchers can catch their breath, Altuve is back up there with runners on base. A pitcher’s nightmare!
    Against a lefty pitcher, they could put Teoscar in RF for Reddick and Gattis catches and bats cleanup, while McCann rests and is on the bench and could come off the bench as a Lefty PH late in the game, as could Reddick.


    • If they keep Aoki I think Teoscar starts the year in Fresno. The Astros want Marisnick on this team as a defensive specialist/pinch-runner. Unless they add that 26th roster spot in the new CBA I don’t think they will have room for Teoscar. This is just my thoughts. I should add that for all his offensive faults Marisnick did put up a .701 OPS against LHP last year. Cleary, this is not great, but with his excellent defense it is definitely serviceable as the 9th hitter in the lineup.


      • I think Teoscar will have success against lefties. He’d be my guy for the platoon in right. Jake? I love his defense and aggressive style of play, and I hope he provides some value in the trade for some of the pitching we need.

        If Luhnow did not make another deal for a hitter, I’d be okay with that. We can always pick up a bat at the All Star break.

        What we really need from day one is that proven, healthy rotation guy.


      • I agree, Dave. I just think the Astros will want Teoscar to get regular playing time, which he won’t in Houston. He is definitely the better hitter than Jake, but not as good defensive player and base runner. This is why I think Jake makes the team and Teoscar doesn’t, but it’s not like I have haven’t been wrong before so it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m wrong on this topic.


  14. Gotta figure out who you want…..Abreu, or Sale? Probably wouldn’t have the pieces for another starting pitcher AND Abreu. Personally I think the White Sox are just testing the market. I can’t believe they would just trade a bunch of guys for prospects. Shame about Singelton, I think we all had such high hopes for the kid.
    YAY! All my girlfriends are back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are right about not having enough pieces to trade for both.
      I think the Sox have looked around at the AL and want to reboot with new ideas. I think they will field offers and do two or three that will fulfill their needs.


  15. Realize everyone has access to this info, but this morning’s paper quotes John Smoltz saying of McCann, “You won’t find a nicer person,” that he’s a teddy bear and can really help young pitchers. This is music to my ears, as I still honestly believe that almost always, chemistry is what separates the champions from the also-rans.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Diane,
      Want to become more endeared to McCann, watch him hammer Gomez after showboating his homer! It’s like “get off my field!” Lol

      On 9/25/13
      Benches clear after Gomez homers.

      Welcome, Brian McCann!
      So long Club Astros!


  16. I keep looking back to Gio Gonzalez. He had a mediocre year, his contract is up at the end of 2017 and the Nats are going to want to get something for him at some point soon. They also have a pretty solid group of young arms. He certainly would not be a top of the rotation guy but could be a solid 3 and has a good health record. He does not miss many starts. And he might be had without having to give up a Bregman.


    • I think that is a very realistic target for the Astros. I think Luhnow will keep waiting to see if the price drops on Sale or Archer, but with as many teams wanting to add a TORP I don’t see it happening. Gio would be a nice addition and add another LHP to our rotation. Good call!


    • Gio is good with the fans and well liked in the clubhouse in DC as well. I’m not sure he’s an October starter anymore, but he probably helps a team like Houston get there.


  17. I’m really liking the moves so far and even though he might be a nice offensive piece I hope Fowler ends up elsewhere. I have extremely high expectations for Springer if he plays center field. If I recall correctly he had exactly one error in the minors, all played in CF. He has learned to take good routes in RF where the curve of struck balls is much more pronounced than one encounters in CF. That should make him an even better CF. Also if he plays CF he won’t have the trouble with the lights in MMP that plagued him all last season. If good defense up the middle is the foundation of good defensive performance why not have your best OF out there every day and let the less well rounded players fill in around him? Jake in CF every day would be great but unless he has a complete transformation over the winter and can make a consistent offensive contribution I would much rather see him and Reddick platoon in RF and even leave Springer in CF when Jake does play. And what is mere speculation on my part is that I think Springer will be a better offensive player if he plays CF. If Springer is the next coming of the Alex Presley effect playing CF we’ll really have a gem for a long time.


    • I’m just throwing this out there as I read it on another blog. Someone indicated Springer has slowed a bit by evidence of his trouble stealing bases and he’s better off in RF. He surmised that Springer is no longer an elite defensive CFer. Don’t shoot the messenger as I’m just relaying what I read.

      Also, Jake Kaplan was just on MLB Network and he thinks, with the improved offense, that Reddick will play LF, Marisnick’s in CF and Springer in right. I don’t see the logic behind this if they keep Aoki. If Marisnick is on the opening day roster then he makes the perfect platoon partner with Reddick and a defensive replacement for Aoki late in games started by a RHP. I don’t think Teoscar starts the season in Houston.


      • I don’t believe it. I think Springer is a great center fielder. He’ has never been given the chance to be the regular center fielder. Now that we have Reddick, who has played RF for the last 5 or 6 years, it’s the perfect time to put George where he belongs.


      • Yeah, that was a comment on TCB the other day by someone who probably fails to understand why a base runner is successful stealing a base. I guarantee if you line Springer and Altuve up for a 60 yard dash the kid from Connecticut wins.

        We could DH for Marisnick in your proposal and let the pitchers hit. Alternatively, we could make him bunt every time up. I just can’t see his defense offsetting all the runs he costs us offensively.


      • Here is the comment and it’s in reference to Springer.

        “Bigger and slower though now.

        You can see it in his SB numbers and Spd ratings. It’s nothing particular to him, happens to almost all players and it’s why defense generally declines much earlier than offense. Not saying he “can’t” play CF anymore, but he’s not the same guy he was 3-4 years ago.

        It’ll be interesting to see how the Astros deal with this – seems to me that there will be lots of transitioning between CF and RF for Springer and between RF and LF for Reddick”


      • Devin,

        I still think Marisnick makes this team as the 5th OFer. Also, a .701 OPS against LHP with his defense (that OPS was what he did in 2016) works for me as far as using him as a platoon partner with Reddick. I am guessing Reddick will get some starts against LHP, which I am sure the Astros FO has enough data that shows what LH starters Reddick can handle.


      • I’m fine with him being a 4th or 5th outfielder. That could be the 25th man on the roster. Look at the WS and ask yourself if Cleveland wouldn’t rather have had JFSF batting than Michael Martinez with two outs and game 7 on the line. I just don’t want to see him approach anywhere near 400 AB.


    • I’d prefer Teoscar to be developed as an everyday player and not a platoon piece. Perhaps some of the trouble we have had with young players coming up to the big club and falling on their faces is that they don’t get the chance to play consistently. Bregman was awful when he started but because we had no real alternatives he had to play and look how he turned out. Would Reed, White, Tucker, Teoscar fare similarly? Who can say but relegating them to platoon status immediately hasn’t seemed to work very well in too many cases.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I’m with you, drbill, Teoscar can and should get an everyday chance, just like I thought Chris Burke should. The problem with knowing when to get guys in, and/or how long, without “sacrificing a season” is a complete mystery, as the players have the power to make fools, or geniuses of them all. Goldstein, Scouting Dir. said they encourage even heated debates over which players should see the field! That means, on one level, no job is safe. On another you have contracts stipulating.. (Think Gomez, Rasmus) Issues surrounding player’s availability, plus managing under a budget (restricting player time). Then, the questions you’re asking, I ask you back? How many more consecutive starts did ya think Reed needed? His case is different from PTucker, or Moran’s MLB time, or say Stassi, umm, who were terrible! How many more guys, which we surely did sprinkle in, did you want as full-timers? Cause I’m right there w ya! Why didn’t we get Musgrove sooner? What was the holdup on Hoyt? (I know the general anwers, not specific). The big debate raging this moment: Beltran, are there enough AB’s for him in Hou? Answer: who cares at 2 yrs. We’ll ask you to hit whenever you want. Chill! Retire here, all is mended. Maybe he has career threshholds he wants to acheive. But, where does that, and the Reddick signing leave about 5 guys? Trade bait, as the “bridges” to our 18-yr olds are signed as stopgaps. It’s exactly how Marwin got so many starts out of position. We pinned a lot of hopes on that young man, Reed. My gut is he just needs more seasoning if we’re gonna keep him.
        This year, I can tell you any number of players in our stable who can play if they get a chance. So, you’re sayin’ there’s a chance?! Yeah, kid now get out there and show ’em, Jon Kemmer ha! I know it’s Winter, but hope springs eternal.


      • Gov, you have a lot to respond on, but let me add my opinion on who gets to play and how long. I mentioned before that I got to watch most of the games starting in late May. So I did not see the first couple months on a very regular basis. When watching Bregman when he came up, many of my friends would text that he was another JL bust of a draft choice. I kept replying (and it seemed like for months) that he is “making solid contact.” He never looked lost. During the end of the season, Tyler White was making good contact. He appeared confident at the plate.

        Reed looked and did the opposite. Reed needs to play someplace, any place to get his confidence back. Maybe winter ball. Maybe it can be done in ST. But the GM and Mgr can see much better than I can, but when Reed swings at a pitch in the dirt a foot outside, and then takes on down the middle for a strike, he is just guessing.


  18. Here’s the way I look at it.
    Go after another FA bat and pay for that bat by non-tendering Aoki and Fiers, who, between them, are due to make $11.1million in arbitration. That move leaves Gurriel, McCann, Marisnick or Teoscar, White, Marwin and the new guy to handle 1B, DH and LF.
    Then use prospects to go for a starting pitcher. The team is so close with those moves. It leaves one weak spot on the whole team: LH reliever. That could be the last move for Luhnow to figure out.
    When you trade for that starting pitcher your rotation is Keuchel, LMJ, new guy, McHugh and either Musgrove or Morton as #5 and swing guy. You still have Devenski in the bullpen and you still have Rodgers, Peacock, Feliz, Paulino to use where needed. Maybe you could trade one of those four for a LH reliever.


    • I think they could find a trade partner for Fiers. He is a flyball pitcher and I think a team like Miami or S.D. would have some interest, especially with the tragic death of Jose Fernandez. Fiers is still an affordable #5 and might project to be decent in Petco or Marlins Stadium (I don’t know if they have naming rights for that stadium yet). Luhnow has done well finding solid prospects that were low level minor league guys with high upside (Martes and Paulino come to mind). However, the option to non-tender is always there and Luhnow will have to move quickly as the decision to tender a contract is due by December 2nd.


      • Didn’t Fiers plunk Giancarlo Stanton and break his jaw? That might be a tough fanbase (small as it is) to win over on such a trade.


    • OP, that bat could still end up being Valbuena.

      Regarding Teoscar, I think he could be kept busy platooning for Reddick when there’s a lefty on the mound. Then, assuming Aoki ends up as our leftfielder, Teoscar can provide a day off each week for those 35 year old knees. Then there will be pinch hitting and base running opportunities too. Unless someone gets injured, the most likely way he’ll force his way into the everyday line up is to take advantage of the opportunities he gets with the big club. He’s not going to learn to play MLB in Fresno. There is another consideration too. He might end up in a deal for the pitching we keep talking about needing. If given the choice, are most clubs going to want Jake, or Teoscar?

      Liked by 2 people

  19. The Astros are showing interest in Mike Napoli. I would love to add him to the fold. Granted he is not a LH bat, but he has legit power from the right side, can play some 1B and, from everything I have read, is a big time clubhouse leader wherever he plays. I would almost prefer him over Beltran.


    • I was looking at stats later in the year, and Napoli ranked just above Marwin, as the worst 1B. Not saying 34 HR doesnt look good in a masher’s unit that we’re trying to mix w contact/OBPeeps, but he’s probably not the answer. Keep fishin?

      Beltran, all day! Let’s start the rally now, C’mon! A rejuvenated Beltran in his swan song? You know you love it! Cora on the phone right now!! We must hold this beautiful chemistry together…and ain’t it grand players salivate to come play with a Long-Term Champion?! Rangers who? I’m leaning toward the chemistry aspect when you already have enough … Comin’ to roost! My point is: wouldn’t it be something if a few players burst onto the scene?

      Since everyone is sewing up these beastly lineups, an interesting topic beyond Jake with state farm is Who is your darkhorse to make this squad?


      • Are you saying that Napoli ranked just above Marwin in overall value? Defensively, he is not good at 1B, but offensively he is a huge upgrade from Marwin and he mashes LHs, which for some inexplicable reason the predominantly RH hitting Astros lineup struggled against LHs.

        In reviewing the numbers I can now agree that Beltran is probably the better choice as a DH, but a lineup against LHs with Napoli and Gattis would be very scary (Gattis would catch and Napoli would be the DH).


      • Hey Gov,

        I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I am just thoroughly confused by the comment that Napoli ranks just above Marwin as the worst 1B. The numbers aren’t even close as Marwin had a .694 OPS compared to .800 for Napoli and a wRC+ of 87 compared to 113 for Napoli. What stats were you looking at that showed this? Napoli does have a high K%, but Marwin wasn’t exactly Nori Aoki at the plate either as he had a 22.8% K rate. Napoli also had a 12.1% BB rate compared to 4.2% for Marwin. As you can see I was completely thrown off by that comment. Can you help me out here?


      • Tim shoosh it keep fishin..

        Im busy pal its freakin what? November what? Go hug your boys! My point is we already have Marwin, go after a big one! Takes ya weeks to reel in, ok, years!!


  20. There must be a real problem in the clubhouse, because I keep hearing “he’s a great clubhouse guy” with McCann, Beltran, and now Napoli. Didn’t know they had problem going on in there…..all I ever hear is what good chemistry they have. Personally……I’m done with Carlos Beltran. I don’t boo him, never have he did what he thought he needed to do for his family. PERIOD. But, I absolutely *love* Napoli!!
    PLUS….you have a bonified emergency catcher!! I really like the way Luhnow is trying to milk every penny out of a 💵 so far.! The casino was not my friend today. 😟


    • Sorry to hear about the casino. There is a reason casino’s are a profitable business and I have donated my fair share as well.

      I think the issue is more with veteran leadership than any clubhouse issue. The Astros are a relatively young team and even Luhnow acknowledged they need a veteran or two in the clubhouse to help the team during tough times or pressure situations (Rangers games and August/September games). This is just what I have heard and read.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The weighted average age of Astros batters was the youngest in all of MLB last season. So I agree, we hear “good clubhouse guy” because baseball is a game of cliches, but I think the goal is “more veteran leadership”.


    • Becky, recall the time we tried Mitch Meluskey at C and how our team chemistry was impacted. That’s the big reason you go after great clubhouse guys.


    • Chemistry is such a nebulous thing. As an Astros fan since 1962 and an observer of the Houston sports scene going back to the Oilers in 1960, a hallmark of Houston sports teams at least for the last 40 years has been the penchant for management across the board (Astros, Rockets, and now the Texans) to hire nice guys and avoid troublemakers. Personally, I prefer “good” chemistry to “toxic”. But also I see precious few championship banners hanging in our sports palaces and it’s very easy to name off “bad boys” who won rings with other teams.Sometimes a clubhouse is helped by a straw that stirs the drink or a hothead that refuses to lose.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are my good friend, and I value your thoughts! Things get tense on here sometimes, and they don’t need to be. I find manners are more important than any baseball blogs. You look out for me, and Diane and Nance…..and we will look out for you! Becky⚾


  21. Leadership is when Rizzo went to David Ross in the dugout in game 7 of the World Series and asked him how to keep from throwing up from the pressure.
    It is sometimes exhibited by performance on the field, but, more often, how to react to a big win or a big loss and move on. Or how not to react when everything screams out to do something rash.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is why I said last Spring the key factor was whether these guys could stand the pressure of preseason picked to win it all. They started in an ice storm, then exhibited a Gomez-type carelessness on the bases to offset the pressure, they didn’t execute. It works the other way too, when guys like Odor and Co. come alive in game-winning situations. In that respect, I prefer Beltran over Napoli, but who knows? Hopefully, after you get kicked in the teeth enough (Giles), you button it up tight next year. And Marwin is not worthless, Tim. They’re gonna throw Reed, White, Gurriel and McCann at him. I don’t think Marwin will increase his AB’s, as he’s done every year, unless he plays for a team with more openings, but then again, not even I thought he would [italics] get 484 AB’s. All this talk of “handedness” and making sure we have more LHH, it’s all situational to matchups which cannot be discussdd until faced w them. A string last season where Reddick was 6-16 vs lefties. Back to the pressure thing, we obviously need more leadership. Might as well go All In with Correa and Altuve together, now Georgie boy in Center WhooHoo! Bregman full year, Musgrove looking to be a real #2, like I think. Can he do it?


    • Is it $6 or $8 million remaining over the next 3 or 4 years? If the former, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team take a flyer. He’s cheaper than many foreign free agents and provides a power tool greater than most players. As a comp I would point to Pedro Alvarez. I imagine a team with the right hitting coach could get Singleton to give them very good production.

      Alternately, some teams are probably waiting for Singleton to clear waivers so they can negotiate a trade with Luhnow where the Astros would pick up some of his remaining salary.


      • They owe him $4.5M over the next 2 years ($2M/year for 2017 and 2018 and a $500K buyout of a club option for 2019, which they will almost assuredly decline). For Mr. Bill, since he was placed on outright waivers he is off the 40-man roster. Although very unlikely, if a team claims him then they get him and his remaining salary, but if he goes unclaimed the Astros can, and will, option him to AAA since he still has options left.


  22. I was looking at and kind of got hypnotized looking at the worst Free Agent Position players remaining based on their cumulative WAR for the last 3 seasons. The bottom 10 is a cornucopia of former Astros.
    2nd worst – Chris Johnson (-3.1 WAR)
    4th worst – Matt Dominguez (-1.7)
    6th worst – Jake Elmore (-1.6)
    9th worst – J.B. Shuck (-1.2)

    The worst? Well for those who worry about giving older 1st baseman big contracts heading into their middle and later 30’s…..Ryan Howard who put up (put down?) a -3.9 WAR over the last 3 seasons while earning??? $75 million plus a $10 million buyout. Double yikes.

    One of the interesting things about the list is that former Astro Eric Kratz is ranked above all those folks mentioned as his WAR over the last 3 seasons is -0.8, which I assume is due to good fielding and lack of playing time…..


    • Thanks for the legwork, Dan. The extension was unnecessary and hurt the Phillies, but he did give them four seasons finishing top 5 in MVP balloting (winning once) and two additional seasons where he finished tenth. While he didn’t help them in the WS in 2009 against Tampa, they did win the series and he was NLCS MVP that year. Also, let’s allow that his career got derailed when he tore his Achilles in the final AB of the 2011 NLDS and likely at least contributes a lot more without that.

      Having said that, here’s my question to you: how much would you be willing the Astros to eat/overpay on an albatross if it resulted in a WS championship?


      • This is what I call an “other people’s money” situation. As far as I am concerned Crane can overpay on Moby Dick instead of an albatross to bring in a WS championship.
        But I just hate to see a team crash and burn because of being buried in payroll hell. When I see 4 yrs $80 million for Encarnacion (supposedly what the Blue Jays offered him before signing Morales) I wonder what is worth it and what is a trap.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the correction, Tim. I should also clarify I do not want to pay Moby Dick before he/she delivers a WS championship, but it may be a necessary evil.


      • Given that we have backup players with talent (list of 30), who are nearly ready, or can be used as pieces; not like the winter of ’04 with No farm but a grocer paying Andy and Roger, offers Beltran 100M, Biggio in CF and Kent leaving,… Ugh! But now that we have a sustainable core to compete every foreseeable year, a guy like Sale, Encarnacion or Chapman might be wise (I’d take Odorizzi, Quintana, too). We can always unload them ourselves if things don’t workout, preserve some equity. “Workout” Ie., injury like an in-home bike accident, or a church league football game, or if Martes or Paulino become dominant, or spitballing Ramon Laureano is better than Jake, Aoki and Teoscar (will it happen – who the heck knows?!) – eventually someone will breakthrough if given a chance.

        However, If you buy up a team pre season, ….

        Gary Sanchez was a third-time callup, No. 5 prospect on August 2, 2016. Just before he lit the world on fire. After his first game, Girardi didn’t have a clue what was about to happen when asked why this kid? “Part of it is we think he can help the team.”

        [They just found an oil shale 3X bigger than in ND, here in WTexas. Bodes well for our future State budget. Perhaps, like Katy Football, the Astros are building a dynasty?]

        Perhaps an albatross isn’t necessarily a noose, like CarlosLee et al.

        If I’m JL, I’m listening to any and all offers. Do I want the Range Rover, the decked out 250, or what the wife wants – the sleek Jaguar? Oh, to be a kid in the candy store just ONCE in Houston!

        Can you imagine having the goods to walk into Arlington and stare down Beltre, Hamels and Darvish? Are you reading this, Jeff? Ha!


  23. “We’d like to find another bat or 2 for our offensive lineup…potential for another starter & reliever.” @astros’ Jeff Luhnow. #HighHeat

    Just can’t stop us this holiday season, stocking the fridge w plenty of goodies & leftovers! Santa down on the farm makin’ helpers!


  24. It is early, Dan!

    There are a few questions we can ask this early, because it doesn’t look like the bat(s) we get will be a slappy-type of hitter.

    Aoki might slot well as lead off. (Someone else on another blog penciled him in as well, and was met with “are you [on drugs?!”])

    Since I haven’t actually seen much of him, my thoughts were that in 2400 MLB AB’s — keep in mind, his Japanese stats are a testament to consistent longevity — you know exactly what you’re getting.

    In 2006, he stole 41 bases. Six years later in MIL he stole 30. Still some tread on his wheels.

    That was then. Leonys Martin took Aoki’s lead off spot last season in mid-May when although Nori walked 18 of his 41 games, he was CS six of his first eight attempts.

    A perennial .353 on-base guy, who seemingly can not slug over 400. All things being equal to 2015 where in SF he sees 350 AB’s and slashes 280/350/380 (where is that in-house?), he becomes THE 4th OF – where do you slot him otherwise?

    When Servais was asked why move Martin in, “we’re just going w/the hot hand.” Will Hinch employ the same if we dont non-tender?

    Which leads to: if not him, who is best suited to lead off. So far ahead to predict, I know!😄 Mgrs usually say they don’t overthink lineups, surely because they want an air of aloofness, not favoritism. But you know they are all Mad Scientists scheming, ‘how to dis-mantle that trophy?’


    • I think Aoki makes the perfect leadoff or 2-hole hitter. He gets on base, but is primarily a singles hitter. With the power and good slugging rate of Altuve I would rather have him in more of an RBI position. I’m not as worried as some might be to have a base-stealer leading off. I just want someone with decent speed who gets on base, but does not have his power wasted leading off. This is another reason why I want Springer moved down in the lineup


  25. I still think our best lead off guy is named Altuve. I think we have enough guys that can hit now so that it will not be essential to have Jose hit third. I know, the argument is that our best hitter should be in the third slot, but I’d rather see Altuve get an extra at bat every now and then. As far as Aoki goes, if indeed he does start, he’s my nine guy. I want him to extend an inning to get to Altuve. And hitting just in front of Altuve, he’s bound to get pitched to.


    • When Altuve moved to the three spot, his base stealing disappeared. He had the highest OBP on the team, by far, and with his new-found patience at the plate he is probably the premier leadoff man in the major leagues. Putting Reddick in the two slot, with his very low strikeout rate and his left handed stance makes it harder for catchers to throw Altuve out at second. Reddick’s contact rate will mean more runs scored by Altuve and the Astros. Having guys who can hit in the fifth and sixth spot in the order gives Correa better pitches to hit, making the middle of the order so dangerous.
      Altuve proved he is an RBI machine this year, so having guys in the 8 and 9 spots who can get on base, like Aoki, allows Altuve to leadoff and come up with some runners on for a change. That wasn’t happening when Altuve leading off last season, so they moved him to the 3 spot. That is one of the reasons I think it is important to eliminate Marisnick from the starting lineup. He doesn’t hit for average and he doesn’t walk. But he can come in late in the game for Aoki for defensive purposes.
      I want to remind people that Aoki’s stats are virtually identical against lefties and righties for his career, so he doesn’t have to be platooned. His career .356 OBP would be fantastic hitting ninth in front of Altuve. He has a career 8% strikeout rate. Compare that to Castro’s ballooned 33% K rate in the nine slot last season. The nine spot was horrible last year and has the ability to produce this season like nothing we have seen for years.
      The Astros need one more good bat to have a complete lineup and give them the best #4 defensive outfielder in baseball, the most compete super-utility player in baseball and a platoon at catcher with true game changing power.
      That player could be a good hitting first baseman, which puts Gurriel at DH, or it could be a good hitting DH, which puts Gurriel at 1B. I’d prefer the first baseman because I am not 100% sold on Gurriel on the 1B bag, but I am sold on his bat.


    • Aoki is a paradox. If he leads off, he will be on 1st. (4 HRs and 7 SBs). If he bats 9th, he probably drives in no one. (28 RBIs batting mostly leading off – Springer 82). 13 Astros K’d more than he did (only 45). So he is a slap hitter that works the count and if he gets a hit, it’s normally a single. So no power from a corner outfielder.

      I wonder if he was picked up early as simply “insurance” if the Astros signed nobody. Or was he signed to allow more time for the young OFers to stay down on the farm. Now my post is becoming a paradox.


      • AC,
        We liked and wanted Nori Aoki before, it is reported, so maybe that combines w the insurance? Being able to hang your hat on 350 OBP; whether he can see that with more limited action, as which happened to him in SF, is debatable given new scenery and team.

        Both dave and Op make brilliant points (spoken like a catcher attempting a throw-out with a LHH in the box!) — that Aoki and any other high on-base/contact hitter gives Altuve better chance at slugging!

        I agree so far. One of the interesting considerstions is Altuve has the best eye on the team. He used to swing dead red first pitch with a fair amount of success. Last year, a big advantage was Springer’s lead off homer potential. I like the idea that Altuve has tried both approaches, that is being patient, and otherwise. Pitchers can’t just throw a first pitch meatball.

        Also, like the aspect that Aoki (Mariners), Reddick (A’s), Cora (his network) etc bring in perspective from our division, what other hitting coaches are teaching. Hoping this area becomes more dynamic with new blood. I am frankly surprised the Astros haven’t “re-tooled” hitting staff.


      • Hey GoStros,

        Good write-up. I wouldn’t say Altuve has the best eye on the team, but he has the highest OBP, but the majority of that is driven by his high batting average. He definitely has improved his plate discipline and would work fine as a leadoff hitter, but I think, when you say someone has the best eye, normally you look for that guy with the highest BB%.


  26. Aoki has mostly led off in his career, and at leading off he has slashed .278/.346/.714 over the last 3 years combine.. That is a better BA than Springer [.261/.362/.816, but a slightly lower OBP and a significantly lower OPS. Of course, Altuve crushes the lead-off numbers of both, slashing .328/.374/.854 in the lead-off role over the same 3 years.

    In a small sample size in the #9 position, AOKI has done better, slashing .357/.379/.808. But alas, that is just in 29 PAs. Still, he just about has to be better than our #9 guys last year.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. My take on Aoki is this – if we can sign a Beltran or similar player to take those AB’s, I’m for it. If we don’t, I’m fine with Aoki in LF 120 games and batting 9th. Does the lack of power concern me? Sure. But also consider they can’t all be superstars. If our 9th spot in the order comes in at .345+ OBP, even with the lack of power, consider most rosters in the major leagues can’t say that.

    Aoki as a 4th OFer could force Marisnick to be here also. He is limited defensively, probably not even capable of giving 20 games in CF or RF without costing you at some point. You can stick anyone in CF in MMP for 2 games, heck even me, and they can chase down the four lazy fly balls they see, but if you stick someone out there 10 games, sometime in those 90 innings they see 3-4 tough plays that someone like Springer or Marisnick makes that he won’t – and they could cost you a game. He certainly wouldn’t be the first choice to step into a starting role if Springer goes on the DL also without having to shift people around. This was a strength of Rasmus for last few years – the ability to play all 3. Aoki dismisses flexibility as a 4th guy, along with the idea that he may not be as good a baserunner as he once was.

    Aoki seems to me to be that rare player that does that one thing well – work pitchers to get to 1st. That doesn’t really bode well for a bench guy who needs to be flexible but can be accentuated in a starting role. He needs lots of AB’s to allow that 30 point OBP difference over someone else to be effective – the OBP advantage is lost if he gets only, say, 200 ABs.

    I would love to see the Astros sign Beltran, but if they do so, they probably need to figure out how to get out from under Aoki and go with Gonzalez as the LFer when Beltran’s troublesome knees need some rest. Maybe it opens a path to Tucker getting a defined role. We have to wait and see how things shake out, but I would look for a spot for Marisnick as a 5th guy that gets occasional starts against lefties, but mostly pinch runs, defensive subs, pinch hits against lefties, etc. Limit him to 150-200 plate appearances, but use him in 80+ games, that should be a goal.

    Of course there is also the durability issue – Springer nor Reddick have a recent history of being Cal Ripken – sans Springer starting his own streak this year. Sign Beltran – and I don’t see a way that you can feel comfortable thinking your starting OF will be the same names next to each other more than 90 games. That OF may even need its own medical staff.


    • Well Billy it would take days of research to check that stat (if there wasn’t something called Oh wait here it is
      Castro in his career
      Vs. RHP – ,247/.328/.424./753
      Vs. LHP – .190/.249/.287/.536

      Maybe Castro believes in reincarnation and in another life was Joe DiMaggio or something…..


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