All Things Astros and a whole lot more
Somehow the Astros’ off season just doesn’t seem to be complete. Something tells me Jeff Luhnow has some after-Christmas shopping left to do, though the bargains may not be as plentious as shopping at Macy’s and J.C. Penneys. He probably sharpened his pencil after Christmas dinner and crossed through some things, underlined other items and highlighted yet others.
Meanwhile, A.J. Hinch is likely drooling over the multiple lineups he could use next spring and he’s probably put together his own rough lineup cards while others were napping over the holidays. But Hinch shouldn’t get too comfortable yet.
There are a few meaningful free agents still available, and obviously quite a few teams are still shopping starting and relief pitching options.
Adding Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran, it’s obvious Luhnow returned to his original philosophy, trying to load up more with higher OBP, lower K/rate. On paper, the Astros’ depth chart is solid and there is actually depth this season. With such depth, however, and a need for bolstering the rotation, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that a trade — or perhaps a free agent signing — is coming soon.
So here are a few options:
Trade Evan Gattis.
Brian McCann is likely going to handle the bulk of catching duties, relegating Gattis to the DH role. However, as we all recognized last year, Gattis’ offensive numbers directly correlate to his position. As a catcher, Gattis’ line was .295/.345/.647 with a .992 OPS, but it was only .219/.298/.410 with a .709 OPS as DH. Yes, the Astros would miss his 32 HRs, but Gattis’ departure would open up a role for Preston Tucker, A.J. Reed or even Teoscar Hernandez or Colin Moran without severely damaging the overall lineup.
Of course, a Gattis trade for a starting pitcher would likely also include one of the prospects.
Sign Jason Hammel.
This free agent signing would come without penalty since the Cubs released him rather than take on his $12 million option. Always wondered why the Cubs paid the $2 million buyout rather than pick up the option. Odd, since Hammel has provided solid numbers in recent years, despite his age (he’ll be 34 on opening day). He would provide much the same results as Collin McHugh, though he would bring with him the veteran leadership, playoff-seasoned aspect lacking in the rotation and bullpen now. It would likely take at least two years, $30 million to add him, though that may be better option than what the Astros would have to “pay” in a trade for a Jose Quintana or a Chris Archer. And, while he isn’t necessarily a TOR of rotation starter, he would obviously bolster the rotation. The question is: Should the Astros simply bolster a rotation or go all out for that #1 stopper?
Give up top prospects for TOR pitcher.
This one has been one of the most discussed but is likely the most difficult for fans. Luhnow has traded many a prospect in recent years and, so far, he hasn’t been burned too badly. The jury is still voting on players Domingo Santana and Vince Velasquez, and Luhnow has demonstrated a low-restraint for trading his prospects for players he believes will help the Astros get over the top. But is Luhnow prepared — and how about you — to roll the dice and trade Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker, Daz Cameron or any of the aforementioned prospects to bring back that pitcher the Astros seem to need desperately? The bigger question may be: Do you trust Luhnow to roll those dice with those prospects?
This seems like the least likely option.
With recent injury issues hanging over Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr., who wants to possibly leave the rotation with McHugh, Charlie Morton or Mike Fiers at the top? Sure Joe Musgrove and Martes himself are also standing in the wings, but who wants to thrust them into that role early in 2017? No, clearly the Astros need to make a move…or two. Gattis, McHugh, Fiers or a combination or any numbers of other players is likely coming. Prepare thyself for the parting of at least one player that may make you cringe for one reason or another.