FREE BLOG WEEKEND: Gulp, Luhnow may have to pay the piper soon


Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Morning News used to share his scattershots in his weekend column years ago. When I was in radio, there was something called Open Mike Friday.

Then, several years ago, while at the Chronicle (don’t spit, please), I introduced the Free Blog Weekend. It was designed to start a conversation, which is all that Dan and I have sought to do for…yes, the past 12 years! Has it been that long? Really? Yep.

And the Free Blog Weekend lives on. Today, I’ll start the conversation, then you can run off on any tangent, down any baseball alley, out on any ledge and deep dive into the left field stands.

So let’s get started. Earlier this week, I submitted a subject that isn’t so easy to think about. Can the Astros hang onto to their core over the next few years while salaries skyrocket into arbitration and free agency?

Today, though — with four starters, including the league ace, on the disabled list — Jeff Luhnow is now wringing his hands over which of his young, potential, up-and-coming stars he may have to part with to bring in another starter for the second half.

The Astros still have a strong farm system, but it’s clear the years of high first round choices is in the past. The situation is reversed from previous years. Instead of selling off the major league talent to add to the minor league mix, Luhnow is now faced with the likelihood of selling off some of the top minor league talent to fill holes on the major league roster.

It’s an excruciatingly painful, yet probably necessary, process that many contenders go through. How Luhnow navigates that road, though, may determine how the organization heads into the next decade.

Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker, David Paulino, Derek Fisher, not to mention Alex Bregman and others have been, and will be, part of any discussions with teams potentially giving up top-of-the-rotation starters.

And, a few other thoughts…

  • The Astros will have 100 games left after tonight. If I would have told you 61 games ago that, on June 9, Marwin Gonzalez would lead the team in OBP (.409) and OPS (1.044), that George Springer would be far-and-away the HR leader (16), that three starters would have 4+ ERAs, that Dallas Keuchel had been on the DL twice, and that Dayan Diaz, Brad Peacock and David Paulino had each started games, what conclusion would you have reached?
  • This team clearly has some bright spots in its pitching department. But, make no mistake, this is a hitters’ club. Much like Thursday, the hitters can carry the club when pitchers have bad games or end up on the DL. A 4-0 record in extra innings and 9-4 mark in one-run games, plus 13-3 in blowout games (games decided by 5+ runs) point to a strong hitting team. On any given night, from any point in the order, and perhaps from the end of the bench, Houston can win a game in the last at bat. Frankly, it’s hard for A.J. Hinch to do wrong with this lineup.

So, a few questions to light the fire and whet your whistle.

  • Which of the leading prospects, including Bregman, should be off-limits for Luhnow in trade discussions?
  • The Astros have already seen issues this season. Keuchel to the DL twice, Correa and others not starting off gangbusters and unexpected players stepping up. What one or two things might sink the ship or might be difficult to overcome?
  • Who should get the most credit for the start to the season: Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch?
  • And, a fun question: Assuming they are healthy, how many Astros — and which ones — will be on the All Star team?
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226 comments on “FREE BLOG WEEKEND: Gulp, Luhnow may have to pay the piper soon

  1. OP, I wouldn’t can Aoki, that’s why I quickly said it was a dumb thing to say. I had a brief brain failure, forgetting that Reddick would go on the DL. Unfortunately, that’s happening more and more to me. Maybe it’s my diet.

    We had a very rare period of baseball where most everything went right, a couple of guys produced way beyond anything they’ve done before, balls dropped in, the pen was all but bullet proof. Every decision made my the manager worked. Well, at some point along the way, there is always going to be a correction. Due to injuries, our correction is going to be a big one. It’s not over yet. But we still have the best record in MLB. Hopefully Fisher will help reignite the bats. We know this team will start hitting again soon.

    The bigger unknown is when our pitchers will pitch well again. A lot of that falls on Luhnow’s shoulders right now. He’s got to provide a rotation for Hinch to work with. And Hinch has then got to get the suddenly beleaguered bullpen straightened out.

    We’re going to lose some guys. It’s coming soon. There will be plenty to talk about.

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    • I am not expecting or advocating a big trade while we are getting handed our hats nightly by a team we just helped reach .500. I expect JL to get on the phone and make two or three low-cost ‘scrap heap’ pitcher signings – at least one of which is a reliever – in order to have some guys with ML experience in AAA when the next Astro arm succumbs to injury – or after Frances Martes’ start tonight tops Jordan Jankowski’s for most disastrous pitching performance in the history of the club, whichever occurs first.

      Until this club’s young stars shows they have the brass to come back from adversity – which right now is making them look like a bunch of bush-leaguers – there is no way I want JL trading away any of the club’s future for the kind of second-rate pitcher or two we could get right now to jump on this train as it careens out of control.

      Look, it’s a good thing we built a big lead when we were hot and healthy. At least we should, by the AS Break breather our relief corps so desperately needs, still pretty much be within striking distance of the Rangers and Angels as the 2nd half starts. If we are within 2 games of the lead by the ASB, then maybe we can talk about trading for a TOR or MOR.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not prepared to be a couple of games out at the break. What’s that, losing 17 games in the standings from our peak? Bill, that might be another record!

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      • Once we get Keuchel, McCullers, and maybe Morton back after the ASB, and after the break gives the relief corps a few days of badly needed rest, hopefully we can get back to bearing some resemblance of a playoff caliber team. Right now, since the injuries hit, the guys look – and play like they are – whipped. And I for one do not expect the Rangers – or the Red Sox thugs who we have to play next – to show us an ounce of mercy.

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  2. DB7, if it your diet, I have been eating the same things for a few years.

    Altuve is way past upset on his swinging at way outside pitches. It is visible on screen. Also he threw his helmet down after being thrown out at first.

    A game ago, Correa threw home to nobody and nearly cost a run.

    The hitters as a group are not making solid contact the last 2 games.

    Finally, the pitching has not been terrible. They look like the #6 or higher starters and the relief pitchers look mortal. Weak hitting and below average pitching is normally the losing team.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I think I see a pattern in the draft for the Astros. From round 10 through round 28 the Astros selected 8 college seniors. College seniors have almost no leverage and these seven guys will either sign for very little with Houston or try to get signed as free agents after the signing date is over, when they will have even less leverage.
    Then, the Astros drafted two HS players that they will try to woo with money they save under slots and from the college seniors. One of these HS players went through Beltran’s Academy in PR at #14 and the other was in the 29th round and he is from Florida.
    This isn’t rocket science. Other teams do this, too. This just appears to be Luhnow’s 2017 version of Baseball Drafting Genius(BDG) 101.

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  4. Is it just me or do these pitchers seem overly fragile?
    They’ve been babying McCullers ever since his first stint at this level. Keuchel has always appeared to be tough but now he’s become sickly.
    Could it be the training, Tandem style, Or do they just have bad luck with pitchers?

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  5. Tonight’s game will be turning point for these guys……..if they give up and fold, then they might as well hand the season to arlington . This is a VERY important game.
    I’m not going to watch it…..but I’ll be thinking good thoughts for them. Becky⚾

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  6. Tough one to watch. Martes kept his composure. Great job. Not sure if should be shaking off McCann though! Fisher just got under a three run shot in his first at bat. Beltran hit one on the button for a double play. That’s what happens when the bats are slumping.

    The pen needs to get it done tonight and someone has to get a big hit.

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  7. Fyi, Gustave sent to 60 day DL to clear a 40 man spot for Fisher. He last pitched in April and would be eligible to come off it relatively soon, but I’m sure they won’t rush it. Areal roster move will have to be made when Gustave gets healthy.

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  8. The rookie, Francis Martes, not only gives the pitching staff a big win, but getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth gives the Astros bats a huge boost as they get 11 more runs late and crush the Rangers 13-2.
    Great job tonight.

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  9. I gotta admit……I watched the game, but I went outside until that bases loaded TWICE inning was over. My husband came out to get me with the news of only ONE RUN scored!! The guys got up off the matt in the 6th and did what they HAD to do…….take control of the game. Martes needs to be in Fresno the rest of the year, but OMG next year!! If he continues to gain self confidence and not lose focus, the sky is the limit for this young man! I can see why other teams are drooling at the possibility of getting him in a trade! This was THE game these guys needed to win, and they didn’t dissapoint. NOW…..let’s see Fisher in left everyday until Reddick comes back….if he’s still hitting like he did tonight, we can part ways with Aoki.
    He got his 2,000 hits, and $6 million from Crane…..nice guy but never figure out that signing. Ya’LL didn’t think I could pass up seeing this team tonight did you!!? I’m so easy…..😃

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  10. How bad a game can AJ Reed have? Tonight he was 0-4 with 4 ks and an error with two outs in the 8th inning of a one-run game that leads to three unearned runs scoring. Ouch!
    Who would have thought that Colin Moran would be outhitting him in average and in home runs at this stage of the season?

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      • Billy, we could send Bregman down, but then who takes Marwins place as the utility guy? Bregman had a very solid May offensively and has not done much in June. We’ve got a few guys like that. I sure would not make that move today.

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      • Didn’t say I WANTED him to get sent down, just that it’s a possibility. Nah, I’m a big mark for Bregman and he’s one of my untouchables

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    • It seems like some guys regress after getting a chance to see MLB pitching. Some of it could be teams getting better scouting reports. Other factors could be what the team is trying to change in their approach or swing. With Reed I expect a big second half.

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  11. A couple thoughts on this game. First, if they were only going to win one game in this series last night was the game they wanted to win. It carries a bit of momentum into the off day and provides some positive vibes going into the Red Sox series. Second, although I wouldn’t have called last night a must win it was definitely a very important win. A sweep and Texas starts to get that feeling they can possibly come back and make this a division race. I am not saying the division race is over, but after all that noise they only gained 1 game in this series. Thus, again, while not a must win it was a very important and nice game to win. Now, let’s get back on track and win the series against Boston to carry some more positive vibes back on the road.

    Also, OP, my son and I will be in your neck of the woods this weekend. He has a baseball tournament in Oklahoma City starting today (My mother is taking him today and I will doing some business in the Dallas area heading to OKC tomorrow). Depending on how his games go through Saturday we may make the trip to Houston on Sunday for the ESPN Sunday night game. It is Father’s Day, after all, and there would be no better way to spend Father’s Day than with my son at an Astros game. He only plays on Sunday if they win their 4-team division with the 4 games today through Saturday.

    Liked by 3 people

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