Will The Luhnow Plan turn into The Luhnow Gamble?
Now that the trade dust is settling and numerous players are wearing different uniforms, there are a few obvious conclusions about the Astros’ tepid participation in the deadline festivities.
Here are some thoughts.
Jeff Luhnow is gambling that his rotation will be healthy come October.
- If Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and even Collin McHugh are fresh and healthy come October, they could be a formidable combination. But if Mike Fiers or Joe Musgrove are forced into the fray, The Great Luhnow Gamble will have failed. By essentially keeping his powder dry at the deadline, Luhnow is holding his breath, crossing his fingers, knocking on wood just hoping for the miracle of health.
Derek Fisher is part of the next generation core.
- Along with Alex Bregman, the soon-to-be 24-year-old Fisher is one of the first of the next group of players coming up “behind” Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and even George Springer. By the time that Bregman/Fisher (and even Kyle Tucker) hit arbitration, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Morton and a few others will be gone, and Keuchel, Altuve, Springer and possibly Evan Gattis will either be making big money or be gone as well. Josh Reddick and Yulieski Gurriel are both signed through 2020 at reasonable figures.
- The point? Luhnow has apparently already seen the promise of Fisher and is thinking ahead, not mortgaging the farm system and the future for the here and now.
Depth will be a key down the stretch.
- One thing that has brought the Astros this far in 2017 is depth. Pitching depth. Roster depth. Lineup depth. And Luhnow was not willing to bust up what is certainly the deepest roster in more than a decade. The team has already used 39 players, 10 pitchers have started games, only one pitcher (Fiers) is on pace to pitch more than 170 innings, A.J. Hinch has used 90 different lineups in the first 104 games and 11 different players have double-digit home runs. Still, the Astros are 16 games up, currently playing without two of its stars and with multiple pitchers either not pitching or only at 80%.
Remember the Luhnow Plan.
- Luhnow and Jim Crane told us several years ago they wanted to build an organization through the draft (read: Correa, Bregman, Fisher, Kyle Tucker et al) and add key pieces when necessary (read: McCann, Reddick, Morton and friends). While it’s easy to want to veer away from the blueprint, Luhnow is merely sticking to the plan. If he wins the gamble, Houston could become the dynasty the city has longed for. If not, he could be on the next MMP train out!
To be sure, this trade deadline thing for Houston was a balancing act. And, while adding a huge piece is unlikely, let’s not forget Luhnow could still bring in players in August if they can get through waivers.
Three months from now, though, we’ll have most of the answers. We still have back-to-school, Labor Day, my high school reunion and Halloween to celebrate first though. Will Keuchel and Friends be enough to overcome the rest of the American League and take on the Dodgers? Or will there be wailing and gnashing of teeth as we all watch someone else play in the World Series? Ugh, I know.
In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to consider:
- You wanted Lance Lynn? Coulda had him in the 2008 draft. Houston took Jordan Lyles with the 38th pick, St. Louis took Lynn with, you guessed it, the 39th pick.
- The best acquisitions for Houston this summer may, indeed, be Keuchel, McHugh, Correa (in September), Fisher, Will Harris and a rapidly maturing Bregman.
- Something to think about: Assuming everyone is healthy come playoff time, which 25 players make the team. There would be several bubble players, especially if Keuchel, McCullers, Morton and McHugh progress and remain healthy. Odd men out?
- Key question: In your estimation, if everyone is healthy, does this team have what it takes to go all the way in its current makeup?