Astros 2018: Let the bottleneck begin en route to a repeat


The Astros made it to the top! King of the hill! Top of the heap! Cream of the crop!

Now, to figure out how to stay there! That will be the big question for Jeff Luhnow over the next few off-seasons. You have to go back nearly two decades to find a team that won back-to-back World Series. The Giants, however, won three out of five just a few years back.

When a team has at least three $200 million players and a couple of $150+ million pitchers, things get sticky. Or, as we’ve discussed on this blog for several seasons now, you create a massive bottleneck.

Yes, Luhnow doesn’t have to make a single change to this team to be competitive for a repeat in 2018. Yes, Justin Verlander probably put the organization over the top for another year or so. And, yes, Luhnow could just ride the wave of success for another 2-3 seasons.

But Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are going to want theirs too.

Not to mention Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr., Brad Peacock and others down the road. And, therein lies the challenge. Keep everyone happy. Or pick and choose between who to make happy and who to send packing.

Make no mistake friends. Luhnow will make tough decisions over the rest of this decade that will make you cringe and cause you to threaten to boycott games or throw things at your TV.

How many $20 million players can Houston support? Already, Keuchel, Springer and Altuve are at the top of their game and will soon command $20 million+ per season. Their trade value will likely never be higher. Houston could bring in a Herschel Walker-like haul now that would include numerous top prospects, international $$, compensation picks and more.

The questions are simple though: Do you pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade? If so, when? And who goes first? Here’s a recap of some current contract situations.

Yes, there are several players the Astros could non-tender.  Giles isn’t likely, unless the Astros want to go in an entirely different direction. Fiers, who will command top dollar, probably won’t return. Would Houston dare non-tender Evan Gattis as a financial resource?

The Astros finished the World Series season with a nearly $125 million payroll If the 2018 season started today, Houston would begin with an approximate $140 million payroll, including projected arbitration salaries listed for players below with an *. Something — or someone — will have to give as the payroll often increases during the course of a season.

Here’s a look at the payroll projections, with some questions to follow.

ASTROS 2018 PAYROLL
2018 Contract Situation
Justin Verlander $28 FA 2021
Brian McCann $17.0 5 yr/$85M (2014-18)+19 c opt
Josh Reddick $13.0 4 yr/$52M (2017-20)
* Dallas Keuchel $12.6 FA 2018
Yuli Gurriel $12.4 5 yr/$47.5M (2016-20)
* George Springer $8.9 FA 2021
Charlie Morton $7.0 2 yr/$14M (2017-18)
* Evan Gattis $6.6 FA 2019
Tony Sipp $6.0 3 yr/$18M (2016-18)
Jose Altuve $6.0
* Mike Fiers $5.7 FA 2020
Marwin Gonzalez $5.1 FA 2019
* Ken Giles $5.0 FA 2021
* Collin McHugh $4.8 FA 2020
* Brad Peacock $2.9 FA 2021
Will Harris $2.8 FA 2020
* Lance McCullers Jr. $2.6 FA 2021
* Jake Marisnick $2.0 FA 2021
Johnathan Singelton $2.0
Brian McCann -$5.5 Yankees payment
Justin Verlander -$10.0 Tigers payment
Chris Devenski FA 2021
Bregman, Alex FA 2023*
Correa, Carlos FA 2022
TOTAL $134.9

Here are some questions for you:

  • If the Astros said they were going to trade one big player this winter, which one makes the most sense: Springer, Keuchel, Altuve, Correa, Bregman?
  • Who would you non-tender (here are some who are eligible that might make sense: Fiers, Giles, Gattis, McHugh, Marisnick)?
  • If Luhnow called you today, what recommendations would you make for the roster?
  • There are several players on the 2017 roster who could ultimately end up as Hall of Famers. Of course, it’s early for some, but which player excites you the most in that regard?
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116 comments on “Astros 2018: Let the bottleneck begin en route to a repeat

  1. 1. Trade: Obvious is Sipp AND Singleton, but lets be real. Probably Reddick. Love the guy, but you have capable replacements in the minors. 2. Non-tender: Fiers mainly because he is too expensive and schizo. The other options are cheap (if$2 million a year is now cheap). But as mentioned in the case of Gattis, you can save 1.5 by non-tendering JFSF and calling up a minor leaguer. 3. Call: He has to remake the bullpen. He plugged and did the best he could, but really needed a Zach Britton look alike to win the WS in 5-6 games. 4. HofF: Altuve mainly because the requirements for 2nd Base is lower than other positions.

    Minor note: McCann is 2 yr plus option left on his contract (2017-2019) But he had 399 PA in 2017 and needs 601 PA in 2018 (1,000) to vest. JV is FA in 2020. (Per Baseball-Reference.com)

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    • Altuve because the requirements for second base are lower than other positions? Heck, the guy has already reinvented the position. Three batting titles, power, stolen base leader, Gold Glove, hits leader four years in a row, 5 time All Star at the age of 27. Our guy Altuve is doing things not done before.

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    • Wow. First post of the off season and the Chipalatta Front Office is in disarray. As to the trade, Reddick is not in the Big 5 listed, but was mentioned in the top of Chip’s post. I would trade him – heads up – for Kershaw, with the Dodgers picking up any balance of salaries. I don’t trade him for a rag arm for the bullpen. This year, I don’t trade any one of the 5 unless it is for Kershaw and Jensen – heads up.

      As to the Hall of Fame, I think both DB7 and Chip made my argument. Altuve will be compared to Biggio, Carew, Sandberg, Alomar. Just one example, Correa will be compared to Ripken, Jeter, Molitor, Yount. To me, CC has tougher comparison for the Hall.

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      • But 45, who are those capable replacements in the minors for Reddick? I’d be delighted to move him for Kershaw, especially with the Dodgers picking up salary, but that was a jolly, right?

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      • There are rumors that the Astros will be one of the interested teams in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton. I am not advocating for this because of his contract, but this is a scenario where, if he is acquired, I could then see Reddick jettisoned to help offset some of Stanton’s contract for the next 3 years. Coincidentally, this is also when Stanton has the option to opt-out of his contract.

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      • Yes Tim, that would be a justifiable update over Reddick. But like you said, the cost would put the plan (and at this point I do see the plan) out of whack. And what might the huge contract coming to town potentially do to the happy family in our clubhouse?

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    • As to the OF replacement,DB. If I were the GM, I am not giving away Reddick. But he could (not advocating) be replaced by Fisher/Jake. Now they don’t replace his bat, but can replace Beltran. That necessitates multiple changes. But with Beltran out (assuming he is) and Reddick’s salary you can find a DH and possibly a pitcher.

      The question as posed was to the Big 5. I don’t want to trade them. But as to the Big 10 or so, my choice is forced to be Reddick. Only because of his salary. Not because of his talent.

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  2. I don’t think this will happen, but Keuchel would be the guy I’d trade. Don’t want to break up the four other guys at this point.

    Fiers gets non tendered. He’s almost a non Astro already. It’s got to feel odd being left off the post season rosters. Same with Sipp. Trade him for what we can get, even if we have to pay some of the 6 milion.

    I’ve already said that I’d like to see Gattis stick around and be our designated designated hitter. That was the only real weak spot in our 2017 lineup. And then I’d focus on improving the pen. Guys like Moran might help get that done.

    HOF? Altuve is an automatic given good health. I see the same for Correa. If Bregman keeps improving he’ll be in the picture. Verlander. Springer won’t make it unless he has career years for the next decade. That illustrates how hard it is to get to Cooperstown.

    45, who do we have waiting in the system to step in for Reddick and Jake at this point? I might agree with you if you said for 2019, but I don’t see it yet.

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  3. Question #1 gives us the choice of trading 1 of 5 players named. Of the 5 players I get to choose from I would trade Keuchel because he is a) gone at the end of 2018 and the return for that is most likely a late second round choice in 2019. b) he will be 30 years old on New Years Day and the other 4 are younger. c) there will be a ton of teams looking for a top starting pitcher this year. d) He will save us the most money by trading him, and e) We will still have starters JV, LMJ, Peacock, Morton, McHugh, Martes and Fiers (if need be) to get us back to the playoffs, which is more than we had for the regular season of 2017.
    The caveat is that the Astros need to get a guy back who projects(by Luhnow and his staff) as a starting position player for us for years. Someone like Brett Phillips and a couple of young prospects or a good young catcher.
    As a side note, if Morton starts off in 2018 the way he pitched in 2017, I would try to get him to sign a one year extension for 2019.

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    • I would guess — if he hasn’t already — Luhnow will make one more run at Keuchel, but, we’ll see. He probably won’t be worth the $120-$150 million in the long run. Not when the Astros may have to break the bank over the next few years.

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  4. If the Astros said they were going to trade one big player this winter…
    It would have to be Keuchel – though I think they would rather try to sign him first. Second, they might hold him to the trade deadline and see how things are sitting then. Of course if he repeats 2016 he might sully his value along the way
    Who would you non-tender – Fiers – I’m not giving up on Giles as a reliever (but perhaps as a closer). Marisnick will not make enough to matter. I like Gattis’ bat – he might be a mid-season trade bait. McHugh is a solid starter – assuming he is healthy – keep him and then see if he might bring you something in trade.
    If Luhnow called you today, what recommendations would you make for the roster?
    I would say – why the hell are you listening to me after you built a WS winner yourself. But if he rang…. Need more bull pen help and if you can pick up a decent outfielder – I would not complain. They may have to trade from their pitching and catching to do this.
    There are several players on the 2017 roster who could ultimately end up as Hall of Famers. Of course, it’s early for some, but which player excites you the most in that regard?
    Altuve and Correa have the best shots because of their career arc and their positions. Verlander needs another 3 or 4 good years.

    The big question is – what is the budget? Crane brought in extra income with the playoff run, and all the clothing, etc. being sold. He will likely raise ticket prices and I would project that he will have a 300,000 increase in attendance. Oh and whenever Forbes brings out its article on the value of franchises, his franchise is worth more now.
    So how tight is his budget?

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    • Part of the issue with Crane is that he’s got a batch of minority partners that he’s got to consider. If he owned the club outright, he might be comfortable with breaking even at this point in his life, assuming his other business interests are healthy. But no doubt, the value of the franchise will have grown considerably.

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      • They bought it at around $600 million and it was worth according to Forbes around $1.4 billion back in April – I would hope his partners are cutting him some slack.

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  5. Sorry guys, I can’t look to next year. Prolly you saw the little kid start crying when he met Altuve and Altuve game him his cap. And Altuve, Breg and Spring on Sat Nite Live. And today Spring will appear here in Houston. And Correa said he’ll go wherever he’s asked to go, including the White House. I just love these guys and want with all my heart to believe in them. Thank you, Astros, for what you’ve done for Houston and South Texas.

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  6. If the Astros said they were going to trade one big player this winter, which one makes the most sense: Springer, Keuchel, Altuve, Correa, Bregman? – Keuchel. Don’t dare touch any of the others. We can replace DK easier. Hell, we already had to much of the past 2 seasons.

    Who would you non-tender (here are some who are eligible that might make sense: Fiers, Giles, Gattis, McHugh, Marisnick)?- Get Fiers off this team ASAP.

    If Luhnow called you today, what recommendations would you make for the roster?- Don’t trade anybody from the core of the team. We do need a new DH.

    There are several players on the 2017 roster who could ultimately end up as Hall of Famers. Of course, it’s early for some, but which player excites you the most in that regard? – Altuve, easily. He keeps up this level for the next 10 years, he’s gonna shatter some records.

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  7. Who would I non-tender? Not Jake. I would tender him an offer, get him signed and trade him for a young pitcher and replace Jake with Fisher as a fourth outfielder.
    Not McHugh. He’s my fifth starter.
    Not Giles. He’s my closer. At least during the regular season.
    Not Gattis. He’s my second catcher and sometimes DH during the regular season. Why would I mess with the best catching situation in the entire major leagues? Yes, it’s a new year, but I still would like the best, the most rested, the most feared catching combo behind the plate in 2018. Gattis hit higher in the postseason than he did in the regular season and he hit higher in the regular season than he ever did before. He had 9 BBs and only 5 Ks in the postseason. Playoff teams did not want to pitch to him. He scared them.
    I non-tender Fiers. I wanted to think about keeping him, but he had 18 decisions as a starter last season and still only delivered 0.1 WAR. He is just not worth the money at $5.7 million. His curve was almost non-existent and his fastball is 89-90 topped out. His K rate keeps dropping, his HR rate is atrocious and his ground ball rate is way below average. If we didn’t put him on the playoff roster this season, he sure as heck won’t make it next season. I’d rather let some youngster be the long reliever/sixth man in the BP during the regular season for $550,000.

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  8. 1. Bregman – did you see what ChiSox got for Adam Eaton? Someone might overpay for Bregman. DK is the only other guy I’d consider. Cost after 2018 would be prohibitive.
    2. Fiers…if you can’t move him.
    3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Seriously, we don’t have any panic positions for 2018. Beyond that gets murky.
    4. Altuve. Correa is a generational talent and has the drive. Springer has to make up for lost time through heroics and charisma. That’s my order…after that probably JV.

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      • Bregman made huge strides THIS year. There is no stage that will intimidate him.

        We won the World Series last week. We are in the enviable position of having a mostly young line up intact for 2018. Bregman is one of the guys who is not close to his ceiling. He’s going to be a leader on this club.

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      • I agree with everyone here on Bregman. That kid has an arrogance and confidence that you want from a young player and I’m not trading him. We also have to be prepared for the possibility of losing Altuve after 2019 and Bregman could make the shift to 2B, if needed. Bregman has quickly moved up the ladder to one of my favorite, if not the favorite, Astros player. I love this kid!

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      • daveb, I did look at their numbers. It might be a better comparison if Altuve weren’t thrown into the fire of 100+ loss teams.

        Billy – no way Bregman should pay for a drink in Houston again in his life. As for trading him, I don’t see a need, but if we’ve decided someone has to go you should look at what might give the best return at the least cost.

        Tim – that’s a fair point. The salary and years of control for a guy who could definitely start at a couple positions on most teams are a reason not to trade him.

        I wouldn’t trade any of them…but I’m not Luhnow. Correa, Altuve, and Springer are capable of winning the MVP. DK has one Cy Young to his credit, and I would think a playoff run in 2018 is preferable to any returns they could get for him at this stage. We may not need him in the 2019 rotation, but that depends upon a few of our guys taking big steps.

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  9. Could be an intriguing off season for the AAAA players we have. What to do with Tucker, Reed, White, Fisher, Kemp, Moran? They’re all good enough to make a MLB roster but perhaps not ours. I could see a scenario where we keep Gattis as backup catcher/DH, move Yuli to full time DH, hope that Moran could handle 1B to give us a really young athletic infield and maybe platoon Jake and Fisher.

    As for the pitching I wonder if we can solve the bullpen woes from within. I could picture McCullers or Peacock as closer material with a slight lean to Peacock because of his demeanor and greater consistency. Trade Giles. Someone will take a chance on him but if Strom can’t fix his command issues I wonder if he is fixable. I actually have the same concerns with McCullers who is maddenly inconsistent with his fastball. I know he loves his curveball but if a guy can hit 96 he needs to be able to command that velocity. Verlander is a case in point. Martes and Musgrove could be good bullpen pieces who could be stretched out to starting roles if necessary a la Peacock this year. We need a reliable left hander. Sipp or Liriano ain’t it. I bet we could get a decent lefty for a package including Paulino who ought to be gone from this organization.

    I would be OK with trading Keuchel. His stock with me is actually fading. He more than any other pitcher on the staff can be impacted for good or ill by the vagaries of the home plate umpire. Until and if we get an electronic strike zone Keuchel’s success depends on getting marginal calls and he has little margin for error. I would much prefer to spend the $$$ on maintaining the core up the middle guys we have in Altuve, Correa and Springer. These are guys who play every day and give you elite offense and defense. I’d also keep Bregman, another five tool player. How many teams have one five tool guy, let alone four! If you have those four producing for the next 5-7 years you can build around them and add in guys like Kyle Tucker and Forest Whitley and J B Bukauskas without having to rush them. Definitely keep McHugh who with his new slider is likely to put up a really good 2018. I thought he was grossly misused in the playoffs considering his end of season performance and solid record late in seasons. But what is really cool is to think that even if we stand pat we still have to be considered top of the list to repeat and we know Luhnow is not going to stand pat. How many days to spring training?

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    • Tucker (of the Preston variety) and Reed will never be successful major leaguers, and I think the other teams know it. Only value they have is as possible thrown ins or players to be named later.

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  10. * Fiers Bye, Sipp trade or release, Giles needs another pitch or we will need a closer buy July. I don’t trade anyone until thing shake out in July. We need a couple upgrades in the BP 2 Lefties. Gattis I guess as R DH , back up catcher

    What’s Victor Martinez status, that left had DH bat, low K’s . look good in Astro uniform on a 1-2 years deal???

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  11. I don’t think Luhnow will sit still. I think he’ll turn some of the guys we don’t have room for into bullpen help. I also think he’ll get another outfielder. But I’m pretty sure Moran will not have a place on this team, unless someone gets hurt. Yuli is the best first baseman we’ve had since 2009. He helped us win a World Series. Moran is young, but he sure is not very athletic. He’s fair defensively and would be the second slowest guy on the team. And we don’t even know if he’ll hit.

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      • We don’t want a platoon bench bat that can’t run. And he really can’t run. And he’s not going to be a defensive replacement either. We need guys on the bench that are more versatile.

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      • Are you suggesting Tyler White get the spot? All of your complaints about Moran fit for him as well. I think a lot will come down to how Luhnow feels about Fisher, though. Is he concerned and shops for a new LF this winter?

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      • Tyler White would not be a good platoon bench bat either, for the same reasons. But if we don’t pay Gattis 6.6 million, then he might be a DH candidate. And I do think White will hit if he ever gets regular at bats. But I’d still prefer Gattis to be my full time DH.

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  12. I think the beauty part is all the key ingredients will be back next year, with ample room to wheel-and-deal for bullpen bolstering.

    Repeat! THIS IS A HELLUVA TEAM IN ’18.

    Let 2018 happen, then realize that the likes of Keuchel, Springer and Altuve, are probably gone. If they sign these players (any or all) anywhere near their worth, then they just cannot compete.

    I could see Keuchel, Verlander and Springer gone in 2019. The Scott-Boras-represented Altuve might stick around as the franchise player. But he WILL get paid this time.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 2018 awaits!

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  13. Y’all are making me crazy!! I’m still basking in the radiance of a World Series win!! It was only 4 days ago……at this point, I don’t want to hear about who Luhnow is gonna trade! STOP🙉!
    By the way the Astros have some awesome Christmas ornaments! I’m ordering both of them!

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    • Becky, I appreciate your “too soon!” approach. Yes, unfortunately, you don’t get long to bask in the title. Luhnow has already picked up two options and five players became free agents before the last champagne bottle was empty. Believe it or not spring training is about three months away and winter meetings are next month!

      But, yes, let’s enjoy the biggest season in the organization’s history! And let’s hope the feeling never wears off!

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      • I know- I know, but I wanna wallow in the magic of this awesome club,before I start trading guys off it! I’ll check y’all later! I just downloaded the condensed version of the 7th game, so I can relive it on dark rainy days ahead❤!
        I’m such a girl!

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  14. The great thing about winning the World Series is that it won’t ever go away!
    We can work on next year’s team because we have five aces already in our hands. We are the champions!
    So what’s the third question? Oh, yeah, if Jeff Luhnow called me today what would my recommendations be? Actually, he did call me today, but it was during mass and my phone was off. Then we went to the Chinese buffet and…. well, I’m sure he’ll try me again.

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    • Takes me back OP. When we lived in North Little Rock and our two oldest were real young – after Mass (once in a while) we would drive thru at McDonalds for the kids and then go to the Chinese buffet. Hardly had two nickels to rub together but those were fun times.

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  15. The theme here is: I don’t want to, but I have to.

    We already know from the eerily ominous sound (and a little psychology mixed in), when Hinch stood in the after party of clinching some series or another, he said, “look around you, this may be the best team you’ll ever be on.”

    That doesn’t exactly sound like we’ll see anything intact. If there is such a word?

    The nice thing about Hinch/Luhnow Astros is that nobody is assured anything. Bregman may have capped off his season very nicely but people forget he had a dickens of a time securing top of the lineup offense.

    The point is it’s ever changing based on work you put in, and the results that follow. Altuve said it best in postgame World Series when asked “what else is there left for you to do?” He said, “let me tellg Yu songthing mang, when I come to spring training I am zero. I have nothing.” When you draft players who come from dirt floors and who appreciate everything.. and despite that, Hinch has proven that he will sit your butt down for good if you can’t handle the pressure.

    Last season so many guys contributed who weren’t there in the end; Paulino, Tolliver, Diaz, Feliz, Teoscar, Gustave, Moran, Fisher, White, Martes, Jake (all got a ring). You can bet we’re going to run every metric to find more of the same in 2018.

    1. I don’t trade any of these unless Keuchel is truly deemed less quality. The eye test tells me he’s got plenty in the tank, consistent elite level is questionable. He’s the type of competitor, too that if we traded him, he’d have no mercy on us. That’s not the kind of move I’d relish, but the thought has crossed my mind.
    2. I can see Fiers and McQ as innings eaters. This blog blows up every time they pitch poorly, but ya don’t have to win every game to win a division by 10! You can’t pitch your best players every night and expect to have anything left after the marathon we just watched (162 plus playoffs). I’m not a big fan of McQ, or Fiers – though at times they’re quite effective, and I respect their poise. Any Mgr worth his salt always has a dud pitcher to motivate the offense into thinking they’d better hit if they want to win.
    3. If Luhnow called me on the lake, I’d be fishing for his opinions first. I’d want to know how far away certain players are from making an impact, and I’d surely be willing to re-tool. Baseball is always moving forward and stops for no one.
    4. Correa and Altuve will make the Hall of Fame barring injury. When Correa begins to hit towering opposite field homers, you’ll hear his name and the Hall even more.

    Here’s an interesting comment about Beltran.
    “You guys don’t want him as a bench coach. I happen to know a player who has played with Beltran and he said the guy is a total phony- acts like he is all about the team, but will only talk to Latin players, just ignores everyone else…You weren’t in the clubhouse, my friend was. As a fan, I thought the world of the guy going by what I saw, but my friend shed a lot of light on the clubhouse situation- it changed my opinion of a lot of players- some for the better, but not Beltran.”

    That answers my question about hiring him on.

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  16. One thing Luhnow will have to address in his balancing act: Can he make this team better? It can’t be about a salary-dump or avoiding a player (e.g. Keuchel) heading to free agency next winter. He’ll have to couple those concerns with improving the team’s stance. That was the reason for my thought. Keuchel, Springer, Altuve can certainly bring a haul right now as their value is probably through the roof.

    Another big decision will be Marwin. He may well have established himself as an everyday player, and that means the Astros will need to find another Super Sub in the mold of Bill Spiers or Marwin himself.

    Another question that seems to be bubbling to the top here: Is Tucker considered a possible bust now, especially considering his #5 pick?

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      • daveb, that was actually my question: What is Marwin’s “present role”? Is he the everyday left fielder a la down the stretch? Or that Super Sub we’ve all come to love and cherish?

        And then what do Luhnow and Hinch believe that role is?

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      • In the playoffs, Marwins role really had to change, because the guys he regularly gave nights off to were not going to get any nights off. Marisnick also got hurt, reducing options. Aoki was gone. Fisher did not hit as it turned out. Leaving Marwin out in left every night of the post season was a pretty easy call. But I think Luhnow will try to upgrade left and put Marwin back in the role that originally made him so valuable. But they’ll work to get him 400 plus at bats again.

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    • I think there are at least 5 big ways to make this team better than it was in 2017:
      1. Make Marwin your left fielder. Please remember that last year started out with Aoki/Marisnick as the LFer. The Marwin that delivered in 2017 is going to be so much better than the duo that started in LF last year. But, does the Marwin of 2017 really exist? My thinking is that the Astros don’t necessarily have to add an outfielder if Marwin was good enough to start the entire postseason in LF.
      Kyle Tucker is not a bust, he is the opposite of that.
      2. Using White/Moran at DH will improve that position over what the Astros got from Beltran. A lot. Pitchers figured out that Beltran no longer had the strength in his body to hurt them if they kept the ball off the inside half of the plate, so they pitched him on the outer half resulting in fly balls short of the warning track. They kept Beltran honest with curves inside which he fouled off. The second half of the year Beltran was worn out and had nothing left. The disaster in Puerto Rico sapped whatever strength he had left.
      3. The third way they can improve without acquiring anyone new is a starting rotation of Verlander, Keuchel, Morton, Peacock and McHugh. That tops anything the Astros put on the field last year for an entire season. That leads me to the fourth way the Astros can improve over the 2017 team without adding anyone:
      4. Lance McCullers Jr in the late inning bullpen instead of Luke Gregerson.
      5. Trade Tony Sipp somehow and acquire a decent left handed reliever.
      6. The Alex Bregman who was an All-Star caliber 3B in the second half of 2017 shows up for the entire 2018 season. Alex Bregman’s 2nd half slash line was .315/.367/./.536/.903.

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      • OP, you’re right on with most of these. Bregman, in the second half and down the stretch, was as good a third baseman defensively as anyone in the game.

        On McCullers, I understand wanting to put him there with his stuff, but I just don’t know if he can handle back-to-back or even one day off between appearances effectively. I believe that’s why he won’t ever be a back-of-the-bullpen guy. Starter? Long guy in the pen?

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      • Someone on Twitter did a breakdown of Bregman’s numbers pre-DM blowup and post-DM blowup. He essentially took off after that Twitter DM story broke so maybe we should all be thanking Alan on Twitter for Bregman’s season turning around. 🙂

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    • Hinch so much as said he started the lineup card with deciding where Marwin was playing that day. To me, that’s called a starter, not a sub or super utility anything. His role is to play. (When he slugs .530) Everyday.

      Why create limits by naming anyone any “thing” is my question? It’s limiting to think of Marwin playing at one, or only a few spots.

      The question obviously goes to creating more room for guys pushing outfield/infield spots later in the year. Straw, Martin, Kemp, Fisher, K Tucker, Marisnick; Moran, White.

      In the meantime, you pay Gonzales the $7M, and try to keep the chemistry good. His offense and defense are stand alone well enough to keep him.

      I like the energy of Reddick, but he’d be the first on my list to trade given that we have some back up plans.

      Like

    • Kyle Tucker, as a 20 year old, after promotion to AA hit:
      72G .265 / .325 / .512 16HR 47RBI 8SB

      Was that last question a joke or do you have some real concerns?

      Like

      • Devin,
        Question: is he still on Benintendi’s trajectory? I couldn’t help thinking the way we bested the Red Sox LF in the playoffs, how long the curve on Tucker?
        I can see where taking our time with him, since we have Marwin, Derek, Jake and Josh as a solid 4 for 2018…is a good thing.

        Like

      • Benintendi was drafted as a 20 year old out of the University of Arkansas in 2015 with the 7th pick. Tucker was drafted the same year as an 18 year old out of a Florida HS with the 5th pick. Benintendi was promoted in 2016 straight from AA after posting some very well-rounded numbers in Portland (ME).
        63G .295 / .359 / .872 8HR 44RBI 8SB 7CS 24BB 30K

        I’m one of the guys who was really high on the idea of drafting Benintendi back in 2015. He’s going to win some gold gloves. He has a great bat. His power this year – 20 HR – is a bit higher than I expected to see of him. As to your question, I think Tucker is still on a similar trajectory. The Astros will likely take more time with him unless major injuries hit the outfield. It’s likely he enters 2019 spring training as a favorite to play LF. Springer and Reddick block him from CF/RF until at least 2020.

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      • Why does Tucker have to be on Benintendi’s trajectory. That kind of stuff is what gets teams in trouble. The Astros drafted Tucker to be an outfielder of the future and he is their #1 prospect right now.
        The only trajectories he needs to be following is Luhnow’s and his own.

        Like

    • Chip, just my guess, but I think Luhnow ultimately brings in a left fielder on a short term deal, or, has the confidence to go with Fisher/Reddick there, which means Jake in center again and George sent back and forth between center and right. It kills me just thinking of George not owning center at this time and place. It’s the kind of thing that might help him decide to go play that hallowed position for the Yankees or Sox one day soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I agree. George is a star-level center fielder, but it’s clear the Astros still would prefer him in right (to wit: “George sent back and forth”). They’re obviously seeing something we aren’t, but if he ends up as a Hall of Fame center fielder in Yankee Stadium, that would be, umm, unfortunate to say the least.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I saw moving George to right not as that’s where the Astros want him to play, but more of well Maybin plays center better than he plays right or left. Let’s face it, George plays right very well.

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      • George won’t be eligible to be a free agent until his age 31 season. If he decides to play for the Yankees he may not have the same legs and play CF as well as he can now. I truly don’t think Springer is bothered by playing both positions.

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    • Of the list given, he’s my first because of the contract and depth at outfield. I’ve been a huge proponent of Reddick even prior to the season batting lefty on lefty – his seeming only weakness. However, his inability to get out of the slump has caused me some concern. The opposition has a bevy of film now to expose the holes in that swing. He’s a helluva major leaguer and seems like a great guy. I can see pulling my hair out though if he turns in a season like he did with LA..

      Kevin, he is the 2nd highest paid player on the team!

      Like

  17. You have to remember a lot of our best guys are way under paid compared to market value. I still say we don’t trade anybody except Sipp. till mid summer and see where we are. Club house chemistry is huge in baseball, leave it alone till mid 2018.

    Like

    • I would be shocked if Fiers is on the opening day roster. They won’t be able to trade Sipp so it’s a matter of whether they want to eat his remaining year at $6M.

      Like

  18. There were a couple references to Altuve and his option years ending in 2019. I saw something the other day that I had never seen before. (Well probably saw and forgot which is my specialty these days).

    It said Scott Boras was his former agent that advised him against signing the current contract. So Altuve changed agents. He has changed again and is now back with Boras.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Josh Reddick’s OTBG stats .314/.363/. 484. with 13 HRs and 82 RBIs.
    Josh Reddick’s new time baseball guy stats: 13.3% K rate, 127 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR.
    Add to that the fact that Reddick is the guy who finally gets George Springer moved to CF where he belonged all along and Springer became an All-Star and the WS MVP.
    Why would anyone think of getting rid of this guy? Besides, Reddick wasn’t on the list of five players to choose from to trade in this post anyhow. That list included the guys who are going to be free agents in the next few years that have been with the Astros all along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True, I should have clarified that Reddick wasn’t on that list. But for argument’s sake. What happens if Jake & Derek turn the corner offensively? That will constitute a log jam yet again in the OF, especially if there’s nowhere consistently for Marwin to go. All around it’s a good problem to have, I’m just saying $13M is a good place to look when you are having to decide to keep *core* members, and there’s already depth to choose from. I’m okay with starting 2018 as assembled, just like Luhnow stood pat for so long last season, but the knee jerk Astros fan will assume we won’t begin to spend like the big boys. I hope we do.

      Hey, wait a minute – we ARE the big boys!!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. In order to come full circle, I would like the option of not answering Chip’s questions. First, this team as composed, won the World Series. I neither trade nor release any position players. I would be very hesitant to think there is any pressure to find a DH. (Example ONLY: If you used 2017 stats and projected Jake to replace Beltran – your get 2 more hits, 38 more runs, 17 more homers, 17 more RBIs, etc.) So “in house options” such as Gattis, White, Fisher, Moran, even Kemp or just use the DH to rest people can improve the team. Not knocking Beltran, just saying you can find a way to replace his offense without breaking the bank. That is not true in my opinion in the Bullpen. It has to be remade. That is going to cost money, or some of our AAAA players. That needs to be the upgrade.

    I know, I know… this is cheating.

    Like

    • I’ll offer a counter-point, 45. Our bullpen was fine during the regular season, for the most part, but it was abysmal for the most part during the playoffs. Yet, we still won the World Series. I don’t think Giles or Devo can pitch any worse than they did during the playoffs this year so I will argue tweaking the bullpen as opposed to an overhaul is probably the best approach. Let’s not forget how bad Lidge was in 2005 and we wanted him run out of town only to see him pitch the perfect closer season in 2008 with the Phillies. I see much of Lidge in Giles in that they both rely heavily on their nasty slider. I’m not as worried as most Astros fans about Giles. I look at his overall numbers during the regular season (same with Devo) and think he just needs more time to develop as both are still very young.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Most hits off Devo and Giles are because opponents can sit on a pitch. When they have their full arsenal, the guessing is much more complicated. If your word is development, ok. But I’m with you & think our bullpen is very solid (AL bullpen of the week: late September). We’ll have to get something out of Sipp’s $6M, as in use him in low leverage if we cannot unload him. The guy I have more concerns than I did going into last season is Harris. Gregerson is surely gone, although he’s another one who when his slider is poppin’ is effective. Liriano is gone and that makes way for Feliz, Martes and Paulino.

        Since we kept McCurry through his PED’s, I’m hoping we keep David Paulino. I have high hopes for that young man.

        The thing to notice is the versatility we have going from Starter to longmen to reliever. Hinch has proven it with Musgrove McCullers and Peacock that it’s too prohibitive to lock into one assignment.

        I’m still giddy about 2018, even though it won’t surprise me if there is some shake up!

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  21. What will be interesting is what will be Altuve’s mindset on staying with the Astros after 2019. You also have Keuchel and Marwin. I don’t think Morton and Gattis will break the bank if they are still with the team. Question is what will be Keuchel’s and Altuve’s value and how badly do they want to stay an Astro. I really have little idea their worth but assuming that their performance stays at 2017 levels we’re talking about some big bucks. If the AAstros do want to lock in these players better to do it during 2018 rather than wait. Ofcourse historically they haven’t done that.

    Like

    • Keuchel’s value may rest in large part on his ability to stay healthy in 2018. If the Astros win another World Series, Houston will be hard-pressed to keep Altuve. That’s why I believe Luhnow will have to choose which player(s) he wants to build around: Correa, Altuve, Keuchel, Bregman, Springer etc. Because the organization has three future $200 million players and perhaps two $150 million pitchers, it will come down to choices.

      Face it: Houston can’t pay $100+ million to five players without breaking the bank.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is what I would do if I was Luhnow. Based upon age and production the only player I look to give a long-term contract to is Correa. However, I would approach Boras with an offer this off-season for Altuve at somewhere around 4/$85-90M. This buys out his 2 club options at a hefty raise, but he is signed at a slight discount for the next 2 years. After this contract expires he will be going into his age 32 season and, as much as this will drive many on here crazy, you thank Altuve for his service time as an Astro and let him leave via free agency. Much of his game is based on his speed. He is a better hitter than Biggio was at the same age, but he also doesn’t have the plate discipline as Biggio and we saw how Biggio aged quickly once he got past 32 (he no longer had the bat speed and his plate discipline suffered horribly).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tim, that raises their payroll to $165 million with only one of the five players tied up. Do you think they can afford that?

        Like

      • I did some math from the World Series. If you take the average ticket price of $300 for each game (this is probably on the low end, but let’s use it for illustrative purposes) and an average of 42,000 in attendance (again, probably on the low end) Crane would have profited $12,600,000/game and this does not include concessions and merchandise at the team store. Yes, there are expenses to be paid, but let’s just say Crane profited very well from this playoff run. I think he can afford it. 🙂

        Like

      • I don’t profess to be an expert in MLB finances, but I have to wonder how much can a team really afford to pay. Just as an example, if there were actually 1 million fans there at the parade, it was obvious the Astros or somebody sold $100 million dollars in hats and clothing. And Forbes doesn’t value a team or business at $1.45 Billion that is losing money.

        In the distant past, I have mentioned that in traveling around Texas, I continued to see hats and shirts of the Texas Rangers. This weekend in Carrizo Springs, I saw three people in HEB wearing Astros World Champion caps. The worm has turned.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Who do you know in Carrizo Springs, 45? That is the hometown of my mother-in-laws family. Were you there for hunting or do you know people there?

        Like

    • I couldn’t stop laughing at the sarcasm from this guy. I really needed a laugh and I’m sure this really makes all of our “Ranger Haters” feel so much better.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hilarious! Makes my day.
      They just left the best part where they traded their best pitcher at the trade deadline to LA were he single handily served up the World Series to the Astros on a silver platter.
      How generous of them to hand over the silver boot and that trophy that George loves so much.
      Oh, and we get to open next season at their park where we will be introduced at the reigning world champions.
      My cup runnith over.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Hilarious!
    They just left out the best part where they traded their best pitcher at the deadline to LA where he single handily Served up World Series To the Astros on a silver platter.
    How generous of them to hand over the silver boot and that trophy that George loves so much.
    Oh, and we get to open next year at their park where we can be introduced as the reigning World Champions.
    My cup runnith over
    🤣😝

    Like

  23. Since we are just talking . . .

    If Altuve [read that Boras?] bolts in a couple of years, can we count on a system option to take over at 2B? Kemp? Bregman [making room for a 3B prospect from our system]? Tanielu? Jack Mayfield? Ryne Birk?

    If Springer bolts, who in our system could we groom to be our CF? Fisher? Myles Straw? Jason Martin? Ramon Laureano [tough year in 2016!]

    If Gurriel leaves, can we rely upon Reed? White? Moran? Alvarez?

    If/when Reddick leaves, will Kyle Tucker be ready to step right in?

    Can we upgrade the offensive production of DH with an in-house option of White/Moran? Davis/PTuck/Ferguson?

    Is Martes still regarded as part of our pitching future? Feliz? Paulino? Armenteros? Cionel Perez? Guduan?

    Like

    • A few more names we will have to think about regarding whether they still have a place in our organization – or whether we can afford to cut them loose [assuming we can’t trade them]: Kemmer; Bostick; McCurry; Gustave; Alejandro Garcia.

      What others do you see at A or above that are on the cusp?

      Like

  24. What roster recommendations would you make if Jeff Luhnow called.
    1. Go for it in 2018.
    2. Get one young pitcher in our system ready to put into the starting rotation in 2019 by grooming at least three or four of them this year in Fresno and as spot starters in the majors from the list of Rodgers, Feliz, Martes, Paulino and Armenteros.
    3. Use Musgrove, Giles, Devenski, McCullers, Harris, Gustave and a new lefty reliever in late innings during the regular season so that they will be ready for the pressure of the post-season. Bring Framber Valdez to Spring training as a reliever.
    4. Let Brett Strom take time with Whitley, Corbin Martin, JB Bukauskas and Cionel Perez and let him tell them what he wants to see them throwing when they get to Spring Training in Feb., 2019. They have all of 2018 to work on it.
    5. Barring injuries, put the same lineup on the field opening day as he used in the playoffs and use his two catchers the same way he used them in 2017.
    6. Ask him about the Cuban catcher he signed yesterday, because a 28 year- old catcher from Cuba isn’t somebody who seems headed to the minors for very long. He defected in 2015 and hasn’t played since. A $200,000 signing bonus indicates he may be someone the Astros have been looking at for a while.

    Like

    • Just saw that. For some reason my phone took 10 minutes to come my post.

      I was a big fan. Condolences to his friends and family

      Like

  25. Halladay was a true legend among MLB pitchers. He will be remembered as one of the very best. I’m sorry his life ended so soon. Tough loss.

    Like

  26. RIP Roy. Thanks for the memories!

    DK will probably not be with us after the 2018 season, so who do we have in the stable that might take his place in 2017?

    Candidates:
    1. Forrest Whitley- 20 y/o – had a great 2017 across three levels, pitching well with Quad Cities, then Buies Creek, then Corpus; overall 92.1 IP, 143 Ks, 2.83 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 13.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 – needs another really nice year at a minimum;
    2. Frances Martes – 21 y/o – had a rocky start with the big club, but showed occasional flashes of brilliance. Stats with the ‘Stros in 2017: 54 IP, 69 Ks, 5.80 ERA, 1.509 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 5.1 BB/9; needs to get his command and control issues worked out in 2017. Has the strikeout stuff.
    3. Rogelio Armenteros – 23 y/o – split the season last year at Corpus and Fresno; threw 123.2 innings; 146 Ks; 2.04 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9. Doesn’t overwhelm you, and gets more aerial outs than grounders, but gets the job done. Needs to spend 2017 getting his GO/AO ratio up if he’s going to pitch at Minute Maid.
    4. Any ideas?

    Like

      • If Keuchel leaves, it becomes imperative that Luhnow signs another lefty.
        The thought about Dallas leaving, makes me sick. Maybe it’s just me, but when I fall in love with one of these guys, I feel like I’m sending one of my own kids away.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. The ONLY hole I see with this club is left field, and I’m all in on letting Fisher take that position. Springer isn’t a left fielder, Reddick isn’t a left fielder, and Marisnick isn’t a left fielder. That leaves Marwin and???? Fisher’S legs are awesome, and he plays left very well. Hitting MLB pitching is the only hit against him, that’s why I HOPE they can send him to winter ball…..he needs to see major league pitching. If he is included in a trade over the winter, it won’t bode well for the Astros.

    Like

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