“You can tell where a man will go by looking to see where he has been.”
A crafty old sheriff candidate in my Louisiana hometown used that slogan to compare himself to the competition en route to his first election. And it rings true in most applications, including general managers, managers and major league baseball in general.
Jeff Luhnow seems to work in spurts during the off-season. What seems to be a dry spell often turns into a three-day storm of activity and roster movement, at least historically. It’s obviously not an exact science, but Luhnow does seem to work best in bunches, at least in December and January.
He has generally been quiet between Christmas and New Year’s, but be prepared for a pickup in activity after New Year’s Day. Here’s a review of trades, free agent acquisitions, waiver wire pickups and other movement over the past few Decembers and Januarys. You’ll recognize many of the names, others not so much! Some will cause you to have a lump in your throat and others will probably make you shake your head (or throw up!).
The month of December.
- This December has been relatively quite. Houston has traded Preston Tucker while adding to the bullpen (Hector Rondon, Joe Smith) and also adding Anthony Gose in the Rule 5 draft.
- In 2016, Luhnow signed a few players with the intent of bringing them to spring training: Reid Brignac, RHP Carlos Quintero, LHP Cionel Perez among others and claimed Mike Hauschild off waivers from the Rangers.
- In 2015, Houston traded for Ken Giles, traded Hank Conger to the Rays, signed a few insignificant free agents, along with that albatross contract for Tony Sipp.
- There was a flurry of activity in 2014, including free agent signings of Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson and Jed Lowrie over a three-day period. Houston drafted Jason Garcia in the Rule 5 draft, but lost Delino DeShields (Texas) and David Rollins (Seattle). There were a few other minor moves, involving players you probably wouldn’t recognize at this point.
- December 2013 was quite busy, including free agent signings of Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Jesse Crain and Matt Albers. Umm, how did those signings work out? Luhnow also claimed Collin McHugh and Patrick Schuster off waivers after beginning the month by acquiring Dexter Fowler for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes.
The month of January.
- Last January, just a bunch of non-roster invites to players like J.D. Davis, Francis Martes, Jordan Jankowski, Jon Singleton, Derek Fisher and a bunch of players you probably wouldn’t hear from again. No free agent signings, no trades.
- In 2016, the Astros invited a number of players to spring training (Alex Bregman, Colin Moran, A.J. Reed, Joe Sclafani, Derek Fisher, Jake Buchanan to name a few). Houston also signed free agents Wandy Rodriguez, Danny Worth, Doug Fister and a few others as well.
- On January 13, 2015 issued spring training invitations to several non-roster players, including Nolan Fontana, Brady Rodgers, Andrew Aplin, Jordan Jankowski, Preston Tucker and others. Just a day later, Houston traded for Evan Gattis and James Hoyt, and a few days later sent Dexter Fowler to Chicago for Dan Straily and Luis Valbuena. Later in the month, Colby Rasmus signed as a free agent and sent Carlos Corporan to Texas for Akeem Bostick.
- On January 14, 2014, Houston invited a few notables to spring training as non-roster players (Mark Appel, Preston Tucker, Carlos Correa, Mike Foltynewicz, Jake Buchanan, DeShields and a guy named George Springer). Otherwise, no major signings.
- On January 17, 2013, Houston invited Springer, DeShields, Josh Zeid, Chris Wallace, Kevin Chapman and others to spring training. Just days later, the Astros also signed Rick Ankiel and Erik Bedard to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.
To be sure, this December and January 2018 are very different from most others, though the Astros are likely to distribute a slew of non-roster invites next month.
There still has been no blockbuster, a number of free agents are still on the market and we haven’t heard much from Luhnow since the first half of the month.
Is it the calm before the storm? Or will Luhnow coast into spring training in no major activity?