Balancing act: To upgrade or not to upgrade (and where)?


Jon Morosi got everyone up in a tither on Wednesday when his announcement that the Astros had acquired Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh.

Since the story hit the fan, Morosi and others have indicated that the trade indeed was close, but hit a snag in the details. Alyson Footer even wondered out loud what may have happened in those last seconds before one of the teams got cold feet.

From Alyson Footer: “I’d love to know what suddenly came up that changed things so much. When I worked for the Astros I saw deals that were signed sealed and delivered only to see it squashed with a failed medical report. Or a team backs out at last millisecond with no warning. Crazy business.”

Whether it’s Cole or perhaps Yu Darvish, whose narrowed-down list includes Houston, or someone else, the Astros appear to be serious candidates for a rotation addition. What that means for the rest of the rotation (e.g. Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock) remains to be seen, but a major addition could mean a shakeup.

The advancement toward a major move has Astros’ fans skiddish of the cost, especially in prized prospects, which has already taken a few hits over the past year or so. How many Whitleys or Tuckers or Fishers can the system afford to lose before the organization’s own feeder is diminished or even depleted?

Apparently, Houston was also in on Jay Bruce, considering the Fisher-to-Pittsburgh possibility may be close to happening.

Nonetheless, fans, speculators and even uninterested onlookers are also wondering if the rotation is the place for a major off-season upgrade. Yes, the bullpen has been addressed, but is the remake complete?

Left field is still a question, there are concerns about DH and backup catcher and many wonder if Ken Giles is still the answer to the long-term closer question. Who is the next Alex Bregman to manifest from the minor league system? Is Brian McCann the next Carlos Beltran, reaching his age limit?

Easy questions today:

  • What is your biggest concern facing the Astros in 2018?
  • If you have one major move left before the season starts, what/who do you add?
  • From your vantage point, why are the Astros so determined to add another quality starter? Does this portend other moves?
  • For some of the more advanced followers: How do you rate the minors? That is, how many sure-fire prospects does Houston have in the Top 30?
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34 comments on “Balancing act: To upgrade or not to upgrade (and where)?

  1. 1. The biggest concern I have going into 2018 is the Astros keeping Tony Sipp as a LOOGY, rather than keeping a right handed pitcher who can get guys out.
    2. If I have one major move left before the season starts I try to sign Yu Darvish. This gives the Astros depth in the TOR for this year, a replacement for Keuchel next year and depth in the rotation with a veteran for a few years after Verlander leaves. It buys time to see who we have in the minors without shipping prospects away, and it allows the Astros to move Peacock to the pen which I love!
    3. See #2.
    4. I rate the Astros prospect in the top 8 because there are guys in the low minors who are hidden and will soon become obvious.
    Sure fire prospects are Tucker, Whitley, Bukauskus, Corbin Martin, Riley Ferrell, Jairo Solis, Freudis Nova, Jorje Alcala. A prospect who is ready for the major leagues is Colin Moran.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 1. My biggest concern is health. If the players come into spring training ready to work and stay healthy during the season I think we’ll be playing October baseball again. If Keuchel, LMJ, and Morton go on the DL for extended periods of time the offense will have to carry.
    2. For every action there is a reaction. Acquire a starter and it pushes someone to Fresno, the bullpen, or possibly both. Sign Darvish and you may as well prepare the farewell parade for Keuchel as he goes off into FA. I’m not sure I’d make a move right now unless someone is showing heavy demand for guys that Luhnow doesn’t have rated highly – a deal too good to pass up if you will.
    3. I think they have concerns about DK and LMJ pitching 180+ innings. I think they expect to lose DK and Morton following the season. I think they recall 2016 where they did not acquire a pitcher and the guys we ran out there were not good enough.
    4. I rate the farm system as mediocre right now. We lost Preson Tucker to ATL, but don’t worry – we have Moran, White, and Davis who might have the same ceilings. How do you feel about Martes and Feliz right now? Paulino looked to be a fringe starter before the PED suspension. What do you see in Armenteros that you don’t see in Brady Rogers? Now go look at Corpus. Is there anyone you would say is capable of making the jump to MLB right now? From what I’ve read the answer is no. This system has little to no LHP, almost no impact bats, and no catching prospects. In other words, we’re not filling our holes in 2018 from the minor league system and I don’t see a scenario where Martes or Musgrove replaces Keuchel’s value in the rotation in 2019. We need guys who not only get promoted and hold their own…which has been lacking lately, but we need guys to make the jump.

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  3. What is your biggest concern facing the Astros in 2018?

    My biggest concern is do they have enough bullpen? The team has the offense to keep themselves in games but look at how the bullpen imploded last year as the most inopportune times.

    If you have one major move left before the season starts, what/who do you add?

    I would add a gifted catcher to back up McCann for this season. Then that catcher can become the starter in the following season.

    From your vantage point, why are the Astros so determined to add another quality starter?

    I can see the club trading Kuechel very soon for a haul of highly-ranked minor leaguers to restock our minors.

    Does this portend other moves?

    Yes, I feel it does.

    For some of the more advanced followers: How do you rate the minors?

    Right now, I would rank the minors between the top 6 – 11.

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    • Sarge, I like your suggestion for adding a talented catcher. Would the catcher from the Marlins qualify for this? He could share duties this year and take over when age diminishes McCann’s quality. He has stated that he wants out of Miami and I think some team will trade for him. I’m also for holding on to our top prospects and simply using Dallas in his contract year to help get us to the post-season once more. Take our draft pick and move on.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My biggest concern? Falling off by the over 30 bunch. After the youth movement the Astros went on – some of their folks have reached that 30 + boundary and they have made a number of additions in that 30+ group. The 30+ bunch according to baseball reference for 2018
    – Position players – McCann (34), Reddick (31), Gurriel (34), Gattis (31)
    – Pitchers – Keuchel (30), McHugh (31), Morton (34), Verlander (35), Harris (33), Sipp (34), Joe Smith (34), Hector Rondon (30), Hoyt (31)
    Not that they are all going to fall off the cliff, but certainly they are more likely to get injured and/or start to have diminished production.

    One major move? I would lean toward the trading for a Gerrit Cole if we don’t have to include the top two prospects, because he does bring youth to the table. The problem with signing Darvish is he will turn 32 during the season and chances are you will have to sign him to include his age 36 and or 37 seasons. But they don’t HAVE to do anything.

    Portending another move? Yeah – I think they could move Keuchel for some prospects. But I don’t know if that happens now or during the season. They might lean towards now to knock down the risk of an injury.

    I think the farm system is decent, but probably a bit in the middle because of all the top 10s they’ve traded over the last 2 to 3 years. I think op has a good point that it could be a lot better than we know because they have brought in a lot of international kids to the lower end of the system that are below the radar. Well the front office knows who they have and what they expect from them. We’ll see how that works.

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  5. The Astros have reached an arbitration settlement with Jake From State Farm. He will be paid $1.9 mil, which is $100K less than MLBTR had projected. Marisnick is locked in for 2018.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. One of the fascinating things about this particular post is that I have to step back and realize just what us Chipalattians are doing here. After all these long years, we are champions!
    And now that we are champions, our team is actually trying to upgrade.
    Does that strike you as wonderful?
    It’s wonderful to me. The whole deal is just….wonderful.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. The guys are out on their Caravan stops, they are all over the state touching base with fans everywhere. Today Stassi and Bregman visited Houston Shriners hospital for kids, and then over to Methodist hospital visiting with transplant patients. My eyes filled with tears looking at the pictures of little children who will never see THAT dream come true. The look on their faces was priceless, and the story of a young boy who had just has his SECOND kidney transplant broke my heart. I will share a part of my life you all don’t know. I lost my handsome young husband in 1989 after a lung transplant….with rejection. He lived 9 months after his transplant. We had two small children 10 and 5 yrs old when he passed away. We had season tickets for 6yrs when the boys played in the Dome!!
    HE WAS AN ASTROS FAN…EVEN MORE THAN ME!! I know those young kids and that man the guys visited with today……will NEVER forget meeting their heros that took time out to visit with them in the hospital. I love these guys soo much and Old Pro: Yes, IT’S ALL SO WONDERFUL❤⚾!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Yes, Becky, in looking at those pictures today, it appeared the kids were more excited to see Orbit. What a class act for the Astros to include him/her/it on the tour. As one who was just told to come back to M D Anderson IN A YEAR for a routine check-up, we forget those that are not as blessed. Becky, could you please give us an update on your grandson that had such a tough battle a couple years ago!

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      • Tanner has a large tumor on his Thalamus and one on his right ocular nerve.
        NO surgeon will touch it. There’s so much danger in trying to remove it, it could kill him….or lave him brain damaged forever. The only treatment the doctor will try is chemo. He knows the drill…..Tanner is 14 now, and they have been totally frank with him if the tumor starts to grow. He is a genius, and is in a S.T.E.M. school in Memphis, our oldest flys for Fed X out of Memphis. Thank you asking about him, because it’s so difficult to realize that he has these tumors because he’s just a regular teenager!! I will keep you informed if anything changes with him. Becky⚾

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have really, really grown to love Jim Crane as an owner. He clearly wants to win and, while there is always a budget, his baseball acumen is so much higher than any prior owner the Astros have had. I have been an Astros fan since 1977 and I have never had more faith in the owner and the front office that owner hired than I do right now. As Astros fans we should be very secure and comfortable knowing this team is being run by very smart people and, although mistakes will happen from time to time, I have complete trust they will keep this team as competitive as possible and they may include having to punt on a season or two along the way just to keep the team from bottoming out. As long as Crane and Luhnow are running things I don’t think we will ever see a time like we saw from 2009-2013.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Very few teams have as much at stake as the Astros do today. Noon, CDT is the deadline for teams to exchange figures with their arbitration eligible players.

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  10. I wanted everyone to know I have not forgotten my promise to look at the other AL West teams. This has been such an unusual offseason with so many FAs unsigned there is no point until the dam breaks and we know where the bulk of them end up.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. At age 19 this past season, Forrest Whitley pitched 92.1 innings across three leagues from A ball to AA ball. In those 92.1 innings he struck out 143 batters and had only 34 BBs. He surrendered 78 hits in those 92.1 innings.
    At age 19.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure it looks good on paper but he got 277 outs in those 92.1 innings and only 143 of them (a little more than half) were Ks – what a slacker
      Please turn on my teasing font…..

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    • What I find most impressive, assuming what was written is accurate, is that he did this using an arsenal of four very good pitches with his fastball sometimes peaking at 97 and other games peaking at 92. We saw guys like Feliz go out and alternate between dominating and being knocked around because their fastball didn’t have life every outing. That Whitley is able to compete when his best weapon is not ‘on’ that night and still produce such fantastic results inspires dreams of a bright future.

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  12. So, as OP states the Astros are facing the following arb eligible players, who they can sign before noon or exchange numbers and possibly sign before arb hearings or go to arb hearings. Jake M is eligible but signed.
    Dallas Keuchel
    Evan Gattis
    Lance McCullers
    Collin McHugh
    Anthony Gose
    Brad Peacock
    George Springer

    Wow – quite a few big names in that bunch….

    Like

    • The mlbtraderumors projections for these guys is….
      Keuchel – $12.6 MM
      Gattis – $6.6 MM
      McHugh – $4.8 MM
      Springer – $8.9 MM
      Peacock – $2.9 MM
      Giles (who I missed) – $5 MM
      McCullers – $2.6 MM
      And I can’t find Gose

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  13. 1. Biggest concern: Obviously injuries and second, did Archer and Orbit have so much fun last summer that it prevents Chris from coming here to pitch? 2. One Move: If we are limited to only one move, I would add to the bullpen. I realize that adding a SP could move a great arm to the bullpen also. 3. Adding: I think the Astros are already positioning themselves for the playoffs. Either do it now, or overpay in July for what may be a rental. It appears they are already chasing the Yankees, Dodgers, etc. If they wanted to “walk” into the playoffs, they already have that team in place. 4. Minors: Clint Eastwood, “A man needs to know his limitations.” I don’t have the energy of others to track the minors. However, let me add that I see all these in the minors as just “currency.” Some are 10’s, some are 20’s, and we hope some are 100’s. At any point, you can trade them for something you hope to be of higher value. Or hold on to them and hope they “mature” at a million dollar value. All minor leaguers are either expendable, or make someone on your current roster expendable in the near future.

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