2018 Astros: Questions heading forward


The irony was thick as the Astros’ season ended with another well-hit deep fly ball, this time by Tony Kemp, that was once again flagged down by a Red Sox outfielder out of nowhere. While they are investigating the Red Sox pitcher’s for applying pine tar to the ball, maybe they should be investigating the Red Sox outfielders for using Peter Pan’s pixie dust and anti-gravity pills.

There will be a lot of discussions this off-season about the significance of the Astros’ crash and burn in losing three straight at home (four overall) to Boston in the ALCS and ending a very promising season, one that included the most regular season wins (103) in club history. Was it simply meeting a better 108 win team? Was it the injuries finally catching up with the team? Was it karma and good luck landing elsewhere this season? Today, we will touch base with our dear readers and use some of your questions to steer the way.

“What do the Astros need to return to the World Series next year?” ~ Sarge H

The Astros went to and won the World Series in 2017. Even with that they went out and picked up a top-flight starting pitcher in Gerrit Cole, two veteran relievers in Hector Rondon and Joe Smith and then during the season brought up Tony Kemp to solidify the outfield, and went out and picked up two more late-inning relievers in Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna and veteran Martin Maldonado to bolster their catching defense. Interestingly, even though their offense fell off this season, they made no deadline moves to address that problem. Is a return to the WS as simple as arthroscopic surgery on Jose Altuve and an offseason of resting Carlos Correa‘s back? What do they need to address?

“Who will stay – and who will go? Who will get qualifying offers – and who will become free agents? Who will avoid arbitration – and who will go through it, at what cost? Who will be traded – and who will be acquired by trade? Who will be courted in free agency – and who, if anyone, will be signed?” ~ Mr. Bill

Back in July the blog took an early look at 2019.

https://chipalatta.com/2018/07/05/future-astros-three-year-look-ahead-part-1-2019/

Of the newcomers not covered by that article, Ryan Pressly (who made $1.6 million in 2018) is arb eligible for one year before becoming a free agent in 2020. He will get a big raise in arb or get offered a two or three-year contract. Roberto Osuna is making $5.3 million and has two more seasons of arbitration. It will be interesting if after his long-term suspension whether arb will give him a raise or not this offseason. Both of these pitchers will be back in 2019 at least. Martin Maldonado earned $3.9 million in 2018 and will be a free agent. It says here that the Astros will be looking elsewhere for another catcher in 2019.

Beyond that, starting pitching will be the most interesting area headed into 2019. Will Lance McCullers Jr.be in the mix or will he be sitting out in Tommy John hell? They likely will give Charlie Morton a qualifying offer, but do they need to outbid other teams on a two or three-year contract to keep him? Do they give Dallas Keuchel a qualifying offer and then let him walk in exchange for a high draft pick? How do Josh James and Framber Valdez fit into the equation? Is James going to be the new closer? How do they position themselves for potentially losing Cole and Justin Verlander after 2019? Do they offer one or both an extension or try to trade one of both at the deadline?

There are more questions than that about stay and go – but we turn to the islands (well he actually was in town for a game) for the next questions….

“Does (Marlins catcher) Realmuto come back into the picture? …..I’m wondering if my own nephew (Tyler White) has been figured out. ….. We’re not going to pay Gattis again, are we?  Are Smith and Harris and Rondon and Peacock all (non-plussed)? …. Is Reddick aging too quickly? Is Tucker really going to be our Christian Yelich? What will Marwin cost? Is first base a question mark once again?” ~ daveb

Daveb’s comments/questions tie into the fact that:

  • Catching is a big question mark as Brian McCann looked washed up, Maldonado was highly inconsistent and Max Stassi went from the answer to the question. Stassi is likely back, but beyond that?
  • Gattis is likely gone, White hit well in a mid-size sample and died in the ALCS. Is White the long term DH solution?
  • The Astros have lots of relief options, some of which will be gone and some of which may be sent off and few who pitch well in the playoffs
  • The outfield, besides George Springer is not a strength and was a startling area of weakness compared against the Red Sox
  • Can the Astros replace Marwin Gonzalez if they don’t sign him after the season?

The starting lineup was super in 2017, but was very inconsistent in 2018 and it was more than injuries to Altuve, Springer and Correa. What should they do here?

Not a question, but… “I see dugout changes, too. Unless Espada is a terrible interview, he will probably get one of these managerial jobs. I think Cora has all but guaranteed that after the ALCS.” ~ old pro

Along with bench coach Joe Espada probably getting another spot after the Astros previous bench coach Alex Cora took his team to the World Series, there could be other changes. There has to be someone saying….the team had decent hitting and then in 2017 (with Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran around) they had the best hitting team around. Cora goes to Red Sox and Boston had the best hitting team around and the Astros fell off. Watching the teams play in the ALCS, Boston had a superior approach at the plate as they took what they were given and had a ton of two-out opposite field hits. Is Dave Hudgens going to be held responsible for a big dip in the hitting of this club?

And one question from me…

Alex Bregman….did you learn your lesson?” ~ Dan P

As Dr. Bill pointed out, Alex was 2 for 12 after posting the video of back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi pitched very well in that game and Alex’s last at bat showed him being over-powered by the same pitcher in relief in Game 5. Alex, you don’t poke the sleeping bear.

Or as Jim Croce sang….

You don’t tug on superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don’t mess around with Jim

The one thing to remember about that song is that Jim ended up cut into a hundred pieces at the end. But that was based on action, not words.

We will visit a lot of the questions about this team in more depth during the off-season, but for now..

What do you think?

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111 comments on “2018 Astros: Questions heading forward

  1. We hear a lot about “regress to the norm.” Here are some 2018 stats vs. career – Batting Averages.
    Altuve .316/.316
    Correa – .239/.277
    Bregman – .286/.282
    Springer – .265/.265
    Yuli – .291/.291
    Marwin – .247/.264
    Reddick – .242/.262
    Gattis – .226/.248
    Stassi – .226/.233
    McCann – .212/.263
    White – .276/.248

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  2. Got several comments but I’ll start with our free agents. This info comes from Spotrac.com but here’s my take.
    Keuchel is projected at 20.6MM. I say maybe a QA on him but he isn’t worth 20MM. I doubt he’ll be here next year.
    Good time Charlie Morton is worth trying to retain. I’d think a 2 yr, $24MM with an option is good. I’ve seen 17MM for 1 but I think not.
    Evan Gattis projected at $7.8MM. Bye, Bye Evan.
    Tony Sipp – who knows. I don’t think so since we have several lefties waiting in the wings.
    Maldonado won’t be here either. Although $3.9 is reasonable I think we go for JT Realmuto.
    Finally Marwin Gonzales. Now here’s a big question mark. The site projects him at 17MM. WOW!. Can’t see that but I don’t know what his value is worth. I think we try to sign him but not for that. 2 years at $24MM with option.
    Of course I have to attach my disclaimer that I really don’t know a lot about salaries but it’s my educated guess.

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    • Working off your list saves typing:
      Keuchel gets a QO. Signs elsewhere.
      Morton gets a QO and Astros try to sign him.
      Gattis was not used in postseason much and was useless off the bench. He becomes a FA.
      Tony Sipp was not trusted with any critical situations all year. He becomes a FA.
      Harris was not trusted in critical situations in the playoffs. They don’t pick up his option and he becomes a FA.
      Maldonado becomes a FA.
      Marwin, they would like to keep, but it depends on what he wants. He is not a starter, not with the bat. I think he becomes a FA, and there is a chance he works out a deal after checking out his options. I still think he has a problem with his wrist.

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  3. I have a question for you, guys and gals.
    The Astros already know what is wrong with LMJ. How do you negotiate arbitration figures for 2019 for a young starting pitcher if you already know he won’t be able to pitch? This is tough and it definitely affects what the Astros try to do with Morton.

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  4. Bear with me while I make my little speech and come back to queries later.

    AJ Hinch on why he couldn’t take Altuve out of the lineup: “You should try to live with someone pulling your heart out of your body … we’re not going to live without Jose.” Add that to a list of other players who aren’t exactly short on heart and you have the 2018 Astros, who don’t need a back-to-back to prove anything. They played injured all summer and into the fall, and now will go to various stages of reconstruction, probably including surgery. Maybe it’s no solace to some, but 2017 really was our year. There were flags all along the way. The World Series was the team’s gift to Houston, post-Harvey, and a prophecy fulfilled. It was meant to be. This year it was not meant to be. Simple as that. Thank you to Jim Crane, Reid Ryan, Jeff Luhnow, AJ Hinch and the staff. What’s good about not going all the way is that the owner can now lower prices so fans can afford to go to the park. To all the players: You have been a joy to watch, mostly because of the joy you bring to the playing field. It’s plain for all of us to see. But we all knew you were working harder this year — it was more of a grind. It was to be expected. The other teams were primed and going for the jugular every time they saw the star. Even so, you kept winning. Thank you, guys. You didn’t settle. You just played your hearts and your parts out.

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    • Excellently written, Diane.
      One warning – don’t hold your breath on ticket prices going down because team salaries aren’t going down, but income did with them falling short of the WS

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      • Dan, Forbes says the Astros huge increase in regular season attendance was worth approximately $27.5 million.
        However, who ever lowers their prices in sports, especially when fans proved they would support them like Astros fans did this season.

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      • I may be totally wrong op but I’m thinking that the $27.5 million is more than offset by the teams cut of the WS they don’t get plus all the merchandise they won’t sell all around the world for falling short

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      • True, Dan, but those lack of sales you mention will be offset by the sales of merchandise they pick up when they add new players and fans clamor for that merchandise.

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  5. Here is an interesting and misleading stat. The Astros have the highest BA, OBP, SLG and OPS of all the teams in the playoffs.
    The Astros ERA in the playoffs was 6th of the ten teams at 4.18.
    The postseason is an entirely different ballgame.

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    • One other interesting stat – though the Astros led easily in all those stats – they were second in the postseason in runs/game – about one run/game less than …..the Red Sox

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  6. That’s a very meaty topic to explore as I sit here on a gray Saturday morning in west Houston, freezing in my brothers overly air conditioned home. Heck, I’m a tropical breeze guy.

    My iPad won’t let me write long winded thoughts without deleting when I try to post, so I’ll try a position at a time. Tony Kemp, in spite of the fact that he does nothing remarkably well, (and I think this would play out over a long season) will have a job next year, if only to be the guy that gets put in left if Tucker turns into a bust. I do think that Tucker gets handed the left field job next year, even if he has a less than remarkable spring. And he’ll keep the job until the All Star break.

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    • I agree with you, sort of. I would like Kemp to be a big part of a platoon in LF in 2019. I also would like not to see Tucker in the OF for the Astros.
      A lot more on this later.

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  7. Speaking a bit more on Kemp, he might well become a regular part of the DH equation. We’ve seen a bit of an audition already. A DH hitting 9th? Novel, but the bottom line is that the best thing he does is get on base. By virtue of his right handed bat and ability to play a serviceable first base, I think White keeps the other half of the DH job.

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  8. One of the changes I would like to see the Astros make is to put a bunch of their best starting pitcher prospects in AAA, so that when they need a guy from there, a good prospect would be available to pitch on that very day.
    In 2018, here is a list of the starting pitchers they had available in AAA to come up and help them out:
    Cy Sneed
    Trent Thornton
    Rogelio Armenteros
    Mike Hauschild
    Josh James
    Kent Emanuel
    Brock Dyxhoorn
    Brady Rodgers(returned very late in the season and was bad!)
    The only guy out of that group that they trusted to come up and help them was James and that was only after he had proven to be real and not a mirage.
    Remember that Framber and Cionel were in AA, not AAA.

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  9. The only settled guy in the outfield at this moment is George Springer. But does he play in center or right? I have not seen enough from Miles Straw to even guess at whether or not he can supply enough offense in order to win a full time job out there. My guess is no. But I do think Jake is done with the Astros. Miles takes over that role. Luhnow will pick up a solid outfielder. A bat that is not a defensive liability. We have to get more production from our outfield bats without compromising defense. So Reddick is done here. Even as a plus defender, he just does not provide enough at the plate. So do we revisit OP’s vision of an outfield with Mike Trout in it? I’d have to guess that Luhnow is indeed looking at ways to make it happen. However, there are teams in the East Coast equally interested in bringing Trout home to his childhood stomping grounds. So best case, maybe pipe dream scenario, would be a productive Tucker in left, Trout, Springer. Anyone have a problem with that?

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    • Daveb – totally agree that they need to address OF – scratching my head on Reddick. Would they have to pick up 1/2 of his 2 yr / $26 million owed to be able to move him?

      I sure wish a little of Spring Training Tucker had been part of Call-up Tucker

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      • Dan, likely we’d have to pick up a significant part of Reddick’s salary, but 10 million does not buy much these days, so we hopefully would not have to pick up as much as half of what he is owed.

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    • Granted we have an Achilles heel syndrome in the outfield but what do you do with Reddick? He’s under contract through 2020 at $13MM a season.

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  10. I don’t think we really need to discuss third or short or second. Altuve will get fixed. By the way, this is probably the first time in his life that he’s had a real injury. And yet he played a gritty series against the Sox and hit the hardest ball of the night in game 5. He’ll be back on a mission. Carlos is going to have learn a new conditioning routine, one that keeps his core healthy. Bregman will come back a year wiser. He really carried a load in 2018. Not many guys his age take over the way he did.

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  11. Old pro has intrigued me with his Tucker statement.
    – He wants Tucker to DH
    – He wants to put Tucker in a package to pick up catcher Realmuto or some top end OF
    – He wants to teach Tucker 1B and trade Yuli
    – He wants to teach Tucker 1B and move Yuli to 3rd – Bregman to SS – trade Correa

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  12. OP1, timely post on the starting pitching. I really do believe it’s a strong possibility that Verlander has thrown his last pitch as an Astro. The good news there is that his salary might help pay for Trout in the short term. So Cole takes over the top of the rotation. Morton is back. If Verlander does go, then Keuchel is back too. I don’t think James becomes a starter. He looks more and more the closer to me. So does Whitley become part of the equation? I think so, but probably not until a couple of months into the season. His innings will have to be managed. Again, if Verlander goes, then Luhnow picks up another reclamation project. Even losing McCullers, we’ve still got OP’s list above, and that list does not include Valdez. If he figures out how to throw more strikes, he’s certainly in the mix. It’s also nice to have McHugh handy. He’s a quality starter. I could also see a six man rotation used for guys not named Keuchel and Cole.

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    • Daveb7, do you really think Verlander will bolt for LA? He has one more year and I guess I could see him wanting to do that but unless it’s the Dodgers I think he’d want another shot at that WS ring. Houston is still a pretty good place to do it.

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      • My guess is 100% a guess. Baby coming, wife works on the West Coast. He’s given us everything he has. I think if he wants to go, Luhnow would respect that request. On the baseball side of things, regression has to come at some point, unless your name is Nolan Ryan. The Dodgers Would seem to be the likely place, but why not include Verlander in the deal to get Trout?

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    • Absolutely not. Verlander has one more year on his contract and will be our ace in 2019. Cole will be ace 1A. The Astros deal with 2020 when it arrives. In the meantime, you ride these two horses.
      The majority of the Astros future starting rotation is right here in the organization.

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    • Dave, I missed your point. You were talking about Verlander as part of a trade for Trout? I don’t think the Angels would trade Trout.
      I want the Astros to go after Trout when he hits free agency. That is in 2021, the same year Springer hits free agency. In my opinion, they are fine with Springer for as long as he is here. But, If Springer leaves for FA and Trout leaves for FA, I would like the Astros to go after Trout, who is the best player in baseball.

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  13. One thing these guys have to learn as has been mentioned countless times. Learn to hit what’s given and take what the pitcher gives you. May not hit as many home runs but singles and doubles score runs. Just ask the Red Sox if you don’t believe me.

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  14. Excellent post Diane, I concur wholeheartedly.
    Being a layman on the subject of arb, salary, stats, ect. I won’t comment. Maldi & McCann were a combined 2-27 in the Bos series I read, that can’t cut it. Maldi’s meltdown behind the dish cost him a job. With that said I’ve always been a proponent of Realmuto. He can hit, frame (don’t know his gun) but he’ll be an upgrade over BM, Maldi. Figure there’s a reason he’s still in FL (cost). Are his peripheral’s worth the investment? Outside of our young pitchers I’m open to trade

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  15. There is one guy in MLB worth north of $250+ & it ain’t Machado/Harper. Trout is the man, but not for 10 yrs at age 27. Let the brass figure out how to make that work. Tucker/Reddick are part of the pkg I offer for Realmuto. Some of the top FA hitters are inj prone (Brantley, Polluck) not much else out there though I’m sure you guys could pluck out some gems I surely missed.
    Why do some of us think JV is done here? I say he stays in a wining enviroment unless we drop the ball upgrading this tm, which I don’t think will happen. With a short window JL pushes the envelope a little, smartly of course with some risk

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    • OldSchool, I think I’m the only one who has brought up this Verlander departure tale. Like I said, I have absolutely no basis of fact to present. My own personal take is that our outfield must get better. And if Verlander wants to get his family settled on the West Coast (again, total conjecture) then he could really help us build a better outfield.

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      • OP, what kind of prospect capital are we looking at for Realmuto? A for instance if you will. If memory serves me I do not think any tm gave up the farm for Yelich & company. Maybe Miami learned their lessons after their initial dump. Like I said, there is a reason he is still there because I know he’s wanted elsewhere but the asking price if off the chains.

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      • Based on production, what FA OF out there may be worth a contract for the Astros. You guys are much better at this than I

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      • My gut feel is that Miami will try to sign Realmuto to an extension to build around. Failing in that I think they are looking for a Verlander type return except….the top guy has to be a top guy like Tucker or Whitley plus three fairly high prospects or plus two prospects and a very controllable guy like Kemp

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      • OS62, Milwaukee gave up their top prospect, Brinson, two more in their top 10 and a 4th, lower, prospect for Yellich. They had a very highly regarded farm system.
        Realmuto was the starting NL All-star catcher. He plays a premium position.
        It’s going to hurt. I think it will take Tucker, Stassi, a top 10 prospect pitcher and a lower prospect.
        I would do that.
        Why would I do that? Because Realmuto is affordable and he fills a big void at catcher and an even bigger hole in the lineup. I would give up Tucker because, with Realmuto in the lineup I can afford another year of Reddick in the lineup until Alvarez is ready to be put in the LF spot in 2020.
        The last hole in the lineup is filled by going relentlessly after Nelson Cruz for DH.
        Lineup:
        Springer CF
        Bregman 3B
        Altuve 2B
        Correa SS
        Cruz DH
        Realmuto C
        Reddick RF
        Gurriel 1B
        Kemp/Straw LF
        I don’t care about the RH heavy lineup because all those guys hit RH pitchers as well as they hit LH pitchers.
        People forget that Gurriel’s surgery eliminated all of spring training for him and cost him three full months of power. By the time he got rounded into shape four other starters were hurt. Gurriel had only 13 HRs this year and 5 of them came in September. We did not see a fully recovered Yuli until July.

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  16. Getting Realmuto seems like job #1 for the offseason. I think it would take Tucker for sure and I’m a little queasy about the outfield long term if we let him go. I dream of Tucker and McCullers both going back to Florida and Realmuto coming here but McCullers’ injury gives him zero trade value. What else would it take?

    I think Marwin is a key piece. Who in MLB can wear as many gloves competently and give you some offense from either side of the plate? If we keep Kemp it should be primarily as a DH. A DH platoon of Kemp and White might work out but who wants to use two roster spots for a DH? White’s and Kemp’s lack of defensive flexibility is a liability but at least they’re cheap.

    James and Valdez allow us to let Keuchel go. IMO Dallas is on a decline and not worth the QO or the multiyear contract he will want. I would offer him the QO just to get the draft choice and then hope he doesn’t pull a Rasmus on us. With all of this bullpenning the rage in MLB who wants a fading innings eater starter costing many $$$ vs a bunch of cheap relievers? The conventional wisdom is saying Kershaw will opt out of his contract in LA but he’s another guy who is on the downside of his career and might not command the $$$ everyone suspects. If a proven performer like him gets caught up in a soft market what could Keuchel reasonably expect?

    Despite a club record 103 wins I found this to be a very unsatisfying season and not just because we are out of the playoffs. The GROSS underachievement of the offense apart from Bregman cannot just be blamed on injury. The inability to play well at home was also distasteful. How many times was the stadium packed and the Astros stunk up the place? That cannot happen again and those who just shrug and say, “That’s just baseball” need to come up with something less lame.

    I know I harp on this, but the offensive coordinator if you will only got results in 2017. I cannot envision this hitting coaching staff (NOT Hinch) reaching Altuve, Correa, Gurriel and Marwin if he stays. The fact that they are all Latin players raises the specter of bigotry but I think its more a matter of relating and not anything sinister. All of them performed better when Beltran and Cora were here. I don’t think that’s a coincidence especially when you see the Red Sox doing what we did in 2017. I’ll now don my flame retardant suit and see what you all think.

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  17. One thing I forgot to mention. We got to the park real early Wednesday and watched the Astros take batting practice. A guy who showed impressive pop was none other than Miles Straw. I’m suspecting he’s a guy who wants to make good contact first and let the power come later. Perhaps not a Bagwellian type of transformation in his future but he hit some balls way over the Crawford boxes and one or two on the train tracks. I love Jake but I think Straw makes us forget him pretty quickly unless Straw is one of the trade pieces.

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  18. I agree with you on Marwin being a key piece if he agrees to get paid like an expensive utility player and not like a starter.
    I also don’t read anything sinister in your comment about the coaches. People talk all the time about certain Latin American guys being able to relate to certain Latin American players, Cora being a good example.
    I also made a point earlier today to my wife, when she asked about the Astros being eliminated, that the Astros were not a good home team this year and that they got swept at home by the Red Sox. It makes real sense that it was the same in the playoffs with what it was all year at home.

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  19. Our offensive numbers took a tumble this season, where inj played a big part & we seemed to wear down at the end. I don’t know how the heck NY won 3 consecutive WS’s but whatever it was we could not sustain it. Someone mentioned Cora/Beltran being instrumental in the 2017 offensive outburst. If that is true, should we expect to see more of 2018 in 2019 or worse without them?
    Can Hudgens teach, sell our guys plate discipline,pitch selection, oppo hitting (shifts are here to stay for the foreseeable future)? Our new hitting coach needs to be able to teach, convey the qualities of Cora/Beltran combined, not to duplicate 2017 (that would be awesome) but create a more consistent offense. And we need a coach to teach the fundamentals of running, stealing bases. AJ does not need to excuse an aggressive base approach to make up for inconsistent offense, injuries or both.
    These are two areas that can help cure a lot of ills. Be able to do one and the other will go a long way in winning, energizing a tm when its struggling (like playing small ball for i.e.)

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  20. Speaking of Marwin for a moment, I think Hinch would like to have him back, for one thing because it makes his job easier. But clearly, Marwin had his career year, by far, in 2017. You’ve got to consider his career stats. No other single season hints at his 2017 production. He just has not produced to warrant paying him Zobrist money. I don’t think he’ll be back unless the rest of the market ignores him.

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  21. Me I’m putting together a strong but painful package and go after The Woodlands own Paul Goldschmidt, Tucker some strong prospects, whatever. Next 2 -3 years Bregamn, CC , Tuve, PG in the infield, Sweet! Yuli and kemp DH a lot and platoon , we will loose Marwin and see you Gattis, find a decent catcher.

    McCann gone, and figure another solid OF. We still will have a solid pitching staff, no matter who makes the 25.

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  22. A strong, but painful package gives you exactly one year of Goldshmidt, who then walks in free agency. Plus, you already have a healthy Gurriel who is a good first baseman and the Astros are still left looking for a catcher. If the Astros want Paul, long-term, why not wait and get him in free agency in 2020, when Verlander’s money comes off the books. If he gets traded somewhere else during 2019 he wouldn’t even be eligible for a QO, meaning the team who signs him in 2020 does not lose a draft pick.

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  23. During Hot Stove last season clubs chose to withhold big money contracts to just about everyone but relievers. What is the chance of them doing that yet again? That was no accident I’m certain. Big contracts might not be what we think, except pitchers/relievers

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    • I think Harper and Machado and Corbin get huge contracts. I think Pollack, Keuchel, Kimbrel, Britton, Allen and Eovaldi are gonna surprise you.
      I think the rest are going to be similar to last year. I would like the Astros to go after Miller as strictly a one inning LH reliever and let McHugh fight it out with Peacock for the #5 starter, which I think McHugh would win.

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  24. I’m wondering if the old dog called “Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting” has had its day. Does the data revolution do more to improve hitting than it does pitching? The top 3 hitting teams in the NL in OPS+ were Dodgers, Atlanta and Milwaukee. The top 2 pitching teams by ERA+ were Cubs and Arizona. In the AL, the top hitting teams were Boston, Astros, Oakland. Top pitching team was Astros by far. The top hitters are prevailing over the top pitchers. As it was last season.

    With that in mind, I think the Astros need to work more on their offense this offseason. I think the pitching staff will be fine if they keep Morton, even if they lose Keuchel. Marwin is a good keep for a reasonable price, but not for something crazy (agent = Boras). Offensively they need some help from outside. FA market for corner outfielders rather thin. McCutcheon? Adam Jones? Ditto DH : not a big Nelson Cruz fan. He’ll turn 39 next season and his career stats in Minute Maid are not that good.

    The coaching staff is fuzzy to me. Our execution this season was not as good as last year: it was obvious against Boston (their execution was excellent), but it goes also to all the double plays and we have been dunderheads on the basepaths for several years now. Something needs to change there.

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    • One more thing about the coaches Road, if the FO thinks the offensive woes were due solely to inj & fatigue I think that would be a serious blunder. If 2019 brings about the same offensive woes with the same postseason results, a whole season would be squandered because they did not think changes needed to be made. Base running has been terrible for several yrs, most def needs to be addressed. But why after the loss of Cora/Beltran did our offense revert back to 2016 levels?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Agreed OS62, chalking offensive woes up to injuries would be a big mistake , which I don’t think the FO will make. But I think they recognize the 2017 offense was historically spectacular, a real “outlier” to the stats geeks. Whether Cora/Beltran had much to do with that, I can’t say, though circumstantial evidence points to it. I sense that Beltran’s input was important, and obviously Cora is a capable guy based on the performance of the Red Sox this year. But what we did last year and the Red Sox are doing this year is the application of standard baseball wisdom: don’t swing at bad pitches, spoil the good ones until you get yours and take what they give you. Pretty standard stuff, though obviously far easier said than done. What could Cora or Beltran have said to these guys that Hinch or Espada or fill-in-the-blank coach hasn’t said a million times? And I don’t think it’s a “Latin” thing. Hinch can communicate with these guys, and the bench coach this year is Puerto Rican. Besides, did Altuve and Marwin and Reddick and Correa totally forget how they were much more successful last year? Maybe they were too busy “never settling” (or “settling”, as op would assert) that they forgot “wait for your pitch and drive it”.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. Funny I was just listening to the MLB guys this evening discussing how amazed they are by BoSox hitting postseason, saying the exact same things were being said about the Astros last yr postseason, concluding how the Sox hitters, 1-9 refrained from chasing out the zone. Road, that’s in line with your post

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  26. After Bregman got hit in game 1 with a 102 mph fastball, he was not a factor at the plate in the series. After that HBP he had a single and a double and 6 bases on balls for the entire rest of the series.
    I’m not so sure he wasn’t hurt by that pitch.

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  27. First, I think too much is being made of the Boston series. Would we be saying the same thing after the Cleveland series? The team needs to make replacements for sure. DK gets a QO and is probably gone. Marwin gets an offer for a starting job at one position and he is gone. Gattis is gone. Sipp left back in 2016. McCann is gone. Maldonado gets a good offer from me. The caught stealing went from 13% (McCann) in 2017 to 63% (Maldonado).

    Morton and LMJ probably need surgery. If we lose DK, we can’t lose Verlander. That is 418 innings of 1455. We might as well go get Millsie to warm up the bullpen in the 3rd. Tyler White has an OPS+ of 143. He is useless playing defense, but that is why you have a DH. Maldonado has an OPS+ of only 79. But Boston is still playing with Sandy DeLeon and his 37 OPS+. Boston has three starters at 81-94. The Astros have 1 – Reddick at 99. This team without injuries could have won it all. I am not in favor of blowing it up. Natural attrition will require a lot of changes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know what his intent was but I thought that it was somewhat classless. As we know, baseball has evolved or maybe devolved into a game of analytics, constant film watching, studying, spin rates, bat speed, etc. Sometimes I yearn for the days of the basics (throw ball, see ball, hit ball, catch ball). Cora’s comment as Dan says “what he said and what he meant”, “They were scared $#!@less of us. Obviously we outsmarted them and their acute paranoia syndrome by making them think we were cheating (were we?). Everything we did was better than they did and we have no problem making them look bad. After all, I’m playing in the World Series and they’re not.”

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Some Astros thoughts:
    -The health of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are the biggest reasons for the Astros failure to get to the World Series. The second biggest reason they didn’t win the Boston series was the debacle at the catcher position, both offensively and especially defensively.
    -I believe the Astros have five minor league pitchers who are capable of being starting pitchers in the major leagues right now. They are Framber Valdez, Josh James, Forest Whitley, Corbin Martin and JB Bukauskas. I’m not saying they are ready and I’m not saying they are TOR pitchers. I’m saying they have the quality and quantity of pitches to be major league starters.
    -The Astros AA pitcher of the year was Ryan Hartman, a LH starter who was 11-4 for CC with an ERA of 2.69. What separates Hartman from guys like David Martinez, who was Minor League Pitcher of the Year for CC in 2013 is the Analytics. Hartman had a normal BABIP which indicates he wasn’t just lucky. His FIP and xFip were below 3.00, which means his ERA wasn’t a fluke. And his K-rate was 10.67 per 9 innings, whereas Martinez’s was 5.98. That means Hartman was dominating and not getting by.
    Why is Hartman in Venezuela pitching, after throwing over 120 innings in AA this season, which is the max that Houston wants their prospects throwing? Well, considering he is getting hit hard so far in Venezuela tells me he is throwing pitches that are not his normal pitches. Thus, I believe, Hartman is working on pitches that he is adding to the ones he normally throws and want him comfortable enough to throw them in spring training and AAA next season.
    Hartman is not a top 30 prospect in their system, but his success in AA should get him there in 2019.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1OP, I agree with your assessment. Injuries apparently took their toll. And as I said previously Maldonado stunk. He played really well during the season but was just putrid during the ALCS. For those wanting to go after Goldschmidt I say wait one year when he’s a free agent. I’d go after Realmundo 1st and an outfield upgrade 1st. 2020 will be the year that we’ll have some big changes due to contracts, etc.

      Liked by 2 people

  29. Take aways from the Cora interview….
    – Surprised he talked about this at all – it does not feel like the smartest way to approach this – be open
    – Interpreting this – this tells me that the Astros know Cora was deep into sign stealing and tip pitching etc. otherwise why would they be watching so closely – it also tells me that the Astros were deep into this in 2017 at least
    – Is Cora just trying to add to the psych out of the Astros – now that I told them I was leaving false trails etc – will they not try to figure out what I am doing next time knowing that it might be a wasted effort?

    op
    – I wonder if Francis Martes will be added to your list of major league ready pitchers after he recovers from his TJ surgery. He has not quite turned 23 and when he was up with the big team – he had some decent starts (his bullpen work was bad).
    – Likely one or two of those major league ready pitchers will be dangled to try and pull in help whether it is C or OF help

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    • Dan, we won’t know anything about Martes until we see him in spring training 2020.
      I think at this time next year, I may be saying that Brandon Bielak, Brandon Bailey, Peter Solomon and Ryan Hartman have the stuff to be major league starters also.
      I honestly believe that if the Astros get a proven DH and go after Realmuto and get him, that letting Straw and Kemp handle LF will jell this lineup.
      The Astros already have a guy who is a 1B/2B/3B utility guy on the payroll in Gurriel. They have two excellent major league shortstops in Correa and Bregman. They have White on the payroll to fill in at 1B when Gurriel gives each infielder a day of rest and to come off the bench as a PH. They have Stubbs in AAA with nothing left to prove there and who is a good defensive catcher to back up a starter and provide a LH alternative there.
      Tell me that having Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Correa, Gurriel, Cruz and Realmuto in your lineup doesn’t give you the luxury of playing Reddick in RF and Straw or Kemp in LF and batting that LFer ninth with their abilities to get on base and setting the table for Springer and Bregman.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And Abraham Toro Hernandez is just behind Guerrero, Jr as the second best hitter in that league. Hernandez is hitting somewhere around .430.

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  30. Astrocolt, I considered some of the things you wrote before keying my posts yesterday. I’m not in favor of blowing up the tm, but like you said, natural attrition will req change. Because of attrition changes *will* be made. My thinking was inj to key position players compelled lesser guys to step up, thus in 2019 everyone left gets a reset. Why tamper with what has worked & won? But FA will come & go & the FO will look to improve/prolong a possible dynasty.
    I was chief among complaints about the offense. Last night I heard an MLB announcer quoting Dave Roberts, LA’s coach “you tell these guys (or young guys) the plan at the plate, and they don’t listen. What can you do?”, paraphrasing his response.
    Why was I not surprised by that remark? That made me rethink my thinking because in retrospect I can’t recall an MLB tm, 1-8 or 9, where the hitters exercise that patient approach, ala Bregman for i.e. You see it from individuals & tms in spurts, but never consistently. What can they do, bench the lineup, not! If Beltran was instrumental in assisting our guys at the plate last yr, if he’s willing, bring him back for an encore as a coach. This off could stand an improvised approach I think.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. The difference in this year’s market and last year’s market is that the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, Phillies and Braves are going into the market, instead of staying out of it. And the Red Sox are going into the reliever market, no matter what.
    Those teams have money and they are going to war with it.

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    • Agreed OP, and don’t forget Milw, they have enough payroll flex to dab in the market, looking to upgrade their roster as well with a short window. There will be a lot of comp for P. Corbin. We’ll be in that mix & for Realmuto I think. We have internal options for rotation & OF pieces and if clubs shy away from fat contracts for position players we could possibly land one below market value (who I don’t know). Can’t wait to see how that unfolds.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Milwaukee has as much money in contracts as they had in this past season’s payroll. I can picture them “dabbing” in the market for the second tier, but not as players with the big boys.

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      • Look for Cleveland to have a big say in the FA reliever market. I think they have 10 free agents this year. (Speaking of Cleveland, I like to read other city papers from time to time. The complainers in Cleveland want to replace Francona. )

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    • Which also probably makes the Angels better in 2019. Under Sciosca the Angles have always been hurt by injuries, especially to their pitching staff. I think he overused guys (Ohtani this year) and judging from the results may have given scant attention to conditioning. I never thought he was that great as a manager but was riding the coat tails of long ago success. I’m kind of glad he’s gone and that Ausmus is in although it may make next season a bit tougher for the Astros.

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  32. If Jeff Bannister were still the manager of the Rangers all five AL West teams would have former catchers as their managers. On a side note, former catcher Joe Girardi removed himself from consideration for the Rangers’ managerial job today.
    I did not know that Bannister beat bone cancer in high school that was discovered when he broke his leg. I did not know he fractured 3 vertebra in his neck in a junior college collision. I did not know he played college ball at U of H.
    If Espada leaves, the Astros are going to need a bench coach. I’m just sayin’.

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  33. IF LMJ really does have a torn UCL, then starting pitching has to be the biggest concern for the team in 2019. JV and Cole will once again anchor the top but 60% of our 2018 rotation is up in the air. I think that someone will give DK 5-6 at $20+ /yr and maybe even more than that. I don’t see the value there so I think they will pass. I do believe that we try to sign Morton to a 2- year deal for $15-20M/ yr, even though I think someone will likely offer him up to 4/80. If that’s what CM is looking for then we probably let him walk.

    We will QO both CM and DK so we will get a couple of comp picks if both bolt. I think that James and Framber are ready to contribute now, but if we expect them to have anything in the tank at the end of the season their innings will have to be closely managed. I don’t see either going past the 150 mark in 2019. Whitely will start at AAA but could make some noise as an early call- up. Between the three of them we could probably fill 2 spots in the rotation. I would think that McHugh would slot into the rotation, but his innings will also be limited, as he only threw 63 and 72 in the past 2 years. JB and Corbin could eat some innings, as well.

    If we have to go into next season with three slots filled with internal options I don’t think we are a playoff contender.

    If LMJ does not require TJ and is healthy for 2019, you still need someone to cover 50 IP for him. He set a career high this year with just 128 IP. I believe LMJ’s future is in the bullpen (if his head cooperates).

    I expect the Astros to sign CM for more than they would like (2/40 with a 3rd yr option triggered by IP). Apart from CM I don’t see any FA options. Corbin is going to get even more than DK. He’s going to get paid based on 2018 and by every stat and metric 2018 was an outlier. I don’t see us giving the type of contract he will be looking for, nor do I think we should. So if we don’t sign CM I think we have to make a trade or try to capture a re-tread with bounce back potential (i.e CM at 2/14).

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  34. I really hope they can work out a deal with Charlie. And for the first time ever…give Marwin a reason to stay here. PERIOD. If your going to try to pry that young catcher away from Derrick Jeter, be prepared to give him ANYTHING he wants. With the pitching whisperer Brent Strong, I’d love to see what the Yankees want for Sonny Grey. Look what he did with McHugh and Charlie!
    I know I’m dreaming, but it was my thoughts only. Don’t shoot me! I’m glad Altuve went ahead and had his knee operation. That way he can spend the next 4 months getting it strong again. It would be wise for Correa and McCullers to do the same. After hearing what Coram said about our team…..I hope the Dodgers beat the ever loving CRAP out of them.
    Diane….girl you really hit it out of the park!! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. DH: Free Agents and 2018 Salary (in millions)
    Cruz – $14.250
    Adam Jones – $17.333
    Josh Donaldson – $23.
    Joe Mauer – $23.
    Adrian Beltre – $18.
    And catcher Wilson Ramos – $8.5

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  36. Well, so Ausmus now the manager of the Angels. My only regret for WS 2017 is that he wasn’t part of it. But that was his choice and to this day, I would like to know the reason real. As to speculation about Verlander, if he does want to settle West Coast (and I don’t know that), I would wonder if he would be happy to reunite with Ausmus.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Luhnow and Hinch met with the media on media day and said nothing. McTaggart did say matter of factly in the article that the Astros were not going to pick up McCann’s option.

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  38. This is the era of OBP. Our leaders in OBP last year [not counting Myles Straw, with .400 in limited action] were:

    1. Bregman – .394
    2. Altuve – .384
    3. T. White – .354
    4. T. Kemp -.351
    5. Springer -.346
    6. Marwin -.324
    7. Correa -.323
    8. Gurriel -.322
    9. Reddick -.318
    10. Stassi -.316

    Players with OBP of .300 or less were: McCann, Gattis, Marisnick, Maldenado, and J.D. Davis.

    Who do I want to see moved aside to give someone else a chance? The .300 or worse guys: McCann, Gattis, Marisnick, Maldenado, and Davis.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. From the Bullpen the guys who had unacceptable – or at least at times highly questionable – years were:

    Devenski
    Joe Smith
    Will Harris
    Brad Peacock

    These were all expected to do much better than they did. There may have been lingering injuries. I think these four have a tough offseason ahead of them – because they had better show up healthy, strong, in shape, and ready to turn things around, or they are driftwood. Devenski needs another out pitch – as the league has caught up to, and is mashing, both his flat fastball and his predictably diving circle change. Peacock has to have more command of everything, especially that wicked slider. He gets behind on too many counts and throws too many pitches per batter to be successful going forward. Will has lost a little velocity, and may be about done. Smith? Not sure what to do with him.

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  40. Since Dan is preparing a new post for tomorrow, I am going to list some thoughts. Any of these you think are too wild, chalk them up to some crazy muscle relaxers and move along.
    -I think Myles Straw is going to win a job on this team out of spring training.
    -I think Brady Rodgers is going to lose his 40-man spot this fall.
    -I may not be around, but I think Freudis Nova will be the Astros shortstop some day.
    -If Gattis, McCann, Marwin and Keuchel leave through free agency, that is going be a serious dent in the beard kingdom.
    -Is Joe Smith actually the rebirth of Pat Neshek. He could not keep his pitches down, the same problem Neshek had.
    -Devenski’s problem is that suddenly 15% or so of his changeups don’t drop, at least not until they hit the outfield fences. That pitch is so easy to barrel up when it doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. Also, guys look for his fastball which has lost a few MPH.
    -If Garrett Stubbs isn’t on this team next season, then I need to find another sport to follow. Come on, how does Kratz start every game in the NLCS?
    -Does everybody understand that Maldanado is a free agent? I have seen a lot of fans on all different websites say that he and Stassi should be our catchers next year. Did they not see the ALCS?
    -I’m still waiting for 1 of the 45,000 people in MMP to post a picture of Betts’s arm out of the playing field. I mean every time you look in the stands, half of the fans are taking pictures of something! Please, how about some closure, one way or another.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Neshek is a perfect example of a “funky” pitcher like Smith. Stays injured here. Is lights out early in Philly. Is traded to Colorado and is lights out. In 2018, signs back with Philly and is injured like he was in Houston.

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      • On Maldonado, he was an excellent defensive catcher in the regular season. I think he was also hit by a pitch in the Boston series. If the Astros decide to sign him, it will probably be they have inside knowledge of an injury or something. And YES, he was terrible in the Boston series.

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    • Wait a minute……I just read your post OP, and the third “I think” was you might not be here???!!! Oh no you don’t, you can’t just slip something in there without me noticing!! You aren’t going anwhere….ok!?? And I promise to do the same!
      As far as the short stop, who knows….the next Carlos Correa might be in the next draft! But in the mean time he’s ours!! You have to picture me sticking my tongue out to the Yankees!! Becky⚾

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  41. My take ( for what it’s worth)
    Don’t give up on Devo….Strom can help him get out of the funk he’s in.
    I’m ok with Gattis, Keuchel, and McCann leaving….but NOT Marwin.
    Did ya’ll forget the only person who scored a run for us last Thurs was Marwin when he hit a solo homerun?? That guy is WAAAY too important to let him walk.
    When Luhnow hears what Jeter wants for that young catcher, he may decide to look else where. Has Stubbs completely fallen off the list?
    Here’s my list of who might not be here next year.
    Gattis
    McCann
    Harris
    Peacock
    Sipp
    Marisnick
    Brady Rogers is losing his glow
    A.J.Reed
    J.D.Davis…and maybe Fisher too
    I’m not interested in watching Mookie Betts, so I’m going to catch up on all my favorite shows I had to DVR during the playoffs. Becky⚾

    P.S. I gotta feeling McCullers is against having TJ surgery, and he might be moved to the bullpen and outta the rotation. Every year he’s been up with the big club, he has missed a sugnificant amount of time. Bullpen may be a blessing to him and to us, he loses focus and self destructs, in a nano second.

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    • Becky, I am not opposed to LMJ in the bullpen, but here are my three (3) concerns. 1. He will not always have clean bases when he come in. 2. He has to start off throwing strikes. 3. And I think he needs to change his style of pitching. A huge breaking ball in the dirt, with runners advancing, would not be a good combination for a reliever. He has the tools, but he would almost have to be a JD Martinez and reinvent himself.

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