Waiting for the hot stove league to warm up


This happens every year. After running hard for six months of the regular season and if your team is lucky, another month of the postseason it all grinds to a halt. There are some decisions made about the roster, qualifying offers and 40-man shuffling, but what all fans want to know is slowly revealed like a vaudevillian strip show.

What will my team look like next season?

Last off-season large asking prices and front offices waiting things out led to a very slow rolling Tepid Stove League. The Astros made their moves about as early as anybody as they signed Joe Smith last Dec. 13, Hector Rondon on Dec. 15 and made the big move to pick up Gerrit Cole on January 13.

If Jeff Luhnow’s history is a window to the future, he will go do what he needs to do on his own timetable and it will not always be moves the fans foresaw.

So what questions do the fans want answered in this off-season?

It is a pretty good bet that Luhnow is trying to trade for someone with 2 to 3 years of control right now. He is probably not going to try to outbid the world for Patrick Corbin or Nathan Eovaldi (Or Morton or Keuchel). He will be out there looking to see if he can pry away a James Paxton or a Corey Kluber or someone not on the radar with a nice package of prospects. Failing in that he can fill in from such internal names as Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Josh James, Framber Valdez or whichever AAA pitchers are put on the 40-man in the next couple days.

  • Are we going to war with Max Stassi and Chris Hermann behind the plate?

The J.T. Realmuto rumors run high on the radar. Can the front office do what they did with both the Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole trades and pick up a big puzzle piece without touching Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker? If not Realmuto will they pursue a catching free agent like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos? Or is Garrett Stubbs (.310 BA/.836 OPS at AAA) ready to step up in 2019?

  • How will the Astros fill in for the human Swiss Army Knife, Marwin Gonzalez?

A chunk of the answer to this question may have been answered over the weekend as the Astros traded AAA pitcher Trent Thornton for Blue Jay Aledmys Diaz. Diaz has played mostly 3B and SS, but has at least a little experience in LF and at 2B and brings a decent bat with solid power. It would seem that Diaz might get a lot more time in LF and then subbing around the infield or DH’ing in the coming season.

  • Will the Astros go out and get a big bat to add to the mix?

The Astros offense was the big problem last season. Would they try to grab a Nelson Cruz or a Josh Donaldson? Or might a left-handed Michael Brantley be a better fit for them? Or as often happens will they trade for someone who is available from a rebuilding team? Or….will they give Kyle Tucker the job and write off his terrible 2018 debut as similar to what George Springer and Alex Bregman put up when they first appeared on the scene?

  • In a subset of the previous question…. are the Astros handing the DH job to Tyler White?

He certainly was a much more consistent hitter than the man he replaced, Evan Gattis. But the Astros have turned their back on White a number of times during his career. Will they do it again?

  • Will the Astros extend anyone this off-season?

With the types of money and years being thrown around to FAs, would a George Springer, Carlos Correa, Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander or even a Ryan Pressly sign a preemptive extension? Only if they are not listening to their agents. How about Alex Bregman?

  • If the Astros have to fill in so many spots in the rotation, do they need to chase more relief help?

It would help to know if they can get multi-inning specialist Chris Devenski to perform like 2016 and 2017 again. But if say they fill Tony Sipp‘s spot with Framber Valdez, will they have Josh James fill in behind Peacock and/or McHugh? Do they pick up a hidden gem in a trade like they did with Ryan Pressly? Do they bring up another youngster like Rogelio Armenteros?

  • Who will be the new hitting coach(es)?

Both assistant hitting coach Jeff Albert and hitting coach Dave Hudgens have moved on to promotions elsewhere in the last few weeks. Fans have wondered and grumbled about whether the Astros hitting success in 2017 belonged to long gone Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora and their 2018 failures belonged to Hudgens. Chances are the answer is not quite that simple, but these will be interesting hirings/promotions to watch.

So, what are you waiting to find out this off-season?

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54 comments on “Waiting for the hot stove league to warm up

  1. thank you thank you for a new post. i have been looking at bregman and stassi giving out turkeys for days and the astros trade for diaz for days. we needed something new. thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. what will happen? i dont know. but my christmas list would be realmuto, eovaldi, and a bat for the outfield/dh, maybe someone not mentioned that is under the radar and under control for a few years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. RrayJ – Thanks – I do my best. This is absolutely the toughest time to dig out stories. Thanks for checking in with this.
    I guess I could have mentioned Sonny Gray as a trade pickup too, but I think they want someone with a longer control period.

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  4. Well, Luhnow has reacted to the apparent loss of Marwin by picking up Diaz. He’ll be saving 8 to 10 million a year on a guy that is not quite as versatile as Marwin, but is arguably a better hitter. What I find interesting about Aledmys is that he’s a much better hitter against righty pitching than lefty pitching. Career numbers below.

    .287/.327/.483/.812
    .240/.311/.382 /.693

    That .812 OPS against right handed pitching is a pretty good number from your utility guy. I suspect he’ll also exploit those Crawford Boxes too. And maybe he’s not too old yet to figure out how to hit a southpaw.

    Next is Morton. I’ve been thinking all along that he’d be coming back. The key with him I think is to get him into the post season having thrown about 150 innings max. We’ve got plenty of guys to spell him a start once of twice a month.

    What else? I’m sure there is a catcher on the horizon. Maybe another starter. That’s a bit of a luxury, but I think James will one day be a back of the bullpen guy. And an outfield bat. Anyway, that’s my take. I’ll be very impressed if Luhnow pulls it all off.

    As far as extensions go, I’d sure like to see both George and Cole get extended. Wouldn’t that be a huge boost going into 2019? That would sell 3 million tickets.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. -Charlie Morton was stunned with the offer the Astros made to him two years ago. I’ve said all along they should make him the same offer, with the second year being a mutual option. It just seems like a great fit for both sides.
    -Years ago, Luhnow and Crane said that they would build the team from the farm, and that when they became contenders they would spend money to fill the holes. That is where we are at right now. I believe Diaz is one of those moves, where they fill a hole with a guy from outside the system and pay for him with a pitcher who was a fifth round pick in 2015(seventh player chosen by Astros that year).
    -I honestly(and humbly) don’t think the Astros try to extend anyone this offseason. I think they try to extend one of their core players next offseason or try to find a long term replacement for one next offseason.
    -Garrett Stubbs was taken two rounds after Trent Thornton was in the 2015 draft.
    -When Luhnow spoke of Thornton, he referred to RH starting pitching prospects as a strength of the club. That is as close as Luhnow will come to public referral about what the organization thinks.
    -I doubt the Astros make a move on their coaches until the winter meetings and until Elias picks his manager in Baltimore. Everybody who wants a job is available to talk at that time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a bit bizarre that we’re living in a world where ex-Rule V pick Marwin Gonzalez is the hot free agent being talked about. He’s a good player because of his versatility, but certainly has some holes in his game. I hope he gets a good contract and don’t begrudge him the opportunity. He’s this year’s version of Ben Zobrist. I think the Astros can afford to let him go because they should also be letting Evan Gattis go.

    Thornton was one of my favorites in college. I don’t think he has the velocity to be a fixture in today’s bullpens. He’ll get a better shot in Toronto, though. I’m not sure why we’re keeping some guys like Deetz over him though. Hopefully Diaz is the guy Luhnow wanted and not just something he was able to get in return.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Staying strong up the middle is crucial for long term success so shoring up the catching situation seems like job one to me. I think we have more flexibility for dealing with the potential pitching issues. I do think our pitching staff will require a more veteran catching presence than we would get from Stassi and Stubbs although I would like to see Stubbs get a shot at the primary backup spot. Trading for Realmuto would be terrific but awfully expensive and perhaps worth the cost. Whitley is my only untouchable in Realmuto considerations. With Diaz coming on board could (donning flame retardant suit) there be a deal for Realmuto including Correa? We have a pretty good SS in waiting with Bregman and I bet Miami would bite.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. OMG!! I was a happy girl this morning when I read that Luhnow has made Charlie an offer! I have been pretty sad knowing how far Charlie has come in just two years. Even if he turns down the offer, he can retire with a World Series ring….knowing he got the last out in the last game! I doubt Luhnow has been sitting on the couch eating Cheetos while nearly his entire front office left for more money,and better positions. I would be SHOCKED but soo happy if Crane could get Beltran back here, for a hitting coach…..or better yet a right hand man for Jeff Luhnow as a bench coach!As much as we are lusting after that Marlins catcher, I don’t see Luhnow trading Tucker or Whitley +3-4 more prospects for him. Ramos is a dang good catcher, and it would give Stubbs another year to get better. I have jumped up and down for years about drafting catchers. We did get a pretty good guy out of Tulane, but traded him almost immediately after he signed. I have a feeling Crane is gonna let Jeff make some big moves this Winter.
    James Paxton would be MY first move!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Becky, the Marlins are asking for a ton right now, but I don’t think Jeter’s group did well in the trades last year. I suspect their asking prices might start falling as they don’t get the offers they want…and also suspect a lot of GMs are planning to go in really low with their first offers. Luhnow has some players who could start right away in Miami even if they aren’t going to be difference makers on a championship squad. I’m hopeful Miami realizes that getting one top prospect plus a couple players better than what they currently have could be their best route.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Rick Ankiel, Miguel Tejada, and Freddy Garcia? Ok, I’m kind of joking there – Garcia never made it to Houston, but at least he was traded for a future HOFer. What’s amazing is that he had 156 wins in his career and one of the guys you were talking about only had 163!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oops – I did not read down farther in the depths of the list.
      Frankly Tejada’s numbers are in the neighborhood of Berkman and he played SS (though the steroid shadow will haunt him, plus the way he aged 2 years without aging 2 years).
      Garcia’s won-loss was close to Roy O’s but Roy O was way ahead in ERA.
      Ankiel could have been terrific if he had not lost his control as a pitcher

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  10. It will be interesting to see how many votes Tejada gets. We literally traded 5 guys for him, the day before his name was in black and white in the report that had proof that he did PED’S. Miggy was fun to watch!!

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  11. In other news, the Astros announced the following:
    – Minute Maid Park assistant valet parker Bud Krocek moves to the Mets to be head valet parker
    – Executive VP in charge of pop corn popping Mary Anderson joins the Dodgers as Senior VP in charge of popcorn, Cracker Jack and churros
    – Senior laundry manager, Jose Francisco joins the Marlins as Director of laundry and spikes
    – Railroad Engineer Spike Richardson is now in charge of the French Super train system

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Think the Yankees will put him in the trash like they did Sonny Grey???
    I trust Luhnow not to trade Tucker or Whitley for just anybody. Gotta keep that amazing pitcher!! Who knows Keuchel might be pitching for US next year!
    I still think Luhnow is VERY busy looking at multiple deals…..his phone is working overtime! I’m getting excited to see what this team will look like in March of 2019!!

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    • Always enjoyed Hudson and Harrigan silliness. Have a H&H baseball related story – a long time ago one of my kids was on a dad’s pitch (one step above T-ball) team and I think it was Harrigan who was the coach – had a kid on the team too. He was a lot of fun. Would do things like wear a big red clown’s nose to get the kids to pay attention while he was pitching under hand to them and the sort. Fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Nobody is talking about it but Didi Gregorius is projected to make over $12 million in arbitration this winter. He had TJ surgery and will not be available for much of the season. Then, he becomes a free agent at the end of the year.
    I believe Didi is a real candidate to be non-tendered. I think NY will try to work out a contract with him that saves them some money. I don’t think the Yankees want Gleybar Torres to be their SS this season either.
    Do they dare go after Machado?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I consider Bryan Abreu to be a decent candidate to be added to the 40-man roster. How they justify that is to start him off in High A ball and get him to CC ASAP if he continues to dominate. End the year in the AAA bullpen at age 22.
    It is going to be very hard for rebuilding teams to ignore 90 Ks in 54 innings pitched with a decent walk rate.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A great under the radar guy to point to OP. I take it that is just your speculation at this point – not someone who has been announced. We will know those added to the 40 man by tonight’s deadline (or sooner).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes it is only my speculation. Abreu got it all together this year after a past with injuries. He was signed at age 16 so he has to be protected after five seasons. I guess he is a candidate for a trade also, if the Astros can’t make room for him?
        Why protect him? Because he has Astros-type stuff. A big fastball, a hard slider and an exceptionally hard curve. But the main reason for protecting him is because of the huge amount of relievers the Astros will have becoming free agents at the end of this coming season. Some of these good prospect arms the Astros have now need to translate to the major league club, because if the Astros want to tie up their core players long-term, they can’t be losing these arms and, at the same time, pay $30-40million for a free agent loaded bullpen.

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      • Now I’m reading a tweet that Kaplan sent out where he believes that the leading candidates for the Astros to protect are Stubbs, Armenteros and Abreu. I guess I’m not the only one.
        By the way, Dan, Peter Solomon is Cesar’s replacement in the Astros Top 30 prospects at #26. No surprise to me or Becky there.

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      • These guys need to be protected. There are several teams that would make Amenteros a starter on their opening day roster. And you can’t have too much catching, right? I don’t know anything about Abreu, but he looks like he’s starting to get his stuff together. One of these days his frame will fill out and he’ll throw upper 90’s instead of mid 90’s.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Now we just have to sweat out which players (up to 3) will get cherry picked in the Rule 5. Of course some years we have no one picked or just one – but I’m thinking someone will go after a pitcher or two of ours.

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  15. 1OP made the comment the other day with a little derision that “it is not my money.” Well we are all guilty. I was reading a comment on MLB Trade Rumors that Tampa Bay “To create roster space, the Marlins designated Derek Dietrich for assignment.” That was followed by “Bumping Dietrich from the roster will mean avoiding a SIGNIFICANT salary for the rebuilding Marlins. MLBTR had projected a $4.8MM salary”

    We here see no problem in signing guys at 3/$45million. Poor old Tampa Bay had a team salary of less that 50% of the Astros and they need to cut.

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  16. Beltre would make an excellent bench coach…..or better yet a HITTING coach!!
    Hint-hint-hint!! The only guy I ever liked who played for the arlington little league! First ballot HOF for sure! Abreu has been with us for 5yrs, and he’s got a VERY good arm…..really glad we protected him! Trust me, you will hear his name in the next 2yrs!! He’s just a kid, but he’s got a man’s arm. I still think Luhnow has been busy, so I’ll stay quiet I just hope he’s working the phone for another pitcher!!

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  17. -The day you set your roster is one of the most informative days of the year. We don’t have to wait for the front office to say something for us to learn a lot today.
    -The players the team chooses to protect tells us a lot.
    -The players the team doesn’t protect tells us a lot.
    -Analytics helps them make the decisions as well as scouts and minor league coaches do. Luhnow has a lot of input and sources.
    -The decisions made today might also give us a glimpse as to what the team might be looking to add. They didn’t choose to protect any infielders or outfielders.
    -Riley Ferrell or Bryan Abreu? That question is answered.

    Like

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