The deadline for tendering contracts passed on Friday night with the Astros deciding to non-tender only one of their arbitration-eligible players, catcher Chris Herrmann. This was not ground shaking as:
a) Herrmann had never taken a swing, caught or framed a pitch or attempted to throw out a runner in a practice, much less a game for the Astros. Though he did hit an extra-inning home run against the A’s that clinched the playoffs for the Astros in 2018
b) Herrmann had been claimed on waivers by the Astros a few weeks earlier meaning that every team in the AL not named the Red Sox had passed on him in the process
c) The meaning of b) is that he will likely be out there to sign for less on the free agent market if the Astros are still interested. And seeing they have only 2 catchers on the 40 man, Max Stassi and Garrett Stubbs, they may be interested.
So…. what is next? Let’s go to Front Office czar Jeff Luhnow as interpreted by mlb.com’s Brian McTaggart.
Reading the first few lines the clearest needs — which come as no surprise — are a catcher and a starting pitcher.
What are the Astros options here?
- Re-sign Herrmann and go to war with Stassi and Herrmann and give Stubbs a little more time to develop. How Likely: 10% or less
- Make the big trade for two years of J.T. Realmuto, which might include Kyle Tucker but would likely include J.B. Bukauskas, plus probably three other close to ready or ready prospects. How Likely: 30%
- Make a lesser trade. Yan Gomes was already traded by the Indians. Francisco Cervelli of the Pirates would be a one year stop gap option in a trade and as such would not cost much if the Astros believe Stubbs will be the man in 2020. Russell Martin is likely available, but at $20 million and coming off a poor year, the Blue Jays should pay somebody to take him. How Likely. 10%
- Go get a “top” Free Agent. Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos would both best fit this description. Ramos is older but is the better hitter. Grandal a little younger has the Cuban connection that might bring him to a team that cherishes that like the Astros How Likely: 40%
- Go get a lesser Free Agent – Jonathan Lucroy is more of a name than a performer after another big drop off in 2018. Matt Weiters is a four-time All Star with those times being a while ago. Part-timers like A.J. Ellis and Nick Hundley are out there too. How Likely: 10%
What are the options here?
- Do nothing. Fill the three open starting spots with some combination of Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Josh James and Framber Valdez. How Likely: 10%
- Add a re-signed Charlie Morton to the mix (we know he’s been offered). How Likely: 20%
- Make a big trade for Noah Syndergaard or Zack Grienke. Noah will take a lot in return – Zack will take less depending on how much of his salary the Astros are willing to take on (3 years – $105 million) at 35 years old. How Likely: 10%
- Make a lesser trade. Sonny Gray is an attractive name, but he is a one-year rental, who did not pitch well under NYC pressure. Andrew Cashner and Marcus Stroman are more controllable, but coming off 5+ ERA years. Robbie Ray who was decent last year though missing some time and has two years of control might be a good player to pursue. How Likely: 20%
- Go get a “top” free agent (besides Morton). Lefties Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel seem to be the top choices. Keuchel has had more good years, but also has more years – he seems to be gone. Corbin would be a solid pickup if they get 2018 Corbin and not 2016 or 2017 Corbin. How Likely: 20%
- Go get a “little” lesser free agent. Nathan Eovaldi was good in the Red Sox WS run, but he comes with health issues and performance consistency issues. J.A. Happ is a known entity and has been very solid after leaving the Astros. How Likely: 20%
In these two areas, what do you think the Astros will do?