Astros’ off-season meanders forward


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.

Catcher

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%

Starting Pitcher

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?

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54 comments on “Astros’ off-season meanders forward

  1. I truly believe that the Astros would like pitchers with big fastballs that can be elevated to blow past the new uppercut norm of a swing path and I believe they want those pitchers to have a complimentary secondary pitch that can induce ground balls at a higher than average rate..
    I believe Luhnow when he says he doesn’t want to mortgage the Astros future by trading away it’s prospects.
    I believe the Astros would consider free agency to be a preferred path this offseason because of how free agency provided value last offseason.
    I believe that Patrick Corbin’s projected price tag is above what the Astros believe to be a decent return and I believe they want Eovaldi.
    I believe that, currently, the Marlins want more than Luhnow wants to give up for two years of Realmuto. I believe that Lunhow is willing to wait and see if Miami blinks. So far, two of the suitors have made their alternative moves. That would be the Braves and the Nats. I believe the Dodgers and the Astros are the main players for all the big catchers.
    My opinion is that if the Astros somehow manage to get one of their top choices at starting pitcher, and find two big bats to add to the lineup in spots other than catcher, they might choose to go into 2019 with the combo of Stassi/ Stubbs batting ninth and then make a move at the deadline if they feel they need to upgrade at catcher then.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ramos at Catcher for 2-years, will DH for 90 games, catch for 70 ish. Stassi Stubbs for backup.

    LF, which is a catch all, like 1B for guys who are hitting. I predict we’ll stand pat with several who need room to grow. My depth chart on OF is: Tucker Diaz Davis Kemp Straw Jake Fisher. ALEDMYS Diaz will be a huge get for us. JD Davis is not much of an outfielder, but he has dismantled the Texas League and PCL — it is time to afford him some AB’s. And Tucker was an even better hitter, but with a few options, may start in RR.

    SP, I think we push real hard for Eovaldi. The question is: how many innngs to give him (and the rest of the staff). He looks to thrive mostly from 120 IP. If Valdez doesn’t make the rotation, we might instead be targeting a lefty (Derek Holland, or reliever Luis Avilan could push Framber to the rotation). Studying peripherals, Framber has control issues to fix, and Perez isn’t really an electric arm.

    And that brings me to a subject in 2019. JV and Cole are really a dying breed of thoroughbreds. We seem to be employing a number of pitchers who would likely not be stretched out for 200 IP. This is a new age of tandem and reliever first starts. Will the Astros employ some sort of hybrid piggyback, since Framber James Cionel and possibly Peacock McQ could be swingmen, and Whitley is most likely only going to pitch 100 innings? I feel pretty strong that Whitley will be called up to contribute mightily in 2019.

    Flexibility is the name of the game, and the Astros have left a few roster spots open.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a point and I want to dwell a little on it.
      If baseball is entering a period of a dying breed of “thoroughbreds”, where starting pitchers are not required to go long innings and throw 200 innings a year, why even bother with five days rest and five starting pitchers?
      Why not go with four man rotations and bigger bullpens? You would cut down on the expense of hiring a #5 pitcher, thereby eliminating the need for 30 or so starting pitchers league-wide, while adding 30 or so relievers.
      If your starting pitchers are never stretched out more than “5 or so” innings, why the hell do they need five days rest?
      And if we are in a period of a dying breed of thoroughbreds, why the hell are they demanding higher and higher “thoroughbred” salaries, when they really aren’t thoroughbreds?

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Dan, your percentages tell the tale. Although, Luhnow wants to make a deal, him saying that he does not want to mortgage the future speaks volumes. We could possibly go into 2019 with a deal or two made or nothing and stand pat. We are not the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, who it doesn’t seem to phase them to spend $200MM plus to put a team on the field. After all that doesn’t guarantee anything. I would like to see Morton back, and would even take Keuchel but I think he’s looking for the LT guaranteed money. We may be looking at the tandem rotation more so this year. Look at Oakland and Tampa Bay using pitchers in such an unorthodox manner. It seemed to work for them. Winter meetings are coming up soon so hold on to your (Astro) hats.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Y’all always have interesting comments
    One of the keys here is the fact that Luhnow has the option of doing nothing as Zanuda says and still having a very good team. His “don’t mortgage the future” is not necessarily all encompassing. He may well be willing to part with certain prospects that he thinks will not damage the future. My gut feeling is that he could easily fix one spot with a free agent pickup another with a trade and hold off on say, the OF spot and make a deal during the season only if he is not satisfied with how things are going.
    I agree with old pro that Eovaldi would be the one they would most like to pick up, but they will still balance what they believe the value is of these players against the asking price.
    Grayson may well be right on the OF situation – try to fill from within first.
    And Z and Grayson talk about the tandem pitching and it may do two things for the Astros. It may help them nurse pitchers who have restrictions on innings and it may help them see who are contenders and who are pretenders as we head into a future past 2019 likely without Cole, Verlander, and McHugh.

    Like

  5. Oh and it won’t hurt my feelings if you tell me my % Likelys are wrong – just pulled those out of my lower orifice to spark discussions….

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    • A guy who is willing to put it out there for others to read and comment on, is exempt from the pain that accompanies the critical responses.
      It’s very similar to the guy who publishes a mock draft for any sport. If he gets five picks out of 30 correct, he really is terrific.
      I like you putting the %’s in there. Dan is steppin’ out of the comfort zone.

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  6. Okay Dan, unless Morton proves to be unhealthy, I think your percentage on him is low.

    I’ve already made my points on the outfield situation. But if we do stand pat, then Diaz might become the semi regular in left.. If Tucker doe not take ownership, then Diaz provides the most bang for the buck. I sure don’t see Davis out there, because I don’t see him on the roster.

    I don’t see Stassi in the mix, because at least one guy in particular does not like to throw to him. So the percentage of some move behind the plate is higher for me. Like 90%.

    I’m stilll convinced that Luhnow will do something significant. I could see myself saying, “now why didn’t I think of that”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is all I’ve got so farm this off-season . . .

      Sittin’ here twiddlin’ my thumbs;
      I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes;
      watchin’ the pigskin thrown;
      feelin’ all lost and alone.

      Sittin’ here missin’ Jose’;
      as I watch the Tide put Georgia way
      Starin’ at my Twitter news feed;
      wonderin’ how much dough our arb guys will need.

      Sittin’ here eatin’ ice cream;
      ’cause there’s nothin’ goin’ on with my team.
      Sittin’ here makin’ bad rhymes, wastin’ time.

      Yeah, I’m just to Sittin’ here too bored to write posts . . . wastin’ time!

      Liked by 4 people

      • All I’ll say Mr. Bill other than great job is avoid winter flights into Madison, Wisconsin.
        And anyone who doesn’t get that – Google Otis Redding.

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  7. Catcher: I think they will bag one of the FA’s: Grandal or Ramos.
    Pitcher: I think they re-sign Morton
    LF: I thought they might be players for a Brantley/McCutchen type, but now not so much. If they can shore up catcher and grab a starter they like, then maybe status quo in LF with someone in the organization

    Liked by 1 person

  8. First for full disclosure a couple years ago, I said why in the H E Double L did JL sign Morton.
    But Diaz seems to be an average infielder who has never played in the outfield. His OBP is below Stassi and above McCann. He has Tony Kemp power. I see him as maybe a replacement for Marwin in the infield. With 1/2 the games in MMP, we need someone that can PLAY the outfield. There has to be at least three moves by Luhnow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 45, Diaz is a righty who hits righties better than lefties. He’s got a lifetime .287 BA, .483 SLG and a .812 OPS against them. If he gives us that production, his 2.5 million is a steal. But you are right, I think he has 3 ML at bats in the outfield.

      .232/.312/.387/.702. That’s what our happy family of contributors collectively produced out there in left field this year.
      .244/.315/.410/.724. That’s centerfield.
      .268/.349/.451/.799. Right field was our outfield strength, presumably because George spent quite a few innings over there.

      I had no idea our outfield offense was this bad. I looked at the team stats twice to see if I was reading the wrong lines. Please correct me if I’m wrong. But if correct, can we afford to stand pat?

      Liked by 2 people

  9. My daughter was # 1 on her high school golf team and they (Kingwood high school ) won state when she was a junior. George H.W. Bush was playing in a charity tournament here in Kingwood. My daughter and her girls golf team got to hold the signs for that tournament! She rode with Chi Chi Rodriguez for a couple of holes, and I have a pretty sweet picture of my daughter and George Bush. NOW the Astros *need* a left fielder, a catcher and *2* more pitchers!
    GIT ‘R DONE!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Becky, does your daughter still play? Something to be very proud of and if she does I’d challenge her but she has to spot me about 6 strokes. I wasn’t worth a hoot & hollar when I played High School golf. Finally got better and I carry about a 9 handicap now but that’s unofficial. I love golf almost as much as I love the Astros. There’s no game like it anywhere, but then again I’m biased.
      Agree with your Astro’s needs. Let’s hope it works out.

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      • I think she does, finding people to play 18 is kind of hard to do. I on the other hand, can not hit that little white ball!! My husband and our boys played, so she had someone to play with when she was in high school.
        Yeah, I hope these “needs” can be a dressed over the winter! Everyone is waiting to see where Keuchel signs, before the bidding for starts for starting pitching.

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  10. And the Mariners are in full re-build mode as they have traded Paxton, Zunino, Colome, are reportedly in agreement on trading Diaz and Cano to the Mets and reportedly are close to sending Segura to the Phillies…..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What I like about that article (which I saw a link to on CNN of all places) – a new stat for us to chew on, how often does a pitcher fool not the hitter, but the umpire!

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  12. While the Astros’ off season meanders:
    -The off seasons of the Mets and the Mariners are on fire.
    -The Texans continue to win by hitting the afterburner when they need it and running on wet charcoal when they get a lead.
    -I always got warm fuzzies seeing George and Barbara sitting behind home plate. Nowhere else could you see anything like that on a regular basis.
    -If you were baseball’s owners, why would you want this offseason to be any faster than last offseason. The thought of Machado and Harper both getting anything close to $400 million deals should be terrifying. They are not worth it! -As far as it’s effect on the game, analytics is an ant hill compared to the mountain range of free agency. Personally, I love the Yankees and the Dodgers each being one of a group of 30 baseball teams instead of being the owners of MLB. I hope everyone understands how great it is for baseball fans that the last five world series winners are the Giants, the Royals, The Cubbies, the Astros and the Red Sox. Spread it around, from coast to coast.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dan, no thanks on the Kikuche frenzy. Although I watched the games this offseason in Japan, and saw some talented hitters and pitching on both squads.

      Here’s an article today mentioning the same Outfielders I brought up last week. It’s missing guys who graduated/traded from ranks recently, along with Jake Fisher Kemp and Diaz. He concludes by writing, “The Astros are loaded in the outfield.”

      https://www.crawfishboxes.com/2018/12/3/18123288/astros-milb-position-review-left-field

      A guy I’d like to make a deal for is Twins, Eddie Rosario. MIN has so many needs that I’m sure we could riddle their team with near-ready prospects in several positions. I just think Tucker is close enough, and there are no 1-yr guys I’m interested in (Span Marwin Chisenhall McCutchen). Pollack, and Brantley aren’t worth it imo. Offering solutions, not pointing out problems.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Old pro
        It is this kind of information and what the front office makes of it that is why our speculation on their moves is pretty useless.
        – With Alvarez and Beer behind him – is Tucker more of a trade token?
        – Do they see Tucker and Alvarez filling an OF with Springer if they can unload Reddick (Tucker has played all three OF positions – but maybe not that well)
        – Would any of these guys get moved to 1B? (Beer and Alvarez have both spent time there)
        – How do they “project” these guys? How do they rank them and when they will truly be ready for the bigs? (Tucker showing he wasn’t too ready last season)

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      • Aren’t you always amazed at how quickly a team in college is able to reload? I think you see those biggest changes at an early age. Two things I point out is how Framber #25 and James #24, stepped in so ably, same as Stassi who wasn’t ranked sane and Kemp and White. These are guys who aren’t valueable to other teams as much because they fit our system of plate control and solid defense. Sure, they got bested, but who doesn’t early-on?

        I could offer my opinion on all these guys, as to ETA, that fluctauates based on injuries and breakouts, existing contracts etc. For example, I would’ve liked to have seen more Deetz and Perez, so they could shake off natural jitters, just like James and Valdez got a chance to settle in a bit.

        Do I expect Alvarez and Tucker to get in soon? I don’t think other teams coveting them proves anything, they’ll have to beat out Fisher Straw Jake Kemp. Where we get into trouble is having guys we lose because they run out of options, instead of trading them while we can. I don’t think it would be easy to unload Reddick, no, and that’s a key clubhouse guy (in theory). Whether Beer and Dawson would be ready by 2020 is up to them, but they’re both intriguing. It’s a tough balance because you can ask in case of Laureano, how did he achieve that turnaround that we saw as regression (from 2017-2018)? Did the A’s do something, change of scenery, or he had more freedom since we were logjammed?

        https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=17128&position=OF.

        Should we have kept him, or Teoscar? These are tough questions, but as with Fields for Alvarez, you do have to try and stay younger and homegrown as a middle market.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Grayson, I’m glad we’re loaded with prospects out there. But that’s not a solution necessarily. And I’d take Rosario too. That might be a solution. He strikes out too much and can be scary in the field, but he’d immediately add 100 points to our OPS in left and probably hit 30 dingers. The nice thing about this blog business is that there are no rules requiring solutions from the customers. Thankfully I’m allowed to be a cynic. I have enough trouble making sure I don’t put on plaid shorts with a plaid shirt in the morning.

        Like

  13. I got so bored last night that I went down to the old disco. As I fought my way through the cobwebs, and the shattered glass of the mirror ball that had long since crashed to the ground, I would have sworn I heard my old flame Donna Summer singing this song:

    Lookin’ for some hot stove, Baby, this evenin!
    Lookin’ for some hot stove – maybe tonight?
    I want some hot stove, Jeffy, this evenin’
    Gotta’ have some hot stove, we need to improve tonight!

    Hot stove!
    We need a bat and glove!
    We want some hot stove!
    Someone that we can love!
    Gotta have some hot stove – we need to improve tonight!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. A few things I have learned in life that are absolute truths, but knowing them doesn’t help:
    *Stuff is stuff that gets stuffed in closets. It is worthless 99.9% of the time and when you need it you can’t spend the time finding it.
    *When a person watches “the news” today, they are not getting the news. They are getting fed the propaganda that the news outlet they are watching wants them to get. it’s 20% fact and 80% opinion. And if the “real news” conflicts with the outlet’s agenda, that news is either skipped or glossed over.
    *60 years ago people were ignorant because they had very little access to what was going on in the world. Today, they have access to everything, but have no way to process it and therefore tune in only to what makes them feel good or advances their causes.
    *If I want to get fooled, I turn on the TV.
    *The majority of the world looks at their children’s school as a second home, while they are working, and they want someone else to take care of that home. When that second home suddenly vears off from what they want, it’s somebody else’s fault and then it’s time to turn on the hate to cover up their own non-caring attitude.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Have you been visiting Lucy’s Psychiatry Stand again, OP? How many nickels did she take from you this time. [She got several from me, but I think the stuff she told you was better. All she told me was: If you wanted wisdom, you should have gone to see Wilson Pickett or Donna Summer!]

      Liked by 1 person

    • Man, that is yet the wisest thing in full I’ve ever read from you, Op., which is saying a lot. I spent the past two days reading what you’re not hearing on tv but I’ll keep my opinions to myself. Baseball is truly my distraction from a mess. Raising a teenager, I believe in personal responsibility whole heartedly for being involved in our kid’s lives. Translation: keeping him involved instead of playing Fortnite (the same game the Astros are hooked on). I know there are some good parents on this blog, or generally good hearted folks. But I can really appreciate someone from a past generation who understands the “spin” of present and past.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Since they were kings of the 1-run wins last season, fangraphs had an article about how “clutch” is a myth over many years sample sizes, but the M’s were miraculously good (with Diaz primarily). Since the Mets sent two negative WAR players over for Cano and the premier Closer tells me that was pure salary dump. I doubt they’ll shine as much losing Segura Cruz and Span. They’d even like to shed Seager’s salary. What a hot mess, Dipoto.

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  15. Apparently the rumors about the Dodgers not wanting to continue with Dave Roberts as manager were hooey. He has signed an extension through 2022.

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      • Takes me back to a story about Harry Truman that I am not sure was true or not, but which I sure thought was funny. His wife Bess was hosting some ladies over to the White House and they overheard President Truman saying “Horse manure” this and “Horse Manure” that. One of the ladies asked Bess if she could get Harry to use a little gentler language in front of the ladies and Bess said “It’s taken me this long to get him to say Horse Manure”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Given how little real information has been out, I’ll make two assumptions. First, the story about Harper almost being traded to Houston means he was aware in July and at least verbally acknowledged to the Nats that he would be pleased with such a trade. Second, someone leaked that story to the press who is trying to get Harper lots of money this offseason. That someone doesn’t have any other names he can throw against a wall at this point…so the Astros are getting played off every other potential suitor regardless of whether Luhnow has or will make him an offer.

      Liked by 1 person

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