Eventful or anti-climactic? Astros head to the winter meetings


The last time the Astros went to the World Series…..boy, does that sound like an arrogant lead-in. Grey Poupon should be served with that statement. Maybe the nicer way of putting this is, “The second time in the Astros’ 57 season history that they went to the World Series and the first time they won it, the team made their big moves before the 2016 winter meetings.”  Nori Aoki was picked up off waivers in early November, they signed Charlie Morton on the 16th of the month, traded for Brian McCann the day after, signed Josh Reddick a week later and then picked up Carlos Beltran on the 5th of December.

Now, after winning the whole enchilada in 2017, the Astros off-season add-on moves did not really happen until the Winter Meetings a year ago. They had a real need for bullpen assistance after the melt-downs of the 2017 playoff run and so they picked up Joe Smith on Dec. 13th and Hector Rondon on Dec. 15th. This was overshadowed by the huge trade on Jan. 13 for Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. But basically, the Astros did not make any moves of significance until the Winter Meetings.

Which leads us to this year and the 2018 Winter Meetings which begin today, Dec. 9th. The Astros in this off-season have made two mid-ish moves before the meetings in trading for utility man Aledmys Diaz (can we call him Al – because I keep having to re-look up his name every time I type it) and signing free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos.

To most interested parties (e.g. fans), it is obvious the Astros should be planning on making more moves and the sooner the better (from our point of view). We would like Chirinos to be a second-string catcher behind someone better they pick up soon. We would like another Morton or Cole-like move for the rotation. And we would like to see a big bat added to the outfield.

Of course, Jeff Luhnow works in a world where he will make moves, if any, on his own timetable. He will look at the value of who they want and the value of what it will take. He will look at how the market is shaking out and whether waiting a bit may bring the costs down. He will be looking at whether certain moves may block someone they like a lot. He may also decide that his best value may be to wait on certain moves – maybe even wait until the trade deadline.

So, do you think anything will happen during the Winter Meetings and what should it be?

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103 comments on “Eventful or anti-climactic? Astros head to the winter meetings

    • No, no, no. Argentine beef goes on a baguette. The rye gets some nice pastrami. Okay, so Dan pulled us away from the Texans discussion. But there is nothing yet to say about the winter meetings that we have not already discussed, so let’s just hijack this thread and focus on our favorite sandwiches.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. On the last post, point about Josh Harrison. Can’t see where he fits except he played 100 more games in the outfield that Diaz. But when the Pirates pay you $1 million to go away, he doesn’t sound like an improvement.

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    • I don’t see a fit in Houston. Marwin is likely to get paid well. Harrison is likely to look like a bargain in comparison. The problem is that although Harrison is extremely versatile, his bat is not tremendous. We already have some defensive flexibility in the infield. Harrison’s bat has more power, but less production than Tony Kemp likely projects…so sticking him in LF feels like a net loss. I think it’s just sportswriters being sportswriters.

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  2. One of my favorites lately is a French dip at Murphy’s deli in our building. Just sliced roast beef with some cheese and horse radish sauce. They give you some au jus sauce on the side to dip your sandwich in – quite nice

    I am running out of things to write about at the moment – so anything y’all want to hit on here like sandwiches is good with me

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    • Many moons ago, there was a place in Town and Country Village called Soups, Salads and Sandwiches, run by a Greek guy. They had lot’s of good stuff in there and still my favorite roast beef sandwich in Houston, on good French bread (I don’t know where he got it in the 70’s) although the gravy was thicker than the prototypical French Dip jus.

      If you ever get to LA, go to The Original Philippe. Opened in 1908, they claim to have invented that sandwich. I was there once and would go back. Perfect.

      See this sandwich conversation is enticing. I’m getting hungry.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Astros have to spots open on the 40-man roster. That doesn’t seem like much. Their problem lies with the fact that they must wait until the season is nearly open before they put Martes and LMJ on the 60-day DL.
    I believe the Astros will be looking for value everywhere.
    You know, Chirinos had a tough job in Arlington. The Rangers had Hamels, who always acted like he was too good to be stuck there, and they had signed a bunch of #5 starters to go with Hamels. It had to be tough for Chirinos to go out there in 110 degree weather and catch that crew, play the field with that group of losers for a guy like Jeff Bannister. Maybe we see a different Chirinos this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And now for the NC weather report. Snow at 10 inches and still falling. I’ll take a grilled cheese sandwich with my cup of home made vegetable beef soup. As for Chirinos could he be a “Catcher on Rye”?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A good Cuban sandwich is hard to beat. At Citi Field the Mets used to have a concession stand that was nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches. They served them 6 different ways, as I remember, which means I could eat there for a week.

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  6. After a little too rum, I thought I heard Kneel-on-the-Diamond singing this Ode to the 2018 versions of George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose’ Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, and one or two more . . . .

    You don’t hit for power;
    you don’t make the big plays;
    you don’t get us all juiced anymore,
    when you step out of the circle and up to the plate.

    We remember when . . .
    we couldn’t wait to see you;
    we knew you’d surely come through;
    now after watching last year’s O-fer nights;
    when we need a big rally, and we shout ‘MVP’ –
    seems like you just roll over – double play, 6-4-3!

    Cause you don’t hit for power anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve always liked Schlotsky’s sandwiches – mostly for their tasty bread.
    Went to a hole in the wall in Webster called Frenchie’s Italian Restaurant (don’t ask) – they had these huge tasty sandwiches with the freshest bread / roll.

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  8. Mlbtraderumors says the Astros did not try hard to get Eovaldi thru free agency – that they are more interested in adding pitching thru trade

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  9. Oh, but it is safe to come to the conclusion that the Texans have gotten their butts kicked in the first half. But we’ll get to see what they are really made of in the second half. They let Luck throw for 237 in a half.

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  10. The Astros signed Chirinos. Before you get too excited, consider this… he is pretty much Evan Gattis’ defense with Jake Marisnick’s offense. Look at the stats and you will find they back this up. ……And to get this gem, we outbid ourselves (once again) to secure his services at $5.75M (even when the lowly Rangers declined him at $4.5M and even though he was not listed as a top 10 FA catcher).

    There better additional moves to shore up catcher (up the middle D), starting pitcher and DH/ OF depth on the horizon.

    So far, we are net negative in improving the talent of this team.

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    • I don’t quite understand the 5.75 for Chirinos unless Altuve is paying part of it, and I say that half jokingly, but I’d rather have White as my DH than Gattis. If left alone and given the at bats, he’ll produce.

      As for the other needs, I’m willing to wait a bit longer for Christmas.

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  11. Not saying a word about Chirinos. I had a dream last night that Luhnow traded for Bauer……and he and Bregman became best friends! Or maybe I had a nightmare and the two of them *hated* each other!! We either:
    1.sign a starting pitcher (no idea)
    2.go into the season with Verlander, Cole, McHugh, Josh James and Framber Valdez. Or put Valdez in the bullpen.
    3. Another bat???? No idea.
    4. Trade the farm (minus Whitley ) for the Marlins catcher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ive been to Katz many a time AC. great sandwiches, heavenly blueberry blintzes. he and his son had difficulties with each other and unfortunately ended up closing in austin.

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  12. Didn’t they give Chirinos just over 6 mil? I don’t think that’s backup catcher money. I think he is here to catch 800 innings, at least, if not close to 900. Not saying I am happy about it, but the Astros have enough holes that Luhnow probably feels like a finger is plugging that one now. Is there no chance for Maldonado to return and catch 500 or so?

    I would like to see them resign Charlie, even if its 15 mil for a year. Heck he can pitch 20 games and 150 innings in the 5 spot as long as he is there for the playoffs.

    DK was great, give him a standing O next time he comes to town, but he isn’t worth 17-18 mil a year, at least not every year, and that is probably what he is looking for. Besides, in the playoffs he finds it harder to trick hitters for good teams the way he tricks the rest, and is prone to the bad inning.

    Hopefully McHugh gets his job back, but does as the 5 guy that moves to the BP for the playoffs.

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    • i am ready to move on from keuchel. appreciate his time in houston and will cheer for him when he doesnt play us, but even though he has some gas left in the tank, his best days are past. 2,3,4 years from now he wont be worth anywhere near 20 mill a season.

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  13. I don’t know what metrics they use to judge Chirinos. He only threw out 10% of baserunners last year which is an anomaly for him – he’s normally 25% or above. They may be looking at what happened last year as more to blame with the pitchers.
    Hitting-wise he seems a lot like McCann did when we picked him up. Not great batting average with good power.
    The Rangers may have chosen not to re-up him simply because they wanted to head in a newer, younger, cheaper direction, but ….it still seems like a little high to offer if this is going to be your backup.
    But it’s hard to judge money in the majors anymore. Could I be anymore middle of the road – wishy-washy on this?

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  14. I believe that the Astros have made two quality additions to their club in Diaz and Chirinos. Diaz is a very good infielder with a history of not striking out. Chirinos is a catcher who is a starter and has a better bat than any of the catchers we had last season. To get four controllable years of Diaz for a pitching prospect is a good deal for the Astros this particular year and in the position the Astros find themselves without Marwin.
    I believe the Astros want to add a starting pitcher because they want to be in a similar situation they had last year when they had a ton of good choices for the rotation. I don’t believe they are desperate. I believe they are spoiled by last years pitchers and want to be in the same position again. I have a ton of confidence in Valdez and James to get major league hitters out. I also don’t think that Armenteros is on the 40-man because of luck. I think he is a pitcher.
    The Astros have two all-star quality starting pitchers, a proven top tier closer, an All-Star SS, 3B, 2B and CF. They have two average catchers and another in AAA that I think could be a major league catcher for years. They have a bullpen that had the lowest ERA in baseball last year and a good bench.
    I believe if Correa and Altuve had been healthy last fall that the Astros would have won the World Series.
    So, yes, I think the Astros are still going to be a beast. I want Morton, and I still want another proven bat added to the lineup. But, right now this team is a 2019 WS contender just as they are and they have a GM who will add to the team is he feels like it is a good deal for the organization.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. i am hoping chirinos is a catcher the pitchers like throwing to and calls the game in a way that gives the pitchers confidence. if he does, that alone may be enough. i havent seen him enough to know, but based on luhnows track record i trust that this was at least a decent move and maybe an under the radar good move.

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    • Another blast from the past, Jerome Williams, who pitched here in 2014, retired. He had not pitched in the majors since 2016, pitching independent ball the last couple years.

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  16. Sandy, are you out there and OK? We have not heard from you since December 1st, if I am correct about that. Hope you are well and taking a vacation.

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  17. ok i really expect luhnow will do something big. he’s done it in the past and tried to do it again last year. i usually dont like sending prospects for a one year rental, like was proposed for harper. we were offering a good up and coming pitcher and catcher among other players for that rental. had harper energized our offense to the point that we repeated as world series champs, it would have been worth it. luhnow must have thought along those same lines or he wouldnt have offered. now what will he do that is big. i dont know but i think he will only do it when the benefit equals the cost. realmuto comes to mind. but the real question may be WHEN does he do it. winter meetings? january? spring training? during the season? at the deadline? passed through waivers after the deadline? danged if i know, but i bet he does do something big.
    he seems to believe the farm system is strong enough to give up a few players for the right deal and still be a strong system. so do i.

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    • I may be way off base, but I don’t think anything happens with Realmuto until the FA catchers sign and everyone can see what they got in salary. As those chips start to fall, the Marlins will have fewer suitors.

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  18. Marlins, Mets, and yankees….are in a 3 team talks, you can bet the talks are sending the Marlins catcher to the Mets, and Noah Syndergaard will go to the yankees. I wonder how that kid feels about going to the other New York team who will throw you out on the street if you’re not the second coming of the great
    Cy Young in your first year with them. That’s exactly what happened to Sonny Grey. By the way, yes the Astros HAVE been in on Realmuto.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Crane knows how good it feels to win it all, and wants to do it again!
      Great news! Luhnow wants to add guys through trades, because we have a nice surplus of good (great) talent, and if he is successful doing that, more power to him…..but it’s nice to hear our owner has given the go ahead to spend if he has to!

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  19. With so many players changing teams and so much upheaval in the sports world. And the political world. I will not be accepting the job of head coach of the Packers nor Browns. I will not playing for the Astros nor any other MLB team in 2019. Later years have not been ruled out. And I will not be seeking nor will I accept (borrowed from LBJ) any political party nominations to run as their presidential candidate. Currently I can not announce which sandwich I will have for lunch tomorrow nor am I obligated to eat a sandwich, but should one appear, the chances increase that it will be consumed. Any further information will have to come from my wife. This is all that she allowed me to say.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was chuckling yesterday, because I’m pretty sure that Luhnow noted a month or so ago that his aim was to pick up a good value free agent or two rather than sending off in house talent in trades. Let’s face it. It’s all intentional horse dookie. He’ll do what he wants to do and we’ll have absolutely no idea what he’s up to until it happens. I’m okay with that.

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      • Have to agree with you daveb – Luhnow is really difficult to read and I think intentionally so. He’s a grand chess master and a poker player rolled into one. Of course if they don’t win the World Series after he let all his right hand and left hand men go – we will turn on him.

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  20. In my younger days I loved ham and swiss with butter and hot mustard on French bread..
    If I want a sub, it’s a Subway club on white bread with the same ingredients I’ve been getting for 40 years.
    I love a Whataburger double with bacon. Mayo
    Alternate is an Arby’s Cordon Bleu Chicken.
    For me, it’s not really a hot dog without chili and cheese.
    Today, it’s whole wheat with a side order of diabetes and I hate it! Pass the damn oatmeal, please.
    On my sandwich today, I’d like a Kluber, a Brantley, a Realmuto and a few AAA guys to go in trade. I would not mind if some freight logistics guy picked up my tab for me. I learned many years ago that a grocery supply guy would not buy anything to satisfy my hunger.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When I was a kid I really loved peanut butter (no jelly) on toast. It would just melt in there and be really yummy.
      I do love the Whataburger Patty Melt -a lot of the other Whataburgers are a little on the dry side.
      When I was in high school I worked at Whataburger in Spring Branch – did everything from cashier to cook and even closed the store as an assistant manager. No horror stories from working there – well run and as clean as a place that produce tons of grease a day can be – I have no second thoughts about eating there, but not interested in ever doing that work again.

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    • I’m still a sandwich fanatic. I just don’t eat them as often. Brisket with extra sauce, pickles and onions. Pastrami Reuben. An Italian sub with oregano, olive oil and balsamic on good crusty bread. A New York meatball hero with melted mozzarella. Good old fashioned grilled cheese with the tomato soup we mentioned yesterday. A traditional club sandwich with bacon and leftover roasted chicken. A shrimp po-boy. Dan, I still do a peanut better sandwich most mornings, but I put bad stuff on it, good preserves. I could go on. Alas, my cholesterol level does not allow such enjoyment so often these days.

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  21. Thanks for the concern OP. My right hand is in a cast and it’s impossible to type. But I still read what y’all have to say fist thing every morning. It’s even hard to hold the iPad and tap the like button so I just read. Been enjoying all the sandwiches while we wait for something to happen.
    By the way, had hubby type this this so any typos are on him.
    Be back hopefully around Christmas. In the meantime, thanks for the entertainment.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. Mike Elias is the new GM for the Orioles. So here is what MLB.com say about his needs as the Winter meetings get under way:
    “Besides a new manager and coaching staff, the biggest needs include a middle infielder to pair with Jonathan Villar, a third baseman and multiple outfielders”
    Oh, boy!

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    • The biggest need may be to replace his current middle infielder (Villar) with someone who won’t strike out 138 times while walking only 41 times and hitting only 29 extra base hits.

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  23. And just so you have some hope – I have a new blog entry coming that has nothing to do with this off-season or this eternal waiting. Of course this is the season of Advent so maybe waiting is more apropos than I thought.

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  24. In a huge contrast of transactions, the Jays will pay Tulowitzky $38 million to go away and the Phillies will pay McCutchen $50 million to join them.
    Is there any wonder why Luhnow makes his moves carefully?
    The drive to win in baseball is as intoxicating as the rut is to deer. Much of the time, it doesn’t end well.

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      • Carlos Lee actually performed very well for most of his contract. He averaged 111 RBI and 25 HR per season during his stay. He also boosted the local economy substantially by creating a boom in the all you can eat buffet market.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes C Lee had some good seasons but things changed and the downward trend started for both him and the team. The Astros used to back load contracts. I hated that in that if a player under performed in the later years there was no way you could unload/trade him because he just cost too much. I used to point this out years ago on the “chronicle (spit)” blog.

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  25. I read an interesting scenario on twitter regarding 2 potential (theoretical) Astros moves:

    1) Trade – Reddick, Cionel Perez and a low- level prospect for Greinke plus $15M salary offset.

    This move makes a lot of sense. The $15M offset would leave Greinke owed $80.5M over the next 3 seasons, or $26.8M per year. That’s probably about what he would command on the FA market and would shed Reddick’s remaining 2 years at $13 per year.

    2) Sign Bryce Harper at 10/350.

    I have never been a huge Harper fan but this is a move that also makes sense. First, I think he will produce offensively commensurate with the contract (could you imagine him playing in MMP with the short corner porches?). Second, I don’t believe he is the defensive liability that some say. He is too good of an athlete not to perform well in the field and I think 2018 was an anomaly. Having Machado on the market at the same time takes at least one big spending suitor out of the market for Harper and thins the competition for him. No state income tax plus the opportunity to contend for a WS title every year could be the impetus he needs to sign.

    I don’t know if these 2 moves will be a reality (or even on the Astros radar), but you have to admit they would make the team better and that Harper would put a lot of additional butts in the seats, stimulate merchandise sales and create a lot of fervor. I also think that the contract could be flipped via trade in the future if needed (ala Stanton).

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    • Man – 10 years just seems so – out there. I know he’s young and I know that $35 million won’t be as much 5 or 6 years out – but let’s say he doesn’t live up to his contract or gets badly hurt and you have that anchor (think Albert Pujols) hanging around your neck.
      Greinke makes more sense to me – he is still pitching well and he would help us span past possibly losing Verlander and Cole.
      I feel like if they take Reddick off our hands they may not want to buy down much contract
      Interesting ideas both.

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      • Dan, I don’t totally disagree, however the contract would be insured against debilitating injury. He’s also much younger (26 vs 32) and more athletic than Pujols was when he signed with the Angels, so I think the drop in production risk is a lot lower. And he doesn’t come with recurring leg/ foot issues that Pujols had.

        I also like the Greinke scenario better, but from everything I have read they have indicated zero willingness to throw in any money on his contract. Kind of makes it hard to envision happening.

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    • I don’t want to scare anyone, but Luhnow traded for Gattis bc his analytics predicted 30HR into the Crawford boxes each year. I have no doubt they crunched the numbers and think Harper gets into the RF upper deck 20+ times a year. I think the only thing holding up a deal with Harper will be an insistence upon a player opt-out. He’ll sign somewhere for a ridiculous amount – my guess is 12 years, $400M … But it will really be a 5 year deal with opt out and some team options in those later years for insurance.

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  26. There does not seem to be a lot of interest in Keuchel, apart from the Reds and Braves.

    Interesting and enlightening article at SI.com on why the lack of interest.

    https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/12/10/dallas-keuchel-winter-meetings-free-agency

    I wonder if Keuchel’s negative comments about managements lack of moves to strengthen the team during the 2016 season (and on other occasions) caused any strain on the relationship. Would the Astros be in the market for him if he could be had for something in the neighborhood of 3 to 4 years at $15 – 17/ season? At this point I just don’t see anyone throwing a lot of years or a lot of AAV at him. He could age very well and remain effective as a soft tossing pitcher with elite stuff (like a Greg Maddux or Mark Buerhle) or become totally ineffective like many other, similar pitchers that lose a few ticks on the FB.

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    • I don’t want him back for exactly those same reasons. He’d be a solid 4 or 5 guy during the regular season, in that he’s good for 200 innings if you need them, but as OP noted correctly earlier, I don’t want to see him starting a playoff game and I don’t want to see him come out of the pen. I think we can replace his innings with multiple guys already in house and be more successful ultimately, at a small fraction of the cost.

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      • If Luhnow let’s Charlie walk I may never watch this team again. I’m not kidding I just love that guy, he is just like McHugh….they are BOTH soo cerebral pitchers! Sooo smart, and soo great full for the opportunity to pitch for this organization. Guys like Charlie and Collin don’t come around very often, both of them have my heart❤ but Charlie for sure!

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  27. Some things I have churning in the noggin:
    -Even if Realmuto is the best catcher around, it’s obvious that the Marlins want more than he is worth for two years. The Marlins need to accept his market value or that value is going to drop as other teams move on.
    -Rumors of the Astros being willing to deal Bukauskas and Perez tells me that the Astros are more interested in big pitchers with big arms, than small pitchers with big arms. Those two are the smallest pitchers in our Top 30 prospects. I assume the same holds true in who the Astros look for in pitchers to sign or trade for. Big guys with big arms.
    -I think the Astros will be finished wheelin and dealin by opening day. Just don’t think we are going to see only tweeks.
    -Amazing! Even the Red Sox feel like they are in a payroll crunch.
    -Yeah, I’m holding my breath for a 3-way trade with the Mets, the Yanks and Jeter.
    -I like the Tigers’ signing of Tyson Ross.
    -I have not seen so much talk and so little substance since election day.
    -Did I read that Roberts wanted the Dodgers to match what Hinch makes, but they wouldn’t and he settled for less?

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  28. Chandler Rome of the Chronicle on twitter:
    *Aledmys Diaz will play 1B, 2B, SS, 3B and LF in spring training.
    *LH reliever is not at the top of the Astros shopping list. Cionel Perez and Framber will go to spring training to be stretched out as starters, with LH reliever as a viable option for them on the club.
    *Both Whitley and Corbin Martin are high on Luhnow’s list. Both will be invited to the major league spring training with both being part of the Astros future plans as starting pitchers, perhaps as early as this coming year.
    *Luhnow was not so excited by Whitley’s 110mph exhibition video.
    *Luhnow says they made a few offers today and are playing the “waiting game”.

    Like

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