Astros’ front office facing a new phase this off-season


The Astros entered a brand new phase in this off-season, something this particular front office had not had to face since taking over in Houston.

Major Losses in the front office

After a few nips and tucks over the last few years (like David Stearns going to Milwaukee), this off-season brought a major overhaul as long time right and left-hand men to Jeff Luhnow, Sig Mejdal and Mike Elias, headed off to do a re-build in Baltimore as Assistant GM and GM respectively. A smart guy like Luhnow no doubt has had replacements lined up for Mejdal and Elias, but whoever takes their place will not have all the experience and the years of interface with Luhnow that these two men have. This will be a test whether “The Process” can work as efficiently without their presence.

Losing Valued Free Agents

Before this off-season, who was the best Free Agent that this particular Front Office let walk away since they took over. Mike Fiers? Jason Castro? Pat Neshek? Luke Gregerson? Colby Rasmus? Certainly, these players have had some value after they left, but it would be fairly truthful that up to this season, the team has not really lost any players it really wanted back badly. This season it could be argued that they have lost 3 players they really would have liked back, but thought they would be too expensive to bring back. We know they had tried to extend Dallas Keuchel previously and did extend a qualifying offer to him. Marwin Gonzalez brought a lot of flexibility and value to the team. Charlie Morton was one of their greatest reclamation projects (along with Collin McHugh) and they would have liked him back. But they did not win Morton back, have more or less replaced Marwin and are not likely in the lottery for DK.

This Front Office does not let its heartstrings distract it from its ultimate goal of global domination (in a baseball sense). They lost short term but probably win long term.

Big Arbitration Year

All teams have to face some kind of arbitration decisions each year, but rarely does a team have ten such players at one time. The Astros have come to terms with seven of the individuals, Will Harris, Jake Marisnick, Ryan Pressly, McHugh, Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock and Roberto Osuna. They will attempt to come to an agreement with Carlos Correa, Gerrit Cole and Chris Devenski before having to face them in arbitration.

Yesterday, a friend of the blog, Zanuda, wondered if that not agreeing with Cole, Correa and Devo signalled the team would probably lose them eventually to Free Agency. Possibly, because we know that Cole and Correa belong to Scott Boras, who will undoubtedly want to squeeze more juice out of the turnip than this F.O. may think they are worth.

Future Losses

The big elephant in the room that bloggers and fans are talking about, but that the team has not mentioned publicly is potential future losses for the team. They could easily lose 3/5 of their rotation at the end of the season, McHugh, Cole and Justin Verlander. George Springer is under control for two years as is Brad Peacock. Could they try to extend a Correa beyond his three seasons, or attempt to extend (probably unsuccessfully) anyone who is coming off in the next couple years?  It would not surprise anyone if the Astros fill in the 2 spots behind the top three with youth to know what they will have after this season.

Big Payroll

After having a rock bottom payroll between 2012 and 2015 and not getting above league average (according to Spotrac.com) until 2018, the team is facing a season where there have been murmurings about teasing the $206 million threshold for the luxury tax as a team. Unless the Astros unexpectedly sign a Bryce Harper in the off-season, they won’t get there, but the much bigger payrolls they have been seeing lately also lead to more expectations and possibly more pressure on the front office.

However, this is a front office that has shown ice water in their veins when it comes to player value. The only real extended contract they have handed out was to their very best player, Jose Altuve. Now would they have given him that same contract if he was 32 years old? Probably not.

Bottom line, the Astros front office tore down a rotting structure down to its foundation when they took over in the off-season of 2011. They built a team that has been one of the best in the majors the last two seasons. The challenge at this point is sustainability, something that Luhnow’s former team the Cardinals has been adept at providing. Can he do the same here with the Astros? It would be foolish to vote against him.

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61 comments on “Astros’ front office facing a new phase this off-season

  1. As the Astros continued to lead the way in shifting and analytics I expected the losses in the front office to happen sooner than they did.
    I think the floodgates got opened when the Astros led every league in MILB and MLB in strikeouts by pitchers. Everybody is following the Astros, including the Red Sox with Cora.
    I think the June Draft will be a sign of whether the Astros still have the cutting edge in their front office.
    I think if the Astros had wanted Morton bad enough, they would have signed him and I will say again that the Astros have known all along that Keuchel was not going to sign and extension.
    I am not concerned with arbitration. These players have agents, so they know the drill and so does Luhnow.
    There is not another team that is below the salary line, is loaded to the point where they are one of the favorites to win the WS and has a minor league system in the top 7 or 8 in the league.
    I think that being an annual contender is well within the Astros’ realm, including 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t read spit.com premium articles.
    I can’t read Baseball America articles.
    I can’t read ESPN premium articles.
    I can’t read Boston Globe or New York Times articles or articles in the Athletic.
    I am not going to pay for subscriptions on the internet. I can’t afford it.

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  3. There’s probably a void left in the front office, but I’m sure Jeff Luhnow has already addressed it. Brandon Taubman was hired as an analyst and he’s worked himself up to Luhnow’s, right hand man, I’m sure Luhnow hasn’t been sitting on his hands since those guys left. Look….at some point Luhnow is going to have to go head to head with Scott Boras. There are a lot of guys who are represented by the guy. Drayton McClane absolutely DESPISE him, and swore he would never sign another player who was represented by him…think Carlos Beltran.
    One month from today the catchers and pitchers report to Florida, I certainly hope we have a new pitcher to watch pitch. Although……I’m not getting my hopes up. I got a new Astros calendar for Christmas, and the only guy on it that sours it is Ken Giles. Oh and I got a very cool Astros umbrella too!
    Sorry I’ve been short tempered lately I’ll try to keep my mouth shut.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Man I’m feeling old. Other than Luhnow, everyone else with a picture looks younger than some of the pairs of shoes in my closet…..which in this new analytical world is probably what is needed.
      Not seeing any grey hairs there…..

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      • I’ve had several jolting moments in my life as to age recognition. One when I realized most of the professional athletes were younger than me, another when it hit me in the face that most of them are younger than my kids. Since I have no grandkids yet, probably won’t be around for the next stage of that progression. Thank goodness for golf. When Tom Watson almost pulled off the British Open a few years ago, well by golly there was a stroke for Geezerhood!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. -I predict that Kyler Murray is going to be as big a star in the NFL as he was going to be in MLB.
    -The team that takes Sonny Gray off the Yankees payroll, makes the Yankees the winner of the trade from the first minute it’s made.
    -Did you know that Stephen Strasberg will make $15 million in both 2021 and 2022 and $45 million in 2023 before becoming a free agent in 2024?
    -Which is why Patrick Corbin will make only $24.4 million in 2023, but jumps to $34.4 million in 2024, when Strasberg’s contract ends.
    -Apparently, Machado and Harper loved the drama of the Ohtani soap opera and want to do the Hollywood version of deciding where to play baseball. I wonder if anybody else but me is praying this blockbuster flop doesn’t come to their team. Two and a half months to decide who they’re gonna suck all the blood out of. Here’s hoping there is a lot less blood than they wanted.
    -The Giants are all in with Derek Holland.
    -The Cleveland Browns are in a class of one.
    -Fangraphs has projected more accumulated WAR for 20 year old Vlad Guerrero, Jr in 2019 than everybody else on the Astros except Bregman. More than Altuve or Verlander or Cole or Correa. Guerrero has less than 400
    PAs in AA and AAA combined.

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    • Your dig at the Browns reminded me of the Bum Phillips quote on Earl Campbell. He may not be in a class by himself self but it doesn’t take long to call the roll.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I heard a Bumism the other day I’d never heard. Seems one training camp all the running backs had to get timed in a one mile run and Earl came in last. Some worried sportswriter reported this fact to Bum who replied: “well, if we ever have third and a mile I won’t give Earl the ball. But he can have it the rest of the time.”

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      • AC, Forrest and I had run our shrimp boat right up on the edge of the field that day to sell shrimps to the players. We heard Bum say that about Earl. It’s the truth if you ever toldt it.
        Forrest? He was a good one. He had five great pitches and was tall as a tree. Once threw a baseball 110 miles per hour.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I often look through mlbtraderumors chats with the fans (and no I am not getting paid by that web site to promote them).
    What I’ve found so fascinating with the site’s writers is that they are just so positive that Harper and Machado are going to or should be getting these $300+ million offers. They really side with the players over the owners (which is OK – I am on neither’s side) and they really think the sport is heading for a work stoppage after their agreement runs out after the 2021 season.
    The interesting part of this in my mind is that it is the length of the contracts that are nuts. Even with younger guys like Harper and Machado is it really collusion if teams want to put the cap at 7 or 8 seasons? If I had the need (and the money) I would give these guys $30 million/yr but not over 10 seasons.
    I think the Astros have been so smart in what they have done over time. They have continued to raise their payroll with the better performance of the team, but they have not done anything that could be an anchor to drag this team under.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was thinking earlier today, are those guys going to refuse 250 or 275 over 7 or 8 if they don’t get a Stanton deal? Are they going to sit it out? Markets change. Is there a rule that says a baseball player is always worth more, every year?

      Liked by 3 people

  6. What I adore is the writers who are saying baseball is broken. I just laugh at their stupidity, because baseball has been broken for years and now it seems to be starting to fix itself.
    Not one writer said anything about baseball being broken when guys like Josh Hamilton and the Fat Panda were stealing dumb owners blind. Now that dumb owners are not so dumb anymore, they say the system is broken.
    But the owners are starting to hire geniuses in their front offices who are smart enough to tell the owners when they are going to get fleeced.
    Nobody ever accused ballplayers, who made their way through high school and three years of college with a ball and a bat, of being geniuses. The expression genius ballplayer is an oxymoron. And they don’t hire geniuses to represent themselves, they hire sharks as their agents and their union reps.
    Baseball is huge business and it makes big bucks for owners. It’s guys like the owners of the A’s and the Rays, who make the big bucks and won’t spend any of it who give the game a bad name. But, they end up with empty stadiums and the other owners give them money to keep them rich, so what is the incentive to change that. Pittsburg, Tampa and Oakland are the farm teams for the rest of MLB, so the owners feed them money with TV deals and sharing the wealth with payoffs to small markets.
    The system that is broken is the communications industry. 90% of it is starving and the other 10% is controlling the entire planet. That needs fixing!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When Bump Wills came up in the ‘70s, Daddy Maury was upset at the low pay. It was about $19,000. That is about $78,000 today. I remember sitting in the stands thinking, heck I make almost as much as a MLB player. Not a lot of 30 year old making $500,000 today EXCEPT MLB players.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Speaking of broken- I wonder when the players are going to demand that Marvin Miller be in the Hall of Fame. These multi- millionaires would still be selling insurance in the off season if it were not for him. The owners and sports writers never will (maybe even some fans) but that guy righted a wrong and the players today probably don’t even know who he was.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And the spoiled millionaires leave their brothers in the minors to work for less than minimum wage and won’t lift a finger to use their leverage to get things changed.
      But Karma is coming as millionaire plus-30 ballplayers find themselves being replaced by prospects who they held hostage in the minor leagues.
      One of these days teams and players will figure out that it isn’t right to make 21 year-olds work all year for $10,000 while they average $4,000,ooo a year.
      How about the minor leagues as a broken system that nobody cares to fix.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Daveb7….the off season so far sure does suck. I’m sooo over all the drama with Harper and Machado, it’s not funny. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb 13th, it’s my “hope” that we would have signed another starting pitcher, but I’m not holding my breath. Went to the Casino last Saturday….had to leave the cards because two people at our table were loud and drunk. Slots saved me!

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  10. This off-season so far is the difference between watching someone tip a single domino that triggers a million dominoes to fall in some beautiful patterns and instead watching someone taking weeks to set up those dominoes.
    At some point action will occur, but it could be right before Spring Training or even during it.
    Both sides have a point in this multi-billion dollar standoff.
    – The ballplayers do not get as big a cut of the revenue as they do in the other two sports, though unlike the NFL the total of their contracts are guaranteed no matter how they perform
    – The owners are going – when has a uber-long contract made any sense over the last half of it? If folks in the past have not been worth what they were given long term – why compound the problem by giving them uber long and bigger bucks per season

    Now one difference is this – Machado and Harper are coming out at very young ages. It is rare to see any really desirable free agent appear before they are 30 y.o. and here you have two guys in their mid-20’s.

    The Astros success has to be tying into some of these folks thinking. The Astros built a WS winner for one season that was a WS contender the next and certainly is a favorite to contend for the WS again without ridiculous contracts either length of cost per season. Other teams have to be going – I want some of that.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Yes, all of the advanced metrics provided to GM’s and owners by their own employees today allow for them to see the picture much more clearly. Formally, the gussied up massaged documents bound in leather binders touting their clients worth by the agencies representing them were often taken as gospel, even by those paying for those lengthy contracts.

    And just as importantly, today there are so many baseball publications and blogs and independent writers that explain why most all long term contracts don’t make sense, even to guys like me who don’t like to absorb too much in the way of analytics.

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    • They will need a good pen with that rotation.
      Who will let them off the hook by taking Gray off their hands?
      The Astros are lurking, waiting to see what is going to happen with Harper and Machado.

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      • Lurking for who? I’m sure the brain trust has somebody in mind but as we have mentioned, our impatience is showing. Spring training can’t get here soon enough.

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      • i’m hoping the astros come out of the shadows for a veteran starting pitcher with at least #3 credentials and a major league catcher. to me i think the outfield and infield are pretty solid now and the pen as well, as long as we dont have to rob it too much for the rotation.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Lurking in the shadows waiting for the rest of the baseball world to see that Machado and Harper will join a bunch of others who will not get near as much money as was predicted. A bunch of others who won’t get as many years as predicted.
    When the true value of players has gotten to it’s proper level, then the Astros will go for proper value.
    There was a great comment tonight about how Cody Allen would have gotten “Mark Melancon” money, had he had a good year for Cleveland. But that statement has to wake people up, because look what Mark Melancon has not done since Mark Melancon got “Mark Melancon” money. And that right there is the reason why prices and years are falling!
    The same holds true with trade values. Teams will no longer overpay in trades if they know what is good for them and the Astros know what is good.
    Everybody has said Miami wants too much for JT Realmuto. Either the price will come down where it’s supposed to be or Miami will be stuck with an unhappy catcher on a losing team as his return drops with every passing month.

    Liked by 2 people

    • All good points. The unfortunate result is a disgruntled Players Associaton leadership and then players blaming owners for not paying them what their agents have told them they are worth

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      • Well, they could go on strike and apply for a job teaching in Oklahoma public schools for $38,000 a year. But, they won’t be able to get that job. They’re not qualified, because they passed up their free baseball scholarship funded college educations to play major league baseball.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Ruth at one point did not want a pay cut from the $80,000 even with the country in the throes of the Great Depression
      The writers reminded him that after all he was making more than the president and he replied something like “What the heck does Hoover have to do with it. I had a better year than him.”

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  13. Please welcome to our Hot Stove stage, for the first time ever, the FIVE STATINS, singing for us their oldie but goodie ‘In the Still of the Night’.

    In the still . . . of the night . . .
    waiting for somethin’ to happen with Bryce . . .
    or for Manny . . . Machado to sign,
    or for Gray to be traded, someone pour me some wine . . .
    in the still of the night.
    [OP1 singing bass: ‘In the still of the ni-ight’]

    In the still . . . of the night . . .
    Poor Realmuto’s . . . price has dropped out of sight!
    When will Dallas . . . and Marwin take flight?
    They cast their bread on the water . . . looks like no one will bite . . .
    in the still of the night.
    [Daveb singing tenor: “in the still … of the ni-ight!’

    Oh, I remember . . . the A.L.C.S. . . .
    the Stros . . . got beat . . . like a drum.
    Mookie Betts . . . and Benintendi . . .
    took us down, 4 games to one!

    So in the still . . . of the night . . .
    forgive me for hopin’ . . . Jeff will make it all right.
    And we’ll see the Yanks, Injuns and Sox . . .
    turn into turnips . . . or get chicken pox
    in the still . . . of the night.
    [all together now, in harmony: In the sti-ill . . . of the . . . ni-igh-ight!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I read a clip a couple of days ago, that the Astros “could” sign Keuchel since he is still standing on the mound with no offers, as the saying goes….”that ship has sailed”. If Luhnow wanted Keuchel to stay with this organization he would have already offered him a contract. I wonder if the Diamondbacks are still talking to Luhnow about Robbie Ray….he sure would look good in an Astros uniform!
    It’s not the “hot stove” it’s the….ice tea off season. Somebody needs to blink.

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    • I agree. Keuchel, Marwin, I don’t think they can come home again. I think the potential for resentment is too great. They certainly would not get close to what they had in mind from the Astros.

      The exception could conceivably be a one year deal for Dallas. But I’d rather he just move on at this point.

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  15. Blog report…..
    I joined a new project at work and have been totally buried by it.
    Brian T was going to write the next post, but …. family has called him away for the time being.
    I am working on a new post, which should be done tonight and posted tomorrow, so please be patient.
    Thanks for your loyalty

    Like

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