An early look at the Astros’ Plan B’s


In 2017, the Astros Championship year, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers missed significant time for the Astros. For players, we will say significant is at least 20-25 games (5 or more starts for starters).

In 2018, when the Astros were headed off in the ALCS, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Yuli GurrielJosh Reddick, Brian McCann, Lance McCullers and Chris Devenski missed significant time (and some of them tried to play though not fully healed).

It is critical that every MLB team have a Plan B (and probably C and D) in mind for every player and every position as it molds its roster and sets up its 40 man roster. This is especially critical for the Astros in a season when the very flexible Marwin Gonzalez will not be the main backup at 4 or 5 positions.

So, we will jump right into the discussion of Plan B’s for the 2019 Astros, based on the best guess at Plan A.

Catchers. The most likely scenario is that former Ranger Robinson Chirinos will be that starting catcher with Max Stassi as his backup. They never had to invoke the emergency backup last season (losing/using up two catchers in a game), but if they did it would have been long gone Evan Gattis. Not sure who they would put out there in an emergency in 2019. Tyler White? When they did need a longer-term injury sub in 2018, they used journeyman Tim Federowicz, but eventually got sick of him and traded for Martin Maldonado.

Plan B. The most likely backup would be youngster Garrett Stubbs, who hit well at AA and so-so at AAA. Perhaps Jamie Ritchie might end up being next man up or perhaps they might try to do another Maldonado pickup if things did not work out.

First Base.Yuli Gurriel will be the starter again in 2019 and will be spelled by DH Tyler White. Now if Gurriel misses significant time …

Plan B.If White rakes at DH like he did in 2018, it would seem that the Astros would fill in from below for 1B long-term. That would point to AAAA talent AJ Reed (.255 BA/.857 OPS/28 HR/ 108 RBI but 128 Ks). Taylor Jones was very good in half a season at AA and below average in a quarter season at AAA.

Second Base. Hopefully, Jose Altuve goes back to indestructible in 2019 and only gets subbed by Aledmys Diaz occasionally, especially since Diaz only has 2 games at second on his MLB resume.

Plan B. For short-term this would likely be Diaz or perhaps Yuli Gurriel who played 15 games at 2B last year (though not necessarily that well). For longer term maybe this is Tony Kemp, though they did not use him there in 2018 or perhaps spring training non-roster invitees like Jack Mayfield or Nick Tanielu.

Shortstop. Plan A is, of course, Carlos Correa and hopefully healthy back Carlos, not 60-year-old back Carlos. Past that it gets interesting.

Plan B. The best SS on the team even when Correa is well, maybe Alex Bregman. They might sub him at SS once in a while, but the natural backup at SS is Diaz, who has spent most of his career there. The bet is that for a longer term situation, Diaz would take over SS and they would bring up a hot bat from the minors to take over the super-sub spot.

Outfield. The normal configuration out here will be Michael Brantley in LF, George Springer in CF and Josh Reddick in RF. If Reddick can bounce back a bit offensively that is a very solid OF, especially after a season with LF manned mostly by Marwin Gonzalez, Kemp and Kyle Tucker.

Plan B. As things sit right now, Jake Marisnick would again be the main back-up at all three OF spots with occasional help from Kemp or maybe even Diaz. If something happened longer term, young Tucker (.332 BA/ .400 OBP/ .989 OPS at AAA) might be the next man up or maybe other top prospect Yordan Alvarez (.293/ .369/ .904 at AA/AAA) for a corner OF spot. Speedster Myles Straw (.291/ .381/ .734 with 70 SBs at AA/AAA) should be the next man up if a CF is needed. And if Marisnick falters or gets traded, Straw could be a cheaper alternative at that 4th OF spot.

SPs. Well the question here is first, what is Plan A? Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, Wade Miley and ….. let’s assume that #5 is Brad Peacock. If it is not, then he may be the first Plan B on the list.

Plan B. In 2017, ten pitchers started at least four games for the World Champions, so there has to be a Rolodex (kids ask your grandpa and grandma what a Rolodex is) of options to replace starters for injury or performance reasons. That list should include the three youngsters who showed pretty well in 2018, Josh James (2-0, 2.35 ERA in 23 MLB innings), Framber Valdez (4-1, 2.19 ERA in 37 MLB innings) and Cionel Perez (0-0, 3.97 ERA in 11 MLB innings). Of course, James has to heal first and when he does they may decide to keep him in the bullpen. Besides this set of youngsters the Astros have some other young studs in top MLB pitching prospects Forrest Whitley, Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas along with AAA stars Rogelio Armenteros and Brady Rodgers. Of course, if injuries or performance threaten to ruin the Astros run this season, they might look to make another big splash at the trade or waiver deadlines for a big arm.

RPs. Currently, Roberto Osuna is the closer with Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, Will Harris and Chris Devenski getting a lot of the late-inning set-up innings. Two of the three young guys (Josh, Framber and/or Cionel) should slide into the bullpen behind those five and compete for higher leverage innings along the way.

Plan B. Based on history, Rondon should be the backup closer, but based on 2018, Pressly may well have usurped that spot. The back-up for high leveraged set-up innings should first come from the youngsters stated above. From the minors, Dean Deetz (2-0, 0.79 ERA at AAA) or Brendan McCurry (6-7, 14 saves, 3.69 ERA) might be called up, but remember that the Astros were not shy in grabbing Pressly and Osuna in trades during 2018.

Bottom line, no team wants to put anyone but their very best players on the field every day. However, no team can win the whole enchilada unless they have reasonable and competent Plan B players available.

72 comments on “An early look at the Astros’ Plan B’s

  1. While I do agree with you that Stubbs is plan B at Catcher, I would make a correction and point out that his AAA battling numbers are a lot better than his AA numbers. The only thing that seems to be holding Stubbs back is the Astros view of him as a major league catcher.

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  2. Oops two booboos today
    – yes op I reversed Stubbs numbers in my head – good catch
    – I forgot to review DH. Well Tyler White who I am now calling Big Toffee is Plan A At DH. Brantley will probably sub for him at times along with giving guys a partial day off.
    For a longer substitution – maybe they put Brantley there and bring up Tucker or Alvarez to play left. Or maybe they see if there is a big bat no field guy available through trade or unsigned.

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  3. My take on replacing Marwin with Diaz is that he may be spending all of his time in Spring training working on his infield defense and working with his fellow infielders to get him in shape to play several different positions.
    My impressions of Diaz is one of a guy who has not spent a ton of time honing this craft. He was a starter in Cuba but lost several years in defecting and then got thrust into the major leagues. He was good with the bat but took a step back and immediately got traded from the team he chose to sign with, the Cardinals, to a team in another country, Toronto.
    I think the Astros want to try and teach him Marwinness and get him comfortable for a few weeks and then let him work on his hitting in the last stages of spring training.
    Because of his unique situation signing a 4-year deal right off the bat, Diaz still has his arbitration years ahead of him and the Astros are going to be patient with him now and see if they can indeed make a valuable utility guy out of him because they have several years of team control over him.
    For a guy whom they want to play several positions, Diaz has very little learning time in the minors, including 60 games in AAA over two seasons.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know nothing of Diaz but if Toronto played him for 130 games and has a WAR of 1.4 he can’t be terrible. Now he has been traded twice in two years for minor leaguers. But I say give him a chance. It is comparing horses to cows, but his WAR is ahead of Stassi, McCann, Gattis, Maldonado, etc for last year.

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  4. One of the things that has gone unnoticed about Yuli Gurriel is his splits.
    In 2017, his first full season, he struggled against lefties and hit righties well.
    In 2018 he made adjustments against lefties and hit them very well, but righties made adjustments to him and he slumped against them.
    I’m hoping that he can try to level out his hitting against all pitchers and stay healthy for the entire season and be a real threat in that lineup.
    As far as the DH goes, I would love to see Tyler White get the majority of ABs there and let Tony Kemp be the plan B at DH. He just seems to be getting better and better at the plate as he gets more exposed to major league pitching.
    I believe the Astos would love to see Brantley, Springer and Reddick as a great starting outfield and have Jake Marisnick be a sound plan B for all of them, with Straw in AAA, waiting in the wings and getting prepared for his time, which could be anytime.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We were watching the Astros on MLB TV today. Hey MLB TV! We were so very happy that you decided to preempt the baseball game between the Astros and the Mets to bring us, live, the introduction of Bryce Harper, for the Philadelphia Phillies! Not that we did not already know that he had signed with that club. Such breaking edge news there! By the way, we really did not want to see our home team, the Astros, score any runs so you took care of that with your preemption. Thank you so very much!! Now, that was such a stupid stunt by MLB there. They could have simply set the feed for those in the Philadelphia market and be done with it! UGH!!

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  6. One of the things we did get to see was Whitley getting himself into trouble, almost getting himself out of it, when Rojas blew out #3. Ramos then hit a grand slam off of Forrest and instead of falling apart like a youngster, he got the last out, pitched two more beautiful innings and actually ended up being the winning pitcher.
    The other thing we got to see was Bielak throwing 95-96. Then he got himself in trouble by walking 3 in the ninth, his Hooks teammate helping him out with a great play at 3B, and then Bielak gets a DP ball to end the game.

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      • With that remark, he should post comments on the “Spit dot com.” They are always having people post stuff like “Will Margo still pay LF for us this year?” or “I think we should trade DK for Kershaw.”

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  7. My plan B for the bullpen might involve a pitcher moving up from the minors late in the season like Josh James did last season. James came up to fill a rotation need, but got added to the playoff bullpen.
    I could see someone like JB Bukauskas doing the same thing this season and then figuring into the rotation plans for 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Harper might find out sooner rather than later how the fans in Philadelphia like their baseball players. But, hey he’s gonna be a multi millionaire so who cares.

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  9. Enjoyed this link to the top giveaways at each Major league park in 2019 and the following Astro connections:
    https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/mlb-s-best-ballpark-giveaways-in-2019
    – The Astro giveaway – A Kemp – Altuve Hugs for Homers should be cute and it has turned into a tradition and a charity fund raiser – too bad Evan Gattis is not part of it
    – The Rays – Cyzilla bobblehead for Blake Snell – is this a little rub it in your face giving it to Snell (who was deserving) in a game against the Astros and their deserving Cy candidates Verlander and Cole?
    – The Orioles – 30 year anniversary of “Why not” in a game against the Astros. This celebrates the O’s having a huge comeback year in 1989 after a 107 game season. Is this against the Astros to remind the fans what they are trying to do in Baltimore? Stink then shine?
    – The Red Sox – The Astros are not in town, thank the good Lord, but the Andrew Benintendi catch against Alex Bregman that undid the Astros last ALCS has been burned into our brains and no bobblehead is necessary
    – Rangers – Final game T-shirt – oh wait that is the final game at their “old” stadium (Globe life is only 25 years old) not the final game of the Texas Rangers…. darn
    – Brewers – Cecil Cooper Jersey night – Along with being a terrific player for the Red Sox and Brewers, he was also the Astros bench coach and became their first African American manager when he replaced Phil Garner. He had the Astros last winning season in 2008, the season that ironically died when Hurricane Ike forced them -thanks to Bud Selig – to play a “home” series against the Cubs – 90 miles up the road from Chicago at the Brewers stadium where this jersey will be handed out.
    – Reds – Will hand out a Yasiel Puig bobblehead (hopefully not licking his bat). I’ll always remember Puig being struck out by Chris Devenski to end the marathon 2nd game of the 2017 World Series against the Astros and give Houston our first WS win ever.

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  10. * One of the knocks I’ve had in the past on Carlos Correa was when he went off on his own workout regimen in the offseason, when the Astros had this army of trainers he could have been taking advantage of. Turns out that he admits to overdoing it in past offseasons, leading to his back injury.
    * Forrest Whitley signed a $3.148 million deal to join the Astros at age 18, so I never have to worry about him. He doesn’t pretend to be overwhelmed with where he is. I like him because he seems to know what he brings to the team and what he still needs to learn. I also really like the way his legs seem to be developing. Whitley had to go to the stretch exclusively in the past in order to calm down his delivery and now he is concentrating on getting himself a windup that coaches have given him.
    * People suddenly noticing Brandon Bielak. Where have they been? Guess I should probably point out Jayson Schroeder to them now.

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    • With the Astros it starts with an above average fastball. But beyond that, they are looking at pitchers who can add three average-to-above average pitches to go along with that fastball.
      There are five or 6 pitchers in the Astros top 30 prospects who don’t have that pitching repertoire, most importantly they are Josh James, Framber, Dean Deetz, Solis, Abreu, Paredes and Rogelio. These are likely to be pitchers who end up in the bullpen or somewhere else.
      Whitley, Martin, Bukauskas, Perez, Bielak, Solomon, Schroeder, Ivey and maybe Bailey are going to be pushed to continue to improve those grades on their best four pitches and being groomed as potential starters for down the road.
      Most importantly, the Astros are going to concentrate their scouting on trying to find guys like Bielak and Solomon with their upper round picks because they don’t plan on picking early in the draft for a long time. That is one of the reasons why they will covet the early round compensation picks they get when a guy leaves the organization to pursue free agency and turns down a QO.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. OP might correctly tell me I’m overreacting, it being only March 4. But I could see a scenario develop where both Jake and Kemp are in the dugout on Opening Day and the Astros decide to use 13 pitchers for various reasons. That would leave Tubby, a guy clearly also not using that army of professional trainers, without an option. I’d hate to lose Nephew, because I know he’s going to hit for someone, but I don’t feel his DH job is a slam dunk today.

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      • Sandy, with just 12 bats, I would imagine a DH by committee situation, which I am very much not in favor of. If Kemp kept getting on base, it would not be a terrible situation, but I want a high OPS guy in that role. And OP, I agree fully, if Tubby does not take himself seriously, then why would his teammates and management?

        Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with Sandy, for now! If White is not in shape, I’m sure the Astros are unhappy. But, he is their best hope this season for a good bat in the position that requires a good bat only. What Tyler might be doing, however is slicing his own throat for the future. They may put up with his crappy body this year, but they won’t in the future. If he keeps this up he will be plan B looking for work., because their are guys who will be ready to pounce soon coming up in the minors.

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    • As somebody who always loved sports, watching and playing, but who saw his chances for a basketball career crash and burn when I stopped growing at 5′-9″ in 8th grade….
      I don’t understand the guys who get a real shot and then don’t work their buns off to be in great physical shape. I remember this basketball player at the University of Arkansas (when I worked in Arkansas) named Oliver Miller. He was a talented kid and was given the height I would have killed for and he played for awhile in the NBA. But he was a friggin’ whale. I never understood how anybody who seriously played basketball could be fat. You have to run miles in practice and then more in the games.
      But he was fat and here we are with The Big Toffee and I don’t understand this at all. Work hard and you can make millions for long enough to give your great great grandkids an inheritance.

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      • Basketball, I played for my junior high team and that was the best shape I had ever been in for my life. High school it was football and baseball. Basket ball is a great sport for getting into shape.

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    • It is disappointing. But Tyler still has a little over three weeks before the season starts. I would hope he is given a strict regimen with reasonable weight, BMI, and strength goals to meet within that period. If he meets reasonable goals over the next 3 weeks, and keeps his weight off once the season starts, I still think he’ll give us the best DH performance we have ever had.

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    • It really wouldn’t surprise me for White to be the next Robbie Grossman. It would shock me if he was the next JDM. I think he will certainly be a better bat in someone else’s lineup than Preston Tucker.

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    • The Astros had a pretty good year in 2017 with the majority of their starters out for a good part of the first half. We could see quite a few cameo starts again this year, and then an important acquisition this summer. Luhnow is not going to let his financial plan for the next several years be impacted by giving Keuchel anything close to what he is looking for.

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      • Agree with you. It doesn’t look like anybody out there thinks Keuchel is worth what he thinks he’s worth. It’s interesting though

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  12. Dan I read the article on Keuchel, and then scrolled down at some of the comments. Pretty funny stuff! He is going to have to come down in price and years. The one name that puts me off is Scott Boris, maybe that’s the reason Luhnow passed on him.
    This is the deal: Tyler White will hit. PERIOD.
    Tyler White is over weight. PERIOD.
    Tyler White *WILL* get started on a better diet to gain muscle and lose fat PERIOD.
    This 2019 team is BETTER than last year. PERIOD.
    These pitchers from the minors are *AWESOME*! AND…who is this
    Tanielu?? Dude is GOOD!

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    • Nick is a guy who is not a great fielder, has not been a top hitter, but who is having a great spring. He has been eligible for the last two Rule 5 drafts, but has not been taken.
      Somebody might notice him if he keeps hitting.
      That .926 career fielding % at 3B is gonna be tough to overcome.

      Liked by 1 person

    • While he is no great shakes as a defender, his offense has actually been pretty good – except in connection with an injury. Nick’s lifetime Milb BA is .295 and his lifetime OBP in the minors is .341. [Compare Jack Mayfield, another RH hitter, whose corresponding numbers are .269 and .321]. Nick does not strike out much – but he also isn’t likely to hit more than 10 or 12 home runs a season. If for any reason Tyler White does not pan out as our right-handed hitting DH, Nick could be looked at as at least a fill-in for that slot. He’s 26 y/o, so he probably has a relatively short window to make something happen, either with us or with some other club.

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    • Except this is where MLB salaries more closely resemble the world of NFL fictional contracts. Scherzer signed a 7 year, $210 million contract with Washington…but it pays out over 14 years. Instead of earning $37m this season as reported on the link it’s actually only $15m in 2019. Strasburg’s 7 year, $175m contract is also paying out over 14 years. This is a large part of why Bryce Harper didn’t accept any offers from Washington and was destined to leave via free agency.

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  13. I think Derrick Fisher is getting disillusioned this spring. He saw the club go out and sign Brantley to play left, and I think he saw his dream die. I sincerely hope if Luhnow makes another move it will include him. He’s talented and a super nice kid, I think all of us want kids like him go to a club where he can play everyday. The log jam in AAA is keeping some REALLY good players stuck in Corpus Christi. Becky⚾

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  14. Couple items. Babe Ruth was overweight. If Tyler White hits like the Babe, give him a beer and some fries.

    A few days ago, MLB Trade rumors said that Hinch was talking about carrying only 12 pitchers. With Round Rock so close, that is not a bad option to start the year. That gives Jake and Kemp a spot on the bench. But sometimes Hinch and Luhnow say things like this just for press consumption.

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  15. 45, to be fair, I never did see The Babe play, but I’m a bit dubious about how fat he might have been, especially in his early and prime years. And in those early newsreel videos, he tip toed around the bases rather elegantly.

    I just took a peek at his stats. It’s incredible to me what kind of numbers he put up in what was still the dead ball era. Nobody else was close! Lifetime .474 OBP. 1.164 OPS. 206 OPS+!

    Funny thing is that he stole 21 bases while getting caught 17 times in 1923. Why did he bother? That’s the year he had a .545 OBP. Maybe he got bored out there on the bases. Or hungry.

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    • I am hoping you are not insinuating that I took a selfie with the Babe as a Red Sox. Not quite that old. I am guessing “hungry” and wanted to get thrown out. You can get down on the nephew, but we shouldn’t. He has and can hit. Don’t look for the .545, but should be a serviceable DH.

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  16. I was at Laurenzo’s restaurant on Washington Ave in Houston some years ago. They have sports memorabilia all over the walls there. As I came out of the men’s room I saw on the wall behind the door that leads to the rest rooms a picture of the Babe and Yogi Berra. After doing a double take I examined it closer and it was signed by Yogi. The manager at Laurenzo’s said everything on the walls is for sale and further allowed that all proceeds are donated to a charity of the purchaser’s choice. So we made a deal and I bought the picture for my sons birthday. After researching a bit I concluded that this must have been taken at the time of Yogi’s first spring training with the Yankees and only a few months before Babe’s death. Babe was dressed in a suit but looked like death warmed over, but he towered over Yogi, who looked like a rookie. Such a cool piece.

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      • Nope, that wasn’t me. I was overseas shooting photos of the recovered treasures and trying to return them to their rightful owners. Nobody knew I was there because my head was always under the cloth that covered the camera.

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  17. Luis Severino has shoulder discomfort. Why does that sound familiar?
    And Zack Cozart has a calf strain and will miss at least 3 weeks of work. I don’t understand this. When one of the calves on our farm gets a strain, we have to work a lot harder. I guess things are different in California, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I think we want Keuchel to sign somewhere fairly soon. I think if he signs after the 2019 draft they will not get a pick for him.

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  19. What’s plan “B” to paying guys $30 million a year?
    The Astros already have their 30 million dollar guy in Altuve.
    Eventually there are going to be more $30 million guys than there are teams who can afford them.
    You know, players can strike if they want, but there are ten teams in MLB who won’t spend $30 million on one player. And there are 10 more teams who can’t do that for two players. There are very few who could spend that kind of money on three different players.
    So when the market becomes saturated with too many $30 million players, who will pay the next one?
    And where will fans draw the line at ticket prices and stop showing up.
    I see the Astros perhaps making one more big long term commitment. But you can bet they are going to be careful about who it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t envision both Verlander and Cole gone next year. At first glance, Bregman gets the extension, but his situation is not quite so urgent right now. I’d probably go as many as 6 or 7 years wth Cole. But a shorter deal with Verlander might be more practical. Much will depend on how a guy like Whitney comes along. I said this weeks ago, with so many FA’s next year, the club is going to look much different in 2020. Luhnow will have a real chance to earn his check. In the meantime, I sure like our chances this year. Regardless of how well this group is playing, I think the roster will be made better for the post season come summer.

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    • Definitely a good point. Look at how many players will be looking for that 25-35 million payday in the next couple of years. Common sense economics tells us that when the cost of goods exceeds the income stream produced the company doesn’t last too long. The fan would have to pay via increases in tickets, souvenirs, television advertisements, etc. After a period of time the costs will cause the bubble to burst and it might come crashing down. I would hope the players and owners realize that they do not want to kill the proverbial goose that laid the golden egg.

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  20. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Braves, Rockies, Brewers, Keuchel, Harper, Phils | The baseball bats fanatic

  21. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Braves, Rockies, Brewers, Keuchel, Harper, Phils – The Lost Jays

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