The Astros’ roster situation is going to be in deep focus over the next month and a half as the injured return. There are quite a few decisions to be made.
The Astros began the 2019 season in fair health, except for those folks on the long term IL (Lance McCullers Jr. Francis Martes and Joe Smith). Then the last few weeks of May a collection of mostly All-Stars started falling like Tyler White‘s chances of retaining his DH role long term. Looking ahead the following players are likely to return in the next 6 weeks or so. (The Likely Return is based on the best guesses out there in the blogosphere).
|Jose Altuve||Leg||Mid to Late June|
|George Springer||Hamstring||Late June|
|Aledmys Diaz||Hamstring||Mid to late June|
|Carlos Correa||Rib||Early to Mid July|
|Max Stassi||Knee||Mid to Late June|
|Collin McHugh||Elbow||No timetable|
|Joe Smith||Achilles||Late June|
The players who have come up and done their best in place of the six, who went down in May, include C Garrett Stubbs, IF Jack Mayfield, OFs Myles Straw and Derek Fisher, and Ps Corbin Martin and Brady Rodgers.
Barring trades, the seven injured players are assured of having a roster spot when well, except…..Max Stassi, who has been very ineffective in the back-up catcher’s spot.
Along with the replacement players that were called up, there are other players who may be in danger of losing their spot in lieu of a replacement. That would include Ps Framber Valdez and Chris Devenski, IF Tyler White and OF/IF Tony Kemp.
The biggest wrench in the works. Of the players listed, Stassi, White and Kemp are out of options. Therefore, if any of them are no longer considered Ready for Prime Time Players, they would have to be DFA’d (Designated for Assignment), which means the other teams in the league would have a shot at picking them up for free. While the Astros used the DFA fairly freely back in the time of Matt Duffy, Carlos Pena, Ronny Cedeno and Joe Thatcher, it is a path they have avoided lately with players they believe have some value. If these players are not picked up by other teams, the Astros would then either release them, trade them or send them to the minors. So there is a risk of losing talent in exchange for nothing for each of them.
A Good Guess at the Path Forward
- All seven of the injured players listed will be put on the roster as they are available, even Stassi would seem likely to return as the team seems to lean towards having veterans behind the plate and would more likely replace him with a veteran from the outside later in the season (see – Maldonado, Martin).
- Who goes down in the place of the seven? Well, that gets a little dicey and certainly could be affected by further injuries and of course, if someone (Straw? Fisher?) forces themselves to be considered to stay. Most likely it would include Mayfield, Stubbs, and Rodgers. If Martin does not turn it around he would be the 4th, but if he did turn it around the 4th could well be Devenski who has options and has not been pitching very well.
- Anyway you look at it, if the Astros stay with a 13 man pitching staff, the Astros would have to unload (or send down) 3 of the following 4 players – Tyler White, Tony Kemp, Derek Fisher and Myles Straw. (Remember that when Jose Altuve went on the IL, he was replaced by Corbin Martin, not a position player as the team shifted from a 12 man to a 13 man pitching staff). This would mean that at least one of White or Kemp would have to be exposed to the rest of the league and that would be tough for this front office to swallow. If they went to a 12 man staff (not likely) Valdez would be heading down.
- The gut feeling is that with the seven on the injured list, someone will have a regression or extension of their term on the IL. If it is Smith or McHugh that does not help with the White / Kemp conundrum. Of course, someone else on the roster could easily go on the IL closer to the decision time to kick that ball down the block. Right now, the best guess is that White is in the most danger here and whether deserving or not Fisher and Straw would also head down.
- However……if say Straw continues to be a force both in the field and on the base paths, the Astros might see if they can send Tony Kemp on a trade for a very low-level prospect.
It appears that White is in trouble no matter what if the 13-man pitching staff is kept in place. Of course, he could develop a very painful pulled stomach muscle from some of his food sessions and be placed on the IL until the September call-up time……. Jeff Luhnow will earn his salary, again this season, with roster manipulation as he has the good problem of too many players he wants to keep.