Astros’ Monday musings


On a gloomy Houston Monday after watching the Texans continue a story arc of sadness and despair, it is time to turn away from that and back to thoughts about the 2020 Astros.

The $5 Million Question

George Springer and the Astros exchanged arbitration figures on Friday and they are the largest gap ($5 million) of any potential salaries exchanged by any player or team. The Astros offered $17.5 MM, while Springer (undoubtedly through his agent) asked for $22.5 MM. If there is no settlement before then, the arbitration hearings will occur between Feb. 3 and 21. Since the Astros supposedly have chosen what is called a file and trial process in the past, they supposedly will go to arbitration with both Aledmys Diaz ($2.6 vs 2.0 MM) and Springer rather than reach a settlement. Matt Swartz, a statistician and contributor to mlbtraderumors.com, who has been doing this for a while came up with an expected arb salary of $21.4 MM for Springer, which obviously tracks a lot closer to George’s number than the teams.

The arbitration process is an all or nothing system. Both sides will present why their number is the correct one and the arbitrator will pick one. It has been suggested that the Astros lower number may be based on them knowing he will not produce as well without the electronic “assistance” for which they are being investigated. Since, the team cannot use this argument in the hearings they just could not base the number on that. The only reasonable thought here is that they will work on downgrading his performance figures with availability. During the duration of his current 2 year contract, Springer has played in about 81% of the 324 games due to injuries. If you took that $21.4 MM figure and multiplied it by 81% you would end up near the $17.5 MM figure.

What will happen? Well the Astros could decide to not apply file and trial here and work in the next 3 weeks or so to settle with Springer. Maybe they are hoping that Springer, afraid of ending up with the $17.5 MM figure will settle at a $20 MM number or so. I am sure they have already tried to extend George and I am sure that George’s agent has told him that nice as that may be, if he just holds on for another season he will get paid well in 2020 and will be offered a contract that will be higher per season and longer than anything the Astros may offer after 2020 as Gerrit Cole did. The most likely thing that will happen here is that Springer will win the arbitration hearing, the Astros will be squeezed even more in the luxury tax arena and that we will see George Springer for only one more wonderful season.

The Sword of Damocles

Are the Astros really being affected by the potential punishments hanging over the team’s collective head? It doesn’t feel like it. They were not going to be out there trying to bring in a bunch of free agents this off-season anyways and most definitely not the upper crust types, but they have signed Dustin Garneau, Martin Maldonado and Joe Smith with no drama involved. Teams have been trading with them as normal (Jake Marisnick to the Mets, Austin Pruitt from the Rays). Right now this “sword” is more a psychological one that the fans sense, not necessarily anything affecting the day-to-day workings of the team……yet.

The 4th and 5th spots

The back end of the rotation will be the focal point all through Spring Training. After Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers, the last two spots seem to be up for grabs.

In truth, we need to look at the last two spots in two different ways. First, pitchers who will be competing for a spot in Spring Training. Second, pitchers who will be more likely competing for a mid-season spot. There are some pitchers, who look really attractive, but based on how the team has handled pitching promotions previously a lot of the attractive ones need to show something at AAA before being brought up.

  • The Spring Training competitors would seem to consist of the following pitchers with varying levels of MLB experience – Jose Urquidy, Brad Peacock, Austin Pruitt, Framber Valdez, Francis Martes, Rogelio Armenteros, Cy Sneed, Cionel Perez and Bryan Abreu. Considering the limitations on how many starts and innings are available in the major league camp, this set of pitchers is likely to be smaller than that during ST (barring injuries). Obviously, the Astros may pick up another pitcher along the way who may be in the mix, but this seems like the reasonable bunch to look at for the final two spots.
  • The mid-season set are intriguing and could include any of those above who do not get a starting spot, but perform well either in the minors or out of the major league bullpen during the early season. Added to this list would be some of the young studs, who have not had exposure or much exposure at the highest minor league levels. This of course includes Forrest Whitley, Cristian Javier, Brandon Bielak, Tyler Ivey or even the pitcher good friend of the blog – GoStros – featured on Monday, Brett Conine. These are talented pitchers, who could earn a spot with continued high performance at the highest minor league levels.

Anyways – a few thoughts to chew on today. What do you think?

 

49 comments on “Astros’ Monday musings

  1. Come on, guys, hit so well at MMP next year that you make every team in the MLB WISH we were still using that completely ineffective and distracting ‘cheating’ system.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leadership, arise! I think the Astros organization is going to need to schedule a ‘team-building’ retreat – for the F.O., for the scouting dept, and for the players, as soon as possible. Crane needs to get in front of this, and make sure the next phase of Astro baseball’s history is the creation of a family/team culture that understands the media is always going to be the enemy, so smile and say the platitudes, but nothing else, ever. AND ALWAYS HAVE EACH OTHERS’ BACK. I would call it the ‘Thin Orange and Blue Line’.

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    • It is confirmed. You and I agreed that this was the appropriate response from Crane, if the charges were true. This is not going to be easy, but the hardest part is done.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There Will Be No Joy In Mudville Tonight. I feel bad for the long term fans who have supported the Astros through heart break, rebuilds and playoff losses. Todays news is good for MLB and good for Houston fans in the long term but is certainly sad and painful in the short term.

      No Players Punished: THAT needs to be addressed in future CBA negotiations.

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  3. Ok, so it is confirmed. I’ve stated from the start that if either Hinch or Luhnow were culpable, then they should be fired.

    Of course the cynic in me has to wonder if Crane was aware to any degree. Manfred just spent a considerable amount of words in his ruling assuring us that Crane knew nothing. Was that necessary?

    But I am terribly disgusted by Luhnow and his denials. And I’m especially offended by Hinch, a guy I had the utmost respect for. I don’t care if everyone was doing it. Hinch let it happen under his watch. Hinch lied to me on national (international ) television when he poo-pooed any such allegation, most recently those made by the Yankees. Today, The New York Yankees have far more credibility than The Houston Astros. That really pisses me off.

    But alas, we have to move on. I’ll bet some of the players are relieved. I’ll bet others will indeed move on from our shamed organization. But I’m already looking forward to Opening Day and a brand new, fresh start. Life goes on.

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  4. The entire report lacks a lot of evidence. But Cora as a centerpiece seems most clear!

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  5. Well, I’m disappointed in our FO, coaches, and players for this one. I imagine one day someone will write a book with the truth about what went down. Hopefully this set of penalties dissuades others from doing similarly stupid behavior in the future. I would like to see the individuals from any other organization employing such tactics over the last three seasons also disciplined…but suspect Manfred got what he wanted and will move on.

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  6. Hinch and Luhnow should have enough money to be ok. I saw a piece online that the Astros are trying to extend Springer. My advise….don’t do it George.
    Now;
    WHO???? Will feel the brunt of this crap? The players.
    I’m taking a break from all things Astros. Maybe forever.
    It’s no secret how this has affected me. I’m done here. Ya’ll take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Becky, take a cruise, have a couple of Bud Lights. Step away for a bit. I’ll guarantee you that the players will say that they are all looking forward to playing baseball again and moving on from this mess. You know, if those two formally beloved figures Cora and Beltran had not been around, maybe none of this would have every happened. I refuse to condemn the on field guys. Were they supposed to spill like Fiers did?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fiers is being touted as a hero by the pundits on MLB Network. What bothers me is that he never said anything while he was there but waited till he was elsewhere. Because he didn’t have the balls to speak up before I consider him a weasel, or as they say in Star Trek, ” A denivian slime worm”. Regardless I consider him Persona non Grata.

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  8. Today is the day I officially switch my allegiance to the Colorado Rockies (my formerly #2 team anyway) It’s been a mostly fun 29 years but this did it for me. So guess there’s no longer a Texas team I support now. Sick feeling in my stomach today.

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  9. I don’t blame you Becky or Billy C for feeling this way. I will say that you will no longer be supporting the one team that will likely be playing it totally clean in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe I was too harsh, just really angry right now. At the very least my #1 and #2 teams have switched. At most, a case like the Texans where I like a few of the players but that’s it. I need some to time to process this I guess

      Cora will likely get no more than a slap on the wrist.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have been a fan since the earliest days of the Colt 45s. That is not going to change because of this or anything else. I am just glad we still have a baseball team – and a darn good one!

    I have never cared what Yankee fans, the national sports media, or the Commissioner’s office [is there a difference?] have to say about anything. What I care about is how our owners, front office people, scouts, player development people, keep pushing toward excellence, and how our players do on the baseball field in the next game they play. I care about our heroes beating the Rangers, the As, the Angels, and the Mariners – and of course the Yankees and Red Sox – as many times, by as many runs, with as much class, as possible. Nothing has changed about that.

    There are certain players on our team – as there are on every team – that need a few lessons on the ‘class’ factor. Perhaps this day of infamy will lead to that. I hope so, but I am rooting for our guys – ALL OF OUR GUYS – no matter what.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Wow.
    I don’t know how to feel.
    I do agree that, if guilty, the right moves were made.
    But a part of my brain still has doubts.
    I do not trust MLB in this mess.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You know what really pisses me off? Cora will probably get a slap on the wrist and that’s it, yet this was his baby. The best manager and GM in Astros history is gone , Cora will probably keep his job, and whomever comes in for the Astros as GM and manager will probably change things up to the point as far where the idea of an Astros dynasty will never happen now. This was a perfect management team for the club and I’m not sure whomever the replacements are will be able to keep it up

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  13. I gave up on The NBA and NHL years ago , so so on the NFL Texans have zero chance of the big prize with O’brien. Baseball has been my summer joy for 60 years, 40 years an Astro die hard. I guess back to College football. I think the punishment fit the crime. It so heartbreaking we live in a society today where character, integrity, morals, and compassion have all been bankrupted. Starting in the WH and working down. Thank you all for you great stories and passion and hard work Dan for our team. I remember so many arguments with Tim over Luhnow, I wonder what he thinks today. I hope you all have some great days ahead. I will see you again someday just not for a while Best Kevin

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  14. Like you Mr. Bill, I have followed this team since the Colt 45s. I have no intention of changing my allegiance. Like all of you, I had hurt feelings about having to leave the national league, but never wavered about my being a fan of the stros. I will pull for them for the rest of my days. Like all of you involved in this fine Astro forum, I have no sympathy or tolerance for cheaters, but the innocent Astro nation and the city of Houston will keep their team and honor. So be it with the chips that have fallen. I have always had mixed feelings about Luhnow especially with his trades. I felt Hinch was a smart and good manager, but not irreplacable. The toughest thing for me is the loss of draft picks. At least we still have our international opportunties. –Now what to do about Springer?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Watching the story on the news right now…if it started with the players (from the bottom up as Crane put it) , then why weren’t there any players suspended? It made it sound like Hinch didn’t really fight the cheating but shouldn’t the ones who did it be the real focus?

    It comes down to the Cora/Beltrán involvement once again for me. Hinch was a fall guy

    Liked by 2 people

  16. It’s definitely a sad day for the Astros organization, their fans, and the city of Houston. Like many of you I’ve been listening to the MLB network for their take on all of this. One thing that none of us know and only the participants know is did it make any difference in the performance of the players. It was reported that the team stopped the sign stealing when it was determined that it was not achieving the desired results. Another question I have is what players actively participated in it. We only have seen a couple of videos of the “trash can banging”. The pundits say it made a difference. Only the players know for sure if it did.
    One thing for sure. Cora and Beltran should pay the price for cooking up the scheme if it happened. Their penalty should be greater than what was handed down to Luhnow and Hinch. For those players that participated in the scandal, they should be made to pay some of the $5MM fine assessed to the Astros. I personally think they should come forward and say they participated in the scheme. Maybe that’s not fair but for those that were culpable they should be held accountable. If we’re going to clean the slate, then it needs to be wiped completely cleaned by all involved.
    I await the ongoing saga and hope all can move forward after all is said and done. Overall I’m just very disappointed in all who participated as one of my credos is that I despise liars, cheaters, and thieves. The sad part is that I believe it was not necessary and that’s the saddest part of all.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Zanuda, I can’t agree that any Cora -Beltran penalty (if indeed any ever gets levied) should be greater than what was handed down to Hinch or Luhnow. Had either our former GM or manager stopped the activity, then we would not be where we are today. The guys with the responsibility to manage the situation did not. Instead they essentially endorsed the process by not stopping it.

    One thing I feel pretty sure about. I don’t think anyone will ever present solid evidence that the scheme to get an edge actually worked. The whole damn process seemed so damn cumbersome.

    By the way, might be a pretty good football game tonight if anyone is still interested.

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    • Pretty much agree with you except had not Cora/Beltran not developed the scheme we’d be talking about Arbitration and Spring Training. Of course had Luhnow made sure Hinch knew that it was unacceptable when the MLB memo came down or had Hinch told them to “knock it off” there’s no telling what would have happened. And yes, I look forward to watching the football game tonight. Rather watch College Football and Basketball any day over watching the pros. Too much like a limited food menu. Not a lot of choices and it all tastes the same.

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      • Cora continued it with the Red Sox so hell yeah he should be punished.

        Beltrán is already being punished in a way…he’s managing the Mets

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  18. Hey Dan, back to the premise of your initial post today. Maybe Crane will realize we all need a feel good story and personally go to George and ask him what it would take to keep him in his baseball home for the next five years.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. There were players involved but because they handed over their phones and fessed up to what happened Manfred said they would not be punished.
    They will get booed everywhere they go, now ask yourself daveb…..would you want to spend the next 5 years facing that? Look how many years the fans here booed Beltran EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. HE. CAME. UP. TO. BAT.
    I hope every guy on this team who is a free agent in 2021 moves far away from Houston, and try to get that fowl taste out of there mouths.

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    • Becky, I am so glad you decided not to leave.
      I am unhappy about this situation mostly because it is very obvious that players, coaches and front office people were part of it.
      The players don’t deserve to get the foul taste out of their mouths. They cheated and didn’t get punished.
      I’m ready to get back to baseball and I bleed Astros. Tonight, I’m bleeding a lot. But the players who were involved will not ever be victims. They are the perps.
      We, the fans who screamed and spent and loved and waited for this for 55 years are the victims.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. There are several statements from Manfred that need explanation for me to understand. This one is very puzzling as to what he is suggesting.

    “But while no one can dispute that Luhnow’s baseball operations department is an industry leader in its analytics, it is very clear to me that the culture of the baseball operations department, manifesting itself in the way its employees are treated, its relations with other Clubs, and its relations with the media and external stakeholders, has been very problematic. “

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    • I agree with you but while I’m not sure what is meant by “the way it’s employees are treated, or relations with other clubs, or stakeholders, ” but I suspect the media has to do with Taubman and Verlander’s treatment of the reporter incident. It would appear that because this happened, Manfred now if not before, holds the Astros in contempt and will perpetuate that feeling throughout the league. I personally think the Commisioner’s office has embarked on a mission to destroy the Houston franchise. It’s going to be an ugly visit to any other city this year, especially New York. We’ll probably need private security to assure our teams safety.

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      • And Sandy, that effort started in house. We decided to cheat. We can and will continue to discuss whether or not we got a raw deal. We can lament over too harsh a penalty. We can certainly question the intent of Manfred. We can be mad at MLB, Mike Fiers, and our own organization. But we cheated, continued to cheat arrogantly after league warning and we were dumb enough to get caught. And again, even if others have always done it, we did break the rules. The lack of integrity in our organization offends me most. Time to heal though. I refuse to try and blame others for our own failures. There is way too much of that going on in todays world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m certainly not making excuses for the cheating.
        I do, however, have a problem with the way MLB has handled the whole mess.
        Making an example of one team and even stating “ There was no reason to believe it went beyond the Astros organization.” Really?
        It’s becoming more apparent every day that it did, in fact, go beyond this organization.
        No, I’m not making excuses. I’m just pointing out the commissioner’s office has treated this franchise like it was a family member they didn’t really like but was forced to put up with.
        As long as the team was losing 100+ games a year. They were patted on the head and told to go sit in the back and be quiet.
        When the tables turned and they started winning 100+ games, started making the saintly Yankees look bad. Then something had to be done to put them back in their place.

        Like I said before, I’m angry and ashamed but I still don’t trust MLB.
        The Astros are the team I’ve loved and supported for 48 years. Not going to give up now.

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  21. I just read the Manfred statement to my wife. She is a casual fan. Anyway, when I got to the “bang on a trash can” she started laughing. She thought it was a joke that the Astros would do that. When I told her, apparently the players confessed to doing it, her only comment was “How stupid are baseball players, really, really. The best idea they could come up with was to bang on a trash can.”

    Liked by 3 people

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