The offseason malaise

The one positive at this time of the off-season is that amateur hack writers can be as accurate and newsworthy as the “big guys” who get paid to speculate in print or in the cloud. Does it take special psychic powers to know that the Astros are interested in trying to bring George Springer and/or Michael Brantley back into the fold? No.

Does it take a special in team connection to say that other teams are kicking the tires on a trade for Carlos Correa as he enters his last season before Free Agency? No. Do you need a bug in GM James Click’s office to know he is looking for another catcher, rotation depth and veteran relievers? No.

Case in point is a news item today that says that the Astros are one of the teams interested in free agent closer Liam Hendriks. Well duh!

But it can also be considered a negative that so little real news is occurring in the baseball world, that every man bloggers are as “knowledgeable” as the professionals. Like the dog days of summer, we are in the three dog nights of winter right now with the big news being teams drafting Rule 5 players off each other’s rosters, who will most likely be sent back to the original team or will toddle along on the drafting team’s roster for a season never to be heard from again.

On the other hand for any particular ball club, the off-season can turn around from a nothing sandwich to a hot stove conversation convention with a single move or a series of moves. Back in the off-season leading to the 2017 season, the Astros in the course of a few weeks in November and December claimed Nori Aoki off waivers, signed Charlie Morton, traded for Brian McCann and then signed Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran. Between mid-December 2017 and mid-January 2018, the Astros reeled in Joe Smith and Hector Rondon for the bullpen and then went all-in with a trade for starter Gerrit Cole from the Pirates.

This off-season as with this whole odd-wad year feels different. There have been a few transactions, but when will real action occur and specifically when will it occur for the Astros? After a 2020 season where the accountants did not have to stretch things to show losses for these teams and owners, who will blink first when it comes to salaries and signings? Will teams be able to find a common ground with the players to make deals? Will teams be able to find a common ground with other teams to make deals?

The off-season moves that James Click eventually makes or does not make should signal what his approach is going to be. Is he going to dip a little or a lot into the free agent pool? Will he keep up the Astros’ tradition under Jeff Luhnow to not commit long term to outside players? Will he choose to fill from within or from without? Will he skip some moves before the season and hold off until the trade deadline? Is his budget-restricted like in the days of grocer supplier and owner Drayton McLane?

It will be interesting to see what the Astros consider absolute must-haves vs. nice to haves.

  • Will they bring in one or two veteran OFs (or re-sign one or two veteran OFs) or will they use Chas McCormick and Myles Straw and a sprinkle of Yordan Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz as a stop-gap?
  • Will they, despite their kind words for Ryan Pressly, go out and reel in a closer like Hendriks in a depressed reliever market and move Pressly back to his All Star spot as a setup man?
  • Will they bring in what Austin Pruitt was supposed to be last season, a Brad Peacock-ish swingman between the rotation and long relief?
  • Will they stay with Martin Maldonado as their starter at catcher with young Garrett Stubbs as his backup or will they look for this season’s Dustin Garneau? Or dare we dream that they move Maldonado to backup and bring in a stud like J.T. Realmuto to start?

There will definitely be some action for the Astros this off-season. But when?

33 comments on “The offseason malaise

  1. I doubt that we would go after Realmuto but stranger things have happened. As for Springer, what if the Mets sign Trevor Bauer, do they still try to get Springer? If not that (IMO) reduces the chances that Springer will get a “BIG” payday. I’m not sure he wants to play for Toronto. If that happens he might want to stay here. He has to be considering the high tax rate in those northern cities versus what the rate is in Texas. But I could be wrong there. I’m also not sure about the stigma of “It”. Everyone knows he’s a top tier player regardless of the 2017 season so that’s no big deal. If Springer stays in Houston then Uncle Mike might hang around too. As for Liam Hendricks, that might not be a bad investment. He made 5.3MM last year and I was thinking he could be had for a couple million more or an incentive laden contract. I suspect he’s also looking for a LT deal. The thing with Springer is that next year JV ‘s and Greinke’s salaries come off the books and $57MM ain’t chump change. There should be money to do some fancy manipulating.

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  2. In retrospect you have to wonder whether Crane chose Click because of his background coming from a successful team or he picked him coming from a successful team that makes do with a small budget.
    I don’t meant that Crane is going to go back to the draconian days of the early teens, but that maybe he thought the answer to the team’s problems is not always throwing another $25 or 30 million a year at someone.

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  3. Considering the fact that a bunch of MLB teams are going to spend little or nothing on players this off season, I would let all of the rumors fly I could if I were the Astros. That way almost everyone thinks I’m not going to do anything until I do it. or everyone thinks I’m going to do a bunch of stuff when I’m not.
    All of this aside, the idea is to get what you need for a value price, because a lot of players are going to sign for less money than they wanted because very few teams are shopping for expensive players. The Mets had more money than anyone and gave a contract that was way over what McCann should have gotten because they wouldn’t pay JT Realmuto what he wants.
    JT is probably going to have to settle for less, and some team out there is going to get him for less.
    I don’t think Crane is going to punt. I think he and Click are going to wait and get what they need for a good price, even if it goes into January and February.
    We are in the middle of a crazy four year stretch for baseball. You had year one of the disaster with a baseball doctored by the league and all the lying about it by the league and all the fake home runs by the players. Then you had the scandal. Then you had the season of pandemic disaster intertwined with all the other political crap. Now you have the year of teams who lost tons of money completely revamping the minor leagues but have no PR dept to explain it, coupled with teams who borrowed a hundred million dollars apiece to get through the pandemic and won’t or can’t spend money on players.
    Finally, we are going to face the CBA at the end of the coming year. Is anyone looking forward to that? That could be a bullet in the other foot for baseball.

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    • Yes, what a crap shoot huh? Especially when all normalcy of playing has gone out the window the last 8 months.
      We’ve seen all sides of this. The high school kid who develops into a MLB player and possible star (Kyle Tucker). The high school kid who is a big mystery right now (Forrest Whitley). The high school kid who crashes and burns due to a potential for injury that comes to happen (Brady Aiken). The sure thing college player who never becomes anything (Mark Appel). The 1st round college kids who become stars (Alex Bregman and George Springer).

      It is amazing to see that 32 of those top 100 are from three states – Florida (13), California (11) and Texas (8).
      I know it is up north where baseball does not thrive as well, but the state of Illinois has the 6th biggest population in the US and has no players in the top 100. Wouldn’t you think the best player in the state might be worth pursuing?

      You wonder how teams like the Astros who have stripped down the scouting staff are checking up on prospects in these times. You wonder if the emphasis for the Astros is more on Latin America, where they have had such success.

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      • * So many colleges have the fancy video systems now and every team has access to equal information through those systems. You can actually watch almost every college player on video, either as a home team with the system or as a team playing as a visitor to a participating team.
        * With the cut backs on the number of teams stateside, I think the emphasis on international players will peak this year. I believe eliminating the 2020 signing period and changing it to Jan 15,2021 was using the pandemic to reset it to the offseason in order to make it better timing for an international draft in the new CBA. MLB wants control. They don’t want international players and agents in charge of where they go. They want MLB to be in charge through a draft that they control who gets what players and how many and how much money gets paid out.
        *Every MLB team is stripping down their scouting, not just the Astros. The technology is all about taking a talented HS or college player and making him into the image of what you want him to be. He doesn’t develop his way. He develops your way. Jeremy Pena is a good example of that. His swing, swing path and body are not the same as when we drafted him.

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      • The majority of these rankings go off participation in the invitation-only tournaments for HS All-Star teams. Even college recruiting is really different. When I was in HS it was the pro scouts giving our names to the colleges. Now, kids pay a fee to appear at college recruiting events. It’s largely a scam – 99% of the kids have no chance of being offered a scholarship and are wasting their money. A lot more kids get scholarship offers because their HS/traveling team coaches can work contacts at the universities than through the tryouts. But the thing both this and the invitation-only tournaments have in common is you have to travel to them. With college kids, you’ll see a lot of guys who aren’t really looked at hard enough as HS seniors or perhaps even as freshman at the Northern and smaller schools go make a name for themselves in the summer, wood bat leagues. Take away or limit those summer leagues and limit the amount of travelling for the kids from cold weather states and you really reduce how much teams can get eyeballs on them in actual game conditions.

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    • Well let’s see daveb –
      A few players you mostly don’t care about have signed.
      There are rumors that Pitchers A,B,C,D etc. have seen interest from Teams X,Y,Z etc that need pitchers
      There are rumors that Position Players A,B,C,D, etc. have seen interest from Teams X,Y,Z that need players at those positions
      There are rumors that teams have shown interest in trading for Stars A,B,C who are in their contract years
      There are rumors that teams have shown interest in trading for Stars A,B,C who still have multiple years on their contracts, but who play for teams that don’t have a dime to their name

      And the Astros have not done anything yet.

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      • 1OP, as always, thank you for your thoughtfulness. Our environment is pristine and healthy. We’ve had very little Covid exposure. Of course we’ve got almost no tourism either. Our government has taken a very conservative approach to reopening our boarders. If you’d like to come, there will be a 14 day quarantine period. Most of us Americans, historically 80% of our market, don’t have that much time or patience. I don’t know how long we can hang on from an economic standpoint, but there are some good things going on around here. We are eating far more locally raised beef and pork and chicken. Fish and lobster is actually cheaper to buy for us locals because our hotels and restaurants are not inflating prices as they don’t have tourists to feed right now. Our crop production has gone up remarkably. Farmers are being given seed, free water and fencing to help keep the damn monkeys away. For an independent nation of just 50,000 souls, we’re getting by. We’re not begging big countries for help, although I think we’d appreciate assistance with vaccine supply! Thanks for asking.

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      • Amateur hack writer is not quite the self description I was going for.
        Perhaps if I wore a bow tie.
        I have a lot more invested in the Astros than Rosenthal does. But, I am serious about Realmuto being a great fit and I did show a way for the Astros to be able to afford him this season without getting near the luxury tax.
        The main problem with signing Realmuto could be that they are afraid of the fans being mad about not signing Springer. Which is ironic, because Springer might not be even considering the Astros and wants to be somewhere else, but wouldn’t dare let his fans know that.
        Then again, Realmuto may not want to come here, which is why all of us, Rosenthal included, could be just wasting our time.
        The idea that what is keeping the Astros from going after the best catcher in baseball is a late second round supplementary draft pick is ludicrous. They traded three good prospects for two years of Justin Verlander. Why is a second round pick keeping you from four or five years of an All Star catcher?

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      • I’d love to have Realmuto, with the assumption that Springer is gone of course. But unless George has told the Astros to get lost, then Crane/Click might keep working on him. And if that’s the case, we’ll probably have to wait awhile for anything to happen. Realmuto would not transform the Astros lineup however. We are already pretty good. Trout is about the only guy that could do that.

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  4. Some blasts from the past as C Tim Fedorowicz signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers, while P Fernando Abad signed a minor league deal with the Orioles.
    Fedorowicz has never hit at the major league level with the Astros or anyone else.
    Abad was actually a pretty serviceable lefty out of the bullpen…..after he left the Astros.

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  5. Just for grins I checked on this today. The Astros have 40 players listed on their GCL Astros Roster and 34 players listed on their DSL Astros roster. I do not anticipate the Astros signing a long list of International Free Agents.
    Maybe a shorter list than in the past.

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