Astros’ off-season: What’s next?

The Astros off-season has been pretty much what was expected, except for one little signing. OK, the Justin Verlander signing was big, but it will be called little until it becomes official.

The team has done the following:

  • Offered a qualifying offer to Carlos Correa and Justin Verlander as was expected
  • Did not offer a qualifying offer to the other free agents, Zack Greinke, Kendall Graveman, Brooks Raley, Yimi Garcia and Marwin Gonzalez as was expected
  • Had Correa and Verlander reject the qualifying offers as expected
  • Had Verlander reportedly agree to a contract a few hours after rejecting the qualifying offer, which was totally out of left field
  • Lost Kent Emanuel on waivers to the Phillies, had former top prospect (who never lived up to the number) Freudis Nova pass through waivers and head to Sugar Land and traded Garrett Stubbs to the Phillies for a former 10th round draftee, to clear spots on the 40 man roster
  • Added infielders Jeremy Pena (potential replacement for Carlos Correa), and Joe Perez, right-hander Shawn Dubin and left-hander Jonathan Bermudez to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft
  • Extended manager Dusty Baker to another season as manager and said goodbye to long time pitching coach Brent Strom
  • Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel picked up Gold Glove trophies, and Carlos Correa picked up the award as the best fielder in the AL, and the Astros won the award as the best fielding team in the AL. Luis Garcia came in 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and Dusty Baker came in 3rd in the AL Manager of the Year ballot

So, what’s next?

  • When the Astros make the Verlander signing official, they already have a spot for him on the 40-man roster after the Stubbs trade.
  • December 1 is the deadline for teams to decide if they will tender or non-tender their arbitration-eligible players. The list of arbitration-eligible players includes Aledmys Diaz, Rafael Montero, Ryne Stanek, and Phil Maton. Whether they re-up, Montero would be the biggest question of those four, as his stint with the Astros was only four games due to injury. He did pitch well for them after stinking it up for Seattle, so they may well want him back if they think they figured out what his pitching problem was.
  • The overriding thing happening or not happening on December 1 is this is the date when the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLB and the players union expires. There has been minimal buzz about movement on this agreement to date. Considering the two sides never were able to even agree on a start date and duration to the 2020 COVID delayed season (the Commish imposed the terms unilaterally) may tell everyone what they want to know about the probability of an agreement before the deadline.

That third bullet, especially if the agreement expires, may well put a damper on many off-season happenings going forward. Teams may not want to make the Correa-esque commitments when they don’t know how much a luxury tax will be under the new agreement. Lack of an agreement may also put a damper on off-season trades. Will there still be arbitration? What will the revenue split look like? What will the international signing rules be? Will there be a full season in 2022, or will baseball shoot itself in the foot and choke the breath out of the goose that lays the golden egg? And on and on.

While fans will be watching for what happens in the coming days, it may well be what doesn’t happen that will cast the most considerable shadow on this off-season.

30 comments on “Astros’ off-season: What’s next?

  1. In my opinion, I would have kept Emanual. If healthy, he can be an effective lefthander, while I just don’t see how Perez can make this lineup in the foreseeable future.

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    • He’s not healthy in the sense that it will take til May-July to ascertain whether he can pitch competitively. Astros already chose Kent over JA Rivera in ’20, and Rivera was selected then returned by LAA. Joe Perez would have been taken too, and he was a 2nd round pick making good. His knock is the glove, but he’s blocked anyway til he gets that fixed.

      Also, we have LHSP Bermudez who was the minor league pitcher of the year. It’s his turn, Emanuel was given what, 8 years?!

      Here are some highlights of Perez’ very easy power that is no longer “raw” as when he was drafted.

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      • I don’t feel bad for Emanuel. He’s from NJ and gets to go play closer to home. He’s a lefty, but I see him more as one of those emergency call-up starters who can also do some long relieving from time to time as opposed to a guy who will shut down top LHH. Having said that, we certainly saw some dominance from him prior to the injury this year.

        I keep hearing people say we would have lost Perez, but his bat still seems pretty far away from being ready. He needs innings in the field and consistent at bats. The Astros probably did him a favor by protecting him as some other team with the luxury of throwing a guy to the wolves as the 26th roster spot and letting him hit .200 with a 50% K-rate for the year would probably stunt his development … which would be hard on a guy who missed a year following elbow surgery and then missed the year because of Covid shutting down MiLB. However, I think this also puts Taylor Jones on notice. I know he’s a favorite on the blog, but I wasn’t high on him at Gonzaga. He’s put on about 20 lbs since then and had great numbers for the Skeeters last year, though. I don’t think there is room for him on the big league club unless we see Alvarez, Gurriel, or perhaps Brantley (a stretch) injured to start the year, but especially if that universal DH gets added he could have some high trade value.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah – I felt bad that Emanuel was let go after everything he did to get to the majors through injuries and all. And then he cashed in that wonderful relief job when he got the shot last season and immediately blows out his arm.
      I’m guessing if he was turning 26 instead of 30 next June they would have held on to him. But leftys often mature later, so I can see your point Larry.
      On Joe Perez – old pro has often pointed out that he may be the only close to ready next guy up for third base. And with Bregman missing so much time and Diaz maybe moving on soon…… oh well I guess we will see.

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      • Keeping conversation going … I doubt the crusade Kent has been on regarding testing positive for banned substance he denies had much to do with it, so hopefully he is vindicated. It was 2016 I drove down to see him in Corpus & been a long road since Friday Night Starter at UNC for him, but this may open more opportunities for him.

        I’d say projection-wise, Enmanuel Valdez (led the Astros minors in HR), and Shay Whitcomb will be on Perez’ (Bregman) heels in short order, and cannot count out overachiever David Hensley. De Goti never got over the hump.
        Admittedly, a little shallow in this dept. and that’s why Astros working out Leon at SS, shoring up IF prospects. Taylor Jones had a solid FP% at 3B but they have focused on OF/1B with him. I cannot see us giving up on Aledmys, since we let Robel Garcia go–that would shock me unless they have plans to bring in a Chris Taylor-type. I’d be comfortable with Diaz/Pena platoon. Maybe Astros know more about Diaz’ lack of range at SS that hasn’t been exposed yet, I don’t know.

        Back to your article, I’ll predict the Lockout isn’t a long one since MLB lost so much money the last few yrs. with some stadiums only at 25% cap. You’re probably right that it will make teams sort of stand pat, though, and that always works in Owner’s favor to cry poor during FA. Starling Marte and Chris Bassitt seem doable, but I see where Olson wants a huge payday, so the A’s may not be a good team to deal with. [Think Manea, or Mantas?] One would think after Kemp and Laureano, they’d relish a chance to get our AAAA guys?!

        Are we praying for Mr. Bill? Did we lose our precious Diane? My podcast was awfully fun, hope you are all going to have a fantastic Thansgiving!

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      • Well I would figure out how to keep Diaz past next season. I would be working on that right now.

        I don’t think Perez has a future at 3B, not if he is going to make 25-30 errors a season there. I would think the Astros would end up taking him in as a 1B to replace Gurriel after this season.

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  2. Concerning Joe Perez, he has been able to hit so far. But we have to question his glove on the infield.

    For Reference ONLY, Derek Jeter committed 29 errors at Columbus in 123 games at age 21. Cal Ripken Jr. committed 21 errors at Rochester in 120 games at age 20. Again, Reference ONLY. Then we have Villar ……..- let’s just drop it.

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    • In my opinion, Bregman’s off years since 2019 have been because of injury. He’s been a gym rat since high school and coach Manieri at LSU gave him keys to the facility as to where he could come in early and late. I think he over trains and doesn’t give his body enough recovery time. At any rate, I expect him to be at his valuable self next season. I can’t imagine him not being our third baseman for the foreseeable future. Defensively, he’s exceptional. Correa is probably gone and Bregman could move to short or stay at third. His arm is not as strong, but no one else playing now is either. He has good range. We’re fortunate to have this Baseball through and through guy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well I don’t like comparing SS to 3B, but there are certainly plenty of 3B that you can add to that list.

      When you look at the list of league leaders in errors by season there is a mix of SS and 3B, the list is like 60% SS though. I think the general consensus is – harder to get to balls, longer throws, leads to more opportunities to commit errors. I loved that Pedro Alvarez almost single handedly put 3B back on the map after SS’s had a fairly large lead lol. Pirate fans must of spent years bemoaning the guys glove.

      The real context of what I was trying to say is – 1B will be a need for this team long before 3B will be, unless Bregman is shifted over. If that happens, and Perez does well at AAA and is inserted, we will go from being a pretty solid defensive unit with an above average SS and 3B to an average SS and below average 3B.

      Walt Weiss once committed 30 errors. He never had more than 19 in any other season. I didn’t look at Cal Ripken or Derek Jeter, but they could have been one off seasons. Perez has been an error machine since the day he entered professional baseball. Guys get better, they improve, some regress, we don’t know what the result will be, but the pattern suggest to me he is 25 errors as a rookie waiting to happen. Maybe you bite the bullet on that first season and see if the second improves – very possible – or you fill the next need at 1B.

      Here is the oddest thing about the league leader list – NL tends to be 3B, AL is like 70% of the time a SS at the top of the list. Maybe because bad 3B in the AL can be put at DH some?

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  3. I reached out to Mr. Bill and he did respond – he is doing better but is slowly building strength after losing 20 lbs. He is reading the blog – just not feeling up to commenting yet.
    His wife is in the hospital with COVID – on 50/50 oxygen – but has had some improvement
    Keep them both in your prayers please

    Liked by 2 people

    • Let’s see
      1) My honor to reach out to Mr. Bill and give y’all a report
      2) Kendall Graveman apparently about to sign with ChiSox – I wish he was signing with us – but I don’t know everything
      3) Lockout – well Becky if the union and the league do not come to agreement in the next week – the agreement will run out on Dec. 1. So, I guess at that point whatever you want to call it – they are no longer in business as such. I guess the owners can lockout the players but it does not matter a whole lot until spring training – except there will likely not be too many trades or free agent signings.
      Again millionaires at odds with billionaires with us thousandaires on the outside footing the bill.

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  4. Rest in peace Bill Virdon more wins than any other manager in Astros history he was 90 years old.😢
    Yeah Dan I just saw that Graveman deal…..that bullpen will be a MONSTER now.
    I still don’t understand all the money aspects of baseball….but thanks for trying to ‘splain, it to me!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Another thing I am wondering about. Per MLB website: “As per the 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs are each subject to a spending cap for amateur international free agents. Each club will have at least a $4.75 million bonus pool to spend, with those that have a pick in Competitive Balance Round A receiving $5.25 million and those with a pick in Competitive Balance Round B receiving $5.75 million.”

    So on December 2nd can the Astros go sign any International Player they like and ignore any caps?

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    • As you probably recall, we have earmarked several Cubans w/ offers reported, not to mention a few others abroad. But yes, if we want to exceed it, in the past it’s a set penalty tax of $2m.

      RHP Carlos Espinosa: $450K
      SS Alberto Hernandez: $1 million
      OF Kenni Gomez: $650-900K (MLB Pipeline)
      OF Luis Baez: $1.25 million

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  6. Every team has a plan. Every fan has a vision of that plan and here is mine. Remember, the blog asks what’s next:
    – The reason I believe the Astros will non-tender Montero is because they have already DFA’d Emanuel. They are both pitchers who are coming off injuries. I don’t think the Astros are willing to commit $3million to a guy who might not be ready to help them win from the get go.
    – They wait until Correa commits to huge money somewhere else and then they go get Marte for less than one-third of Correa’s money to replace his offense and solidify their outfield as the most solid in baseball. Brantley/Meyers or McCormick in left. Marte in center and Tucker in RF. If Marte is ready to move, maybe the Astros don’t wait on Correa, since he is very firm on getting Lindor-type money.
    -Diaz is the utility guy for 2022 and his salary is just fine for that. You are grooming his replacement in Cesar Salazar at AAA for 2023 and beyond.
    – Pena is the shortstop. He is not as good as Correa was in 2021, but Correa has never been as good as he was in 2021 defensively either.
    – Leon goes to the OF in AAA as the heir apparent to Brantley’s job in the OF in 2023. Leon was playing SS in the AFL until he made 2 errors there in one costly loss and was moved to CF for the remainder of that fall league.
    -Now that Nova is off the 40-man, the Astros moved his contract to Sugarland and he may play around the infield there for the time being along with Kessinger and Salazar.
    – I think the Astros sign at least one other reliever. Not sure what they do with Odorizzi before ST. Moving his contract gives them room at the deadline to make a move or two to shore up weak spots for a WS run. It’s what the Astros do
    -I still believe the Astros hope Norel Gonzalez busts out with his bat at 1B in Sugarland.

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    • I agree with everything except Pena at short. Could happen, but I like the chances of a FA shortstop without a long term deal as the season approaches. Then we justify a one or two year deal and give Pena more time.

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      • This is more of a question than a statement. But Pena has 182 games in the minors. In the Astros shifting, Carlos (and Diaz and others) played in the hole at Short, and all the way over to playing 2nd base. In order to make a double play, the entire infield has to know who goes where on each ground ball. I would think that would not be easy to pick up fast. Now if they trade for an experienced Shortstop, he may have little to no experience in all the shifting also.

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    • Given out in house options, once Correa signs elsewhere I think Click has two choices. Option 1 – bring in a stop gap SS intended to get up to 50 starts this year with the intent that Pena will work on his contact skills at Sugarland and be ready in the summer. Option 2 – plan for Pena to win a job in spring training with the backup plan of Diaz, Bregman, and heavy employment of the shift holding down the fort if he’s not ready. Perhaps make a trade for someone the final week of spring training if things don’t look good. I can’t see Correa or any of the free agent SS fitting into our budget.

      I’d love to see them move Odorizzi for budgetary reasons. My initial expectation was that teams would be tightening the belts, but we just saw the White Sox pick up Craig Kimbrel’s eight figure option and then add Graveman at 3/$24M … and neither of those guys will be closing games for them, so some teams are optimistic on the financials of the sport I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Devin, some of the buzz going on with the White Sox is that they will now try and trade Kimbrel to get the money off their payroll – or maybe part of the money…

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