Random thoughts in the middle of winter

Today we are facing the depths of winter here in the Houston area. It is a frigid 75 degrees this morning and warming up to a brisk 82 this afternoon. OK, so it is not exactly Christmasy around here, but from a baseball news standpoint, we are definitely in the depths of winter.

Every day, the big news includes mostly washed-up players who used to play in the majors but are not currently on a 40 man roster, either signing a minor league deal with an MLB club or signing overseas in the Korean or other leagues. Coaching hires are being covered and speculative pieces on where some of the remaining free agents could possibly, maybe, sign. That is about as firm as it gets.

Note: I like what MLBTraderumors is doing in trying to get current or former players to come in for a live Q&A with the readers. The recent one with Chad Cordero was especially good.

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/12/chad-cordero-chat.html

So, the baseball news buffet is a lot like the buffets in this pandemic world – few and very far between.

But here at Chipalatta, we soldier on somehow, writing about whatever we darned well feel like writing about. Like today we will cover random thoughts and questions….

If Joe Espada leaves, how will it affect the organization down the way and right now?

Beyond possibly losing the heir to the septuagenarian Dusty Baker as Astros’ manager, there have to be concerns about how much Espada would be missed day to day as Baker’s righthand man. He has been described as a critical conduit between the statistical wonks and the players – someone who knows how to communicate what is involved and why it works to both youngsters and veterans.

How much would Baker miss Espada? Who would take his place? Is the players’ talent a lot more important than who is coaching them?

Where does Cristian Javier fit in the teams’ 2022 plans?

James Click had indicated earlier that Javier is expected to be in the rotation in the longer term. For his career (which includes the last two seasons), Javier is also better as a starter, but not quite as much as he was last season. In 2021, he was 3-1 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.027 WHIP as a starter of nine games. In 27 appearances as a reliever, he was 1-0 with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.329 WHIP.

It seemed like he would be a natural battle for the rotation spot opened by Zack Greinke, moving on until the announced signing of Justin Verlander.

Javier is young. He will only turn 25 right before opening day this season. They could definitely keep him in his swingman, long relief role and use him in the rotation as needed. Or would they be better off putting him into the rotation and sliding someone else (Jose Urquidy? Luis Garcia?) into that swing role?

Who will play the most centerfield for the Astros in 2022?

The gut feeling for this is that Jake Meyers might have been the answer if he was healthy. But right now, he will not be ready for opening day after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum. There has been no news about his recovery, but the best guess is he may miss the first month or so of the season. With him out, Chas McCormick has to be considered the leading man in center field, backed up by Jose Siri or Kyle Tucker. When Meyers returns, they will likely repeat the shared CF roles they filled in 2022. It would be nice if they both do a better job of making contact in the coming season. It is assumed that young Cuban Pedro Leon needs more seasoning after not hitting well in a short stint at AAA.  

Who is the high leverage set-up man to Ryan Pressly?

Does Ryne Stanek return to the role he held until Kendall Graveman came over in a trade from the Mariners? Does Hector Neris slide into that spot after doing a great job filling in the second half of 2021 for the Phillies? Does Phil Maton continue with the magic he showed in the playoffs in 2021 and earn this high leverage spot? Does Pedro Baez bounce back from injury and turn back into the high leverage ace he was with the Dodgers from 2015 to 2020?

At least it appears there are multiple options for the Astros to pick from in 2022.

Anyways, just some thoughts and questions as we battle the elements here in the frigid Gulf Coast. What are you thinking about today?

32 comments on “Random thoughts in the middle of winter

  1. Thanks for the tip on the Cordero chat. I had skipped that.
    OK, on to Espada.
    Espada was interviewed last offseason by several clubs and nothing came of it. The Astros would probably want to keep continuity in the dugout with Espada, but not to the point of keeping him from being a big league manager. Flipping that coin, if they wanted him for their manager’s job, they had their chance to hire him for 2022 and didn’t, so they have to live with the “no Espada” half of that choice if he gets hired away. They made Baker their choice for 2022 , so they had to want him more than their fear of losing Espada.
    My gut tells me Showalter to NYM and maybe Espada to the A’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just some random thoughts. 1. Espada: If the Astros hired away Ohtani’s translater it would have little to no effect on the Angels. I hate to lose anyone, but the players play the game. 2. Javier: He needs to work on his control. His pitches are mostly not hittable. But his downfall is control. 3. CF: I think until someone proves he is the winner, the time will be split. Not sure where Siri fits in or if he does. 4. Relief: If the injury bug goes away this season, there are plenty of options. Also, the Astros won 95 games. Pressly saved only 26. There needs to be 2 potential 8th inning pitchers and 2 potential closers. I think the Astros think they have those in house. 5. My least liked stories this Winter is “We offered and nearly signed Smith just before he signed with that other team.” Similar to “I almost bought Apple shares at $12.00 before I didn’t.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting ranking considering that Turner and Bichette (especially Bichette) are making a lot less than the guys right after them who are making or are going to be making huge chunks of cash

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very interesting that Turner is #1 at SS and 2B. And also interesting that Yuli is pegged at #15 at first. However, in the article above, the writer states that he doesn’t believe that even at 38 years of age, Yuli falls off that much. Let’s hope not.

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  3. Not that it makes us feel any better, if you read the blogs around the league, everyone is disappointed in the off season news. Camdenchat.com is one for the Orioles. Baltimore released ALL of their catchers at the end of the season. This past week they signed 2 minor leaguers to catch.

    And the writer’s comment was “And THAT is what passes for News these days.”

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    • Well AC it has to be frustrating for fans of teams with multiple gaping holes.
      Not to downplay the potential loss of Correa but the Astros could put out a strong team today without making another move

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    • The #1 prospect in all of baseball is a catcher in AAA for Baltimore. When Elias believes Rutschman will help them become a force in the AL East, he will be the Orioles’ catcher. There is no use wasting him before the Orioles become the 2014 Astros.
      The Orioles did not sign two minor league catchers this past week. They signed two major league catchers to minor league deals because those two saw a terrific chance to get back into the major leagues with a team like Baltimore.
      Baltimore gets two borderline catchers who have lots of experience behind the plate in the minors and a little experience in the majors, that don’t tie up any 40-man roster spots until the end of spring training. Baltimore had a big 40-man roster crunch and I think they did a great job handling it. The only contracts the Orioles can offer right now are MILB contracts and they used that to their advantage. What does the second worst team in baseball lose with this move? Nothing! They filled the spots of two rostered lousy catchers with two lousy catchers who aren’t rostered.

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      • The Blog is from the point of view of Orioles fans. They are frustrated apparently. I hope no one goes back to my comments and replies from 2012-2014. I didn’t handle Pena, Greene, Cedeno, Krauss, Ankiel, etc. etc. signings very well. And you are correct, it didn’t hurt the team nor its current roster. It is also interesting that one of these was an Astro that was traded to A’s to get Scott Kazmir in 2015.

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  4. Showalter to the Mets. That leaves the A’s job as the other that Espada interviewed for. I have to wonder… does the Astros’ brand stain his chances for a major league managerial job even though he was not involved?

    Not that I am complaining. I would like to him to take the Astros’ job when it opens.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We have another interesting date coming up next month. January 25th, the Hall of Fame ballot results will be posted. I can’t wait to see the pretzel that all these writers twist themselves into to explain why ARod should be in the Hall and Bond/Clemens are ineligible for their votes.

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  6. In discussing Cristian Javier’s role with the team, I would like to make one point about the pitching staff. Luis Garcia finished a strong second in Rookie of the Year voting. He pitched well in the regular season and got hit hard in the postseason. I think the 28 starts and 155 IP should give him the right to qualify for the rotation for 2022. He earned a shot at it in his first real test as a major league starter. Remember that he pitched those innings without ever having pitched in AA or AAA. His experiences in 2021 should make him a smarter and more confident pitcher in 2022 and beyond.
    Now, to Javier. If Odorizzi is still around on opening day, and healthy, you have to think he is on the opening day roster. If that happens, and the rest of the rotation(JV, LMJ, Framber, Urquidy and Garcia are in the rotation, the luxury of allowing Javier to build up his body to be a starter is a huge advantage for the Astros. Having him in AAA starting allows the Astros to have a guy who is ready to pitch in MLB the moment you need him. With the rotation they have, it is entirely possible the Astros could need Javier to be a starter from day 1, because of JV and LMJ’s rehabs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great points. Last year, the Astros had 9 pitchers starting games. Ivey 1 and Bielak 2. And we ended up one starter short in the WS. I am not a big fan of a young player “watching from the bench” in the majors as opposed to “playing/pitching in the minors.” According to Fangraphs, Framber, Garcia, Javier, and Urquidy still have options left. So maybe some “minor arm issues” can have them rehab during the year.

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  8. I wonder which MLB team will get caught negotiating with someone under the table during the lockout first. I don’t fully know the specifics…they can probably talk to agents but not extend offers…but it’s likely some people sign within minutes/hours of an agreement with the mlbpa being reached. What’s my point? It’s kind of absurd owners are inking managers without the input of their 8 figure employees who will either make those hires successes or failures. Or are they?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There is a funny thing about Javier that I assume the Astros franchise is extremely aware of and trying to work on – he had one of the best BAA against a lineup the first time around in baseball at .139- but he becomes much less effective the 2nd time through. I’m not sure what is making that kind of disparity, but I am sure the Astros are the kind of franchise that can figure it out. I think long term he can be a very effective starter, but for this season I would expect he starts the year as the best 5th-6th inning guy in the league, and probably steps in for any of a rotation full of guys that aren’t exactly 30 starts a year guys.

    When your most likely 30 start, 200 inning guy is a 39 year old coming off of TJ and a near 2 year layoff, durability isn’t exactly your strong suit. We need all the starting depth we can get, which is why I assume Odorizzi and his contract are still here.

    I would love to see him step into a permanent rotation spot in 2 or 3 years, but right now I am happy with a better version of Brad Peacock, who never could figure out a lineup a second and third time through either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It gets interesting Steven – do you keep him fully stretched out at AAA to fill in a rotation spot when needed or do you keep him in a 2-3 inning role in the bullpen and then when you need him it might take him three or four starts to get to 5 innings.
      Good point on his problems second time through the lineup. Does this point to the opposition figuring him out or does he just not have enough different good pitches to change to the second time through?

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      • Or, has relegating him to a relievers role taken away the stamina one needs to get through the lineup more than once.
        Or, does the fact he walks too many batters and has too many deep counts run his pitch count up so high in three innings that he can’t go through a lineup twice?
        Or both?

        Liked by 1 person

  10. The Astros have been tied to Story as a cheaper, shorter term replacement for Correa. Does the Q.O. and the potential draft choice loss make that a less palatable choice for the Astros who are just getting back to their full set of draft picks this year after losing first and second rounders the last two seasons?

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    • I think it would make it less palatable to lose their second round pick(#28 in the second round) and $500,000 of their international allowance, but not to the point that it would keep them from signing someone like Story at a price they felt was good for the team for the next six years or so.
      A signing like that might make either of Diaz or Pena available in a trade which would probably bring back a player or players more valuable to them than a late second round pick. After all, signing a big-investment Trevor Story would relegate the other two to utility backups in duplicate.

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      • I’m with ac45. If you’re signing someone for multiple years it’s unlikely that comp pick will ever provide as much value as the player you chose to sign. This, of course, assumes that you don’t just go out and sign someone terrible, but why would a team risk a QO on that player? If Click thinks Story can play SS for multiple seasons AND hit better than his road split would indicate then I’m happy with him spending Crane’s money on him rather than clutching the draft choice. If they aren’t certain then I’d rather roll into ST with what we have and hope that a combination of Diaz/Bregman/TBD can get you through the season until Pena is ready to contribute. All he really needs to do is hit a little and play great defense.

        Liked by 2 people

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