The Astros and their finest hour

In the movie Apollo 13 there is a special moment when things are looking grim for the three astronauts and the crippled spaceship that the crew and the support staff on the ground are all trying to baby back to Earth. The director of NASA says, “This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever experienced.” At this Flight Director Gene Kranz replies, “With all due respect sir, I believe this will be our finest hour.” And it was.

Sometimes all an organization or a team needs is that type of attitude from someone in a lead position when things are looking their worst.

And let’s face facts. Though the Astros are dealing with a tough offseason of disappointment, loss on the field, loss in the locker room and potential loss of respect throughout baseball, the team is not in the type of shape that crippled spaceship was in back in 1970.

Still, this team could enjoy its finest hour if it can overcome the losses or potential losses of Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, Collin McHugh, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Jake Marisnick, Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado, the salary restrictions of bumping up and over the luxury tax level and whatever findings and punishment potentially appears out of the cheating scandal.

So what should the Astro fans hang their hats on in expecting this team to experience their finest hour?

  1. This lineup. The Astros, even if they don’t improve the catcher spot (which I fully believe they will), they are loaded. Look at these names – Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel. Each one has the ability to be an All Star, to be a Player of the week or month and most have the ability to at least be talked about in the MVP race.
  2. Space for offensive improvement. while the catcher spot might regress a bit there is certainly potential for upward improvement with this team. ROY Yordan Alvarez will play a whole year this time not half a season. Carlos Correa could easily play a lot more games this time around. Kyle Tucker may get a lot more chances to show he is an offensive force with his bat and his feet. Aledmys Diaz also could play more – he was just coming into his own when he got hurt. And of course  there is some addition by subtraction with no Tyler White or Jake Marisnick at bats.
  3. The rotation is not chopped liver. A rotation of Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, Jose Urquidy and the Charlie Morton / Wade Miley flavor of the year would be quite a solid five when compared to what most teams toss out there. And then if Forrest Whitley or Bryan Abreu or one of the other youngsters forces their way into the picture…they could easily be a top 5 rotation.
  4. More space for offensive improvement. The Astros were not an especially good team with runners in scoring position or RISP with 2 outs. They were insanely bad when trailing headed into the 9th for a team with 107 wins. If they just improve these a little bit it could make a huge difference in their performance.
  5. Been there done that. This team knows how to win. They’ve won more than 100 games three years in a row. In the last five seasons, they’ve given themselves four good chances to go all the way (Winning it all in 2017, losing to eventual champs in 2015, 2018 and 2019).
  6. The top supports the bottom. Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow have shown the ability and the will to do what it takes to make big moves for this team
  7. This seems to be a solid coaching staff with AJ Hinch holding a solid but not too tight rein on his team

The bottom line is that this team has the type of talent and pedigree to win it all in 2020, which could represent this team’s finest hour.

Random baseball thoughts from a Florida hotel

Here I am in a Florida hotel, my legs feeling like I walked almost eight miles today, which I did.

My thoughts are many and varied and garbled so I must share them.

Is anybody worth $250, $280, $300 MM for playing a kid’s game?

I get it that there is a ridiculous amount of money involved in sports and billionaires are making piles too. But still is there really positive value here? Do these numbers get so crazy it is like when Space Balls hits ludicrous speed – beyond imagination?

I have been around a long time and seen every kind of bubble burst, whether real estate or oil prices or tech stocks, that you can imagine. Sports feels like one such bubble.

What would it take for the Astro’s fans to boo their team?

My son was telling me about the Patriot fans booing their team after losing a couple in a row. I mean these are the defending Super Bowl champs (along with being in practically every SB this decade).

I think our fans are better than that – but I’ve been wrong before.

Even with this alleged scandal, I don’t think Houston fans are jaded enough to do that to a team they love and are so happy to support. I think it would almost take an off field scandal to result in such action.

What is worse – a team electronically stealing signals with management knowledge or the league juicing the baseball to pump up scores, ratings and income?

Some folks will say juicing baseball does not give one team competitive advantage over another. But what if some teams did not build themselves to be high scoring, HR centric teams? Wouldn’t this give certain teams that sign crankers an advantage (which might include the big city teams baseball would like to see succeed)?

In my mind, both things affect the integrity of the game.

Would the modern fan accept reasonable scoring in the games or do they need video game style action to keep their interest?

I think the beauty of a 2-1 pitching matchup may be lost on most modern fans. But I don’t think every game has to be 9-8 to keep them in it. A good solid 5-4 game should do the trick. Am I wrong here?

If most of us had been born today would we have learned to love the game like we have?

Most of us were part of a game that was very oral in its presentation. Our dad or mom would sit with us and talk us through the game. It was a bonding experience for us.

I had a friend who would spend summers on his grandpa’s farm. They would listen together on the radio to a few innings of the Cardinals together before hitting the hay early.

Would these types of interactions happen today when families sit in the same room glued to their phones oblivious to each other?

Anyways, as I said my thoughts today are all over the place. What about yours?

Astros offseason: Dan P has a personal Q&A

The style of this blog has been to bring up Astro related subjects and attempt to engage you, the reader with questions about the subject of the day. Your opinions are valued and add a lot to each post.

Today, we will stray a bit from that formula and this will be Dan P asking Dan P what he thinks about a number of topics related to  the Astros off-season.

Q: Who is the most critical Astro-related person this off-season?

A: It may sound surprising to say – but my choice is owner Jim Crane. I see him as the key figure on two major off-season items.

1) The team budget and their dance around the luxury tax line, drives so many personnel decisions. It is key to who they can pursue in free agency. It is key to who, if anyone, they must jettison for salary reasons. It is key to how much of the roster will be filled up with minimum major league wage prospects from the minors.

2) It is probably a good assumption that Crane will be the central figure in whatever punishment is meted out to the team (if any) from the alleged cheating scandal. It is probable that there will be some give and take and maybe a little throwing folks under the bus to get to the final decision. “How about Hinch and Luhnow suspended for a season?” “Or how about I accept Luhnow’s resignation?” Or whatever. That is assuming that they don’t find that Crane had a hand in it…..

Q: Since you brought up the luxury tax, how does that work and how might the Astros address it?

A: Glad you asked. The luxury tax hits the teams for a certain percentage for every dollar spent above an agreed to limit in payroll (plus other items such as benefits, and minor league contracts). The % tax is based on the number of times (in a row) that a team exceeds the tax – starting off as 20% for first offenders and rising with each consecutive season. If a team falls back under it resets so that the next time it exceeds will be as a first offender %.

Right now the Astros are an estimated (by Sportrac) $10 MM over the limit, so they would have to pay a $2 MM tax as a first offender. If they added another starting pitcher (let’s say at $15 MM), a catcher ($7 MM) and a reliever ($5 MM) their tax would go from $2 MM to about $7.5 MM. This is only about a 3-4% increase vs their overall payroll which would have been in the $240 MM range after these changes.

While, the Astros may end up exceeding the luxury tax, it is a good guess that they will make some moves to lessen both the payroll and the tax here. Who might be candidates to head elsewhere by trade and cut these numbers down?

  • Josh Reddick and his $13 MM salary stands out in this regard. It is likely if they traded him they would either have to swallow a chunk of that salary or throw a prospect in to lessen the blow to the next team. This could be a $8-10 MM savings
  • Roberto Osuna and his estimated $10.2 MM arbitration settlement has also been tossed around. You would think his age (not yet 25), and career stats (154 saves/ 2.75 ERA) at that age, along with keeping out of trouble since coming to the Astros would make him very tradable. But the PR side to his situation might make it a tough sell.
  • Carlos Correa and his estimated $7.4 MM arbitration salary might be another spot that would yield savings, but it sure would have to be the offer of the century for the Astros to let Correa and his two years of control to go.
  • The collective piddle of salaries for Jake Marisnick (est. $3 MM), Aledmys Diaz (est. $2.4 MM), Chris Devenski (est. $2 MM) and Joe Biagini (reported $1 MM) would take small bites out of both the payroll and the tax.

Dan P thinks…..that the Astros will sign FAs or trade for vets to add about $20 MM of salary and then will mostly offset that with trades that send Reddick, Marisnick, Devo and Biagini elsewhere. They will take a small hit as a first time offender over the tax limit.

Note: After this was written, but before it was published – it appears that Marisnick is heading to the Mets in a trade. 

Q: And since you also brought it up, what do you think the fall out will be on the alleged electronic cheating by the team?

A: The Astros will be fined $5 MM and will lose a first round pick for the next two seasons. A major figure (Jeff Luhnow) will resign and another (A.J. Hinch) will be suspended for the 2020 season. They will not vacate the crown. These predictions are for entertainment only and should not be used for wagering purposes….

Q: Who might the Astros pursue in free agency?

A: While we hear that the Astros were after Zack Wheeler, who the Phillies reeled in at 5 years / $118 MM and who knows what they may or may not offer Gerrit Cole (who is estimated by mlbtraderumors at 8 yrs/ $256 MM). But I think that more in the Astros wheel house might be a high spin rate, not so high velocity pitcher like Julio Teheran (estimated at 2 yrs / $18 MM) or even revisiting Wade Miley (estimated at 2 yrs/ $16 MM) or …. Dallas Keuchel (3 yrs / $39 MM)? That is probably a big no on the last one at least. Maybe they will take a 1 year flyer on Alex Wood or Adam Wainwright (both estimated at 1 yr/ $8 MM) or perhaps Josh Lindblom (est. 2 yrs/ $8 MM) who is returning from a successful run in Korea. Dan P thinks that Lindblom feels like the Charlie Morton/ Wade Miley flavor of the year.

Catcher needs? I really think the team will bring Robinson Chirinos back (est. 2 yrs / $10 MM), especially if a certain Cy Young award winner has a say in it.

Bullpen help? How about the last guy the Astros faced this season? Daniel Hudson (est. 2 yrs / $12 MM) is again a guy with the high spin rate the Astros love to grab.

Q: How do you feel as a fan this off-season?

A: I feel a bit bummed out. The Astros should have won the World Series at home in one of the last two games and just did not get it done. Then on top of that, the crowning glory of our baseball lives is now being tarnished. I will power through this, but it will take a while.

 

What does that Astros’ 26-man roster look like right now?

The Astros are obviously not where they will be in a few months personnel-wise. But at least for the short term, the choice to only non-tender Aaron Sanchez gave the fans a glimpse at what the team may be thinking heading toward 2020. One of the differences for 2020 will be a 26 man roster during the regular season, which will likely be filled by an additional bench hand. This is fortunate, because right now the Astros are struggling to fill in the pitching spots they normally would require for the season.

So, assuming the Astros do a 13/13 split between position players and pitchers (I guess pitcher is not considered a position) what would that look like? (For fun – check out the current Astros depth chart from mlb.com)http://houston.astros.mlb.com/team/depth_chart/index.jsp?c_id=hou

Infield (5). This is very straight forward. Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel with Aledmys Diaz as the main backup. Whether Abraham Toro gets a shot may well depend on whether they think that Alvarez is the 5th OF.

Catchers (2). This space for rent….. Right now Dustin Garneau, who they just picked up and Garrett Stubbs are the top two (also the only two) on the 40 man roster. One of them may be on the big club to start the season, but both starting the year with the big club is not a likely scenario.

DH (1). Yordan Alvarez – yes they will get him to play some OF, but at least to start the season he will be the main DH and deservedly so.

OFs (5). Michael Brantley, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick and ……a fifth guy (Kyle Tucker? Myles Straw?).  This could be the one group that changes the most or is untouched. What if Reddick and/or Marisnick get moved? Straw and Tucker move up or one of these other prospects comes up the ladder (like Chas McCormick). How much does Alvarez get used in this mix?

SP (5). Right now the MLB depth chart shows the Astro starters as Justin Verlander (Yup), Zack Greinke (Good so far), Lance McCullers (better have an injury replacement ready), Jose Urquidy (Give the young man a chance) and Framber Valdez (huh?). 6th and 7th are Rogelio Armenteros and Francis Martes. That is what losing Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, Wade Miley, and Aaron Sanchez does to your rotation. So, yes we know they have to add here somehow.

RP (8). The top 8 in the depth chart are shown as Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Josh James, Brad Peacock, Cionel Perez and Cy Sneed. Obviously, whoever does not fill the 5th starting spot has a shot here along with anyone they may sign along the way. I keep thinking they will see if Will Harris wants to come back for some redemption.

Now the challenge as old pro pointed out in a recent comment is that the Astros currently have the highest payroll and highest luxury tax payroll in the majors without adding a starting pitcher, a bullpen piece or one or two catchers. That is why it feels like someone(s) will get moved off here for $$ reasons at least.

The questions for you…

  • Who do you think will not make it to spring training of the folks above?
  • Who do you think might be a surprise trade token?
  • What positions will they fill with either free agents or through trade?
  • Any youngsters you want to come up and fill a spot or spots economically?
  • Would you do a 13/13 split with the new 26 man roster or some other split?

The toughest personnel decision for the Astros

The financial decisions the Astros are facing have been coming for years. Blog founder Chip Bailey has hit on this theme a number of times, including this mid-2017 post….

And the financial problems he discussed back then did not include future Astros Justin Verlander ($33 MM for the next two seasons) and Zack Greinke (about $25 MM for the next two seasons).

With the team up against the luxury tax limit, there are a number of personnel decisions that could be nominated for the toughest the team faces. But here are a few possibilities:

  • Say “the heck with the tax” and re-sign Gerrit Cole. Yes, this would be a step the team has not taken under the current regime. The longest-term commitment they have made to a non-arb or non-pre-arb pitcher was the two year extension Verlander signed with one year to go on his contract. The contract cost would put them over the tax line, and in addition, they would be looking at a 7 or 8-year commitment to Cole.
  • Cut the cord with Carlos Correa. They could do nothing and control Correa for the next two seasons through arbitration before he is a free agent heading into the 2022 season. They could try to extend him right now when his worth, dampened by a lot of missed time the last three seasons (109, 110 and 75 games played) might be at its most reasonable. Or they could turn to other teams and dangle a 25 y.o. SS, who was Rookie of the Year, an All Star in their WS season and was headed towards the All Star game when his injuries curtailed him in 2019. Could they get a solid, controllable starting pitcher and a prospect or two for Correa?
  • Figure out what to do about George Springer. They have gotten Springer to accept a two-year contract to buy out a couple arbitration years. It is a good bet they tried to get him to accept a contract that would have also bought out a couple of free agent seasons too. Is there any chance of extending him this offseason, when he is one season away from free agency? Does he hold anything against the Astros for holding him in the minors for a year or more longer than they should have (based on performance)?  He is the heart and soul of the team it would seem along with Jose Altuve. He is one of the most key components to the offense as the most deadly lead-off man in the game. He is coming off his best, though abbreviated, season putting up great full season numbers (96 runs, 39 HRs, 96 RBIs) in only 122 games. He has consistently missed games throughout his career, playing only 140, 140 and 122 the last three seasons and 102 in 2015. Are they going to give him a long, huge contract now when there is no competition or wait until next off-season when they will be competing against the world?

So…

  1. Which is the toughest personnel decision facing the team of these three?
  2. How would you address these three situations?
  3. Is there a tougher personnel decision not mentioned here?
  4. How does the cloud over the team affect their ability to address these types of situations?

Astros 2020: To tender or not to tender

Back a few hundred years ago, that old bard Billy Shakespeare started his play, Richard III with the Astro applicable words, “Now is the winter of our discontent….”. This has been a tough time for every fan of the team and obviously more so for those folks who still work (for the time being) for the Astros. But the off-season moves on and more importantly, critical deadlines come and go regardless of dark clouds hovering and true hearts suffering.

The next deadline to roll around is on December 2nd. As Bard Billy (with a small change here) also said, “To Tender or not to Tender…. that is the question…”. The Astros will have to decide on that date, which arbitration-eligible players they want to tender (continue with negotiations or arbitration) or those they want to non-tender (allow to become free agents).

Just like the last two off-seasons, the Astros have a boatload of players who are arb-eligible. Unlike the last two off-seasons, there are probably more of these players that have question marks about them against their expected salaries. Also, unlike the last two off-seasons, there are doubts about obtaining players by other means.

  • Will players want to come as free agents to an organization that is waiting for the sword to fall? Do they want to be signed by someone or sign to play for someone, who may not be in charge in a month or so?
  • Will other teams want to face the fall-out from their fans of making trades with the “cheaters”? A few years ago I might have laughed this off, but in the current over-sensitive world, you never know what people will organize against and how teams and their sponsors will react.
  • And what is the budget line that Jim Crane will support, especially when he is unsure what punishments and fines may be brought from above? Will he have to eat some salaries of front office or dugout folks that he may be forced to pink slip?
  • Will these uncertainties make the certainty of players still under club control through arbitration look more attractive? They can also replace players from within the organization, but that has not been their vehicle of first choice to date.

In the off-season following the 2017 World Series, the Astros only non-tendered pitcher Mike Fiers. With 20/20 hindsight that may end up being a baaaaaad decision. They then came to agreements with or went to arbitration with Evan Gattis, Ken Giles, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers Jr. and Jake Marisnick.

Last off-season they only non-tendered a player who never played an inning for the team, catcher Chris Herrmann, who they had just picked up off waivers. They then came to an agreement or went to arbitration with Gerrit Cole, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Lance McCullers Jr., Collin McHugh, Roberto Osuna, Brad Peacock, Ryan Pressly, Carlos Correa, and Jake Marisnick.

So after settling with 9 out of 10 players and 10 out of 11 players – the Astros face a list of 9 players this off-season – George Springer, Carlos Correa, Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers, Aledmys Diaz, Jake Marisnick, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, and Roberto Osuna.

So with expected arbitration numbers from Spotrac at our fingertips, let’s look at each of these players.

George Springer. 30 years old. Expected arb salary $21.4 MM

The Astros will tender Springer and then I think they will work hard to extend him, though being one season away from FA, he may have no interest. But he will be back.

Carlos Correa. 25. Expected  $7.4 MM

If Carlos could play 140 games next season, he might be the biggest bargain in baseball. (I know it is a big “could”). They will tender him. They might dangle him in a trade, but it would have to be a “blow us away” trade centered around a good controllable pitcher or two.

Brad Peacock. Will be 32. Expected – $4.6 MM

He was down a bit last season (4.12 ERA), but his ERA went south big time in a single game right before he went on the IL for almost two months. They need his arm and his flexibility between the bullpen and rotation and there is a good chance he could start the season in the rotation as a place holder until someone like Forrest Whitley is ready. They will tender him.

Lance McCullers. 26. Expected $4.1 MM

Well if they tendered the young man for a season they knew he could not play, they will certainly tender him now, especially with the news that he is basically clear to throw all his pitches.

Aledmys Diaz. 29. Expected $2.4 MM

No, he did not flash a Marwin Gonzalez glove moving around the diamond, but at his low expected price and with the solid bat he showed (when he wasn’t hurt) they will definitely tender him.

Jake Marisnick. Will be 29. Expected – $3.0 MM

This is an extremely tough one to guess. Does going to a 26 man roster open up an extra spot to keep him or does it financially make the team more likely to go cheap at the end of the roster? They certainly could go young with Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez and Myles Straw completing the outfield with Springer and Michael Brantley. The guess here is that they will tender Jake, but they will look for a spot to move him for a prospect along the way.

Aaron Sanchez. 27. Expected $5.6 MM

This one is even tougher to call, because we are not privy to exactly how long they expect Sanchez to be out after his shoulder surgery. If they thought he might be back shortly after the season starts, spend a few weeks in extended spring training and show up sometime in May, they might tender him. If they think it will be longer, there is a good chance they won’t. The guess here is he will be non-tendered.

Joe Biagini. 29. Expected $1.5 MM

In a very small sample, 14.2 IP – Biagini was horrid for the Astros giving up 21 hits, 6 HRs, 9 walks and having his fat saved by guys like Will Harris to hold it to only a 7.36 ERA. There are only a couple reasons they would tender him. One – if he had an injury he was pitching through or two – they think Brent Strom could straighten him out. I mean $1.5 MM is tip money in the majors, but of course it is not my tip money. I think they will non-tender him.

Roberto Osuna. Will be 25. Expected $10.2 MM

This is the toughest call on here. Osuna has mostly been a good closer. He has not had a hint of trouble about him since coming back from his suspension with the Blue Jays for alleged domestic abuse. But with all the PR fallout from the cheating scandal is Osuna at $10.2 MM too expensive an anchor for this team to carry onward, especially after the Brandon Taubman meltdown? This is a 50/50 in my mind. This one may depend entirely on who is making the call on this one. The guess here is ……I’m waiting until my flipped coin comes down. Oh, darned – it landed on edge. OK – y’all make the call on this one.

So there you go. It will be one of many interesting steps that will occur this off-season. How do you see these falling out?

Talking us down from the ledge

I wanted to stay away from talking about “it”. I even wrote a post about getting back to baseball. But it has been hard to do this with the dark cloud hovering over all our heads. And then reading the comments from some of our best and most loyal bloggers about leaving forever, if….. the unthinkable enters the thoughts of one Commissioner Rob Manfred, brought me back to the subject.

I think everyone could live with most potential punishments. Fines for the club? No money off our noses. Lose draft choices? Could hurt the team eventually, but maybe not too badly. Suspend the manager A.J. Hinch or his coaches? Would not be great, but could be worked around. Suspend the GM Jeff Luhnow? Would sting and obviously could set the organization back a bit. Hinch, Luhnow lose their jobs? This would be bad, but this is still a very talented ball club with the core mostly around for a while. Forcing Jim Crane out as owner might really hurt longer term, but probably not on the short term. And who knows there might be another very good owner out there willing to spend bucks. It could happen.

But the unthinkable is what has forced a number of folks to the ledge and has  many of us in a funk right now. What if…… baseball has the Astros vacate that 2017 title?

Your mostly faithful servant is here to try and talk you down from that ledge. Major League baseball will not do this.

Why?

Because it is a precedent they don’t want to set. It is a slippery slope they don’t want to breach. No other professional sport has ever taken this step and baseball is not a trailblazer that wants to be the first. Basketball had a referee, who admitted to helping fix games for gambling purposes. They never reversed the results of any of those games. Pro football had one of the worst non-calls in the history of the game keep the Saints out of the Super Bowl. Did they go back and reverse that decision? No.

Think of this. They take away this title based on the edge the Astros may have gained from using technology to steal signs. Then do they go back and take away the Yankees titles from 1998 – 2000 when they may have gained an edge from players like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley and even Mr. Astros Post-Game Mike Stanton, who have been linked to alleged steroid use?

Do they go back and vacate the NY Giants 1951 NL title when they reportedly stole the title along with signs down the stretch?

Do they vacate the wins that Gaylord Perry won with the help of outside substances in his cap, hair, glove and vacate his Hall of Fame election?

Should they go back and take away every game the Red Sox used their Apple Watches to steal signs?

Should they talk to disgruntled former players for every team that won the World Series over the last 30 seasons and find out what each and every one of them did that might have been against the rules?

Where does it end?

Major league baseball will punish the Astros and likely some head or heads will roll. But the chances of them judging that the title is totally tainted is a step that could lead them to a bottomless pit of never ending investigations. And that is the Pandora’s Box they don’t want to open.

So, come back off the ledge and back to this blog. Please.

And now, back to baseball

Just like many people would like the government to get back to governing, I imagine folks here on the blog would like this writer to “move on” relative to the Astros cheating scandal. Whether the current front office and manager/coaches are still in place, suspended or fired there are certain things that need to happen for the Astros in this off-season.

Here are some off-season deadlines and comments tied to them…..

  • All teams had a five-day quiet period after the World Series to negotiate exclusively with their Free Agents and the Astro (as is the norm in baseball) signed none of the following – C Robinson Chirinos, RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Will Harris, C Martín Maldonado, RHP Collin McHugh, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Héctor Rondón, RHP Joe Smith
  • At the conclusion of the five-day quiet period the Astros made the $17.8 million qualifying offer to the only free agent worth that: Gerrit Cole. A player offered that figure could accept it and be locked into a single season at that amount.
  • Cole, as is also the norm, declined the qualifying offer and became a free agent. If he signs with another team before next season’s draft the Astros will receive a compensatory pick
  • If the Astros had any players with team options they would have had to pick that up already – but no one was in that situation
  • Obviously, the league awards were given and Justin Verlander won the AL Cy Young and Yordan Alvarez won the AL Rookie of the Year, while Alex Bregman came in second in the AL MVP to Mike Trout.
  • The MLB Owners Meetings are currently occurring in Arlington, Texas. It will be interesting to see if any news comes out of those meetings beyond the commissioner saying indirectly that he is taking the Astros to the woodshed
  • Wednesday is the day players need to be placed on the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. I’m going to cop out here – I cannot find a list of those Astros who are eligible. I read that Forrest Whitley is one of them, which is hard to believe. It does not seem that he has been in the organization that long. Anyways the Astros have six spots open on the 40-man, so expect them to add three or so players to the 40-man. If anyone can find a link to the Rule 5 eligible for the Astros I would appreciate it
  • December second the Astros have to decide who of the arbitration-eligible players they will tender and who will be let go. This list includes the sure things like George Springer, Carlos Correa, Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers and Aledmys Diaz and the question marks like Jake Marisnick, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, and (in my mind) Roberto Osuna
  • The MLB Winter Meetings occur on Dec. 9-12. A good guess is punishment from the cheating scandal would be handed down here.
  • Dec. 12 is the Rule 5 draft
  • Jan 10 the players and teams exchange arbitration salary figures
  • Feb 3-21 the arbitration hearings occur

And of course this whole time free agents can be snapped up – though based on the last couple seasons, the snapping may occur slowly.

Will the Astros pick up the next Wade Miley or Charlie Morton in free agency?

Are Jose Urquidy and/or Brad Peacock answers to rotation spots? How close is Whitley?

Will the Astros re-sign one or both of their catchers?

Will the Astros try to give Will Harris a shot to “redeem” himself?

How will they fill in the bullpen behind Smith, McHugh, Rondon and Harris if they let most or all of them go?

This has been a terribly disappointing and upsetting time for the team and fans from about the 7th inning of game 7 to today. But baseball must go on and the team must go on also.