Random thoughts and questions as July heats up

Just some random thoughts/questions on a steaming hot July day.

Random Thoughts/Questions

  1. Would you really want to be a general manager?  Sure the money would be great. You would be one of 30 people in the world doing what you are doing. And of course, you would be making a great living tied to a game you’ve loved your whole life. But every decision, every move you make or do not make gets sliced and diced in a very public forum. You are called every name you can imagine. And you have to be a psychic. Will Carlos Correa be healthy enough to play? What about Brian McCann? Do I go all out for a replacement for either? Do I fill in another spot and move Alex Bregman to SS? Do I go hard after recently injured Zach Britton? Do I put the season in the hands of those already here or unproven youngsters?
  2. Are the Astros more worried about the M’s  and A’s, or the Red Sox, Yanks, Indians and Dodgers or whoever? The Astros have slowly pulled out to a 6 game lead in the division. If they make a trade or trades right now are they aimed a winning the division or beating the other beasts in the playoffs? The hunch here is that they will move with the confidence that this team is going to win the division, so moves may be more aimed towards a long playoff run.
  3. What is most important to the Astros at this point in the season? a) Getting Correa back whole and performing?  b) Finding bullpen assistance by way of trade? c) Getting wily veteran and leader McCann back for the playoffs? It says here that Correa’s healthy return is important in the long run as he could carry this team for weeks at a time.
  4. Is there any team in the majors with close to the Astros’ starting pitching depth headed to the playoffs? By one standard (ERA) the Astros have three starters in the top 10 in the AL (#1 Justin Verlander, #6 Gerrit Cole and #9 Charlie Morton) and two more in the top 20 (#17 Dallas Keuchel and #20 Lance McCullers Jr.).  Oh and the other starter they let go after 2017, Mike Fiers is #14 with the Detroit Tigers.  They only will need 3 or 4 starters in the postseason and they have those five, plus waiting in the wings… Collin McHugh, who had a 3.55 ERA in a partial 2017 season and is 0.96 out of the ‘pen this season or Brad Peacock, who had a 3.22 ERA in 21 starts in 2017. There will be decisions to be made in a couple of months…
  5. Is there another team, who could be 3rd in the AL in runs scored after what the Astros have been through? Star SS Correa has missed 28 games and counting and his performance was down when he was healthy. 1B Yuli Gurriel has missed 21 games mostly in the beginning of the season. George Springer  great in 2017 (.283 BA / .383 OBP / .889 OPS with 34 HR and 85 RBIs) is not close in 2018 (.249 BA/ .335 OBP/ .756  OPS and on pace for 26 HR and 81 RBIs). Marwin Gonzalez a career year in 2018 (.303 BA/.909 OPS with the club leading 90 RBIs) is poor this season (.233 BA/ .668 OPS on pace for 59 RBIs). Josh Reddick was terrific in 2017 (.314 BA/.847 OPS with 82 RBIs) and is average in 2018 (.261 BA/.755 OPS on pace for 50 RBIs).  Jose Altuve was the MVP in 2017 (.346 BA / .410 OBP / .957 OPS with 112 runs/ 24 HRs / 81 RBIs) and is just very good this season (.329/.394/.860 on pace for 101 runs / 14 HRs/ 72 RBIs). They also had a bunch of sub-Mendoza at bats from Derek Fisher and Jake Marisnick.
  6. Five years from now who will have been the best Astro from this time period (2017 to 2023)? Will it be the super clutch Alex Bregman? An at least one time MVP Altuve? A healthy Correa? A mercurial Springer? A sporadic Lance McCullers Jr.? A young and rising Kyle Tucker? Bregman would be the popular choice based on how he has become “the man” this season. But what will it look like after 5 more seasons in the books?
  7. If the Astros fall short of a second title this season, is that a disappointment? It has been a long time since a team repeated. There are so many top-notch teams this year including the Red Sox, who may win more than 110 games at the pace they are setting. Playoff series are so short that one play, one bad bounce, one bad call can derail a team.
  8. How much time do the Astros give Kyle Tucker? They saw how both Springer and Bregman struggled after their original call-ups. Of course, neither one was 21 years old. They are playing very well now, but if they lose a few do they think about giving their top prospect more time at AAA.
  9. Will they see the Forrest for the trees? There has been speculation about possibly bringing Forrest Whitley up towards the end of the season and maybe supplementing the bullpen with him. But after his suspension and some injury problems – what is his more likely arrival time to the majors? End of 2019?
  10. Will Jeff Luhnow skip the regular trade deadline and try for the waiver deadline….again? This worked in 2017 with the trade for Justin Verlander. Would he try this again if he is not getting agreement on prospects that he has set in his head?

Your turn. What do you think?

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Top trade options for the Astros

The trade season moved up to a higher gear with the trades of SS Manny Machado and RP Brad Hand in the last few days. While Machado is more of a concern if there will be an Astros’ World Series rematch with his new team, the Dodgers, Hand was a name that has been linked with the Astros a number of times over the last year. But that does not mean there are not other folks that Jeff Luhnow and the front office may be interested in chasing as the trade deadline approaches.

In the interest of full disclosure – the folks below were gleaned from a listing of the 75 most likely trade candidates byMLB Traderumors.

For this piece we will concentrate on the two positions that the Astros would likely have the most interest – catcher and relief pitching:

Catcher

  1. Wilson Ramos. The Rays catcher looked like a top candidate for a trade….until he suffered a hamstring injury, was put on the DL and will not return until after the non-Waiver (July 31) trade deadline. Even if he is healed by the waiver trade deadline (August 31) he is not likely to make it through waivers unclaimed and the Astros are at the very end of that line.
  2. J.T. Realmuto. A team interested in the 27-year-old Marlins catcher would owe him about $1 million for the rest of 2018 and then would “control” him through fairly pricey arbitration in 2019 and 2020. He has been a good catcher, who has stepped it up this season with a .310 BA/ .365 OBP/ .903 OPS slash 12 home runs and 45 RBIs and he is gunning down an impressive 43% of base stealers. If the Astros want him they may have to let go of a Kyle Tucker or a Forrest Whitley to get him in his prime.
  3. Devin Mesoraco. This Met backstop is a huge drop-off from Realmuto, but would cost a lot less to bring to the Astros. First, he is a rental as he turns into a free agent after the season. Second, he is still owed about $2-3 million by the Mets. Third, he was great for one season (2014) and has been mostly hurt or ineffective since then. This season he has put up a ho-hum slash of .225/.305/.693 with 8 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Astros would only be interested if the Mets sent money along or took a fringe prospect back and of course only if they think Brian McCann is not coming back.
  4. A.J. Ellis. He is a solid 37 y.o. veteran – with a good year hitting the ball (.284 BA /.392 OBP / .750 OPS) and little power – 1 HR in 109 ABs. He is also throwing out a good 31% of runners with the Padres. He would only make about $400 K the rest of the season and would be a rental as he turns back to FA. Would be a decent veteran backup to bring in for a low-end prospect.

Relievers

  1. Jeurys Familia. The RHP was excellent for the Mets between 2014 and 2016 including 51 saves in 2016, but was used a ton (76,76 and 78 games).  He then had an injury-riddled 2017 with poor results. He is back strong in 2018 (2.88 ERA and 17 saves). He would cost a little under $3 million for the rest of 2018 and would be a rental as he goes into free agency. Would probably cost a couple good but not top end prospects.
  2. Zach Britton. The LHP was superb for the Orioles between 2014 and 2016 (120 total saves and ERAs of 1.65, 1.92 and 0.54) He missed a big chunk of 2017 with injury and then blew out his Achilles tendon in the off-season. His results in the 15 games since his return have been so-so. However, he has been scoreless in the last 7 games and seems to be getting back to his norm of being a ground ball machine. He would be a rental and would cost about $4 million between now and the end of the season. The Orioles showed they were a bit more interested in quantity than quality in their trade of Manny Machado for five, not top prospects. Maybe the Astros could package some younger prospects with a AAAA guy or two.
  3. Joakim Soria. The White Sox RH closer has been very good this season with a 2.75 ERA and 14 saves. His 11.3 K/9 IP is his best since 2009 and his 2.3 BB / 9 IP is also very good. He is 34 y.o. and is owed approx.. $3 million for the balance of 2018. He could be picked up on a $10 million option for 2019 or bought out for $1 million. He probably again would cost a couple good but not great prospects and maybe some AAAA talent.
  4. Raisel Iglesias. Since moving from he rotation to the bullpen for the Reds, the RHP has been very good for the last 2-1/2 seasons. This year he has a 2.36 ERA and 19 saves for a team that is rebuilding. He is 28 y.o. and is signed for reasonable dollars. He would cost about $1.4 million for the rest of 2018 and then $5.7 million for both 2019 and 2020. With this controllability, the Astros would probably have to go a bit higher in what prospects they offer, perhaps someone from their Top 5 and a couple of others.
  5. Felipe Vazquez. The Lefty closer for the Pirates is a step down in 2018 from his breakout 2017 season. His ERA is a decent 3.05 with 23 saves. His K’s are up to 12.4 K/ 9 IP, but his walks and hits are up as his WHIP has gone from an excellent 0.889 to a passable 1.282. He is only owed $1 million for the rest of 2018, but he is controlled for the next 3 seasons at $4.5, 5.75 and 7.75 million. Past that the team could pick him up in 2022 and 2023 for $10 million each or buy him out at a low cost. With this much control, even with a little less performance – he is going to be costly in prospects.
  6. Pick a controllable RH reliever –Kirby Yates of the Padres, Nate Jones of the White Sox, Kyle Barraclough of the Marlins, Shane Greene of the Tigers, Mychal Givens of the Orioles,  Keone Kela of the (spit!!) Rangers – They are all controllable through at least 2020 with Kela and Givens through 2021 mostly thru arbitration. They all have drawbacks. Yates is performing way above his career numbers plus he may be the reason the Padres gave up Brad Hand. Jones has a good ERA (2.55), but his walk rate at 5.1 BB/9 IP is scary. Greene has an elevated ERA (4.05) with 19 saves and good K and walk numbers, but his HR rate doubled this season. Givens has the worst ERA of the group (4.28) after a good 2017 with his hits and walks way up this season. Kela is maybe the most attractive of this group at 25 y.o. and arb eligible for 2019 thru 2021, but would the Rangers deal with the Astros. His ERA is decent (3.27) and he has 23 saves. None of these guys should cost the moon – but not all may be available.
  7. Other folks – Tyler Clippard, Seunghwan Oh, John Axford, Jake Petricka – all of the Blue Jays, Sergio Romo of the Rays, Brad Ziegler of the Marlins and Brad Brach of the Orioles, Jake Diekman of the Rangers, Jerry Blevins of the Mets and Luis Avilian of the White Sox. All of them could be a help to a bullpen, but none would seem to be the back-end bullpen help that the Astros likely need.

Of course, there could be some other choice out there or the front office might say their back of the bullpen help for the playoffs is named Charlie Morton or Lance McCullers Jr. or in a real stretch, Forrest Whitley.

So – what are your thoughts?

Should the Astros pursue a catcher? Reliever?

Should they try to fill the reliever spot from within?

Who are the top 10 Astros today?

Coming into 2018, it felt like the Astros MVP this season was likely going to be Carlos Correa or Jose Altuve. Correa has underperformed (against expectations) and has missed injury time during the season. Altuve, while still high in BA and hits is a bit down in clutch hits and power from 2017. The exercise today is to rate the Astros Top 10 so far this season.

#1 Alex Bregman. This is not just a homage to the young man after his Home Run Derby performance. He has become the most dangerous hitter in the lineup. He is leading the team in runs scored (67), doubles (31), home runs (20), RBIs (64), SLG (.539) and OPS (.928) and he walks (56) more times than he Ks (53).  Oh and he is also #1 in WAR (4.8). When he comes up to bat, the fans expect an excellent at bat from the young man, especially in the clutch.

#2 Justin Verlander. Get past the 9-5 record. He is first in the AL in innings pitched (137.2), WHIP (0.835) and K/Walk (7.17). He is 4th in ERA (2.29), but only 0.06 behind the leader. He should have about 14 or more wins to date with normal hitting support. He gives the Astros an excellent outing almost every time out.

#3 Jose Altuve.  He has played in all 99 games on the season, is headed for another 200+ hit season, is leading the team in BA (.332), OBP (.394), hits and stolen bases. The last couple of seasons he has set insane standards for himself that he is short of this time around, but he always seems to come up with a huge run sometime during the season.

#4 Gerrit Cole. On most teams, Cole would be the ace at 10-2 on the season. In the AL he is 6th in ERA (2.52), 4th in WHIP (0.986), 6th in IP (128.1) and 2nd in Ks (177). Like Verlander, he should have more wins, but he gives the Astros a solid chance every time he takes the mound.

#5 Yuli Gurriel. Some of his numbers are down a bit due to him missing 21 games on the season, but his great hitting in the clutch (.450 BA with RISP and .448 with RISP and 2 outs) has him in the top 5. He is hitting a robust .310 BA with a .340 OBP and his 52 RBIs in 78 games stand out.

#6 Charlie MortonConsidering there are 15 teams in the AL, Morton at 11-2 could easily be a #1 with quite a few of them. In the AL he is tied for 4th in wins (11), 9th in ERA (2.96), T 11th in WHIP (1.148) and T 3rd in K/9 IP (11.7). His only drawback is averaging 5.9 innings per start, but all teams would kill for getting this production out of a #3 for only $7 million.

#7 Carlos Correa. To this point in the season, he is having a down year. How much of that is due to his bad back? Who knows? But through 73 games played he had only 2 errors, which is tremendous for a shortstop. He is 4th on the team in BA (.268), and 3rd in OBP (.352) and OPS (.832). Even though he has missed 26 games, he is 4th in runs scored (46), home runs (13) and RBIs (49). If he can trend more towards his norm, he will give the Astros a big bat in the middle of the lineup down the stretch.

#8 George Springer. Sure, he has been in a terrible slump for the 6 weeks leading into the ASG, but recently he was showing signs of shaking it off. George is 2nd on the team in runs scored (63), 2nd in home runs (15) and 5th in RBIs (46).  He needs to get that BA (.249) up in the .270-.280 range and his OPS (.749) over the .800 line.

#9 Collin McHugh. Collin has been the consummate pro in his shift to the bullpen. He is leading the Astro relievers in Wins (5), ERA (0.96), WHIP (0.707) and Inning pitched (46.2). He has given the team the superior performance and multi-inning outings that Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski gave them last season.

#10 Lance McCullers. He has not been as consistent as the three starters above him, but no one is going to complain about a 10-4 record and 3.77 ERA out of a 4th starter. He could climb this list with fewer stinkers and by pitching a bit deeper into games.

On the Cusp – If someone wanted to put DH Evan Gattis (19 home runs and 63 RBIs), RP Hector Rondon (1.57 ERA, 8 saves), or even Dallas Keuchel (7-8, 3.75 ERA, 122.1 IPs) towards the bottom of the top 10, there certainly could be an argument for that opinion.

Questions to you….

  • Do you agree with the top 10?
  • Do you agree with the order of the top 10?
  • Anyone being left off you want to see up there?
  • Anyone that should be dropped?
  • Who will be #1 at the end of the season?

Why Houston Astro fans should rejoice (despair)

Life is great because of all the wonderful human beings we interact with each day. Unless you are someone who thinks that life would be great if not for all the annoying human beings we interact with each day.

And so it is with our dear Astros. Some fans see the child who bought us the perfect birthday gift last year. Others see the child who we just know is going to either forget our next birthday or is bound to revert to re-gifting us chintzy kitchen gadgets they got as a door prize at a Tupperware party.

So, to make all our loyal readers happy, here are two versions of the same story and it is up to you which one you want to make your own.

Rejoice. The Astros are in the top three in clubs favored to win it all.

Despair. Even with that, they have only about an 18% chance to win it all according to the oddsmakers.

Rejoice. The Astros are only 2 games behind their pace of last season and the 2017 Astros went through an August slump.

Despair. The 2017 Astros were 17 games up after 97 games and this year’s version are only 4 games up.

Rejoice. The 2018 Astros rotation includes both Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, neither of who were with the Astros at this time last season.

Despair. Cole and Verlander have 18 wins as of the 12th of July, but the team has wasted 10 or more fine starts from the duo.

Rejoice. The team is on a pace to win 105 games without playing their best ball yet.

Despair. The team is only 14-16 in one-run games.

Rejoice. The Astros beat the A’s 8 straight times this year.

Despair. The Astros lost the last 3 of 4 games against the A’s.

Rejoice. The Astros are 2nd in the AL in runs scored.

Despair. They were first in all of baseball last season.

Rejoice. The Astros starters are first in all of baseball in ERA, WHIP and Innings Pitched.

Despair. They are only 2nd in wins

Rejoice. The Astros bullpen is second in all of baseball in ERA and second in WHIP.

Despair. What have they done lately?

Rejoice. With Charlie Morton‘s addition, the Astros have six players named to the All Star game.

Despair. Big deal – they did that last season.

Rejoice. The Astros know what it takes to win it all.

Despair. Why don’t they win every game if they are such a great team?

Rejoice. The Astros have a very good offense even with a number of pistons misfiring or injured (Carlos Correa, Brian McCann, George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez, etc)

Despair. When those guys do hit, if they ever do, Max Stassi, Alex Bergman, Yuli Gurriel and others will stop.

Rejoice. There is not another rotation in the majors close to Verlander, Cole, Morton, Lance McCullers and Dallas Keuchel.

Despair But we are likely to lose Morton and Keuchel after this season and McCullers has Ken Giles meltdown potential.

Rejoice. The Astros have improved by adding under the radar additions from the minors and elsewhere in Stassi, Tony Kemp and Hector Rondon.

Despair. Derek Fisher, A.J. Reed and Tyler White all appear to be AAAA guys.

Rejoice. The Astros have strong minor league teams with talent aplenty.

Despair. See Fisher, Reed and White above.

Rejoice. In Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch the Astros have three strong leaders who have built a behemoth and are not letting egos get in the way of sharing credit.

Despair. They lost 3 out of 4 to the A’s.

Have at it, dear bloggers. Are you in the Rejoice or Despair category and why. I’m in the Rejoice category. They may not win it this year, but they won it last year and have given themselves a great shot to do it again.

The short, strange trip of Astros’ reliever Ken Giles

Two months short of his 28th birthday, ex-closer and possibly future ex-Astro Ken Giles is at a critical crossroad of a short up and down career. In the last year, he has gone from the closer for the World Champion Houston Astros to being sent to AAA after another pitching meltdown and personal meltdown last Tuesday night. How did he get here?

In 2009, he was drafted out of his New Mexico high school in the 44th round by the Florida Marlins. Instead, he went to junior college at Yavapai College in Arizona, best known for former alum and former Astro Curt Schilling. He was then drafted by the Phillies in 2011 and unsurprisingly, took a very up and down route to the majors over the next 4 seasons.

Over the next 3 seasons he had varying amounts of success with high strikeout totals, but control problems, spending all of 2013 at high A ball with a 6.31 ERA, while striking out almost 12 batters per 9 innings and walking almost seven. 2014 was the most critical season in his career as he blew through AA ball (1.20 ERA and 7 saves), AAA ball (2.63 ERA and 5 saves) and then leapfrogged into 44 games with the Phillies. He pitched brilliantly with a 1.18 ERA in 45.2 IP, while only allowing 1 HR, with 64 Ks and 11 walks.

100 Miles Giles continued to pitch well in 2015 and worked his way into being the closer; for the season he was 6-3 with 15 saves. His ERA was a very good 1.80 and he gave up only 2 HRs in 70 IP. His K rate dropped a little bit and his walk rate went up a little, but he looked like a very solid 25 y.o. controllable reliever when the Astros went after him in a five for 2 trade before the 2016 season, coming to the Astros with young SS Jonathan Arauz for former 1-1 draftee P Mark Appel, P Vincent Velasquez, P Brett Oberholtzer, P Tom Eshelman and P Harold Arauz.

Of course, the Astros had to ignore this little incident that seemed to be a bit of Shakespearian foreboding…

After he came to the Astros, it was expected he would be the closer immediately, but he began the season as mostly a 7th or 8th inning man. His first month stunk as in 11 appearances he had a 9.00 ERA, 2 losses and one blow save and 4 HRs allowed. His performance improved over the next 3 months and he was made the closer in August, finishing the season with 15 saves. He had brought his ERA down to 3.47, before he blew up allowing 6 runs in 1/3 IP in a blown save in late September. He finished the season with a meh 4.41 ERA and 15 of 20 save chances converted.

In the 2017 regular season, he stepped up and became the closer the team was expecting when they traded for him. He had two blips on the radar – 3 games in succession in early April and 3 games in succession in early June where he gave up 8 of the 16 runs he would allow for the season, but overall he was excellent in converting 34 of 38 saves with a 2.30 ERA.

Then during the 2017 post season, the wheels started to come off. He pitched in 7 post season games and gave up runs in 6 of them. He had two saves where he gave up a run (both in more than his normal 1 inning pitched), blew a critical save in game four against the Yankees, blew a 2 run lead in the 10th inning of the monumental game 2 against the Dodgers and lost game 4 against the Dodgers as he gave up 3 runs with 0 outs in a 1-1 game. He spent the last 3 games of the WS nailed to the bench.

Note: He was not the only Astros’ reliever who stunk it up in the post season as Chris Devenski, Will Harris, and Joe Musgrove all had struggles.

2018 started much better than the previous two seasons as he appeared in 11 games in April, saved the only three save opportunities he had (the Astros were winning by big margins), giving up 0 HRs and 0 walks. Then on May Day, he came into a 0-0 game against the Yanks and gave up four runs in 0.1 IP and as he walked into the dugout he was seething and punched himself hard in the face. This was not a good thing. He seemed to right the ship a bit converting saves in six straight games appeared but still had off and on struggles, especially in non-save situations. As May melted into June he was no longer the only go to guy on saves as Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock and most significantly Hector Rondon picked up the save opportunities.

Tuesday night Giles came into a game with a 4-0 lead against the A’s. He gave up 3 hits to the first 3 batters as both his catcher and his pitching coach came out to try and settle him down and to give Rondon a chance to warm-up. A.J. Hinch took him out with a 4-1 lead and two men on base. Considering you normally expect closers to hold one run leads, taking him out at this point was the ultimate “no confidence” vote. Lip readers tweeted that Giles told Hinch what he could do with his firetruck (well that is the family friendly version) and before the Wednesday night game, Giles was headed to AAA Fresno and young Cionel Perez was coming back for the career debut he missed on his last call-up.

The Astros are not really forced to do anything about Giles at this point. They owe him about $2 million for the balance of 2018. They could just choose to let him go in the off-season. But…. what do you think needs to occur?

  • Attempt to trade him for a bucket of balls to someone?
  • Attempt to add him into some package trade for more than a bucket of balls?
  • Let him stew riding buses in the minors and eating beanie weanies and see if he has an attitude adjustment?
  • Bring him back up at the September call-up?
  • Bury him like Jon Singleton and let him leave on his own when all is done?

Future Astros part 2: Three-year look ahead at 2020

The other day Chipalatta took a look at what the roster transition from 2018 to 2019 might look like.

https://chipalatta.com/2018/07/05/future-astros-three-year-look-ahead-part-1-2019/

Today we go farther out on the limb, looking at what might happen between 2019 and 2020.

Free Agents

The following players could become free agents after the 2019 season:

Arbitration

The following players will face arbitration if they cannot come to some other agreement with the team after the 2019 season:

Here is a shot at how the roster might look in 2020 and then a discussion…..

POSITION 2019 2019 Salary 2020 2020 Salary
1B YULI GURRIEL $10.4MM YORDAN ALVAREZ $600 K
2B ALTUVE $9.5 MM ALTUVE $29 MM
SS CORREA (ARB) $8 MM CORREA(ARB) $13 MM
3B BREGMAN $1 MM BREGMAN (ARB) $6 MM
C MAX STASSI $800 K STASSI (ARB) $2.5 MM
DH EVAN GATTIS $9 MM GURRIEL $8.4 MM
OF KYLE TUCKER $560 K TUCKER $600 K
OF GEORGE SPRINGER $12 MM SPRINGER (ARB) $16 MM
OF JOSH REDDICK $13 MM REDDICK   MYLES STRAW $13 MM   $600 K
SWISS ARMY KNIFE MARWIN GONZALEZ $8 MM GONZALEZ $8 MM
BENCH TONY KEMP $560 K TONY KEMP $600 K
BACKUP CATCHER GARRETT STUBBS $560 K STUBBS $600 K
SP VERLANDER $20 MM PEACOCK (ARB) $7 MM
SP GERRIT COLE (ARB) $12 MM COLE (FA) $20 MM
SP LANCE MCCULLERS (ARB) $6 MM MCCULLERS (ARB) $9 MM
SP CHARLIE MORTON (FA) $16 MM MORTON (FA) $16 MM
SP COLLIN MCHUGH (ARB)  

$8 MM

FORREST WHITLEY  

$600 K

RP HECTOR RONDON $4.5 MM HECTOR RONDON (FA) $8 MM
RP CHRIS DEVENSKI (ARB)  

$3.5 MM

DEVENSKI (ARB)  

$5 MM

RP KEN GILES (ARB) $6.5 MM GILES (ARB) DEAN DEETZ $600 K
RP JOE SMITH $8 MM  

JOSH JAMES

 

$600 K
RP WILL HARRIS $5.5 MM FA PICKUP  

$8 MM

RP BRAD PEACOCK (ARB)  

$4 MM

ROGELIO ARMENTEROS  

$600 K

RP CIONEL PEREZ  

$560 K

CIONEL PEREZ  

$600 K

RP 2018 TRADE DEADLINE PICKUP  

$6 MM

2018 TRADE DEADLINE PICKUP  

$6 MM

MISC. ???  

$2 MM

PART OF REDDICK, ETC  

$6 MM

TOTAL 2019 Total $176 MM 2020 Total $173.3 MM

Discussion

The guess at the 2019 opening day roster was an educated shot. The 2020 roster is more a wing and a prayer. But the bottom line is that there could be a lot of movement involved just if the folks who are turning into free agents go elsewhere.

Gone

  • Justin Verlander. I love the guy. You love the guy. We all love the guy. But he will be 37 years old heading into 2020 and something tells me he is not going to take a discount to stick around and they need to use his salary elsewhere. This could be a terrible mistake if he is the next Nolan Ryan and is just getting going at 37. But looking ahead the bet is they will bet that he isn’t.
  • Collin McHugh. He will be 33 during the 2020 season. But he looks like one of those guys who will sign a four- or five-year contract at that time that will be an anchor after a couple years into it.
  • Will Harris. Will is not a sure thing to be back in 2019 and so 2020 looks even less likely. He will turn 36 during the 2020 season and likely will turn it elsewhere.
  • Evan Gattis. OK in the 2019 post we had the Astros signing Gattis to a 3 year / $27 MM contract. But if 1B Yordan Alvarez is ready for the biggies in 2020, then this comes down to whether you want the more powerful, but more sporadic Gattis manning the DH spot or the clutch line drive machine named Yuli Gurriel manning this spot. The guess is that they will try to trade Evan for prospects.
  • Josh Reddick. This is a total guess, but it could well be that the Astros might look to see if they could get someone to swallow part of Josh’s last year at $13 million and put a youngster like Myles Straw in that spot. Maybe go halfsies on the salary and roll forward with a little more flexibility.
  • Ken Giles. Another shot in the dark here, but if Giles is not good enough to hang onto a late-inning spot, might they just let him go rather than be at the $8 MM level after a second arbitration round?
  • Joe Smith. There is a good chance that he will never earn close to the $15 MM he is getting for 2018 and 2019, so he is not a likely candidate for a return engagement.

Looking to Keep

  • Gerrit Cole. He will be 29 years old heading into 2020 and if he continues to be a fine pitcher for the Astros they may want to wave a 5 year / $100 million contract at him. Of course, it might cost them much more than that and then they may have to choose a different path. They may try to extend him between now and that day…
  • Hector Rondon. The guy has shown filthy stuff, especially lately in a closer’s role. He will be 32 y.o. when the 2020 season comes around. Would he take 2 years / $16 million?

Assumptions

  • The biggest changes between now and 2020 will be in the bullpen. Collin McHugh will likely move to the rotation in 2019 and elsewhere in 2020. Brad Peacock will likely move to the rotation in 2020. Joe Smith will likely move on and it says here they may part ways with Ken Giles. Two of those spots may be veterans brought in to help, but there is no doubt the Astros are going to have to fill in with a Dean Deetz, Josh James, Francis Martes, and/or Rogelio Armenteros.
  • If they can re-sign Cole or McHugh then they only need to add a 5th starter (Forrest Whitley?) to the rotation, along with moving Peacock there. If they can’t sign Cole or McHugh they may be out digging for the next Charlie Morton.
  • The bottom line here is that with Verlander, McHugh, Gattis, Giles and part of Reddick coming off the payroll under this scenario they would have a slightly lower payroll even with all the arbitration folks getting raises and Jose Altuve‘s big contract kicking in. Of course, this does not take into account if the team tries to do some early signing on a Correa, Bregman or McCullers.

So, folks, what do you think this team will look like heading into 2020?

Future Astros part 1: Three-year look ahead at 2019

Our friend of the blog, Zanuda, suggested we take a look ahead at our Astros roster, and with the idea of milking this for all it is worth, this will the first of a three-part series looking at the Astros’ roster morphing through 2019, 2020 and 2021. Today we will look at what will and what may happen between now and the start of the 2019 season.

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