When I embraced the dismantling and rebuilding process of the Astros, I realized and understood that they were not going to be competitive for quite some time. I look for 2015 to be the absolute earliest that they will start to maintain any kind of relevance.
I did not and do not dream of grandeur ideas. My offseason hasn’t been filled with hopes of Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke. I refuse to even acknowledge or play the “what would it take and is it worth it” game for Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton. While it is true that these guys are very young and very good, the bounty required to obtain them would set us back years. Furthermore, one player is not the solution to our problem, so we must stay steadfast and maintain the course of action set in place.
I have embraced the new regime with open arms, repeatedly stating how much I loved and agreed with all of the new moves from the draft picks to the jerseys to the acquisition of Alex White (but please do not get me started on the removal of the train or the awful billboards in left field).
I think this team is headed in the right direction.
I like the Carlos Pena signing. I like the value we appear to have received in Jose Veras, which I measure by the lucrative deals that other relievers have received. I also think the Rule 5 draft could be a successful one.
That said, I am fairly disappointed with the winter spending, or lack there of. There are a few reasons behind this:
Firstly, I expected a move to put butts in the stands. You know, the “feel good” story. Lance Berkman returning to the Astros, or who knows, even Roy Oswalt. Maybe this is my fandom and refusal to let go of the past, but those ideas were there. Not only those guys, but there are/were multiple free agent opportunities out there.
I think I prize the Astros’ prospects and draft picks more than they do, so in my head, I avoided any player who would result in a loss of a pick. So let’s not think about Hamilton, Greinke, Bourn, Soriano, Lohse, et al.
Instead, let’s look at some other names. All of the names that I have in mind except for one have the same common denominator: If they show a good first half, they’re all expendable and could return a fair bounty at the deadline.
The first two on my list are Brandon McCarthy and Dan Haren. Both of these guys possess legitimate stuff. McCarthy has been highly effective when healthy, which is the problem. The Diamondbacks scored McCarthy on the cheap with a two-year deal. He was a perfect buy-low candidate. He only required a two-year contract, but if proven healthy for the first half of the season, what contender wouldn’t want a number 1 or 2 starter with a team friendly contract?
The same goes for Dan Haren. Haren was not too long ago one of the premier pitchers in baseball. He greatly flew under the radar by many, but he often times found himself boasting an excellent ERA and WHIP, which is what teams would be looking for. No potential trade partner would put a lot of stock in wins when trading for a pitcher from the Astros, as the anemic would facilitate few victories. Haren has recently been plagued by injuries, but once again, see my above comments listed in regards to McCarthy. Haren was had by the Nationals on a one-year deal, thus making him a free agent at the end of the season.
Just recently, the Mets have hit two home runs in regards to trading. The first was trading a rental player, Carlos Beltran, for Zack Wheeler, who is now one of their elite pitching prospects and one of the top in baseball. Then they did it again sending R.A. Dickey, who with one year left and coming off a great season, helped net them one of the premier catching prospects in all of baseball. I’m not necessarily implying that a healthy McCarthy or Haren could have netted a Wheeler or d’Arnaud, but then again, we’ll never know.
Then, we have the “fliers.” You know, those guys who used to be REALLY good and fell off. It’s not totally impossible or improbable for a player to bounce back with a change of scenery or with the help of new coaches (see: Brad Lidge in Philadelphia). The fliers that come to mind are Jair Jurrjens as often named by my Twitter-friend and Astros enthusiast Jared Webb (@webberoo11), who is definitely worth a follow by the way.
Other possibilities for me include Brandon Webb, Shaun Marcum, Javier Vazquez, Dontrelle Willis (already signed with the Cubs), Chris Young (the pitcher, already signed with the Mets). These are all guys who possess excellent stuff and have had great success in the past, yet have been repeatedly bitten by the injury bug. Due to their history, minor league contracts or highly incentive-laden deals are definitely within the realm of possibility.
The last name that I will throw out there is Grady Sizemore. He’s not due back until the middle of the season, but this guy possesses ELITE abilities. If there is some how, some way, to sign this five-tool player to a two-year deal and get him on the field after the All Star break, then by all means sign me up.
Jumping back up top to the Rule 5 picks – I loved the Josh Fields pick. However, he’s projected as a bullpen arm. Wesley Wright was obtained in the Rule 5 and has been effective for the Astros. However, the idea of another bullpen arm along with Jose Veras, Carlos Pena and Philip Humber being the extent of our offseason signings doesn’t exactly do it for me.
Also, before you look to Humber and try to group him with the pitchers I listed above: Don’t. Yes, he threw a perfect game, but odds are, if you know who he is and about that game, then you probably know the rest of his career has left much to be desired.
As I’ve beat this same idea into the ground over, and over, and then over again: let’s be bad. I don’t mean let’s finish below .500. I mean, let’s finish last in baseball. One thing that many fail to realize is that you don’t make the playoffs whether you have 85 losses or 105 losses. Let’s be the team with the 105 losses with the 1st overall pick in the draft and increase our chances of drafting a superstar player. Let those 85 loss teams who finished third or fourth in their divisions pick in the middle and hope they get lucky on draft day. Afterall, we never know when a consensus #1 such as a Strasburg and Harper will be there on draft day.
In defense of the Astros and Jeff Lunhow, they obviously have more intel than you, me, or most anyone else. There may be excellent reasons why they have not pursued these guys. However, if they haven’t, then shame on them.