Rhiner Cruz (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Roster trimming; Who will be sent packing

This offseason the Astros front office will be tasked with trimming and re-shaping the 40-man roster in a way that will maximize the team’s chances for future success. Several difficult decisions will need to be made due to the staggering number of prospects that could become vulnerable to the Rule 5 Draft.

In order to be protected, several minor leaguers will be added to the 40-man roster before the November 20th deadline. We will take a more in depth look at who those players might be a little bit later. But, first things first. In order to make room for the up-and-comers, the Astros will need to trim some fat.

That process has already started with the outrighting of four players earlier this week. In addition, Hector Ambriz and Wade LeBlanc (both of whom had already been removed from the 40-man) have elected to become Free Agents. Thank goodness for small miracles! Veteran lefty Erik Bedard is also a Free Agent. Despite a fairly productive 2013 season, I doubt the Astros will be bidding for the services of the 34-year old.

So, who else might we be saying goodbye to in the immediate future? Let me dust off the crystal ball and see what images appear.

The picture is a bit murky. Unlike last October, there aren’t a lot of players on the Astros roster that are easy cuts. And that’s a good thing. I mean, even though the team still lost 111 games, the overall roster depth has improved. But there are a few players, that if outrighted, could probably pass through waivers unclaimed — meaning they could also stay in the organization.

A couple of guys that keep popping up are outfielder Eric Thames and left-hander Raul Valdes. Both are recent waiver claims and I am still having trouble understanding what prompted Jeff Luhnow to claim them in the first place.

Trevor Crowe is the one position player that I feel will almost certainly be gone. A journeyman outfielder, Crowe got a chance to show what he could do for the Astros in 2013. Although he proved to be a decent role player, the 29-year old isn’t going to be part of the long term plan. His .218/.287/.291 slash line should be reason enough for the Astros to cut ties.

Jimmy Paredes (Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

One position player that I feel might be run through waivers is Jimmy Paredes. Approaching his 25th birthday, Paredes seems to have mastered the AAA level but has struggled in every facet of the game in the majors. Chances that Paredes gets claimed by another team should be slim.

By my count, there are five more position players that are “on the bubble”.

Marwin Gonzalez — With only Jonathan Villar ahead of him on the depth chart and the Astros top shortstop prospects still a couple of years away, Gonzalez should be safe — at least for now.

Marc Krauss — After posting nice power numbers in the minors, Krauss made his big league debut in 2013 at the age of 25. The numbers weren’t great — to say the least. His inability to hit lefties makes Krauss more of a role player and the Astros could be willing to take a chance on losing him if they feel the risk is warranted.

Brandon Barnes — An outstanding defender with occasional pop, Barnes has become somewhat of a fan favorite in Houston. But George Springer is the centerfielder of the future. And the future is now. If the Astros decide to part ways they could point to Brandon’s 127/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a reason to move on.

Carlos Corporan — After slugging .500 for the first half of 2013, the Astros backup catcher experienced a substantial drop in production. Slowed by a concussion that kept him off the field for three weeks, Corporan finished the year with a slugging percentage of only .361. Corporan could be seen as expendable, given the sudden increase of catching depth within the organization. But he could be kept around to help lighten the load behind the plate for All-Star Jason Castro.

Jake Elmore — Elmore got a brief chance to play shortstop and failed miserably. He actually had better luck behind the plate and on the mound. The on-base skills that he showed as a 25-year old in the PCL have yet to translate to the big league level. Elmore has one thing going for him — his versatility. And that may be the only thing that keeps him on the Astros roster.

And what about J.D. Martinez and Brett Wallace? Both players are definitely running out of chances in Houston. I do, however, expect both to be offered contracts for 2014. I’m assuming that the club would rather give these guys one last shot rather than give up on them and get nothing in return. The possibility certainly exists that one or both of them could be traded.

On the pitching side of things we have the enigma that is Lucas Harrell. In the span of only a few months, number 64 went from being my favorite player to being a guy that I couldn’t bear to watch. What the heck happened? Honestly, I think the losing started to take a toll on Lucas. Speaking out against the coaching staff’s aggressive deployment of defensive shifts earned him an early-season spot in the doghouse. Harrell never recovered.

Does Harrell have anything left? Even if he does, has he worn out his welcome? I’m going to assume the Astros prefer to err on the side of caution and give him another shot. But I could be wrong. Harrell could also be another candidate to be traded.

Jorge De Leon — The former infielder turned reliever made his big league debut in 2013. But will he be back again next season? I’d have to say his chances don’t look all that promising. I think the 26-year old is a prime candidate to make it through waivers and be outrighted to AAA.

Rhiner Cruz — Control continues to be an issue for the hard throwing righty. Cruz turns 27 next month and his time in Houston could be running out.

John Ely and Alex White are both returning from Tommy John surgery and could start the year on the disabled list. Given the amount of money the Astros have already invested in these two, I would expect both of them to be retained.

The Astros bullpen definitely needs help. Maybe White and Ely can become the key contributors we’ve been looking for.


Tags: Houston Astros Jimmy Paredes Lucas Harrell

  • 1oldpro

    I just took a long look at JD Mart. Defensively he is terrible, w/ all of his stats below avg. His OBP is very low. He isn’t platoonable because he doesn’t hit lefties well, even though he bats right. His stats as a DH were real bad this year so that does not even offer an option. He’s slow and hits a lot of weak ground balls. Don’t protect him.

    • astrosince1975

      Yes, Crowe and Valdes are the only players in this group that are arbitration eligible. J.D. and Corporan would both be cheap to bring back and that may play heavily into the decision. I agree that Corporan is probably more valuable (than J.D.) to the Astros in the short term.

  • 1oldpro

    I think Corporan is protectable because he is a catcher whose defense is slightly above average and he has shown some ability to hit major league pitching. Last season the losing really got to Corporan at the plate as his numbers fell consistently with the team’s increasingly bad play. With Perez and Stassi getting closer, you might want to protect him and keep him into next year as a possible tradeable asset at the deadline.

  • 1oldpro

    Trevor Crowe: Avg fielder, below avg hitter, below avg baserunner. Looked at all his stats. He’s 29 and arb eligible. don’t protect.

  • Larry

    Well I am saying these players have to go Trevor Crove, Jimmy Paredes, Marc Krauss, Carlos Corporan, Jake Elmore, J.D. Martinez, Brett Wallace & Lucas Harrell. I like the Astros go for this players. James Loney, or Kendrys Morales, Michael Young he can play 4 positions, 3B, SS, 2B &1B. Skip Schumaker, Kurt Suzuki, Corey Hart, David Murphy, Tim Lincecum, Scott Feldman, Clay Hensley..

    • astrosince1975

      That’s a pretty long wish list. First off, I think the price will be too high for Loney, Morales, and Lincecum. Hart could be more affordable since he is coming off an injury, but also risky. Young is too old. I’m not sold on Schumaker’s ability but I think Suzuki & Murphy would be good additions. Feldman might be a decent innings eater but Hensley looks to be washed up.

  • † ⚾ Mundo ⚾ †

    One question you have to ask is: can I sign a non-guarantee contract guy/make waiver claim for someone with the same amount of ability. If so, they are expendable. I think that is safe to say with almost everyone on this list. I’d hate to part with Cruz or DeLeon since you can’t teach velocity, and would also like to see them hold on to Paredes because there is no denying the guy’s talent. Of all these players I could see cutting him to be who they’d regret the most. Also would hold onto Ely and White.

    • astrosince1975

      Ely and White will be easier to keep because they can start the season on the D.L. I guess we just have to wait and see about Paredes, Cruz & De Leon.

  • Larry

    astrosince1975; I just hope there is more Free Agents yet to come. I looked at some of some are ex Astros u don’t won’t them back I saw Jeff Luhnow was talking brings back Lance Berkman back so can retired as a Astros. Well I don’t think that will happen I look at the First basemans that has Home Run power, (1.) Adam Lind; 2009: HRs 35 RBIs 114; 2010: HRS 23 RBIs 72; 2011: HRs 26 RBIs 87; RBIs 67; (2.) Mark Reynolds: 2008: HRs 28 RBIs 97 2009 HRs 44 RBIs 102; 2010: HRs 32 RBIs 85; 2011: HRs 37 RBIs 86: But the only thing I saw I didn’t like about Mark Reynolds he strikes out a lot with him & Chris Carter they would lead the teams with the most Strike-outs. How about Brendan Ryan? He can play @ these postions SS;2B; & 3B. And I still look @ a starting pitcher James Shields & closer in Grant Balfour or a Joe Nathan.

    • astrosince1975

      Crane has said he will spend some money. But let’s not kid ourselves. Big money Free Agents simply aren’t coming at this time. Upgrading at SS would be ideal but there aren’t many options out there. Ryan is a great fielder, but doesn’t hit enough to help this team.

      We will take a closer look at possible Free Agent acquisitions a little later this offseason. Thanks for reading.

      • Larry

        astrosince1975, I just some imformation on a site saying that David Price is on the trading block. U know Price is going to a team that makes the playoffs. If the Astros get him in a trade. I would be saying trade a Jonathan Singleton, & maybe some else in their system. What u think the Astros would go after Price..?

        • astrosince1975

          I don’t think the Astros are going to go after him. But, you never know.

  • JamesFlagg

    The great movie critic Pauline Kael was once asked which parts of a long movie she would cut out……here response was, after studying the film closely she was having trouble determining what to keep……

    This pretty much sums up the Astros “dilemma” in filling out the 40-man…..it won’t be until next year we’ll have to worry about exposing anyone of value. Every player mentioned in the article (except for White & Ely) had a very good opportunity to carve out a place on the team going forward, and all failed to some degree….and we can’t keep Brett Wallace forever…..

    • astrosince1975

      Thanks for commenting. I can’t argue with what you are saying. I am basing some of my projections on what the Astros have done in the past. They have a history of hanging on to players longer than they should. (J.R. Towles, Brian Bogusevic, Fernando Abad, etc…) Maybe that is about to change, but I doubt it.

      • Yeah Buddy

        The upside of keeping Wallace and Paredes would be if they had a big Spring Training and could be traded before the season begins, but that doesn’t solve the problem of protecting Rule 5 eligible players.

        • astrosince1975

          Although there are a ton of prospects that become Rule 5 eligible this year, there are probably only a handful that would be picked by another team. Remember, a team would have to keep them on their big league roster all season.

      • JamesFlagg

        The team undoubtedly has a different opinion on some of these players than we do, and still see some upside in some of them….it’s tough to pick the late bloomers from amongst the guys who will never quite make it……

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  • Larry

    Well the astrso got them a pitching coach Brett Storm. I was hoping to see if it would be a ex-Astros pitcher. Said he was there in 1996 under Terry Collins. The pitchers they had was Shabe Reynolds; W-16 L-10 ERA 3.65; Darryl Kile; W-12 L-11 ERA 4.19; Doug Drabek; w-7 l-9 era 4.57; Mike Hampton; W-10 L-10 ERA 3.59; & Donnie Wall; W-9 L-8 ERA; 4.56.. Team ERA 4.37. I don’t know if he will help them. He & Jeff Luhow know each other. I still work have gotten a Ex Astro pitcher.