During a franchise record 111-loss season, some potential franchise pieces developed for the Astros in 2013. Jose Altuve, Jason Castro and Matt Dominguez all became everyday contributors for Bo Porter, while Brett Oberholtzer and Jarred Cosart made strong bids for rotation spots in 2014.
Until top prospects like George Springer and Jonathan Singleton are ready, Jeff Luhnow seems ready to fill the positions (at least temporarily) with carryovers like Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Brett Wallace and recent acquisition Jesus Guzman. Even fringe-level free-agents like Lyle Overbay seem to catch the eye of the Astros.
It’s a wait-and-see approach, and I like it. There isn’t a need to make a move because the fan base begs for it, or the depth chart seems a bit thin at that position. Only those in the front office understand where the true needs of the team are, tendencies of other general managers, and the strengths and weaknesses of the other 29 teams’ farm systems. Unless an injury occurs, Luhnow and the scouting staff are likely to value a player the same throughout an individual offseason. In other words, they know the proper time to strike a deal.
With that understanding, do the Astros really need to swing another significant deal? Their bullpen has been solidified with a strong veteran presence, Dexter Fowler was acquired to fill a hole at the top of the lineup and Scott Feldman was given a front-loaded contract to eat innings for the next three years while younger arms simmer on the farm. Not every hole was filled, but the Astros are closer to fielding a league-average lineup and pitching staff more often than not.
Jason Castro is recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2013 season. Provided he recovers sufficiently, he’ll likely form a solid tandem (with backup Carlos Corporan) behind the plate in 2014. Given that Castro missed all of the 2011 season with an ACL tear to the same knee, it could be smart to cash in on the value Castro accrued in his first All-Star season.
While Castro is trending toward becoming a building block for the Astros future, his value is severely diminished should he have to switch positions or muted altogether if he isn’t on the field. With Max Stassi next in line to assume Castro’s void, Luhnow might look to peddle Castro. A team like the Twins could emerge as a dark horse to trade for Castro, who have both the organizational need and prospect depth to entice Luhnow. The Twins could decide that what currently makes up their depth chart at catcher isn’t sufficient, and move on to the arbitration-eligible Castro.
The chance of Castro actually being moved is slim at best, but the idea should be given serious consideration. Jed Lowrie didn’t need to be traded last offseason, but Luhnow found a partner in Billy Beane willing to take on Lowrie’s potent bat and checkered injury history.
This is the exact type of “wait-and-see” approach Luhnow will take with less than five weeks until pitchers and catchers report in Florida.
Is there another major deal Jeff Luhnow needs to make?
If so, what position or area do you see him targeting?