After three consecutive seasons of losing over 100 games, the Houston Astros signed several players this past offseason. Spring Training is a little more than half over, and with the Diamondbacks and Dodgers beginning their 2014 slate in Australia next weekend, the regular season is knocking on the door.
Early Sunday Afternoon, MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd released some financial figures from the 2013-2014 free agent signing period. Every one of the 30 MLB teams made a transaction in the free agent market to help improve their stock for the next campaign and beyond. The Yankees made the largest splash by committing $471 million to 9 players while the Mariners shockingly signed 6 players to contracts totaling $268 million. From here there were several large drop-offs and eventually the Houston Astros appear.
Scott Feldman was signed to anchor the starting rotation for the 2014 season. His contract, which runs through the end of the 2016 season, allows the organization to bridge the gap to the talent from the minor leagues and while giving some of the young pitchers a chance to work with a seasoned veteran.
The Astros also inked deals with Jesse Crain, Matt Albers, and Chad Qualls to stabilize a huge eyesore from the 2013 season — the bullpen. Jerome Williams was also brought in to compete for a pitching job. His flexibility allows the Astros to use him out of the bullpen or possibly as a starter.
These five acquisitions reflect the desire to improve the pitching staff. Altogether the contracts total to $44 million and 8 years of control. I was a little surprised to see that the Astros were about in the middle of the pack in regards to overall spending by MLB clubs this past offseason. Obviously these deals were to help the Astros win more games in the 2014 season. Although some of us here at Climbing Tal’s Hill are skeptical that they can prevent a fourth 100-loss season, these free agent acquisitions have the potential to pay huge dividends.
Throughout the course of spring training and the regular season, Feldman and Williams should be able to utilize their experiences to help guide young arms like Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, and Brett Oberholtzer. Eventually some of the Astros’ best bullpen arms will join the big-league club. Jason Stoffel and Jonas Dufek are two of my favorite relievers from the minor league ranks. When they get ready for their call, the guidance of Jesse Crain and Chad Qualls could be pivotal for their long-term success in the major leagues.
So as spring training wraps up and the opening day roster is constructed, know two things. One, the offseason spending screams that the organization is content with the development and wants to complement the roster. Two, the future looks bright, Houston.