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”.
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 (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
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.