Jeff Luhnow is about to head into his fourth year as the General Manager of the Astros. During his tenure, the Astros have hit rock bottom, posting their two worst seasons in franchise history in 2012 and 2013. Part of this was by design, as Luhnow sent away virtually any tradeable commodity to restock the minor leagues and build from within.
Now, the fruits of his labor have begun to appear at the major league level. George Springer and Jon Singleton are now in the majors, and players like Rio Ruiz, Collin Moran, Mark Appel and Carlos Correa are soon going to be joining them to provide the Astros with a young nucleus to build around. Last season’s 70-92 team, while still far from contending, was the best team since 2010.
This offseason, hoping to build upon the momentum generated by the young Astros, Jeff Luhnow has signed Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson and Jed Lowrie. Other moves may well be forthcoming, as there are still several holes to fill on the roster. Yet now, even with all of those concerns, there is the expectation that the Astros will, if not compete for the division, be a much more competitive ballclub.
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With these increased expectations, it may be fair that Luhnow should start to feel a bit of pressure. During the dismantling and reconstruction of the Astros, no one really expected much during those seasons. Now, with payroll being increased and positive signs from the squad, the pressure may be on Luhnow to see the Astros be a competitive ballcub this year.
While the playoffs may not be considered a realistic possibility, the Astros should get close the .500 mark. In fact, anything less than that could be considered a disappointment, especially with the way that the bullpen has been upgraded and the performance of the top three starters last season. If Springer and Singleton can take that next step forward, there is no reason to expect otherwise.
If that does not happen, Jeff Luhnow may find himself under the microscope. He already fired Bo Porter last season, so he no longer has the excuse that the manager just could not bring the team to the next level. Now, the pressure is entirely on his shoulders to make certain that there is enough talent, both at the major league level and coming through the system, to compete.
If the Astros struggle again this season, Jeff Luhnow may find himself in an unfamiliar position – on the hot seat.