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Astros and Big Name Pitcher Market: What’s Going On?

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At this point in the offseason, most of the free agent signings have passed and teams are getting a strong sense of how their 2015 roster is going to look. However, there are some big names still out there, including James Shields and Max Scherzer. Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow did an interview Friday on MLB Network and seemed very confident in the 2015 team that he has assembled thus far, saying, “Astros, in my opinion, are going to have a winning record this year, and, I’ll go on the record of saying that. I believe this is a winning team, and I think this is the beginning of many years of winning Astros teams.”

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Although this is a strong statement, at this time I don’t think that Luhnow is being too hopeful in his assessment. With a lineup that has a strong mix of speed and power and an improved bullpen, the Astros could be closer than some may think  to a .500 record. The one area that I think could use an upgrade right now is the starting rotation. I believe that this starting rotation has potential, but if the attitude with the Astros organization is changing to “win now” then I think the rotation needs to be upgraded. Dallas Keuchel is a solid pitcher and if he puts together another season like his 2014 campaign, he definitely can be considered as an ace. But, if you combine him with Shields, Scherzer, or Hamels, we have a formidable starting rotation in Houston.

“Astros, in my opinion, are going to have a winning record this year, and, I’ll go on the record of saying that. I believe this is a winning team, and I think this is the beginning of many years of winning Astros teams.”

The Scherzer situation right now is a bit tricky, and it’s unclear if the Astros could be involved. In the same interview that Jeff Luhnow did with Christopher Russo, he was asked about Scherzer and answered by saying, “We’re reaching a point in our development cycle where we’re gonna have to take a hard look at that and see if that makes sense, because obviously putting a Scherzer or Shields at the top of this rotation would make us a lot better team.” As far as the rest of the MLB goes, the teams that were mentioned to be interested in the 2o13 Cy Young Award Winner were the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Detroit Tigers. Recently, the Tigers and Cardinals have seemingly dropped out of the running based on comments from their respective general managers. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said, “We are out of the big pitcher market.” and Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski, when asked about re-signing Scherzer, said that it would “probably not” happen.

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  • After these recent developments, we are left with the Yankees, Red Sox, and a sleeper team. Some believe that this sleeper team is the Astros. In early December, Buster Olney reported that the Astros had met with Scherzer but no other definitive facts have been reported. Astros fans, including myself, are very hopeful about the situation and baseball writers around the country seem to not want to rule out Houston yet. As we all know, the Astros have money to spend. They have the lowest projected payroll in the majors and plenty of room to sign Scherzer to the mammoth contract that he has requested. With other teams dropping out of the running recently, my suggestion would be to remain hopeful about Max Scherzer signing with the Astros, but don’t start to think that we are the frontrunners in the conversations.

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    Now, let’s look to James Shields. Recently, the price has dropped in the free agent market for Shields and according to Ken Rosenthal, the Toronto Blue Jays are now looking further into Shields at a reduced price. Earlier in the offseason, Shields was projected to sign a deal in the $100 milion+ range. But now, he’s projected to receive between $70-80 million. If the Astros don’t want to spend a ton of money on Max Scherzer, I could definitely see them looking to Shields as a second option. But, with teams falling out of the Scherzer race, Shields is receiving more and more attention.

    After the Evan Gattis trade, it looks like the Astros have a winning mindset. In my opinion, if you’re going to try and win out, stick to your strategy and go after the big guys. Max Scherzer would be a major investment, but it would also be a great acquisition and provide Astros fans with a big name to rally around. In the end, a potential $200 million investment will be up to owner Jim Crane and his vision for the Houston Astros. If Scherzer ends up elsewhere, I could definitely see the Astros pursuing Shields. All we can do now is wait.

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