Mar 16, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros hats and gloves sit on the top step of the dugout during the game against the Washington Nationals at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
This offseason has been one of the most memorable in recent Astros history, and it’s time to look back with exactly ONE MONTH until pitchers and catchers report. That’s exciting to say, isn’t it? Now I do fully expect one more trade to happen, but we’ll cover that later.
Houston came into the offseason knowing they needed to upgrade the bullpen, get a power bat, potentially get a back-end of the rotation candidate, and upgrade at least one of the positions on the left side of the infield. And now we break down those categories to take a look at their offseason grade.
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Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson were signed on December 12th to improve the Astros biggest area of need going into the offseason. The team blew over 60 games the last two seasons, and if they were to move onto Phase II in “The Process,” it would take a solid bullpen to do so. These additions will go a long way in helping the Astros get a winning record, and potentially a playoff push in 2015. I really like these moves, but one thing that could still use an upgrade is a for sure closer. If the Astros can add one within the next month of the offseason, this easily becomes an “A” for the bullpen. K-Rod and Rafael Soriano are still available as potential targets to the bullpen.
Power Bat: A
Last week’s trade for Evan Gattis definitely gave the Astros more pop in the lineup than they had going into the offseason. This wasn’t a need for the Astros, but it would definitely be nice to upgrade and they did just that. Although losing a couple of top prospects makes it a little harder, it was very nice seeing the Astros trading away top prospects instead of trading for top prospects. Gattis could very well wear out the Crawford Boxes, and if he does that, the Astros very well could have four players hit 30+ HR’s in 2015: Evan Gattis, George Springer, Chris Carter, and Jon Singleton. It’s safe to assume all four hit at least 20, and if Altuve, Lowrie, and Castro can get on base like we expect, these power bats could help ignite the Astro offense.
This was an area that didn’t need too much improving as the Astros have some prospects who should be given a shot at the majors to see if they’re the real deal. Foltynewicz was expected by most to be the leader for the final rotation spot, but his trade to Atlanta for Gattis opens things up a bit. The recent trade of Dexter Fowler to Chicago for Dan Straily provides another option in the rotation for Houston, along with candidates Asher Wojciechowski, Alex White, and Jake Buchanan. If none of these options stand out of the pack, the 5-spot could be a big area of concern for the Astros, which is why I’m rating this a C. They didn’t really do much to upgrade here, but they didn’t do much to downgrade as there are still plenty of options with prospects in the running. If the 5th starter struggles enough, don’t be surprised to see Mark Appel called up early in the season if he has good success in Fresno/Corpus Christi.
Jed Lowrie signing for a three-year deal was a good move by the Astros to get a reliable infielder who can play SS until Carlos Correa arrives in Houston. So just upgrading one was a plus, and then the Fowler trade to the Cubs for Luis Valbuena at third was the icing on the cake. Shortstop and third base were a black hole in 2014, and seeing the front office make moves to upgrade both shows they really are serious about Phase II. It won’t be very long until Correa and Moran are manning the left side of the infield, but the Astros couldn’t take another year of Villar/Dominguez if they want to win now, and that’s why these moves were big. They could have gotten better options at both positions which is why this is just a B, but these additions will help the team a lot.
Is There More to Come?
Yes, there is more to come. I can’t guarantee it, but I’m 99.99% sure a catcher is leaving Houston. Stassi will spend another year in AAA, and that leaves Jason Castro, Hank Conger, or Carlos Corporan to be traded. I believe Corporan will be the one traded as I can’t see Houston parting with Castro this offseason, and they wouldn’t have traded for Conger to just trade him away a couple months later. It’s hard to say what the Astros could get in return for Corporan, but it probably won’t be much more than a bubble player, or a mid-level prospect.
But it doesn’t stop there, according to Ken Rosenthal:
If the Astros do indeed add Ryan Vogelsong to the rotation, there doesn’t appear to be much of a competition for the 5th spot in the Rotation this Spring. Adding Vogelsong could put a block on the higher level prospects, but no rotation stays intact over the course of the entire season. Yes, it does mean Appel would need to wait for an injury or trade to occur before getting his shot, but this makes the Astros rotation even better 1-5. This would also bring up the Rotation Offseason Grade to a C+, and an Overall Offseason Grade to a B+. If these negotiations fall apart, then the Astros Overall Offseason Grade will be a B.
How would you feel about adding Vogelsong to the team? Do you think the Astros offseason grade of a B is fair? Please sound off in the comments below and let us know what you like/dislike about this offseason.