Houston Astros: Is an offseason ace addition in Luhnow’s hand?

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The Houston Astros are good again by relying on the development of homegrown players and some shrewd moves in the offseason. They have three homegrown pitchers in the rotation between Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr, and Vincent Velasquez. The also have a free agent signing in Scott Feldman and a waiver claim steal in Collin McHugh. However, some of their pitchers are younger, and the Astros will seek to keep their arms healthy. They are looking to trade for an ace for the 2015 season, but their plan from the offseason was to break out the checkbook for an ace in the 2016 season. Granted Keuchel is the ace on this team, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a co-ace.

Criteria

Earlier before the 2015 season, I wrote about the Astros Guideline for Signing Premium Free-Agent for the 2016 season. In that post, I described some of the criteria for the Astros to pursue a Max Scherzer type signing.

1)  Quality Player

As most teams probably value with a long-term contract, they’d better be worth it. Luhnow said that the first thing he looks at is the “quality of the player.” While this should be a given, it’s hard to predict performance 6 years from now on those type players. Most long-term contracts should not be based off a career year, but instead based of a “proven track record of performance.” Most long-term contracts are usually signed to help now, sacrificing the future years or possible unproductive years in the deal.

2) Young Player

Players the Astros are after will be young players. Not prospects, but players that are “young enough where we know what we will get,” but will probably have a ceiling on the age of potential free agent signings at less than 30-year old players. They will be looking at the players who made their major league debuts early, and become free agents sooner. Luhnow said that “we can predict what skills will decline at what age. So that we won’t have buyer’s regret later in the contract.”

3) Length of Contract

As Luhnow mentioned earlier, the length of the contract will be something that the Astros might balk on. Depending on the quality of the player and the age of the player, these factors will give the Astros a value for that specific free agent target. “If you can get a player to sign a 7-year deal, and they are worth that every year of the contract is great and rare.”

More from Astros News

Will they pursue a big time free-agent pitcher?

Also from my earlier article, Astros Guideline for Signing Premium Free-Agent, Luhnow laid out a guideline for them to be ready to

Jeff Luhnow on when the Astros will pursue big name free agents, “we are not that far away if we’re successful this year, and people start coming back out to the ballpark. When we feel like revenue is trending to the spot where we feel comfortable with the risk.” In other words, if attendance and number of games won increases in 2015, the Astros might be willing to spend more on a quality free agent.

That was back then, so let’s look at how the 2015 season is going for the Astros.

1) Are the Astros winning again? Yes, the Astros are winning, they are seven games over .500 after a 2-8 stretch for they past ten days. While fans are upset about losing first place to the Angels, they are still way above expectations coming into the season.

2) Are people coming out to the ballpark again? The fans are slowly starting to come out again, but attendance this weekend could be a little low with the Astros down and out. According to ESPN’s attendance tracker, the Astros are 25th in the MLB in average attendance with 24,489 fans per game. In 44 home games, the Astros have had 1,077,533 fans pile through Minute Maid Park in 2015. Since 2012, the average home attendance has been 19,848, 20,393, and 21,627 respectively. Attendance is going up, but they were hurt from low attendance at the beginning of the season. Attendance will go up with a trade.

3) Is revenue going up? As someone who has spent way too much on food and baseball gear, the revenue is indeed going up. The sales of Carlos Correa gear is probably the biggest money maker for the Astros. IF Cueto comes to the Astros, his gear would be a hot sale as well. The Astros are receiving more money from the agreement with Root Sports. Being the first time in a while when more of the Houston viewing audience can watch them, more fans are getting into the Astros again.

4) Are the Astros at a point where they are willing to take a risk? The Astros are proving this right now with their aggression going after a starting pitcher to help the team win now and not later. They are willing to give up some of the prospects, which has a complete 360 from the process. The Astros feel like it’s worth the risk right now, because the AL West is winnable this year.

Dallas Keuchel is doing his best Chandler Parsons impression.

According to Evan Drellich, Keuchel took it upon himself to follow legendary recruiters such as Parsons (Dwight Howard) and Chad Qualls (Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson), to try to recruit the next ace pitcher for the Astros. Keuchel asked Tigers ace if he would be interested in pitching for the Astros next season? According to Drellich and Keuchel in the article, Keuchel makes an Astros pitch for Price, Prices’ answer was, “Hey, open up that checkbook!”

With that being said, the Astros may not have to overpay as much anymore for a premium free-agent pitcher. Could Price be wearing an Astros uni next year? The Astros need to show him the money, but until then, they need to get a top of the rotation guy for 2015. Maybe their big splash will be re-signing the player they traded for.

All this could be for naught if they trade for a pitcher with addition years of control.

For the latest CTH Astros rumors, click here.

Next: Faux Astros trade discussion between Luhnow and Reds’ Jocketty

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