The Houston Astros Keep Showing Us There is More to Come
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve come to realize the Houston Astros are now serious contenders. Crazy right? Only four years ago the Astros began a streak of three straight seasons failing to reach 60 wins, although sneakily stacking the farm system. People criticized the Astros and their front office because there hadn’t been a “fire sale” like this in baseball before. Not only did the Astros give up their top tier players in the process, but they also put all of their hope into unsure minor league players who, as we all know, don’t always pan out.
Tada! It worked. Following their first top two finish in their division in nine years, the media and general baseball fans are now taking them seriously. Guys like perennial All-Star Jose Altuve, Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, Rookie of the Year award winner Carlos Correa, and stud George Springer have fueled this turnaround.
Although the Astros finally began to see the effort make its way to the field, they aren’t done yet. Coming into Winter Meetings, the Astros had three glaring issues: relief pitching, first base, and third base. Following the meltdown in Game Four of the ALDS, Luhnow did not waste any time DFA’ing Chad Qualls and making a move.
Acquiring Ken Giles of the Phillies seems to fill in a big gap for the Astros: the 9th inning. Luke Gregerson did well this year, but the Astros were missing that big velocity guy that intimidates hitters with his very presence on the mound. And oh man did they get him. Giles didn’t get the nickname “100 mile Giles” on accident. Along with his fastball, Giles actually holds the All-Time MLB record for ERA by a pitcher with at least 100 IP, not too shabby. The Astros had to depart with upcoming stars Vincent Velasquez and Derek Fisher, as well as 2015 2nd round pick Thomas Eshelman, who happens to have a record himself. Eshelman is the best strike thrower in NCAA history. However, his fastball lags that of Giles by nearly 10 MPH.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
Giving up such prospects is nothing but a testament to the depth of the Astros’ farm system. While Luhnow seems to be in the “win now” mode, he also understands the importance of keeping players along the likes of A.J. Reed, Joseph Musgrove, and Alex Bregman in the organization. This mindset is very proactive because it sets up the Astros for sustained success, not just a 3 or 4-year window.
What is next for Luhnow and the Astros? While DFA’ing Chris Carter, many Astros fans believe they will be the beginning of the Reed era, at first, base in 2016. Reed won the MILB offensive POTY award in 2015, only one year after receiving the Golden Spikes Award for the best college player at Kentucky. Luis Valbuena doesn’t seem like the long-term fix at third, but guys like Matt Duffy and Colin Moran are moving fast through the system. Don’t be shocked to see one of them at some point in 2016 manning the hot corner.
While it can initially be a bummer to see the Astros trade away elite prospects, you have to remember they are just that. Prospects. And the Astros have just the guys to lure in pieces such as Giles while keeping their main core on the farm.
With plenty of salary to spare, the Astros could be in the mix for another starting pitcher to follow the Cy Young award winner in the rotation, but that would just be a bonus. This team is looking more and more like a championship contender every day, and with the young crop on the field and down in the farm system, that won’t change for a long time.
Even Tony Sipp signed a three-year $18 million dollar contract to come back to party at Club Astros, per Evan Drellich who broke the Sipp signing first. These players know the potential of this team, the rest of baseball will know this year.