Are the Houston Astros Winners or Losers?
Every year after the Winter Meetings, all the big sports websites do their winners and losers. Despite only making two moves during the meetings, the Houston Astros got some respect from across national media. While the Ken Giles is still not official, Brian McTaggart reports that they are still waiting for physicals, his and Tony Sipp retention helps make a team that was good in 2015 even better for 2016.
Looking at the offseason as a whole, the Astros were able to make additions via subtractions. Jeff Luhnow has kept intact the primary players behind the playoff run of 2016. They rid themselves of some of the weak links on the team including Chris Carter, Jed Lowrie, Chad Qualls, and Jonathan Villar. The Carter non-tender was a bold move, as he should join another team. The Astros justified their move by looking at what other replacement players could do and probably found that their production would be greater than or equal to that of Carter.
During the meetings, they traded for Giles, who replaces the inconsistent Qualls who has since joined the Rockies on a two-year deal. Just looking at that substitution, that would be like dropping Robbie Grossman for George Springer. Giles is the flame-thrower the Astros wanted, and he will be around for a while with five years of team control of the pitcher. While Vincent Velasquez‘s profiles as an ace, the Astros choose to go with the proven pitcher in Giles. With the dynamic of the Astros team, they needed a dominating closer more than a fifth starter.
Retaining Sipp was a big deal because they didn’t have too many left-handed options outside of Kevin Chapman, not the other Chapman. The Astros improved the bullpen that let the team down in the playoffs, so for that reason, they get an A from me for the Winter Meetings for getting the elite closer without having to give up A.J. Reed, Mark Appel, or any of the three 2015 first round picks. The one hole they currently have is at first base, but look for that to be filled soon with Reed’s impending arrival. They still have some moves to make.
What did the experts say about how the Astros did?
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Curt Schilling (MLB Network) – On the segment titled Winners and Losers, Schilling ranked them as the fifth winner of the season behind Cubs, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Braves. He said adding that closer to the team that is already great will make them better.
Matt Snyder (CBS Sports) – “They waited until late to make their splash, but getting Ken Giles in a trade and re-signingTony Sipp means the bullpen will be a strength next season. The club is very well set up to improve after its first ever AL playoff run.”
Cliff Corcoran (Si.com) – “Though it hasn’t been finalized yet, the reported trade that would send closer Ken Giles from Philadelphia to Houston for four prospects, including pitcher Vince Velasquez and outfielder Derek Fisher, is a good one for the Astros. They are arguably giving up more than the Red Sox did for Smith, but in return Houston will get five team-controlled years of a 25-year-old pitcher with a bright future. Giles will close for the Astros and he’ll be joined at the back of their bullpen by Tony Sipp, the top free agent lefty reliever, who is returning to Houston on a three-year, $18 million deal.”
Danny Knobler (Bleacher Report) – “The Astros were smart/lucky enough not to end up with Aroldis Chapman and instead ended up with Ken Giles, whose age (25), stuff and years of control (five) fit their profile. And as Brian T. Smith wrote in the Houston Chronicle, the relatively low-cost deal for Giles leaves the Astros with the chance to do more to improve their already impressive team.”
It seems that people are starting to view the Astros as a relative team again following their success in 2015. While the trade five years from now could be one-sided for the Phillies, for now, this was exactly the trade that the Astros needed. I do agree that the Astros did well by not trading for Chapman, as Mike wrote yesterday: The Moral Dilemma of Aroldis Chapman.
Another interesting note, none of the AL West teams are really making big moves to improve themselves. It is still early in the offseason, but it is fair to say that the Astros have improved the most in the AL West. Luhnow laid some groundwork for future moves, the Astros could use a starting pitcher, Kazmir?