Friday, December 18, 2009

A note on Halladay leads to a note on Oswalt

Of course Jayson Stark is writing about Roy Halladay. But we do get a little love for Oswalt.

In a little statistical analysis on the record of the Blue Jays when Halladay pitched, as opposed to the other four guys, there's a startling stat:
When Halladay has started a game since 2002, the Blue Jays have gone 149-89. That's a .654 winning percentage. In other words, when he's had the ball, they've played like a 106-win team...

...-- but 71 games under .500 when any other Blue Jay pitched. When anyone else started, they went 493-564. That's a .466 winning percentage.

He calls it the "Roy Halladay Effect." And Roy-O comes close to it.

When Oswalt has pitched in the same span of time, the Astros were 151-96 for a .611 win%, but 516-532 (.492) when he didn't. That's a difference of .119 points. Only Johan Santana (.134) and Halladay (.188) have a better differential.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Zachary Grimmett

Zachary Grimmett
How did he get here?: Drafted, 28th Round (2008)
Stats: 6'3", 185 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 20


vs LHB166.75/2.0012:8.369
vs RHB25.27.71/1.8316:8.358
Bases Empty17.1x/2.1311:7.357
Runners On24.1x/1.4817:9.367

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 6.0
BB/9 Rate: 3.5
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.02
K:BB Ratio: 1.75

This is Grimmett's second year in the organization, having spent 2008 in Greeneville, throwing 31.2IP (meaning he threw 10 more innings in 2009 than in 2008). His K/9 ratio went up from 5.1 to 6.0, but his BB/9 rate doubled from 1.7 to 3.5. And his hits/9 jumped from 11.7 to 13.6, as well. Grimmett also had 11HBP and four wild pitches. As you can see from the splits, June started out okay, but then the wheels fell off. So 2010 will be a big year for Zach, but let's keep in mind that he still will only be 20 on Opening Day 2010.

Diamon'bac's reportedly offer deal to Kelly Johnson

Why is this important? Because the Astros are rumored to have interest in former Brave Kelly Johnson (along with the Cardinals and Pirates).

Nick Piecoro estimates Arizona's offer at 1-year, $2 million.

He also notes that it might be another week or so until Johnson makes a decision.

Olney's note on Valverde and Tejada

In Buster Olney's new blog post, BO highlights the surprising number of available free agents still available. One of those free agents is Jose Valverde, whose agent didn't really do him a solid:

(Valverde) had a strong season as the Astros' closer, posting a 2.33 ERA with just 40 hits and five homers allowed in 54 innings. But there are very few closer positions open now -- in Detroit, Florida and perhaps Washington, all teams that are not necessarily inclined to spend big dollars on a closer -- and there may be no opportunities for him to make in salary what he might've made had he accepted arbitration from Houston last week.

Mmm. And the question is, which team is willing to pay him AND give up the draft pick. Valverde's agent definitely nutted this one...

Another of those free agents is Miguel Tejada:
He hit .313 with 61 extra-base hits while playing in Houston last season (and yes, his home-road splits are acute, and he has indicated a willingness to play some other position besides shortstop. Scouts love his energy, but he made almost $15 million in salary last year and, like Bobby Abreu, he might be facing a major adjustment in salary.

Any thoughts on the market for Tejada?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FanGraphs on the Astros' drafts: 2006-2009

(Captip to TCB for the link):

FanGraphs' Marc Hulet takes on the last four Astro drafts. Nuggets, you say?

On Mier:
He stole 10 bases but was caught five times, so he needs to improve his base running. The 13.5% walk rate was also very impressive for a teenager hitter, but the strikeout rate of 23.4% was a little high. Even so, the organization will certainly take a wOBA of .385 from Mier.

On Bushue:
With a ground-ball rate of 37.3%, the right-hander will want to try and keep the ball out of the air a little more, especially if he’s going to play in Minute Maid Park.

On Nash:
The outfielder swung-and-missed too much, with a strikeout rate of 31.7%. He showed a lot of raw power as an amateur but his ISO rate of .106 suggests he has a long way to go to tap into that home-run ability.

The club had a nice draft haul in ‘08 (See what can be done when you don’t punt your draft picks!) and six members of the Top 10 prospect list can be found in this draft: Castro, Lyles, Austin, Seaton, Steele, and Dydalewicz.

Ugh. This was a nasty, nasty draft. It actually makes the Blue Jays’ ‘09 draft look good. Dietrich snubbed Houston for Georgia Tech and he hit .311/.426/.511 in 225 at-bats as a sophomore in ‘09. The ultra-athletic Collin DeLome (5th round) just squeaked into the Top 10 list, based on his power/speed/defensive potential.

On Chris Johnson:
The 25-year-old Johnson projects to be a solid utility or platoon player for Houston after hitting .281/.3232/.461 in triple-A.

Another Astros' pitching instructor goes to Tampa Bay

Now-former Hooks pitching coach Stan Boroski has pissed off to Tampa Bay, as an assistant to former Astros' pitching coach Jim Hickey.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Max Fearnow

Max Fearnow
How did he get here?: Undrafted free agent. Signed June 30, 2009
Stats: 6'4", 205 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 23


as Starter153.00/1.208:4.264
as Reliever21.25.40/1.8013:13.302
vs LHB13.15.40/1.809:5.333
vs RHB23.13.86/1.4112:12.256
Bases Empty13.1x/1.959:8.295
Runners On23.1x/1.3312:9.282

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 5.2
BB/9 Rate: 4.2
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.00
K:BB Ratio: 1.24

Like Donovan, Fearnow started four games this season - but they were at the beginning of Tri-City's year, where he posted a 3.00 ERA/1.20 WHIP line. I'm not sure of the circumstances, but Fearnow was then moved to the bullpen, where he flat-out struggled (just go back and look at those August appearances). Of Fearnow's seven appearances in August, four of them were 2+ ER outings - which will kill an ERA. Only once did he get out of a game without allowing a run, and he walked two batters in that game. So let's go ahead and slide Max back to the rotation.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Robby Donovan

Robby Donovan
How did he get here?: Drafted, 23rd Round (2009)
Stats: 6'5", 195 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21


as Starter16.11.65/1.2914:7.233
as Reliever17.15.71/1.7014:14.232
vs LHB143.21/1.718:9.283
vs RHB19.24.12/1.3720:12.197
Bases Empty15.1x/1.3714:13.140
Runners On18.1x/1.6414:8.306

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 7.5
BB/9 Rate: 5.6
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 0.73
K:BB Ratio: 1.33

There are quite a few things to note here. Donovan's last four appearances of the season were games in which he started and, as you can see from the starter/reliever splits, he fared much better pitching out of the rotation. In his start against Staten Island on August 29, he struck out eight batters in 4IP - so that's nice. And despite an upside-down groundout/flyout ratio, Donovan didn't give up a homer all season long. Also, if you take out one of his appearances - on July 22 against Auburn in which he allowed three earned runs without recording an out - his ERA drops below 3.00. So get those walks under control, young Robby, and we'll see you in Lexington.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Enos Cabell on Astroline

Alyson Footer handled the tweeting during Astroline with Enos Cabell. What did There Once Was a Man Named Enos have to say?

On Pedro Feliz:
"He plays great defense. He played a lot of games last year. (The Phillies) kind of ran him down. With Blum there, Blum can rest him...With the short left field porch, I think he's going to hit a lot of home runs."

On Manzella:
Manzella can really play defense. If you have a great defensive team on the left and the right side, with our young pitching throwing strikes, we should be very effective. We're still looking for another middle infielder in case anything happens to Manzella."

On Lindstrom:
"We see him as our closer. (Que interesante!) He's 6-3, 220 pounds and he throws hard. We needed somebody to make sure can close out a game.

But. Hey. What about the $15 million man? The guy that Ed paid about $8 million more than the last 8th inning guy who just signed with the Brewers?
He's been a stopper before. Once we lost Valverde, we tried to cover the back end and that's the key. He's more of a veteran than Lindstrom and he can step in if Lindstrom struggles.

On Castro:
It'll be up to him how he plays if he breaks with team after Spring Training. This kid is smart, he played really well. He moves so fast it's unbelievable. If he can catch in Spring Training & catch our pitching, catch our starting rotation, he might make the team."

That's a whole lot of interesting, right there.

Some contract details

I spent some time over at Cot's Baseball Contracts and found out some things:

Lyon's contract is as follows:
2010: $4.25 million
2011: $5.25 million
2012: $5.50 million

And Carlos Lee's contract also includes "a nominal weight clause." I'm not in shape, by any means, but how nominal is this weight clause? Dadgum...

Maybe LaHawk knew that Easy Eddie was lowballing him

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt (who I think I incorrectly identified as the Brewers' GM last week. My bad.), LaHawk took the initiative to meet with the Brewers.

The actual Brewers' GM, Doug Melvin, said of the negotiations:
"LaTroy wanted to come up and meet us. We had a chance to spend some time with him. We expressed our interest in LaTroy and he expressed his interest in the Brewers."

Negotiations accelerated when Hawkins' former club, Houston, pressed him to commit to returning or leaving. The Brewers boosted their offer from one year to two years, and the next thing you knew they had a $7.5 million agreement.

Way to go, Ed.

"It was pretty much my idea (to attend the meetings) a few months ago. I'm a firm believer that talking to a guy in person, you get to know him a little bit better. I watched this team from afar and really admired what they've done the last few years putting a team together. I just wanted to be a part of that."

So the Brewers signed LaHawk because of his durability, and his being a team player, doing whatever is asked. Nope. We don't need guys like that.

Hey! Geary got himself a job!

Good for Geoff Geary. After getting run down by Cecil Cooper last season, and sent down to Round Rock by Ed Wade last season, Geoff Geary signed with the Rangers today.

He was signed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Well that only took about 24 hours

Drayton finally responded to McTaggart in an effort to clear things up with the falling-through of the Astros sale last Fall.

Basically it's this: He did try to sell the team, but isn't anymore. Which sounds remarkably like when someone gets in trouble, they did do something bad, but haven't done said bad thing in quite some time.

"If somebody comes to me or one of my sons and was a highly credible person or organization and had the financial wherewithal, we'd talk to them. If you ask me, 'Are the Astros for sale?' No."

So the Astros aren't for sale, but they are sellable.

McTaggart explains that the matchmaker who made a match between McLane and Crane (who would have immediately been dubbed "McCrane") was former Rockets President/CEO George Postolos:
McLane said he was approached in 2007 by Postolos...about selling the team to Crane. Postolos left the Rockets in 2006 to form a group that helps with the acquisition of sports franchises.

This wasn't some random encounter. Captip to McTaggart for pointing that this wasn't two Houston boys sitting down and a light being flipped on. Postolos helped buy and sell teams.

"George worked for him, and George first approached me in late 2007. I told them I had no interest, and they came back later with a very attractive price and said they were willing to pay for the Astros. We started negotiations, but never reached a financial agreement, nor did we sign a contract. Jim changed his mind. The recession started in 2008, and he called and said he wanted to end negotiations. I have no hard feelings towards him. I had mixed emotions about selling in the first place. We never got close to finishing a deal."

This is immediately refuted by McTaggart:
McLane did say he and Crane shook hands and agreed on a price.

"We still had to work out all the details. We were working out the details and beginning to work towards a contact but never finished the contract. It's kind of like when you and your wife go out and look at houses and you talk to someone two or three times and negotiate with them and either you change your mind and he changes his mind and it all goes away."

Just like buying a house. A $500 million house. The wife was willing to go to $600 million, but I was standing firm at $480 million. It ends with blahblahblah "next year will be wicked good" and all. But I bet you won't see Ringolsby, McLane, and Jim Crane out at dinner anytime soon.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Kirk Clark

As there's not a whole lot going on at the moment, let's pick up where we left off on these player profiles.

Kirk Clark
How did he get here?: Undrafted free agent, signed August 2009
Stats: 6'2", 202 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21


vs LHB9.11.93/1.0715:2.242
vs RHB9.21.86/0.729:1.188
Bases Empty10.2x/0.9417:1.220
Runners On8.1x/0.847:2.208

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 11.4
BB/9 Rate: 1.4
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.21
K:BB Ratio: 8.00

The Astros signed Kirk Clark back in August out of the Alaskan Baseball League and a college career with Creighton. There's a lot to be excited about from 19 innings here - 14 hits/3 walks in 65 ABs (.262 OBPA). Clark did give up two homers, certainly not alarming - and the lines with runners on/RISP are certainly encouraging, as well. We're talking about a full month of numbers here, and that's it, but still, it's a good signing - so far.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So...maybe I owe Tracy Ringolsby an apology

Back on October 1 I ripped FoxSports columnist Tracy Ringolsby for throwing the following toss-away line in his column on the bidding for the Texas Rangers. He said:

Word is two other teams are available — the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks — although there is no indication that there have been any serious talks with a prospective buyer for either team.

The next day, Drayton said the following to Fox26:
Nothing could be further from the truth. Our goal is to get the best manager in baseball and move aggressively forward to be a champion in 2010.

So when JJO published his piece on the heels of T.R. Sullivan's ushering the cat out of the bag that Run-DMc almost sold the Astros to Jim Crane last fall, I thought that it's possible that I owe Ringolsby an apology.

“We had a tentative deal. Nothing lasts forever. I don’t want to sell, but when people call you listen."

In reality, though, McLane now admits that he and Crane had a tentative deal before Crane backed out. According to people close to McLane, at the time the Astros’ owner was furious that Crane backed out because of the economic downturn.

He called one day and said he was no longer interested."

Justice says:
Drayton was willing to see the Astros in 2008, he certainly is willing to sell them today. If the price is right, he's out the door...

...Now, though, he'll be getting other telephone calls from people interested in owning the Astros. If he listened once, he'll listen again.

This is curious. Last year, when it became clear that the national economy was going the way of Highway 36 from Temple to Cameron, anybody who was into a deep financial obligation and had an opportunity to get out with a profit would do it. No questions asked. And who would blame them?

Drayton has caught a lot of flak. From fans, from bloggers, from the Houston media, from the national media. He hasn't made consistently good decisions since 2005 (or beginning with the ushering out of Gerry Hunsicker), and if he sold the Astros, it wouldn't be the worst thing. But I like him. I can't tell you why.

One time I had the opportunity to meet Drayton. It was a couple of years ago and La Constabless and I lived in New York. You get more attention as an Astros fan in New York, because most people in New York only know of Houston from when Chien-Ming Wang hurt his foot, and they couldn't figure out why he was there in the first place, and not playing the Red Sox on Fox. So when Drayton came in, my boss pulled me in to meet him.

El Jefe: "Drayton, this is our resident Astros fan."
Drayton: "Oh yeah? Are you going to root for the Astros this year?"
Me: "Like I have my entire life."
Drayton: "Do you remember when we opened the Astrodome?"
Me: (confused. Because I was 27.) "Uhhh. That was a little bit before my time."
Drayton: "That's great. Thanks for your support."

That was it. I went back to work. I was more concerned with the possibility that I looked like I was in my 50s. The Astros wouldn't be the same without Drayton. And maybe that's not the worst thing. Would the Astros look different without Drayton? Does one billionaire have better baseball sense than another? Now that it looks like Jim Crane has been eliminated from the possibility of buying the Rangers, will he turn his attention to the Astros again?

Provided that Crane's bid was indeed $530 million for a team worth $405 million back in April, would McLane accept another bid by Crane?

I'm guessing not, given the initial backing-out last fall. But it all depends on how badly Drayton wants to get out. Allegedly, Drayton was "relieved" that it fell apart, but you have to wonder about that kind of money. Drayton's a businessman, after all.

Sorry, Tracy.

I bet Drayton isn't so happy for us to see this

This came out back in April, but it certainly is worth another post in a year of cost-cutting, Valverde-dropping, and Brandon Lyon-signing.

What we have here is the Forbes' list of the business of baseball, in which we see the following:

Team value: $445 million (12th-highest in baseball).
This is down 4% from 2008, and the Astros were among ten teams who saw a decline in team value.

But were up 9% in what Forbes calls the annual value change (current team value compared with latest transaction price).

Revenue: $194 million (11th-highest)

Operating income: $17 million
Player expenses: $111 million
Gate receipts: $78 million

When the 2009 numbers come out in April, we'll take another look at this, because all numbers involved will likely go down, thanks to all those empty seats.

Astros super-interested in Chapman

In the article on Aroldis Chapman's workout at Baseball USA in Houston, Ed Wade positively gushed - and the Astros were there "in force":

"The kid's got a great arm. He's a physical specimen. He's left-handed. He throws hard. Obviously, anybody would be interested in an arm like this. He's got some great stuff. The early feedback from our guys, and everybody else, is he's a tremendous talent. It was important for us to be out here, being in our backyard. I have seen lots of side sessions over 33 years. You judge guys by their bodies of work and scouts who have seen guys multiple times in competition. If we were going to get involved with a guy like this, we'd make sure we had a lot of information and not just something based on a side session."

So all that's to say: He's big. He throws hard. With his left arm. But we're still not sure.

Update: Chapman at one point was represented by API. Now he's represented by the Houston-based Hendricks Brothers (maybe you remember them from Clemens' days). Jorge Arangure, who has been all over the Chapman story - from defection to residency in Andorra (which Joe Buck hilariously referred to during the playoffs as an island) to his free agency, is reporting that API is suing the Hendricks Brothers for interfering with API's representation of Chapman.

According to Arangure:
(Chapman's former agent) Edwin Mejia said API found evidence that an employee of Hendricks contacted Chapman with the intent of having him breach his contract, and that API will try to recoup hundreds of thousands in expenses, the expected commission and damages.

Why are we talking about this? Because (a) it's interesting, and (b) affects the standing of the Houston-based agents.

It's also worth noting that the Red Sox are the only team to have reportedly offered a deal - $15.5 million - to Chapman.

Drayton McLane doesn't like Jim Crane

In an updated blog post by the Dallas Morning-News' Evan Grant, Houston businessman Jim Crane reportedly has a bid in for the Rangers around $530 million, allegedly the best bid so far - better than the Dennis Gilbert bid or the Ryan/Greenberg bid.

But there's a snag. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has already shown support Gilbert. And:
Astros owner Drayton McLane is not a fan of Crane's.

Can't imagine why. I'd still like to learn the circumstances of the handshake deal that Crane backed out of. Allegedly.

Updated Winter Ball stats - 12/15

Let's check back in with the WinterStros:

Dominican Winter League (hitters)


Dominican Winter League (pitchers)


Puerto Rican Winter League (hitters)


Puerto Rican Winter League (pitcher)


Venezuelan Winter League (hitters)


Venezuelan Winter League (pitcher)


Now this is interesting

We've been keeping up a little bit with the sale of the Texas Rangers lately, and one thing we noted was the involvement of Houston businessman Jim Crane.

Well. T.R. Sullivan's newest article says that Crane has the highest bid for the Rangers.

And about that handshake agreement. When was that?
Crane's candicacy appeared to be in doubt because of a handshake agreement to buy the Astros in the fall of 2008 that fell apart in the final hour, and that seemed to cast doubt among Major League officials if he would ultimately gain approval to buy the Rangers. But that could be a moot point if he is deemed the highest bidder in this situation.

Astros to check out Aroldis Chapman

Thank God. Good news. The Astros will be among several teams checking out Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman.

However, it has more to do with the workout will be around the corner (or at least at an undisclosed location) in Houston than it will be about actually showing interest in Chapman.

Ed Wade:
"Obviously, it's a high-profile guy who's got a chance to have a huge upside, so it behooves us to be a partipiant in the opening moments and see where it goes from there."

I think the concluding part of that statement was, "and if it takes us to Quizno's, so be it."

Zach Levine has some reasons for optimism

Immediately following Justice's soul-crushing piece on the ineptitude of Run-DMc, Zach Levine has some reasons to be optimistic about 2010. There are only three. I've got the first sentence, click the link for the rest:

With Bud Norris' innings issue out of mind, the sophomore-or-less could be a big upgrade over having a season's worth of starts from Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz.

Brad Mills could squeeze (and please, not squeeze in the baseball sense) a few wins out of a similarly talented team to what Cecil Cooper had.

In my opinion, if you're an optimist about the 2010 Astros, you're looking for big things from your familiar faces.

Here's what I'm optimistic about:

1. Bobby Heck has another draft in 2010

2. Lyles/Seaton/Dydalewicz/Villar move to Corpus, with Clemens and Gaston

3. Drew Locke moves to Round Rock

What? You noticed there wasn't anything about the Big League club? How astute you are...

Drayton apparently talking salary cap again

Justice brings it in his new blog post today, and the jumping off point is Drayton apparently going on SiriusXM talking about the salary cap.

The Astros have enough revenues to win. In fact, at times they've had too much money. They'll throw $100 million at a two-tool free agent and take a hard line with a five-tool draft pick. The puzzling thing is that Drayton ran this franchise so well for so long. Now it's like he has lost his way...

...If a salary cap would turn dumb into smart, then let's get us a salary cap. What a joke the Astros have become. Take a look around you, Drayton. You're an industry laughingstock. Almost no one in the business thinks you have a chance of competing as long as you're the owner.

Do you ever get the feeling there's a great party going on next door, and you weren't invited? That's how it is to care about the Astros these days. Moves here, moves there. People moving out, people moving in. The Brewers get better. The Mariners get better. The Braves get better. Meanwhile, the Astros aren't even trying.

Their two biggest needs are starting pitching and home runs, and they've acquired neither this winter. They've pretty much made it clear they have no intention of improving the club this winter...

We've been down this road so many times before that it's boring going over it all again. It's just that with Lee, Lackey, etc., moving, it pointed up how far the Astros are from being competitive, or even trying to be competitive.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Astros re-sign Jason Michaels, sign Gustavo Chacin

Alyson Footer is tweeting that the Astros have re-signed Jason Michaels to a one-year deal worth $800,000 with a club option for 2011. Let's do the splits on Michaels:

2009 Splits!

vs LHP56.268/.317/.44613:48-4
vs RHP79.215/.326/.41825:129-12
Bases Empty70.243/.354/.47120:119-3
Runners On65.231/.286/.38518:58-1
1st Half74.176/.256/.32421:79-6
2nd Half61.311/.400/.55717:98-10
On 1st Pitch16.313/.313/.688x:x4-1
After FPS68.235/.278/.39723:47-8
After FPB51.216/.375/.39215:126-7

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 2.38
K/PA %: 25%
XBH/H %: 53.1%

So that's interesting. As Footer tells us:
Before everyone blows a gasket on the Michaels signing, consider his second half #s -- .311 (19x61) with 3 HR and 10 RBIs.

We've considered his second-half numbers. And I'm more impressed with his August 5-9. Four games in which Michaels went 6x13 with 4XBH and a slash line of .462/.500/1.077. Michaels raised his average 32 points. Then it was back to a .222 average in September/October (though those walks were nice enough to push him over a .400 OBP.

McTaggart said:
I like Michaels return. He's cheap, relatively speaking, can play all 3 OF spots, had a good 2nd half and has good makeup.

Brad Mills had this to say about Michaels:
He was in the minor leagues when I was in Philadelphia, and he was highly thought of. His reputation in baseball is very solid as being a very solid clubhouse presence and a solid player.”

And Ed Wade:
He is a solid guy. We’ve lost some guys through free agency, and the leadership element is important.”

The leadership element. There it is again.

So I won't blow a gasket, and $800,000 is baseball peanuts (just don't do the math on how long it will take you to make $800,000. It's 100 of something, but it ain't games. You'll just depress yourself.). But I won't be jumping up and down like Mariners fan today.


In another note, the Astros signed Gustavo Chacin to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training. As The Crawfish Boxes astutely note:
The Astros also get a very interesting project in Chacin with previous experience under Arnsberg.

Chacin posted the best season of his career in 2005, Arnsberg's first year with Toronto, Chacin went:
13-9 (34 starts), 203IP, 3.72 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 121K:70BB, finishing 5th in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Astros interested in Kelly Johnson

Infielder Kelly Johnson, formerly of the Atlanta Braves, are getting some love from the Astros (as well as the Pirates, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks).

I'll admit, I don't see it. The Astros already have Maysonet, Matsui, and Keppinger. If the Astros were to flip Matsui for a bucket of sunflower seeds, and install Johnson at 2B, however, that's a different story. But to add another second baseman just to do it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Bray Day, Episode 12!

Aaron Bray was the 27th round draft pick for the Astros in last June's amateur draft. He was also the winner of the Astros County Adopt-a-Player contest. Each week, Aaron will write a column for Astros County detailing his off-season. Check the sidebar for archives.

Hello Astros Fans,
I am taking a break from studying for my exams, which start tomorrow at 11:30. This whole school year has been very different from previous years. I found myself being lost, I did not have baseball or a strict schedule to follow. It has been a different school year, but it is over with after this week. As I always mention, I am so excited and can't wait for Spring Training. I have been working hard and will continue to do so. I hope all of you are having a great week and looking forward to the Holiday Season.

What areas of your game are you focusing on improving this season over last?

As a player, I am working on all aspects of my game. I am not limiting myself to working on one particular aspect. I am working on getting faster and quicker along with trying to get stronger. So I have been in the gym running and in the weight room lifting. I have also been going indoors to hit, throw and take ground balls. Now with school being over, I will be able to go outside to a field if the weather cooperates. It helps out that I have my brother and dad to help me out when I need someone to throw to me. Then my school (UNC-Charlotte) has been nice to allow me to come out there when I want to get some work in. I am just looking forward to getting better and showcasing my hard work at spring training.

Have a good week,

Got a question for Aaron? Send it to

Other GMs pissed at Ed Wade

Alyson Footer's new post on the Astros' contract with Brandon Lyon details how other GMs ain't happy. Why?

Because every contract helps set the market for every other contract.

A couple of thoughts immediately came to mind when I read some of the media reports. "Disbelief" from "rival GMs" can also be interpreted as "disgust" from "GMs desperately looking for relief pitching," because the Lyon signing helped to set the market for late-inning relievers. The hefty price tag will make it that much more difficult for teams to find affordable relief help. That makes GMs grumpy...

...Lyon's contract is without question on the generous side, and I admit I was surprised when I heard the dollar figure. But after reading some of the comments from GMs who were also in heavy pursuit of Lyon, I started to see Ed Wade's logic on this one...

...It comes down to three possible outcomes. Lyon could work himself into a setup role with Lindstrom closing, which would mean the Astros are paying more than a setup man is worth. Or, Lyon becomes the closer, and the Astros get a relative bargain at $5 mill a year. Or, Lyon is ineffective in setup and closing roles, in which case the contract will be lambasted. And understandably so.

But to me, it comes down to this: If the Astros are going to overpay, I'd rather it be for pitching.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Astros getting ready to tell players they're not worth as much as they think they are

So all eight arbitration-eligible players were offered contracts yesterday. Now comes the always-fun step of the negotiation in which the exchanging of numbers takes place until January 19. If no deal is reached by then, it goes to a panel of judges where the Astros make their case for why Player X is not worth getting the money they think they should. Wade:

"Tal, David Gottfried and Ricky Bennett will be gainfully employed the next couple of months trying to wind their way through arbitration or case preparation, and those are going to be real-dollar numbers. We think we've allocated the right numbers from a budget standpoint, but one quirky thing could impact us as well."

Lyon wants to close, will let Mills do his job

In his introductory press conference yesterday, Brandon Lyon said that he wants to be the closer:

I don’t want to go into any situation and be greedy. Those are decisions I can’t really make, those are decisions that have to come from management. I just want to help the team win. Who wouldn’t want to be in the closer’s role? Obviously, you’d like to be in there and get your team off the field with a win. But if it’s best for the team to pitch in another role, I’ll do that.”

And the Astros may not be done with free agency:
We still have a little bit of pocket change left. There’s money left and money remaining for the rest of this month and the month of January could put us in a good position not to bottom-feed, but to take advantage of the surplus of talent out there and maybe get a bargain on a quality player.”