Friday, December 14, 2012

Update on Alan Ashby

SB Nation traded some links, and so via a lot of places (here's TCB's write-up), the Blue Jays have given Alan Ashby to talk to the Astros about returning to the club.

Astros sign Dominican LHP Junior Garcia

Here's Ben Badler with a report that the Astros have signed 17-year old LHP Junior Garcia out of the Dominican Republic for $200,000.

The link takes you to the free write-up, but Garcia currently throws 86-88mph with an apparently decent curve.

The $200,000 comes out of the Astros' $2.9m bonus pool for international signings in 2012/13.

Astros announce minor-league staff positions

Brian McTaggart is tweeting that the Astros have announced some positions on the minor-league side :

Paul Runge - Field Coordinator
Dyar Miller - Pitching Coordinator
Ralph Dickenson - Hitting Coordinator

Craig Bjornson - Roving Pitching Instructor
Jeff Albert - Roving Hitting Instructor
Brendan Verner - Strength/Conditioning
Jamey Snodgrass - Medical Coordinator
Daniel Roberts - Rehabilitation

This is Runge's third season as minor-league field coordinator. Bjornson was the bullpen coach in 2012 - and that's pretty much it as far as holdovers from the 2012 team.

Dyar Miller comes to the Astros from - surprise! - the Cardinals, where he was the bullpen coach in 2012, and was the only member of the Cardinals' staff who wasn't retained. Miller was the Cardinals' minor-league pitching coordinator for four years, and had spent 20 years with the organization.

Ralph Dickenson has been with the Blue Jays' organization as a coach for the last three years, and was the Nationals' minor-league hitting coordinator from 2007-2009 (Bo Porter connection?).

Jeff Albert had been the minor league hitting coach for the Cardinals' Florida State League team in Palm Beach since 2007.

Brendan Verner had been the strength & conditioning coach in the Pirates' system since 2009.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jay Jaffe brings the noise about Bagwell

Here's an excellent piece about Bagwell and the Hall of Fame from SI's Jay Jaffe. Well worth your time...

There's that Norris-to-Cubs thing again...

We, collectively, didn't have a chance to post this from last night, but the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers tweeted:

Cubs don't match up well with Astros but expect them to try to land Bud Norris if the 'Stros make a serious effort to move him.

You can refer to the post directly underneath this one for a long discourse on the Astros and 2013 payroll, and Danny Knobler shooting this down. That said, Rogers was back at it this morning, pushing the Norris-to-Cubs possibility:

Could Alfonso Soriano and much of the $36 million he's owed be part of a Bud Norris trade? Makes sense but would Sori waive 10/5 rights?

Probably not. In the last 12 months Soriano has rejected trades to the Giants, Orioles, Pirates, and apparently prefers the East Coast. There's no reason to think he'd waive his 10/5 rights to come to Houston.

"The Astros don't have enough money..."

Here's your daily WTF from the rumor mill regarding the Astros.

Via SB Nation Chicago, we get this Danny Knobler tweet from yesterday afternoon, when I was boycotting Twitter because nobody could shut up about OMG121212.

Cubs also shopped Soriano to Astros as a possible DH, but Astros don't have enough money (even with Cubs contributing a lot). 

Let's think about this for a second. The SB Nation Chicago post mentions reports that the Cubs were willing to eat approximately $26m of the $36m currently owed Soriano (which Jon Heyman confirmed). If that report is accurate, it means that over the next two years, the Astros would be responsible for $5m per season to get Alfonso Soriano.

Barring some other deal, Jed Lowrie will be the highest-paid Astro in 2013...making around $2m, depending on arbitration. Wesley Wright and Bud Norris are also arbitration-eligible, but aren't exactly going to command Lincecum-style arbitration numbers. Baseball-Reference throws an educated guess at the combined salaries of Lowrie, Norris, and Wright at a combined $5.7m. Baseball-Reference also lists 25 players who will be making league-minimum.

Let's say - for math's sake - that Baseball-Reference is under by a few hundred thousand dollars, and those three will make right at $6m. Let's also just say the Astros aren't going to make any moves that would add players at more than $1m/year (since that's been their trend lately). The payroll would break down as such:

Three Arb-Eligibles: $6m
Philip Humber: $800K
21 players at League Minimum ($480K each): $10,080,000
Total payroll: $16,880,000

Even if the Astros get a hair in their pee-hole and sign Lance Berkman to a contract in the $5m range, that puts TOTAL PAYROLL at around $22m. Also, keep in mind that, if they don't sign Soriano or Berkman, the highest-paid player for the Astros in 2013 would be...the Pirates, who are receiving $5m of Wandy's 2013 salary.

Now, I dislike Alfonso Soriano as much as the next guy, but over the past three seasons, he posted an .801 OPS (113 OPS+), averaging 557 PAs in each season. The 2012 Astros didn't have anybody crack .800 in OPS. The closest to it was Matt Dominguez, who had a .787 OPS (111 OPS+), but did in 113 PAs.

I'm not saying that Soriano is the answer. If I'm hoping for things, first and foremost I'm hoping the report just isn't true. Should the report be true, I'm hoping that the Astros said they didn't have enough money to add Soriano because he's just not the type of player they're looking for, and felt like lying about it.

There are a few ways that I can see the Astros not having enough money for a $30m payroll:

1. The Astros are planning on tens of people in the stands every night in 2013.
2. They're not optimistic about CSN Houston reaching a deal with cable providers that people, you know, watch. On November 30, David Barron said 40% of the viewing area could get CSN Houston.If the new network doesn't make a deal with DirecTV, Dish Network, or AT&T Uverse, might that mean that the Astros would only get 40% of the $80m the Astros were to receive from CSN Houston (which would be $32m)?
3. I realize that Opening Day payroll is not the last line of expenses for a franchise's operations. The last-linked article in Item 2, the Astros are apparently going to invest $20m in the franchise next season. But we aren't taking into account any revenue-sharing.

There are a ton - LITERALLY 2000 POUNDS WORTH - of factors that we aren't considering. But given that payroll has fallen from $102m on Opening Day 2009, the Astros are either in financial trouble, or are unbending in their commitment to keep punting for field position until their prospects are ready.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

John Sickels' Top 20 Astros prospects

John Sickels posted his Top 20 prospect list for the Astros yesterday. Click the link for the full description of the players, but here's the list:

1. Carlos Correa
2. Jon Singleton
3. George Springer
4. Jarred Cosart
5. Lance McCullers
6. Delino DeShields
7. Mike Foltynewicz
8. Nick Tropeano
9. Rio Ruiz
10. Domingo Santana
11. Jonathan Villar
12. Nolan Fontana
13. Asher Wojciechowski
14. Robbie Grossman
15. Marc Krauss
16. Vincent Velasquez
17. Adrian Houser
18. Ariel Ovando
19. Aaron West
20. Brady Rodgers

Now, that's what I call a rapid turnaround. In two years, this farm system has gone from empty to robust.