Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What could the Astros have looked like this offseason?

There's been some increasing chatter amongst some of the fanbase that Luhnow shouldn't have sat on his hands so much this offseason. Even those that buy into the rebuild say that we should have been more active in signing the guys that were willing to take one year deals this offseason. So, let's see what might have been.

I was trying to wait out the final ZIPS projections before making this post, but given the response we've received from this post I thought I'd go ahead and throw this out there now. For any player that doesn't have a projection already available, I took their average WAR from the past three seasons. Not very scientific, but good enough for these exercises.

Right now the Astros are sitting on a roughly $21.5M payroll (not including amounts owed for players no longer on the team) and, according to ZIPS, that buys us a team WAR of about 18. A zero WAR team should be expected to win about 45.5 games. Let's go with 45. So the roster, as constructed today, should expect to go 63-99.

Next, let's see who signed one year deals that would offer a projected upgrade over the current roster. For these purposes let's assume that Houston would have had to offer ten percent more than what the player actually signed for in order to woo them away from their true destination.

Pitching makes the biggest difference here, so let's look at that first. The biggest signing would have been Dan Haren is the biggest splash here, good for 4.1 WAR. We'll give him $14.3M to steal him from Washington and replace Phil Humber's .8 WAR and $800k. Next we'll take Scott Baker's 3 WAR away from the Cubs for $6M and let Jordan Lyles ($500K and .6 WAR) spend the season in AAA. Our next signing will be Koji Uehara at $4.7M for 1.2 WAR, replacing Hector Ambriz at $500K and (-) .9 WAR. Rounding out the bullpen, let's sign Ryan Madson for $3.9 M with 1.4 WAR and take Josh Fields off the roster ($500K and (-).2 WAR).

Now that we've spent $28.9M (minus $2.3M on the guys we bumped out, for a net $26.6M increase) on upgrading the pitching staff by 10.3 WAR, let's turn to the position players.

Congrats fans, Houston has resigned Lance Berkman at 1B! Though it cost us $12.1M, the massive increase in ticket sales more than makes up for it, right? His 2.4 WAR means we move Wallace to the bench and don't have room on the roster anymore for Nate Freiman's $500K and (-) .3 WAR. Next let's sign a whole new outfield!! We'll take Juan Pierre in left at $1.8M and 1.3 WAR, Andres Torres in center at $2.2M and 2 WAR (removing his outlier 2010 season), and Nate Schierholtz in right at $2.5M and 1 WAR. This takes the Martinii off the roster (combined $1M and 1.1 WAR) and means we don't sign Ankiel at $500K with .7 WAR.

There we just spent another net $16.5M for an increase of 5.3 WAR.

Here's the new depth chart:

1B: Berkman
2B: Altuve
SS: Lowrie
3B: Dominguez
LF: Pierre
CF: Torres
RF: Schierholtz
DH: Pena

BE: Corporan
BE: Wallace
BE: Greene
BE: Maxwell

SP: Haren
SP: Baker
SP: Norris
SP: Bedard
SP: Harrell

RP: Ely
RP: Cedeno
RP: Rodriguez
RP: Veras
RP: Uehara
RP: Wright
CL: Madson

We added $43.1M to payroll, for a total of $64.6M and increased our projected WAR by 15.6 to 33.6. Now we're talking! The new team should go 79-83!!

Is it worth it?


Anonymous said...

Good grief, the Astros are hosed beyond repair!

Juvenile Court Clerk - Bryan Trostel said...

All this talk about hoses...

Anyway, it is not beyond repair unless you are only concerned with the 2013 season. There are players at the AA and AAA level who ALREADY project higher than the current roster, but rushing them up this season to win a few more games isn't worth the long-term harm done to their development.

The Astros were "hosed" by years of farm system neglect and, until that's corrected, the team will never be able to consistently compete. Look for some of these kids to start appearing in Houston later this summer and I expect 2014 will see the team turn a corner. Probably not see the playoffs, but tangible improvement with a solid group of young players.

Terence said...

Yea, I'm glad we didn't do this. Let the younger players play, our OF production can't be any worse than it was last year, our pitching probably can't be worse than it was last year, and let Crane pay off some more debt while some of these young guys develop. It will be worth it.

Anonymous said...

I think the approach Lunhow did was right. Pay down debt... see if kids can play... take chance on picking up people who need a second chance. Spend more on international market... coming... spend on draft.... wait for the right free agents to sign that push a strong farm team. Its a smart plan. Oh and maybe trade norris... pena.... bedard... wallace for other pieces at deadline.

hooksfan said...

The farm team is immensely better. The results from 2012 bear that out. Lunhow approach worked in St. Louis. Coming from the city that has Houston's Double-A team I can attest to an immense improvement over 2011. Their is high caliber minor league players within the system that just need to work on fundamentals. Hopefully they don't sent Telvin Nash to Corpus Christi. A player with a strikeout rate of 50% will get eaten alive.

H J said...

Do you honestly think our Astros are going to be significantly better in 2014 based only on prospects? Major League Baseball isn't the minors. The argument that bringing in solid FA will stunt the progress of prospects goes against baseball history. How is giving a prospect a starting job in the show without any competition good for their development?

Juvenile Court Clerk - Bryan Trostel said...

Nope, not significantly better. You're putting words in my mouth. I said I expect to see them turn a corner. And I haven't seen anyone here, including myself, make any arguments that free agents will stunt anyone's development.

Unless you're LA or NY, a payroll heavy on free agents is very difficult to sustain. How'd that work out for Miami this year, even with a new stadium to supposedly support a higher payroll? Every solid FA was at some point someone else's prospect that someone gave a starting job to. The Astros could triple payroll this season and would still only get to .500, maybe.

The concept of building a team of free agents is how we ended up with Matsui, Lee, Woody Williams, etc.

H J said...

If you're going to run a blog you need to understand people aren't always going to agree with you. I never put words in your mouth I asked a question which is why there was ? <---- at the end of the sentence.

Speaking of putting words in peoples mouth, I never said payroll heavy free agents. Never said a team full of free agents.

Adding talent makes you win which is the goal of pro sports. Throwing a season to get the #1 pick over and over isn't a good strategy to build your brand which Mr Crane will soon find out.

Juvenile Court Clerk - Bryan Trostel said...

I have no problem with disagreement. If you've followed some of the other discussions either here or on twitter you'll see that I usually go out of my way to find common ground. We're all fans of the same team. What I don't like is when people open a discussion in a combative manner. If that was not your intention, then I apologize for the tone of my response.

The reality, in my mind, this season is that no amount of free agent spending would turn the 2013 Astros into the winner that so many fans think it would.

While winning is the goal of any team, from a rebuilding perspective I see no benefit in spending tens of millions of dollars to simply reach mediocrity. In no way to I want the Astros to be the worst team in baseball; I hope we're able to see a young core of kids start coming together this season much like the Astros team in '91. Then, once that core is established, it would make a ton of sense to supplement that core with a few key free agents to push us over the top.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Astros should just cancel the next couple seasons until all this youth is ready. The objective should always be to field the best team you can afford. If 30 million is all Crane can afford, good luck. But his own GM indicated at the end of last year that the payroll would be in the 50's. if the GM doesn't know the gameplan then we are in trouble.

The Astros are much farther than 2014 from turning a corner. 2014 may be a 70 win season. The jump from 70 to 95 wins will take a couple more years, some good trades of prospects for MLB ready talent and a few free agent signings. An entire team of prospects will never be successful of 162 games in the majors.

Never posted here, so I don't know how to register.

Anonymous said...

No one thinks Astros should spend megabucks, but they owe it to the fans to try to improve over last year, not just stand pat and hope and pray their deep, but not overwhelmimg farm system produces a slew of All Stars

Juvenile Court Clerk - Bryan Trostel said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting Houston to get where we want it to just on prospects alone. My point is that adding free agents this year is not likely to make much of a difference, and I'd rather the team not waste money to go from bad to slightly less bad.

What I could have seen them do this season was spend a little on a couple bench guys, especially an outfielder, who could hold their own as starters in a pinch if someone goes down due to injury or ineffectiveness, and maybe a more stable rotation candidate and middle reliever.