As expected, a flurry of moves - from all teams, not just the Astros - occurred just prior to the Thursday 20 roster deadline at midnight ET. A large number of players were DFA'd, waived, claimed, and added to various rosters all around baseball. Lets look at what the Astros did.
But firstly, a large nod - well, a bow, really - in Batguy's direction for looking at the habits of the Astros in the Rule V Drafts since the late 1990's. Really worth a read if you haven't already. And secondly, thanks to Framin' Mike Fast - or at least someone who knows about the November 20 deadline with a google account called "Mike Fast" - for stopping by and answering a question. ZOMG!!! Someone who actually knows about baseball (other than the other 17 learned readers that frequent these web-pages) actually reads this blog. And is good enough to comment after stopping laughing at my crappy, uninformed analysis. Excellent!!
Lets look at what actually happened.
Added to the 40-man were Vincent Velasquez, Ronald Torreyes and - at the 11th hour, according to the previously linked MLBTR page - Michael Feliz.
Subtracted from the 40-man roster were Anthony Bass (I guess we have to disconnect the 534-8455 bullpen phone number now - not that it was either funny, clever or used much) and Josh Zeid. Zeid was subsequently claimed by the Tigers, who, like, really need bullpen help. Given that his sesamoid bones in his foot were playing up all year (ie. he was pitching with an injury) and he has decent velocity, that is probably a great grab for them.
By my count, the 40-man sits at 39 now. Feliz isn't listed on the publicly-listed roster at the time of writing this, which sits at 38. I am guessing that the webpage-update-programmer is asleep in bed, as they should be.
I whiffed on DDS, thinking that he would be added, but as Evan Drellich/Jeff Luhnow elegantly pointed out, it is waaaaay easier to stash a pitcher in the back of the 'pen than short-hand your bench with a guy whose hitting may be questionable. The counter argument would be something along the lines of "gosh, it is a weak FA market at CF this year, lets take a flyer on this guy", whereas the counter-counter argument would be "the Astros already have 5 guys (including Aplin) above DDS on the depth chart who can man an at-least-passable CF". I won't even bother with the counter-counter-counter argument, which would be something about the additional possibility of an infield-gig.
I find this process so interesting - which probably says more about me than the actual process. MLBTR has been frenetic all day. There must be tactics employed by teams - like shoving everyone through on waivers when there are a lot of other transactions in the hope that the teams that are looking to acquire talent may either not realise a valued player is trying to slip through, or that teams have already gorged themselves on talent from other clubs already. There must be counter-intelligence - like "Team A will grab Player B if he is available, so lets add him to the roster, or wait until Team A's 40-man is full". Those subtleties will be lost on the casual observer, but it must be pretty intense for those participating. All because young talent is important, cheap, and hard to get.
I also find it interesting that the Astros have left one spot on the 40-man free - perhaps with a specific target in mind for the Rule V draft, or perhaps looking to get a good waiver-claim in. Or to add Mike Trout in a trade. Time will tell.
My guess is that this process has really tightened up over the last decade - for all teams - because of a huge change in how talent is perceived. Teams can't afford to whiff on players they like anymore. Everyone is looking for an edge, and it is a fine line between success and failure.
Anyhow, the gist of all of this is that Delino DeShields Jr, Jandel Gustave, Roberto Pena, Mitch Lambson (who would have been extensively scouted in Arizona recently) and Danry Vasquez (who is apparently having a good winter season) are all available to be nabbed in the December Rule V draft. All of those guys scream "lottery ticket" to me (perhaps not Lambson, but he is a reliever) and perhaps Johan Santana would have as well. We will find out what the other teams think.
In terms of those definitely staying, Ronald Torreyes seems to have an interesting mix of skills at a very young age, despite doubtful scouting opinions regarding his build and stature, and how it will impact on his power. Vincent Velasquez and Michael Feliz are a couple of good, mid-rotation righties with a chance to be better, so the Astros thought it important to protect them. None of these guys are going anywhere, unless they are outrighted or traded between now and April.
The whole thing is fascinating. Lets see what happens next.
Update: Apparently, Feliz may have been initially left off the 40-man because the extra roster flexibility was needed for a trade, but Evan Drellich appears dubious about this explanation, and wonders whether the FO reassessed its position with an hour to go. Like I said, fascinating!