Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It ain't fun being an Astros fan...

The Constable has been doing a great job of covering the Winter Meetings, with a few articles posted commenting on various rumours.  That said, I am finding the Winter Meetings a little frustrating at the moment.  On MLBTR, at the time of writing, 73 (!) posts are present before the first Astros mention, which is the DFA and claim of Marc Krauss.  And this is in the presence of significant catcher activity, and we all know that roughly 45% of the Astros' roster space is allocated to spare backstops.  The Astros are also supposedly dangling Dexter Fowler, and there are a number of teams out there that could use him, particularly two of the more active teams who seem to be going for broke - the Blue Jays and the White Sox (who could use him in either CF or LF).

The lack of Astros-related mentions on MLBTR is most likely the product of two things.  Firstly, the Astros have only one active beat writer following them around, as opposed other teams, who often have multiple papers with contents to fill, and multiple beat-writers on each paper.  Two of the most recent previous beat-writers remain on MLB.com, so they continue to produce articles that mention the Astros to some extent, but that does not take the place of a beat-writer with column space to fill.

Secondly, the Astros seem to be one of the teams that are very tight with information and don't leak much.  We know that they prefer to leak trade rumours in a different way, so perhaps something will come out in the middle of 2015 or something.  But still, in many ways, the lack of chatter at and around the Winter Meetings could be seen as a gratifying development in that the FO is all on the same page.

So I don't really mind the lack of chatter that much.  The tear-down is definitely complete, and the more deliberate re-build is now at a tender stage - where the Astros have some solid major-league pieces, and they have to parlay these into high-ceiling players or prospects, or into great long-term contracts while finding people to fill the weak spots.  This is going to be the more difficult bit of the re-build, and it is most likely not going to happen in a flurry of moves, but rather a more deliberate and slow building through trades and wise free agent signings.

The other major theme of the Winter Meetings is the fact that the Astros came up "bridesmaid" in the two top relievers out there.  This has led some to speculate that the Astros may be getting their comeuppance for their last four years of losing-ness, and the way they have treated their negotiations with players in the past.  However, there was not a sniff of that in Andrew Miller's and his agent's statement about the process of his free agency, although it makes no sense for them to say something negative at this juncture.  David Robertson has not commented on the Astros or their pursuit, but earlier in the process, there were concerns about whether Robertson would even want to come to Houston, or was just talking as part of a leverage tactic.  Who knows.

And while the Astros have money to spend, it seems important to remember that (i) Andrew Miller has exactly one dominant season under his belt and was pretty ordinary until 2012 and (ii) David Robertson signing would have resulted in the loss of a competitive-balance pick that the Astros gained from the Cosart-Hernandez-Marinovich-Moran trade.  So neither of those guys was a sure thing, and some drawbacks existed with both players.  Sinking a cool hundred-mil into both could have been an absolute disaster in a couple of years.

But the offseason is young, and there are some good relievers still out there, including our good friend Jose Veras, who has nothing but positive things to say about the Astros.  We will know more about the reputation of the Astros once Gregerson and Romo sign.

On the catcher front, the Montero trade by Arizona was curious in my opinion, but it really swaps one potential suitor (the Cubbies) for another (the Diamondbacks).  Multiple other teams have sub-par backstops that they would probably like to upgrade including teams that are in all-in mode, like the White Sox.

And second base seems to be a position of weakness for a few teams, and the Astros have some potential but untested or partially tested solutions there.  MarGo seems like a reasonable guy to take a flier on for a team like the Jays or the Angels.

So I think that the lack of Astros-centric rumblings is most likely a product of a few factors, and should not be considered a cause for concern.  We won't get too much of a read on how free-agents see the Astros for a few weeks yet.  It is entirely possible that the next bit of Astros news coincides with the Rule V Draft on the 11th.  But that isn't a bad thing - it is just hard being patient.  And it is also hard finding stuff to write about. I will just have to continue to make up rumours until sometime to write about happens.  Sigh.