Saturday, May 7, 2016

Gattis to AA, Sipp back from dad-leave

The Astros announced that Evan Gattis will head to AA to work on his catching, and Tony Sipp will return to the Astros lineup tomorrow.  Sipp's partner had a daughter, Zoe, who is already working on a grip for her splitter.  Congratulations to the Sipp family from the Astros County team.

Couple of bits and pieces here.  Firstly, this may be the death of the Evan-Gattis-is-a-full-time-DH idea.  Gattis now has 64 at-bats (67 plate appearances) in 2016, and is hitting .203/.257/.313 with one home run.  He hasn't progressed as the Astros would have wanted when they traded for him: as a DH, he has a .243/.281/.440 record in nearly 650 plate appearances.  In a team trying to contend, and playing a DH in 142 games of the year, that isn't good.  About 65 plate appearances seems like a reasonable time to start making decisions about playing time.

Secondly, it is probable that the Astros want Gattis to back up Castro as the primary backup catcher.  Normally, teams carry a defensive specialist as a backup, but it is possible that the Astros think that Gattis can spell Castro one-game-in-five, allowing him to rest.  This means that the Astros could only carry two catchers - both of whom can pinch hit - and this would allow them to carry a more flexible bench as well as 13 pitchers.

That would bump Erik Kratz off the roster.  In addition, Max Stassi has also just started a rehab assignment.  But the Astros brass seem to have soured on him over the last few years, and wrist injuries often take a while to heal, so Stassi may not get another look within the next six weeks.  Perhaps Gattis gets a month in the backup role before the Astros have to make a decision about Stassi's return.

Finally, the Astros could have paid the price tonight for only having two LHP's on the 40-man.  One lefty, of course, is Dallas Keuchel.  The other is Tony Sipp.  The Mariners lineup leans heavily left - only Cruz and Iannetta are righties, and Marte is a switch-hitter out of the starters tonight.  Thank goodness for Will Harris and his ability to throw his fastball inside to lefties - he shut the Mariners down in the eighth tonight.  So Sipp's arrival back for the last two games of the series is very, very timely.  Thank goodness for the safe arrival of a reportedly healthy daughter.

I feel that there is a roster-purge coming at some stage.  Guys like Tucker, Gattis, Kratz and Valbuena may find that the Astros wish to pursue other options for their positions.  Gómez may lose playing time if Tucker or Marisnick were to heat up.  Gattis' demotion may be the first signal that such a plan is being plotted out.  My guess is that any major re-structures will take place over the next 2-6 weeks, with the arrival of guys like A.J. Reed most likely waiting until after the super-two deadline.