Well there's some movement on a lot of fronts. Let's try to run it all down.
*Chandler Rome writes that the Astros' moves in July are impacting their December. Hinch:
We're trying to be just as creative and just as aggressive at the needs that we have, but you've got to find a dance partner if you're going to make a trade. You've got to find a free agent that's ready to sign. You've got to evaluate your own talent to see who can fill from within.
I can't comment on what our budget is, and that number is something that Jim and I discussed. We're clearly going to be in territory that we've never been in before. But we feel like with the resources available to us, we can accomplish the goals we need to accomplish. Any bigger moves would require some sort of trade to free up the payroll space. But those are things that are also part of our consideration.
*Jim Crane is confident in the Astros' nucleus. Crane:
I think anybody can do the math on where we're at. We've got a few holes. We need to sign a catcher, need a few arms - bullpen, maybe a starter. When you look at those ingredients and look at where we're at, more than likely that will put us over the luxury tax.
This would be the first time the Astros have been over $208m - the cutoff for the financial penalty, which would be a 20% tax from $208m-$228m, and a 32% tax from $228m-$248m.
*Ken Rosenthal reports from "sources" that the Astros have considered trading Carlos Correa. Rosenthal:
No deal appears close, and the timing might not be right for such a move, considering that most teams are set at shortstop and Correa's trade value is down. But at some point, the Astros will need to make difficult decisions, and Correa might be the odd man out...A trade of Correa might help the Astros address their pitching shortage at a time when they want to sign center fielder George Springer to a long-term deal, sources said.
Let's be clear: the Astros have parameters in place to trade you and I, and the mustache guy, and every single player, should the conversation come up. That the Astros "have considered" trading Correa means absolutely nothing, other than that they have contingency plans on contingency plans.
That said, these dudes are saying that there is framework in place for a Correa (and possibly Reddick) swap with the Reds for Luis Castilo.
*Lance McCullers is apparently ready for Spring Training, and the Astros are looking at 100-120IP out of him in 2020.
Between Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley, the Astros are looking to replace 379.2IP from the 2019 rotation.
*The Astros are going to have to bid against the Rangers, Tigers, Rays, and Pirates for Robinson Chirinos, the last living catcher.
*Chandler Rome has a story on the most uncomfortable 19 minutes of the Winter Meetings - A.J. Hinch's press conference regarding the sign-stealing scandal. Hinch:
If I was in your shoes, I would be on the other side of this table, and I would want to ask questions and find answer and get some more information on the investigation and all the allegations and things like that. I know you're probably expecting this, but I can't comment on it.
Hinch promised to talk about it...one day.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts indicated that, if the allegations against the Astros are true, then it represented an attack on the integrity of baseball.
Related, Yahoo's Tim Brown: Mike Fiers - hero or snitch? He interviewed some people:
"Heroic," said one current American League West player. "Takes big nuts to call bull-- on people and stand there and take the heat that follows. I admire that.
"Freakin' punk-ass bitch," said a former Astro.
"Mike Fiers?" said a current Astro. "Then give back your ring and your World Series share.
*Jeff Passan is reporting that the Yankees are in agreement with Gerrit Cole. It's apparently 9yrs/$324m, an AAV of $36m. The Astros were one of Mark Feinsand's "mystery teams" (and Joel Sherman's) in on Cole, apparently. The Astros will get an extra pick in Comp Round B in 2020.
11 years after getting dropped like 3rd Period French by Gerrit Cole in the draft, the Yankees finally got him. Chandler Rome, on Gerrit Cole's legacy in Houston.
In just two seasons, Gerrit Cole left his mark on the Astros' record books. He's 19th all-time in franchise history in fWAR (13.4). He has the highest K/9 among any Astros pitcher in a career (13.13) as well as the highest K/9 in a single season (13.81 in 2019), the 4th-lowest ERA for a starter (2.68), 3rd-lowest FIP for a starter (2.67). Cole is one of four Astros pitchers to strike out 300 batters in a season. He set the Astros' single-season strikeout record in 2019, with 326. Cole is one of ten Astros pitchers to record 20 wins. Hinch, on Tuesday prior to Cole signing with the Yankees:
I had a very heartfelt conversation with him following Game 7 of the World Series. I'll cherish his words that he said to me whether he returns to our team or whether he goes on, but those are some big checks being talked about around the league, and I'm not writing them.
We were truly blessed to watch Gerrit Cole pitch in Houston for two seasons and I'll never understand how he didn't get a ring. Cole was eight outs away from winning a ring (in the bullpen) in 2019 and apparently getting those final eight outs was what sent him to New York. A friend told him, "When your primary goal is to win a championship, it doesn't matter where you sleep." Andy Pettitte was instrumental in Gerrit Cole signing with the Yankees.
Bob Nightengale is ready to print some "Yankees: 2019 Winter Meetings Champs" shirts.
ESPN's Alden Gonzalez: What will the Angels do now after losing out on Cole? Well, I'm not sure, but I'm guessing the answer is "Waste the prime of Mike Trout's career."
*There's apparently an All-MLB team and some Astros are on it.
*They lost the biggest New Jersey high school football game ever played. Can one agonizing defeat destroy a life?
*Magnus Carlsen, the best chess player of the last decade, is on the verge of topping the fantasy (English) football table.
*A Musical Selection: