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Eric Huysman

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Astros Back Into the J.T. Realmuto Picture After Signing Brantley?

If you are an Astros fan, you should be beaming with joy after Jeff Luhnow signed outfielder Michael Brantley. This was a move that Luhnow and the Astros were practicing patience. After the Andrew McCutchen deal, it set the market to sign an outfielder like Brantley. Instead of jumping the gun, Luhnow waited patiently for Brantley to settle for two-years.

Now Kyle Tucker loses his starting gig in left field for now unless the Astros plan on trading Josh Reddick. After signing a $52 million 4-year deal with the Astros back in 2017, he is still owed $26 million for the next two years. His offense took a step back in 2018, but he is still the starting right fielder. The team could look to trade him.

Brantley can play some first base, but he will only get spot starts over there. This leaves no place for Tucker to play for the next two seasons when all the current starters will become free agents. Where does Tucker play? He could become the 4th or 5th outfielder, but where does Tony Kemp or Jake Marisnick fit? Plus, do you want your young star coming off the bench his first full season?

Change of heart?

After saying for a while that they would not trade Kyle Tucker, could they have changed their mind? While they have all the faith in the world in Tucker, saying he could still compete for an outfield spot in 2019 if they signed a veteran player. Technically, he could beat out Reddick for the starting gig, but that would be a lot to pay for a fourth outfielder. However, you want to put your best bats out there.

The depth in the outfield is now massive. Technically, someone can split time with Tyler White in the DH spot. That would change if they did sign Nelson Cruz as well. They still have a hole in the rotation and possibly like to add a starting catcher to the mix. Someone who makes sense is Marlins catcher, J.T. Realmuto. He had made sense for a few years now, but there has been a sticking point.

The sticking point has been the Marlins desire to get Tucker. As I said on Talking Stros, Realmuto would be an Astro if they would have given up Tucker. Bringing in a hometown-ish type player who could be a superstar would reinvigorate baseball in Miami. Should the Astros sign another bat soon, such as Cruz or the long shot of Bryce Harper, then Tucker becomes available.

It does not make sense to trade seven years of Tucker for two years of Realmuto, but he is a special player. He is an excellent catcher ho can hit for power and average. The Astros could also ask for the 72-hour negotiation window to work out an extension.

Extending Realmuto would offset the loss of Tucker.

It would take more than just Tucker to get the deal done, but not any other top 10 prospects. The Marlins have been asking for the sky. Luhnow has been patient so far, but soon we may see how much he wants to add Realmuto. Joe Frisaro just reported that the Astros were still in on Realmuto. Craig Mish gives them a 5% chance of trading for Realmuto.

The main reason to not trade Tucker is that all of the starting outfielders would be free agents after 2020. Maybe they can work around trading Tucker. Maybe a deal doesn’t get done at all, and the Astros use Robinson Chirinos and Max Stassi. By signing Chirinos, the Marlins can't hold the desperation card over the Astros head.

Bregman seemed excited about some big news coming soon. Could it be a Realmuto trade? Could it be them signing Bryce Harper? Maybe they are finally going to get a new starting pitcher. Maybe Bregman wasn’t talking about a new player at all. There are still a few moves out there to be made.

Astros: Could They Add Two Bats This Holiday Season?

While Houston Astros fans are pouting about not making any moves during the Winter Meetings, Jeff Luhnow is seeking upgrades.

We know that the Astros are looking at adding a bat and starting pitcher. Fans are dreaming of adding Bryce Harper and Corey Kluber, but maybe they need to aim a little lower. Whom will the Astros add? That probably changes day to day with discussions between the two parties trying to get the best deal.

We have discussed two names often on Talking Stros this offseason. There have been rumors that the Astros have had interest in them at various points of the offseason. Today, Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Astros were interested in signing not one bat, but possibly two of them for 2019 and beyond.

A Designated Hitter.

One is a natural fit in the Carlos Beltran like role in the 38-year-old Nelson Cruz. While his production has dropped a little, he still is an impact bat in the middle of the lineup. He batted .256 with 37 homers and 97 RBI in his 11th season via Baseball-Reference. People will mostly remember him from playing with the Rangers and the Mariners. He would fill the DH spot in the order and would add some pop to the roster.

With him being 38, it’s hard seeing the Astros go longer than one year. What if 2019 is the year that Cruz slows down? The team would be on the hook for 2020 for a player not worthy of the deal. Could the Astros entice him with a one-year deal with a vesting option should he reach “x” at-bats or other achievements? Cruz is probably holding out for that second year. Otherwise, he would have signed by now.

An outfielder.

The second player is Michael Brantley, who would be an impact lefty in the batting order. He is coming off one of his best seasons where he batted .309 with 17 homers and 76 RBI via Baseball-Reference. He added 12 stolen bases and played more than 90 games for the first time in the last three years. In 143 games last year, he showed that he was healthy again and primed for a big-time contrast.

Unfortunately, the injury history would raise some red flags, giving teams pause on investing too much time or money into signing him. The Astros would probably like to sign him for two years, but he could want 3-4 years. Brantley is 31-years-old so he could be looking at his final opportunity for a long-term deal. If this is a possibility, the Astros will have to capitalize on the fact that Brantley could play first base.

Rosenthal mentioned this as a way to allow Yuli Gurriel to move around the diamond. They also have high hopes for Kyle Tucker, so this would open some playing time. Rosenthal also mentioned that they could be looking to trade Josh Reddick. Cruz would add power to the lineup and Brantley would add an all-around bat. This would lengthen the lineup to increase offensive production.

Whether this happens or not, rest assured that they are doing what they can. Trading Reddick may be a mistake, but they may not have playing time to pass around. If these two are signed, Marwin Gonzalez will go from 5% chance of returning down to 0%. Adding another starting pitcher would top their to do list, but they also need to look at adding another catcher.

What do you think?

Astros Conspiracy Theory: The J.T. Realmuto Smokescreen by the Marlins

If you believe what you see on the internet, J.T. Realmuto is soon to become a Met. There are rumors that the Mets, Marlins, and Yankees are talking a three-way deal. Typically when there is many rumors, there is some truth to the rumors. However, if Noah Syndergaard is indeed involved in that deal, it could get tricky and can easily fall apart. Meanwhile, according to Jon Heyman, the Mets met with Wilson Ramos today. They could be weighing the options of trade versus signing Ramos. However, no deal has been made yet.

What if this Mets talk was really just a smokescreen or part of the negotiation process? It is no secret that the Astros are seeking an upgrade at the catching position. Yes, they signed Robinson Chirinos, but he is a 34-year-old career backup catcher who was the starter last year with the Rangers. A combination with Max Stassi is not ideal, but they are prepared to roll with the duo if they don’t find the right replacement.

The Astros will be patient and try to get the best deal, which is why they haven’t traded for Realmuto yet. With the need, the two teams are a match for a deal with the Astros deep farm system. That is the problem; the Marlins knew that the Astros were desperate and were asking for a Mike Trout like-trade package. The Astros maybe hoped that adding Chirinos would take away the image that they must make a trade. Instead, they would like to make the deal.

At the same time, it allows Jeff Luhnow to be patient in trade discussions as well knowing he has something behind the plate. The Astros likely signed Chirinos to replace Stassi, and hopefully bring in another catcher to be the starter. The Marlins probably want Kyle Tucker, a Florida boy whom they could control for seven years. Maybe they leaked some of the Mets trade talk to get the Astros worried and make a panic move. Tucker is most likely the sticking point here.

Like we saw last year, Luhnow is very patient, as he waited out the Pirates in a trade for Gerritt Gole. Once one of the top three catching targets are trade/signed, the rest will follow shortly. Things may happen slowly considering Realmuto because the Marlins don’t feel like they have to trade him and he is their final big trade piece. We will see what happens over the next couple days, weeks, or months. We know Luhnow can wait out any team, will Realmuto last?

What if the Astros were serious about signing Bryce Harper?

The fallout if the Astros were to sign Bryce Harper.

Let’s say that Jeff Luhnow was tailgating before the Texans vs. Colts game and walked up to you. You would probably say, “hey, you did a great job building that 2017 World Series team. It was unfortunate that ya’ll fell short last year. What are you doing to help the Astros win again in 2019?” Luhnow would then say, “what if I told you we were about to sign Bryce Harper?”

Let’s take a step back from that made up situation. Most people would probably laugh it off. There is no way that the Astros make that move, right? The Astros turned down Will Harris’ team option to save some money, so why would they go out and try to sign a player for ten years and $300 million? It would be a change of thinking for the Astros, but we have already seen that by signing Robinson Chirinos. After prioritizing defense with catchers, Chirinos is better on offense than defense.

From what I understand, the Astros are very serious about signing Harper. It has been written by Jeff Passan that “Harper’s affection for the Houston Astros is well-known.” Who wouldn’t want to come to Houston where they are already early favorites to return to the World Series in 2019. Harper probably watched the 2017 World Series and saw the excitement that the Astros had. Plus, there is an opening in the outfield where he would not have to play first base.

You can see why he would enjoy coming to Houston. However, why would the Astros want to sign a player for that long and that much? Many people have written articles about whether the Astros should sign him. But not too many people have written what would happen if they did sign Harper. The Astros have been labeled a dark horse to sign Harper by David Schoenfield of ESPN. Without going as far as saying that they will, let's look at the fallout if they did.

The Cost

According to Brian McTaggart, the projected salary, including predictions for arbitration-eligible players, is currently about $132 million for 2019. This is much much lower than the $170 million they finished with last year. If Jim Crane and the ownership group is willing to take on the extra-salary, why don’t you throw crazy money at one of the best players in the game? If the cost to sign Harper is close to 10-years and $300 million, the Astros could decide to take the leap of faith. Disclaimer, it could take a lot more to sign him.

Other teams like the Phillies and Dodgers will have more money to spend on Harper. Unlike Pennsylvania and California, Texas does not have a state income tax. The cost of living is probably less in Texas as well, so his money will go further should he sign with Houston. Similar to what we have seen with Clayton Kershaw, the Astros could give Harper an opt-out clause after five years or so.

The Albert Pujols deal is still fresh in our mind, so would Harper be a better get for a 10-year deal? The most significant difference is that Pujols was 32 at the time, Harper is 26-years-old. The Angels knew that they were overpaying for Pujols after he turned 40, but they figured he would be worth it during the early stages of his contract. Yes, Harper’s batting average dropped in 2018, but he still hit 33 homers and drove in 100 runs. He is an elite talent and will earn a massive deal from someone.

Future Ramifications

As with most premium free agents, Harper was offered a qualifying offer. The Astros would lose a pick to the Nationals should they sign him. However, they would have Harper for ten years, so it would be worth losing that one pick. This could take them out of contention for big-time free agents like Paul Goldschmidt, should he reach free agency in 2020. This could also limit them financially to fill in needed holes on the roster or extending Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander.

Here is the big elephant in the room of a possible Harper deal, they would be unable to retain one of their current stars. If the Astros sign Harper, this would mean that George Springer would not likely be re-signed after the 2020 season. Put aside the fanboy view of Springer. It makes more sense to sign the 26-year-old Harper to a ten year deal versus a 31-year-old Springer.

Harper’s upside is higher than Springer. The Astros have tried to sign Springer to a long-term deal, but he hasn’t been too impressed. They did get him to agree to a two year, $24 million deal to avoid arbitration, but not one yet to extend him. If the Astros did sign Harper, imagine having Harper plus the core four together in the lineup for two years. That lineup would dominate any pitching staff.

The Astros are serious about trying to sign Harper. Not only is he a good player, but he has name value. His jerseys would fly off the shelves in Houston. The Nationals have said that they are not likely to retain Harper, the Astros could surprise us all. Will it happen? There is always a chance. The only thing that could keep him out of Houston is his price tag. They will only pay so much.

A look behind the Astros signing of Robinson Chirinos

When on vacation on a cruise ship where your phone decides to go in into update mode without WiFi can make you a little disconnected. This happened as we were at dinner one night and my wife said, “who is Robinson Chirinos and why do the Astros want him?” With the dreams of trading for JT Realmuto or signing Wilson Ramos or Yasmani Grandal, that news was shocking. Luckily, she was following Brian McTaggart before we reached the dead zone known as the Gulf of Mexico.

As many Astros fans would say, that was a total Stros move. Instead of spending the big money or prospects to get one of the big names, they sign someone who was just bought out by the Rangers. The last place Rangers didn’t want him, why did the Astros?

Let’s take a step back from being an Astros fanboy and look at the Rangers situation. The move makes sense. They are going into a rebuilding mold similar to the Mariners. Why would they want to pay $4 plus million for a 34-year-old catcher? The Rangers are looking to save money and get younger. Chirinos is not what you would call a starting catcher. Last year was the first time that he surpassed 100 games played. They were looking to save a buck or two.

A look at the Astros side.

On the Astros side, they were desperate for a catcher with Brian McCann returning to the Braves and Martin Maldonado still a free agent. With Chirinos, you know what you will get, an average defender with some pop. He did play in a career-high 113 games, but his counting stats took a nosedive despite career highs in home runs and RBI. Chirinos almost doubled his strikeouts from 2017, but that tends to happen when you play more.

Behind the plate, you wonder what the Astros were thinking. He threw out 10% of the batters trying to steal a base off him. To put it another way, players trying to steal a base got an A. He is not known as an elite defender, but he was a move to build some type of depth at the catching position.

What this signing, Chirinos joins Stassi as the only catchers with MLB service time on the roster. He is offensively an upgrade over Chris Herrmann, but not defensively. Defensively, Stassi would get the nod over Chirinos, as he is one of the great pitch framers in baseball. Stassi has shown offensive potential in the past but has been streaky at the plate. If no more moves are made, they would likely split time. Look for Stassi to get the larger amount, but the Astros did spend $5.75 million on Chirinos.

There is always a chance that they go out and get another catcher? They have carried three catchers before. If they added another catcher, Stassi is out of options so they would have to without risking losing him. Fans may be waiting for the big move. You may see a big move soon. Will it be for a star catcher? Maybe another bat? We will see what happens at the Winter Meetings.

This move gives the Astros another catching option in case they can’t find another. The core of the team is still here, no need to panic.

***Stats via Baseball-Reference***

Astros: Non-Tendering Herrmann Leads to More Questions

Could the Astros non-tendering Chris Herrmann mean they are close to adding a catcher?

Earlier this evening, there was some breaking news that may not seem like a big deal after claiming catcher Chris Herrmann off waivers earlier this offseason from the Mariners. According to Chandler Rome, the Astros non-tendered Herrmann making him a free agent.

With Brian McCann signing with the Braves and Martin Maldonado still a free agent, this affects the depth of the roster at the catcher spot. This leaves Max Stassi and Garrett Stubbs as the only catchers on the 40-man roster.

Not that Herrmann was the answer as the everyday catcher, he could have been a Triple-A backup option for the Astros. He could have also been an Erik Kratz-like bridge until Stubbs was ready to be the everyday guy. Jeff Luhnow said earlier in the offseason that they would like to have 3-4 guys who can catch the Astros pitchers. With a focus on spin-rate, they need catchers who can block pitches well.

What changed?

On Thursday’s Astroline, Luhnow also mentioned that they expected to tender a contract to all 11 players. Instead, Herrmann is now updating his resume again looking for a job. The timing of this move is intriguing, but there was a deadline to tender the eligible players a contract.

What changed from last night to tonight? Did they need an open roster spot? Maybe they had buyers remorse and were looking to get rid of Herrmann while they could. The 40-man roster now sits at 37. Unless you are a fly in the room, we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.

With the need to add depth to the catching position, it is odd that they non-tendered Herrmann. That is unless they are pretty confident that they are about to add another catcher. While everyone would like to trade for JT Realmuto, the Marlins appear unwilling to move him without the Astros big prospects involved. As we discussed on Talking Stros last week, the Marlins don’t have the leverage they think they do. There are a couple of top catching free agents on the market they are competing against.

Other options.

Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos wouldn’t require a trade, just a financial commitment to one of them. Grandal would cost you a second-round pick most likely. Once one of the big names fall off the market, expect the others to follow soon after. Could the Astros be about to bring back Maldonado in a multi-year deal? Maybe they are confident that they can add another catcher before the start of spring training.

Maybe the Astros realized how much Herrmann was set to make in arbitration and decided to move on. He was nothing but a minor league depth option, but the team will look elsewhere. Maybe his release will lead to the big move we are waiting for. Fans will have to wait to see.

What was your favorite Chris Herrmann moment?

Astros are looking at Nathan Eovaldi

The hot stove season is starting to heat up with players looking for new teams and contenders like the Astros are looking to get better.

With several players hitting free agency for the Astros, Jeff Luhnow and company are busier than normal. After falling short of the World Series last year, their window for winning just needs some tweaking. One of the positions that need some upgrades are in the starting rotation. Look for a trade to fill this, but a free agent would work as well.

Expect to hear the Astros’ name mentioned with most of the targets out there. One name that has been mentioned a little was part of the reasons why the Astros lost in the ALCS. That is a local product, Nathan Eovaldi, who grew up in the Alvin area. We saw him pitch well versus the Astros as he got the win in Game 3, pitching six innings and allowing two runs. Via Baseball-Reference, he had a 1.61 ERA going back between the bullpen and rotation. He added 16 strikeouts in 22 ⅓ innings.

He is a flamethrower who has been labeled the second best pitcher ever from Alvin. According to Google, it is 30 miles from Alvin to Minute Maid Park. If his family wants to come to watch him pitch, it’s a short drive versus a flight to Boston. He already got his World Series ring, and it will be poetic if he pitches the Astros into the World Series in 2019.

According to Jon Morosi, the Astros are “showing continued interest in free agent Nathan Eovaldi, sources say.” He also added that teams are looking at him as a starter or closer. The Astros are one of nine teams linked up to Eovaldi, so they will have to make a competitive offer. Playing for your hometown team predicted to go to the World Series again in 2019 is enticing. However, he also wants to get the best deal.

Eovaldi is a player that could fill in for Lance McCullers for 2019 and be insurance should they not retain Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander. To get a player like Eovaldi, it may take a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year. Maybe between $15-18 million per year, so it would take a financial risk with his injury history. He has already had two Tommy John surgery.

Bring him on and re-sign Charlie Morton, this will make up for the loss of Dallas Keuchel. This move would make a rotation almost as imposing as last year.

Astros: Could they pull off a Greinke and Goldy trade?

A trade to fill two roster spots in one move for the Astros.

With the winter meetings around the corner, there are a lot of rumors out there about the Astros. GM’s across the league are looking for those Black Friday deals to improve their team for 2019. While the shopping holiday is over, this doesn’t mean the Astros are done trying to get the best deal. They are looking to add a starting pitcher or two, a catcher, and maybe another power bat. There are still many targets out there, but one way to make a big splash.

If the Astros are willing to take on a lot of salary, they can upgrade the rotation and lineup in one swoop. A few years ago, Zack Greinke opted out of his contract with the Dodgers similar to what Clayton Kershaw almost did this offseason. The Dodgers ponied up for Kershaw, but they let the Diamondbacks, a division rival, outbid them for Greinke. He signed with Arizona for 6 years $206.5 million, via Baseball-Reference. That was a hefty price to pay for the ace, but they thought they were one pitcher away.

Then the Shelby Miller trade happened. The Diamondbacks were a good team and Greinke had his moments, but they are looking to shed his $34.5 plus salary for the next three years. Actually, only $21 million goes on the books each year, the rest is deferred via USA Today. Greinke has $62.5 million deferred to be paid equally over five years starting in 2022.

Don’t forget that he would get $2 million if traded and can only be traded to 15 teams without his approval. That’s a lot for Greinke, who had a 15-11 record in 2018 with a 3.21 ERA with 199 strikeouts in 207 ⅔ innings pitched, via Baseball-Reference. The Astros are one of a few teams where Greinke would be the third pitcher in the rotation.

What about Goldy?

That was a lot of money being thrown around right there, which is why Greinke has not been traded yet. The Diamondbacks could also have an ace up their sleeve in Paul Goldschmidt, who will be a free agent after the season. He is one of the best players in the game and the Diamondbacks would not be able to afford him. Unless the Astros are able to extend him during the trade, they most likely couldn't afford him either. For the 2019 season, Goldschmidt is set to make $12.5 million after the team exercised the team option.

Wait, the Astros have Yuli Gurriel, why would they need Goldschmidt? He is a perennial MVP candidate who can hit for power, average, and steal a base here and there. Some have compared his ability to what Astros fans saw in Jeff Bagwell. He is coming off a down year, where he hit .290 with 33 homers and 83 RBI via Baseball-Reference. He added seven steals, but he had such a bad start to the season. He was red hot down the stretch. Goldschmidt is capable of driving in and scoring 100+ runs a year.

A possible trade.

There have been some rumors that the Cardinals are interested in Goldschmidt. If he goes to St. Louis, he may stick around. Anthony Castrovince has been one of the national writers to speculate that the Astros could possibly trade for both. In his article, he suggested a trade that sends Goldschmidt and Greinke plus $29.5 million to Houston. In return, the Diamondbacks would get Corbin Martin, Cionel Perez, and AJ Reed.

While most people would call that a “fanboy” trade offer, but the Astros would be taking on a big chunk of salary. If this trade would happen, it would cost the Astros $138 million, minus the $29.5 million, making it $108.5 million. Technically, they would be paying for the time he served with the Diamondbacks with the deferred money. The Astros would be getting him for the next three seasons, but would greatly increase the team payroll.

Fact or fiction?

Martin would be the centerpiece of the trade and Perez would be a wild card of the trade. Reed needs a change of scenery but is a former top prospect. With this type of trade, the more salary you take on, the less talent you have to give up. However, could this inhibit the Astros from re-signing some of their current players? This is something the Astros would take into consideration. It would give the Astros a third ace in 2019 and possibly the ace of the 2020-21 teams if Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole don’t re-sign.

If the Astros are able to pull this off, I could see Goldschmidt accepting an extension to play for his hometown team. He grew up in the Woodlands area. This trade could be fictional, but the team could trade for one of the two players. Goldschmidt would add a JD Martinez like presence to the lineup. Rumors have the Astros having some type of dialogue over Goldschmidt. The winter meetings could be exciting, keep tuned to Houston Preeminence.

Robert “Bob” McNair Dead at 81

Bob McNair, a Houston sports legend, died this evening at age 81 surrounded by his wife Janice and immediate family. Over the course of the last few years, Mr. McNair bravely fought various forms of skin cancer. Mr. McNair made his fortunes in energy. He epitomized hard work and excellence. He is also singlehandedly responsible for bring professional football back to Houston. For that we will proudly and boldly honor him.

If you have lived in Houston for a while, you remember when the Oilers left town in 1996. It was a sad moment for many football fans as they removed professional football from a state that prides itself in the sport. Bud Adams had threatened the move for years, but he was serious that time. For a while, Houston was devoid of football until 2002, when the NFL returned to Houston because of one man. While there were other people behind it, Bob McNair was the driving force in getting a team.

The team was called the Texans, and people instantly supported the team, while others still rooted for the team in Nashville. Fans watched as the Texans did the expansion draft to help build a team from scratch. They also saw the team pick up David Carr with the first overall pick that year. While success was hard to find early in franchise history, the Texans did make the playoffs in 2011. Over the years, the one thing the team seemed to lack was a real quarterback. That was until the team drafted Deshaun Watson. Bob McNair was instrumental in bringing the franchise quarterback to Houston. His guidance for the team will be sorely missed.

The Houston Texans organization released the following statement:

"It is with deep sadness that we announce Houston Texans Founder, Senior Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and philanthropist, Robert C. McNair passed away peacefully in Houston today with his loving wife, Janice, and his family by his side."

Mr. McNair will be known for his ownership of the Houston Texans but his impact far exceeds the football field. He and his wife Janice, with the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation, have given away tens of millions of dollars to make a great impact in Houston and the surrounding areas. In Mr. McNair’s own words, “If you're going to have a satisfactory standard of living, you're going to have to be competitive in this world. And you can't be competitive if you don't have a good education.” Educating people was his passion.

Mr. McNair often talked about getting older. His one desire was to see a Super Bowl trophy come to Houston. When it does he will be celebrating from a perch beyond the skies. This magical season has now taken on the spirit of its owner. We at Houston Preeminence extend our heartfelt condolences to the McNair family.

Astros: Could Adam Ottavino be a primary target?

Adam Ottavino could make the Astros bullpen dominant.

The most significant difference between the 2017 Astros and it’s 2018 counterpart was the bullpen. With Ken Giles and company in 2017, the Astros had to rely on starters such as Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and Collin McHugh as relievers. The front office addressed that last offseason and at the trade deadline. They brought in Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Ryan Pressly, and Roberto Osuna. McHugh also moved to the bullpen and was a critical piece to the success.

With the losses of Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers for 2019, McHugh will likely head back to the rotation. Josh James and Framber Valez could be options for the rotation or the bullpen. If McHugh is going to the rotation, they would need to look for an arm for the bullpen. Not just your average Joe, they have that in Smith, but a dominating setup guy. Maybe someone who pitched in Colorado last year.

What about Ottavino?

The 32-year-old Adam Ottavino is coming off his best year in 2018, where he had a 6-4 record with a 2.43 ERA while striking out 112 batters in 77 2/3 innings pitched. This is according to Baseball-Reference, where he also got six saves. According to Fangraphs, he also got a career-high 34 holds in 75 games pitched. Ottavino throws his fastball around 94 mph, slider at 81.4 mph, and a cutter at 87 mph.

Ottavino made $7 million in 2018, therein lies the problem, he will not be an easy player to sign. However, he is the type of pitcher the Astros seek out with his high spin-rates on his slider (2787 rpm) and cutter (2605 rpm) via Baseball Savant. We saw how much Pressly improved when he came to Houston.

However, the market price may be on the rise, and that price might take him out of range for the Astros. There will be a high demand for the right-hander who pitched well out of the Rockies bullpen. Even if the Astros are targeting him, would they do what it takes to outbid the competition? Once they decide on the per year value, the next question would be how many years could they offer? Unlike Tony Sipp after the 2015 season, Ottavino is probably seeking a longer-term deal.

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Astros Bold Prediction 2: J.T. Realmuto deal is in the works.

Time to get the deal done Astros for J.T. Realmuto.

On Tuesday, the Astros will be adding some players to the 40-man roster, or they risk losing them. There are several players eligible for the Rule 5 draft at the end of the Winter Meetings in December. One of those players who were eligible for the Rule 5 draft was Trent Thornton, but he was traded to the Blue Jays for Aledmys Diaz. There are now four other top-30 prospects who need to be protected ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

We discussed all of the four players on last night’s Talking Stros but focused mostly on one player. That is, Garrett Stubbs, who could battle Max Stassi and Chris Herrmann for the starting catcher job in 2019. If you are an Astros fan, those thoughts should send shivers down your spine. Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado are not on the team at the moment as free agents. The Astros will explore all other options before re-signing Maldonado.

This is including looking for free agents and examining the trade market. Not knowing what the future holds, the Astros could be hesitant to add too many players to the 40-man roster. They have to add Rogelio Armenteros, but they may have to move a player to protect Riley Ferrell as well. On Talking Stros last Sunday, we discussed how the Astros were more likely to add via trades versus signing a player. Jeff Passan confirmed that later last week.

Realmuto?

They need a catcher. The Marlins need to trade catcher J.T. Realmuto. It makes too much sense that the two teams get together for a deal. What is the holdup? As we saw with the James Paxton trade to the Yankees, the Astros are not willing to give up Forrest Whitley (or Kyle Tucker). According to rumors, the Marlins still feel like they can get one of those two players in a deal. However, no deal has been made, yet.

This could change quickly. The Washington Nations just added Kurt Suzuki, so they are not looking for a catcher. It has already been reported that the Dodgers are after Realmuto, but they may not have the prospects available that the Astros could offer. J.B. Buskaukas, Stubbs, and a couple of other prospects that would hurt. However, they will try to hold onto Whitley, Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez. As much as you can trust Jeff Luhnow to get the deal done, you see what the Marlins are reportedly asking from the Dodgers. It’s so ridiculous and not worth mentioning.

Realmuto is one of the best catchers in the game stuck in Florida. The team is in a rebuilding phase, but the Marlins held onto him. He batted .274 with 21 homers and 74 RBI, which would fit in well in the Astros lineup. However, as Brandon DelCastillo keeps saying on Talking Stros, two years of Realmuto is not worth seven years of Tucker or Whitley. However, there are other players the Marlins could be interested.

Craig Mish thinks the Astros and Braves are most likely to trade for Realmuto.

The Mets have also joined the catching search, but the Astros appear to have the biggest need. Realmuto is not just a good hitter; he is an all-around player. He throws out 33% of the runners trying to steal and is a good pitch framer. As a bonus, he played eight games at first base last year.

Look for a deal to get done soon, but predicting the players involved is hard to do. They could look to complete a deal soon before Wilson Ramos or Yasmani Grandal are taken off the market. They don’t want to be stuck with a combo of Stassi, Herrmann, or Stubbs at the start of the season. Stay tuned Astros fans, big moves on the horizon.

Astros Bold Prediction 1: Team signs Nelson Cruz with a one-year deal

Could the Astros bring in Nelson Cruz?

Fans have seen it before. The Astros bring in a hated veteran to help the team get to the playoffs. They did it in 2017 by bringing Carlos Beltran back to Houston for a one year deal. While Beltran did not have much of an impact offensively, he offered valuable leadership and added to the culture of the team. Beltran was 39 at the time and played his final game at 40-years-old. Could the Astros do the same in 2019?

The Astros are looking for a big bat, but can’t afford Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. They could add another outfielder if the price is right, but they want to give Kyle Tucker a chance to shine. The only real needs they have offensively is an everyday catcher and possibly a designated hitter. Yes, they have Tyler White, but a team is always looking to add to the depth of the roster.

Since moving to the American League, the Astros have had to face designated hitter Nelson Cruz 19 times a year. Even though it seems like more, but Cruz has hit 25 homers versus the Astros while batting .263 via Baseball-Reference. Cruz has played for the Rangers, Mariners, and one season with the Orioles. Yes, he played a handful of games with the Brewers as a rookie, but who remembers that? He has spent most of his career in the AL West. Maybe he can finish there as well.

With the trade of James Paxton, the Mariners are facing a mini-rebuild. They have no interest in the 38-year-old Cruz. Like Beltran with the Yankees, Cruz’s stats dropped in 2018, but not as drastic. According to Baseball-Reference, his batting average dropped to .256, about 7% lower than his career .274. After three years with an OPS of .900+, it dropped to .850 in 2018. He still managed to hit 37 homers and drive in 97 runs. With the power still there, someone will give him a chance in 2019.

With the winter meetings approaching, it would not be surprising if the Astros were already in talks with Cruz. It makes sense if it is only a one year deal, this would give the Astros a power bat in the five hole. His days of batting third or cleanup are over, but he could provide us with a regular DH. Unlike Evan Gattis, Cruz can still play in the outfield when they play a National League team. However, like Beltran, his outfield days may be behind him.

Talking Stros 2018-11-18 Seth Beer joins the show

8:00 Aledmys Diaz trade - can play shortstop and third base has played in the outfield before

8:20 - Rule 5 protection talk (who gets protected and who doesn't?)

8:40 - Upgrade the rotation via trade

9:00 - Astros rumors, are they really all in for Realmuto?

9:20 - Potential free agents (starting pitchers and catchers)

9:40 - Astros prospect Seth Beer joins the show

Why the Astros traded for Aledmys Diaz

A look at the reasons why the Astros traded for Aledmys Diaz.

Most people are shopping for their Thanksgiving meals today. Some people are kids birthday party hopping like me. Others are possibly traveling out of state with the kids being off for a week. That’s other people, Jeff Luhnow is trying to work on deals to improve the Astros. With the winter meetings two weeks away, the hot stove is about to get hot. The Astros struck a deal with the Blue Jays earlier.

With the likely departure of Marwin Gonzalez, the Astros appeared set to use Yuli Gurriel in that semi-super utility role. Gurriel probably can’t play shortstop, but if the need arose, then Alex Bregman could have played in that role. Still, who would have played third/first base would have been the question. Tyler White could play first with Gurriel moving to third could have been an option as well.

However, it was nice having Gonzalez in that role.

The market for Gonzalez is very active at the moment, meaning the price to re-sign him would be on the rise. Having a depth piece in the infield wouldn’t hurt until we see options arise in the minors. If the Astros are to let Gonzalez walk, this symbolizes the value they assign to a role player. Gonzalez was valuable for them because of his position flexibility, but also that he was cheap. So they were looking at the trade market for an upgrade, not the free agent class. This is what we discussed on last week’s Talking Stros, look for trades versus free agent signings. Jeff Passan confirmed this.

Monday, the Astros have to protect certain players from the Rule 5 draft. Trent Thornton was one of those players, we will discuss that group in a separate article. If the Astros did not add Thornton to the 40-man roster, a team could have picked him up via the Rule 5 draft. Via the Astros, Luhnow said there has been a lot of trade interest in Thornton, so he would have likely been claimed. Like we saw with Ramon Laureano, they made a deal to get something for him.

The deal.

The Astros made a deal mid-morning in Saturday that will have a lasting effect for the next four years. They make a trade for Aledmys Diaz, a shortstop/third baseman from the Blue Jays. This news was broken by Chandler Rome and others. They do give up an MLB ready arm in Thornton, but that is a position of depth for the team at Triple-A.

This is also what Luhnow mentioned after the trade. With Rogelio Armenteros, Brady Rodgers, Dean Deetz, and Josh James in fold, then Thornton was somewhat expendable. We can reevaluate the deal later in terms of giving him up, but you have to give up something to get something. The Astros now have team control through 2022 via Baseball-Reference. He is in his final season before he is arbitration eligible.

While some may question his defense, his bat is legit. The 28-year-old Diaz batter .263 with 18 homers and 55 RBI in 2018. Diaz only struck out 62 times in 422 at-bats in 2018. With only three years of MLB experience, he brings a lot of talent to Houston after breaking out with the Cardinals in 2016. Look at Diaz as a cheap option to replace Gonzalez. Luhnow did say that he could play multiple positions, even a little left field.

Did I just say that? You can’t replace a player like Gonzalez who carried the Astros offense in the ALDS. Gonzalez became a big part of the team's culture, with his position flexibility and leadership. Unlike Gonzalez, Diaz is not a switch hitter and has not played much outfield, but Tony Kemp can. This move also rules out the need to bring Gonzalez back. Will it pay off? Only time will tell, but it looks good at the moment.

Astros Rumors: Trade talk with the Mariners about a James Paxton trade?

The Houston Astros have three openings in the starting rotation following Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton hitting free agency and Lance McCullers having Tommy John surgery. While they haven’t ruled out bringing Keuchel or Morton back, they could get better deals elsewhere. Something that we have seen in the Jeff Luhnow era is that they don’t like offering pitchers multi-year deals. They could have extended Keuchel after the 2015 season, but instead, they are letting him test the free agent market.

After reaching a franchise record 103 wins in 2018, the Astros realized how important it is to have a strong rotation. This could lead to them looking at free agent starting pitchers, but they could also explore the trade market. With a strong farm system, we have seen Luhnow fulfill his promise to use prospects to improve the MLB roster. He added Justin Verlander in 2017 and Gerrit Cole in 2018; both are in the final year of their current deals.

The Astros should begin to shift their focus to extending Verlander and Cole, but they need a backup plan. With the previous trades, the Astros appear to be comfortable with trading for a starter with two years of control remaining. Robbie Ray could be a target, but another name has surfaced from an unlikely source. This starter has pitched well in his career versus the Astros and are a division foe.

No, not Cole Hamels, he was traded to the Cubs last year. It seems that whenever James Paxton pitches versus the Astros, he is on the top of his game. According to Baseball-Reference, in 12 starts versus the Astros, Paxton has a 7-2 record with a 2.89 ERA while striking out 69 hitters in 71 2/3 innings. He also fits the mold of a Verlander and Cole as a workhorse starter who got 208 strikeouts last year.

Astros reportedly had a trade shot down for Bryce Harper

A few minutes ago, my jaw just dropped to the floor. On my phone was a notification that said the Astros had a blockbuster deal in place at the non-waiver trade deadline. It was a Tweet from Ken Rosenthal, who suggested that the Astros had a deal for a stud outfielder from the Washington Nationals. But similar to what happened in 2017 with the Orioles, the trade was nixed by ownership.

By now you have seen the Tweet that said the Astros had a deal in place to acquire Bryce Harper, but the Nationals' ownership group canceled the deal. That could have been the deal that could have given the Astros the extra hitting to possibly beat the Red Sox in the ALCS. On Talking Stros, we talked about how the Astros were trying to make a blockbuster deal. Now we know...

This was an instance of the Nationals thinking about their pocketbooks and not what was best for the team. They knew that if they traded Harper, people would have stopped coming to games with the move signaling a rebuild. Rosenthal hinted (subscription required) that they also feared that trading him would have made it less likely that he would re-sign. However, the writing was on the wall that he was going to leave.

Astros Rumors: Are they looking at catcher Yasmani Grandal?

Could the Astros land one of the top catching free agents this offseason?

As of right now, the Astros catcher for the 2019 season would be Max Stassi. He would be backed up by either Chris Hermann or Garrett Stubbs. Even though Stubbs is one of the Astros top 30 prospects, he has no MLB experience but could win the job with a hot spring training. However, the Astros are not really in a position to give kids a chance to play unless they have no other options.

When you are competing for a championship, you need to add to the depth of the roster. This is the problem; they have no proven option in the system at the moment. They have traded away Jacob Nottingham and Jake Rogers over the past three seasons. They were both labeled catchers of the future, but so was Stassi at one point.

Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado are now free agents. The Astros declined the 15 million dollar option on McCann after an injury-riddled season. With that move, they have decided to move on from McCann, but they would be interested in retaining Maldonado for the right deal. Until then, they will look what’s on the catching market and monitor the J.T. Realmuto market.

One intriguing name who the Astros could be looking at is Yasmani Grandal. Yes, the Dodgers catcher. The same one whom Dodgers fans have soured on with his hitting and defense in the World Series. Grandal was offered a qualifying offer worth about $17.9 million. Should he decline and sign with another team, that team would have to sacrifice a draft pick. This is something that the Astros don’t like to do, give up draft picks.

Astros: Lance McCullers Officially has Tommy John Surgery

We finally get the news that we have been dreading since Lance McCullers left that game with what was called a strained forearm. According to Chandler Rome, McCullers had Tommy John surgery today, meaning he would miss the entire 2019 season. This was a highly rumored, so this doesn't come as a shocker. We have been discussing this on Talking Stros since the final out of the ALCS.

We had Rome on our show Sunday, an he mentioned that the Astros don't report surgeries until after it happens. This confirms that belief, and this gives Jeff Luhnow some extra work to do this offseason. Last year, McCullers had a 10-6 record with a 3.86 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 128 1/3 via Baseball-Reference. While he missed a significant chunk of time towards the end of 2018, that is a significant loss for the Astros.

McCullers along with the possible departures of Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, opens a hole in the rotation. This may make it more likely that they re-sign Keuchel and/or Morton. As Rome said on Talking Stros, fans will miss Keuchel's arm in the rotation. With high hopes, the Astros will likely add another arm.

Look for someone like Patrick Corbin to be a possible target, but another team might outbid the Astros. They could also look to make a trade for Robbie Ray from the Diamondbacks in a trade similar to the Gerrit Cole trade. They will look to make a splash to solidify the rotation after the starting pitchers carried the team last year.

Don't forget about the in-house candidates in Collin McHugh, Framber Valdez, Josh James, and possibly Forrest Whitley. Luhnow even mentioned that McHugh is likely to join the rotation. This void left by McCullers is a big deal that the Astros will now have to address this offseason. Will dig deeper in future posts, but the Astros will play without McCullers in 2019.

Astros: We know a little about Lance McCullers’ injury

The Houston Astros have been really quiet about the status of Lance McCullers so far this offseason.

On Talking Stros, we have been addressing the possibility of him missing the entire 2019 season. The rumors were that Lance McCullers was pitching with a torn UCL in the playoffs. If that was the case, it was an odd decision, but also shows how valuable McCullers is. No matter if he had surgery right after the Astros were eliminated or now, he would still likely miss the season.

We had Chandler Rome on this week’s Talking Stros and he said that the Astros have a weird policy. They don’t announce that a player is having surgery until it is over. Rome also said that McCullers was a little coy when he was asked about his elbow.

That could be a Jeff Luhnow thing, especially with news that could lead to a search for a starting pitcher. Knowing that you are losing possibly Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, losing McCullers could lead to a perception of desperation to make a trade. Maybe that is why we didn’t hear of any official announcements.

Rome told us on the show that once the GM Meetings began, Luhnow could no longer dodge the issue. He was right, as Luhnow offered up something yesterday. Via Rome, Luhnow finally admitted that there was an issue about McCullers’ elbow. But he then gave a maybe, maybe not answer.

Via Rome, McCullers “has been seen by some doctors and I think we’re going to know more shortly.” When asked if he will pitch next year, he replied, "If he has surgery, no. If he doesn't, yes,"

So, we are back at square one. We have confirmed that there is an injury, but don’t know if it’s Tommy John surgery. Now, Luhnow has to alter his offseason plans for the rotation, if he has surgery that is. Instead of two openings in the rotation, they could have three of them.

They could always re-sign Keuchel or Morton, but the later will want a longer contract. They can sign or trade for someone outside the organization, but it’s hard to replace what McCullers offers. You have Collin McHugh who could move back to the rotation. Youngsters such as Framber Valdez, Josh James, and Forrest Whitley could fill in the back of the rotation.

We still continue to wait for word on McCullers’ elbow. This announcement could change the focus this offseason. Anytime you hear about elbow injuries to pitchers, it makes you worried.

Dallas Keuchel Shares his Opinion on the Astros Qualifying Offers

Dallas Keuchel is surprised that he was the only Astros player extended a qualifying offer.

The Houston Astros have made their final decisions on whom they offered qualifying offers to before last Friday's deadline. A qualifying offer is similar to a franchise tag in the NFL, a one year deal for $17.9 million. The team can extend a qualifying offer to the player who can either accept or decline the offer. If he accepts, the player would be awarded the one year deal, but they can still negotiate an extension. If the player declines, he is free to sign anywhere.

The player can sign anywhere, but the team extending the qualifying offer would receive a compensation pick should that player sign elsewhere. There lies the problem. Teams are hesitant to sign players knowing that they will have to give up a pick. Last year, we saw players like Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas struggle to find a team. With the way the Astros value draft picks, you would think that they would extend their three eligible players the qualifying offers.

Instead, the Astros only extend a qualifying offer to Dallas Keuchel and not Marwin Gonzalez and Charlie Morton. The qualifying offer is a gamble because $17.9 million is a large number, so they look at it as a player by player basis. Last year, Keuchel made $13.5 million through arbitration. His projected market value is more than $20 million per season via Sportrac, so if he accepts the offer, the Astros will get a great deal.

Vegas has the Astros tied as the favorites to land Kershaw if he opts out and leaves

Should Clayton Kershaw leave the Dodgers, there is a chance he could join the Astros.

The Red Sox have won the World Series. Congrats to Alex Cora, I’m sure he’s one of the few first-year managers to win the World Series. That team played better than the Dodgers and unfortunately the Astros in the ALCS. It was long expected that whoever won the AL crown would be the likely winners of the World Series. Now that the season has finally drawn to a close, it’s time to start talking about the Astros options for the starting rotation in 2019. 

We know the Astros will be losing Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton potentially to free agency. Also, it is rumored that Lance McCullers could need offseason surgery. Nothing has been named officially, but it could be Tommy John surgery. The were some reports out that McCullers pitched in the playoffs with a torn UCL. Can you imagine having that pain in your elbow and throwing a power curve that Martin Maldonado misses, it had to be frustrating. It could also explain why he struggled in his last appearance. 

Filling in the holes.

With three potential holes in the rotation, we spent almost the entire episode of Talking Stros last night discussing the options for the Astros. While there are several in-house options, like Collin McHugh, Josh James, Framber Valdez, and Forrest Whitely, they could be looking for some options. They would want to get a number three to fit behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. As we discussed, there are a few free agent names that could be intriguing.

Keuchel and Patrick Corbin could be the top free agent starting pitching options going into the offseason. That is, unless a certain Dodgers ace decides to opt out of his deal. Clayton Kershaw still has two years remaining under his big extension he signed with the Dodgers back in 2014. He signed a then-record seven-year deal worth $215 million. That leaves him with two years of player options remaining for $34.6 and $35.6 million respectively for 2019 and 2020. Why would he want to opt out of that deal worth $34 million plus?

At the conclusion of that deal, Kershaw would be 32-years-old. 

He missed a significant amount of time in 2018 due to an injury. This was the third consecutive season where Kershaw could not get close to 200 innings pitched. During that time, his high innings pitched was in 2017 with 175 innings pitched. He still won 18 games in 2018 but took a step back only pitching in 26 games. The biggest red flag with Kershaw in 2018 was only 155 strikeouts in 161 1/3 innings pitched. His 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched was his lowest since his 8.4 back in his rookie year in 2008. Stats from Baseball-Reference.

So, an aging pitcher who has trouble staying healthy and his strikeout rates are decreasing, why would he opt out of the guaranteed money? It makes no sense unless he is looking for a longer deal beyond the current deal. It’s not out of the realm of possibility; we saw that with Zack Greinke, who opted out from the Dodgers and ended up with the Diamondbacks. Kershaw could probably see his value take a nose dive if he can’t stay healthy in 2019 and 2020.

The odds are...

After the game last night, he said it will be an eventful three days before he can opt out of the deal. He said that he would be open to having some conversations with the Dodgers, but who knows where this goes from here. Kershaw could opt out an become a free agent, shooting him to the top of the free agent class. According to OddShark, Bravado has the Astros tied for most likely if he leaves the Dodgers. 

The Astros are tied at +375 with the Texas Rangers. The Dodgers are of course the favorite to re-sign Kershaw if he opts out at -150. You could understand why the Astros, a chance to possibly win a championship. You would get to pitch with Verlander and Cole. However, you can’t help to notice the Texas ties for Kershaw, which could explain why the Rangers are the co-favorites. Texas is a big state, but if it puts him closer to home.

Would the Astros sign Kershaw for what it would take would be a better bet? When is the last time they gave a starting pitcher a long-term deal? He would be an upgrade over Keuchel as the lefty in the bullpen. The next most likely are the Cubs and the Giants at +800. This would be a surprise for the Astros, but would be a bold move to make one of the best rotations in history. 

Listen to Talking Stros below where we look at all the options for the rotation.

The Astros will likely offer Dallas Keuchel a qualifying offer

It is unlikely though that Dallas Keuchel will accept the qualifying offer from the Astros.

The Houston Astros are watching the World Series from home this year. After winning the World Series last year, falling short of that goal was disappointing. They look to return to the World Series again in 2019, but there could be some fresh faces next year. As soon as the final out of this year's World Series is recorded, players will file for free agency. The Astros will be stricken by the departures.

We will talk about many of the options for the Astros as the offseason progresses. One of the players the Astros are not likely to retain is Dallas Keuchel. He may be willing to sign with the Astros, but this is his best chance to maximize his value long term. In other words, he wants to test the free agent market. 

With the number of young teams looking for a top of the rotation pitched, he will get more value elsewhere. With that in mind, the Astros would like something in return for their former Cy Young Award winner. Unlike the teams who were tanking, the Astros did not have an opportunity to trade him. This is why the MLB has the qualifying offer system in place. 

The qualifying offer has become somewhat of a stigma for players seeking free agent deals. Last year, we saw players like Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas struggle with finding a new home. While they may be worth signing, teams don’t want to give up the pick in compensation. 

For a player like Bryce Harper, the pick is irrelevant, because you are getting potentially one of the best hitters in the game. For people like Keuchel coming off an healthy, so-so year, it could limit the teams trying for him. On the other side, it could prevent Charlie Morton from signing with another team.

The Astros are almost guaranteed to offer Keuchel a qualifying offer. 

According to Joel Sherman, the qualifying offer is $17.9 million. If they do extend the offer to Keuchel, two things can happen. 

  1. He accepts the 1-year deal for $17.9 million and will return to the Astros for 2019. (They could still work on an extension)
  2. Should he reject the offer, he will be able to sign with any other team for as much/long as he can. That team would have to give up a first-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Astros.

From the Astros point of view, either way is a win-win. He made $13.2 million last year via arbitration, via Sportrac, and his market value was going up. Sportrac has his average market value at around $20 million, so it would be below market value. If he declines, they get a first round compensation pick, which you know Jeff Luhnow loves those picks. 

It would not be wise for Keuchel to accept that offer. 

He is coming off his first healthy season since 2015 and pitched 200+ innings, which is rare in this “opener” craved MLB. Keuchel is also 30 years old, meaning this could be his last chance to get that long-term deal. If you take away his stats in the first inning, Keuchel did pitch well in 2018. While is not his 2015 form, his 13-12 record with a 3.76 ERA still qualifies him as a two or three in the rotation. Stats via Baseball-Reference.

When Keuchel tweeted out last week, “I love you Houston,” that could have been his way of saying goodbye. We saw something similar with Marwin Gonzalez this week. As much as Keuchel may want to stay, he knows how the Astros organization works. They assign a value to a player based on the analytics and offer that contract. 

The Astros have yet to lock up a pitcher long-term as well under current management. Hopefully the change their philosophies with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. There are many holes in the roster, but the core players remain intact. Good luck to Keuchel, I would love to have him back, but would like to have money to lock up others later. 

Talking Stros 2018-10-21 - Astros postseason reflection

The boys at Talking Stros discuss the end of the postseason dreams for the Astros who will retool and gear up for 2019.

8:00 - What went wrong during the Boston series?

8:15 – Injuries update Altuve, Correa, McCullers

8:30 – Looking back at the 2018 season

8:45 – Jeremy Booth (Views from the former scout and front office executive)

9:00 – What’s next for 2019? (Free agents, trades, needs for the team)

9:15 - The outfield picture for next year

9:30 – Kyle Kelly (free agency)

9:45 – Closing thoughts

Astros: Could Lance McCullers miss the 2019 season?

Astros fans will be waiting for the news of what is wrong with Lance McCullers. 

The bitter taste of defeat is still in the Astros mouths as they were eliminated from the playoffs. The Red Sox await their opponent in the World Series as the NLCS goes to Game 7. All we know is that the Astros fell short of back to back World Series. It was still a great season with 103 wins and has fans already waiting for spring training to begin. There are important decisions to make between now and then.

The free agents’ conundrum will be discussed often this offseason as who to retain or add to the roster? Will Jose Altuve need to have knee surgery to fix whatever is wrong with it? Can Carlos Correa fully recover from the back pain that plagued him in 2018? Also, what is really going on with Lance McCullers’ elbow?

According to Brian McTaggart, McCullers would likely need offseason surgery. We don’t know exactly what surgery yet, all we got is speculation and reports.

For what it’s worth, Joe Demayo reportedthat McCullers was pitching with a torn UCL and would have surgery after the season. This is a blow to the 2019 Astros team if true because he would likely miss the entire 2019 season. There are several reasons to not believe Demayo because he is not verified or a big-time name. I’m not going to jump to conclusions based on that one Tweet.

But there is more.

According to Ted Berg, Alex Bregman let something slip out after Game 5.

"We were banged up a bit. Lance McCullers was pitching with -- I don’t know if I’m supposed to say what he’s pitching with, but the guy has some heart."

We have all suspected that McCullers was hurt worse than we thought. When he hit the DL on August 4th, it was due to a strained forearm from swinging the bat. By the way, that is another reason why pitchers should not hit on a regular basis. Getting back on track, McCullers was out most of August and September with the injury. He did return as a reliever before the season ended and pitched five innings in the playoffs.

Then, McCullers’ wife (Kara) posted on Instagram with the hashtag #18monthcountdown. After the game on Thursday, via Chandler Rome, McCullers did say that he has “definitely been throwing through some stuff." McCullers and the training staff will do their due diligence to make sure that he can get healthy. 

If it does lead to Tommy John surgery, this will lead to an opening in the rotation for 2019. Collin McHugh will be raising his hands saying put me in coach. If he was pitching in the playoffs with a UCL tear, much respect. But, why did the Astros risk pitching him if they knew what was going on? We will now wait for the news. It won’t be the same without McCullers.