After passing up a significant deal at the 2016 trade deadline and then watching the Texas Rangers blow them away after the deadline, the Astros attacked the off-season with a flourish of moves. They traded for catcher Brian McCann and signed Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran for the offense. For pitching, the front office replaced one-year free agent Doug Fister with one-year free agent Charlie Morton, hoping for a similar bounceback season. Most thought the Astros would also add a more dependable starter to the front of the rotation.
Beltran: Did signing impede SP deals?
(c) Washington Post
Two months later, Astros fans are still waiting.
First, Chris Sale was traded from the White Sox, and the Astros had been rumored to be in on acquiring Carlos Quintana, Chris Archer or Sonny Gray but found the asking price in prospects to be too high for each. Once it was clear that Alex Bregman was off the table, finding an acceptable combination of prospects proved too difficult.
Perhaps it would help if there was pressure in late January or early February to cut a deal at a discount, some thought. Instead, the unfortunate death of Kansas City's Yordano Ventura (who started two games against Houston during the 2015 playoffs) has expanded the list of suitors by one.
How about free agents? Jason Hammel, who won 15 games with the World Champion Cubs, is still out there unsigned. Imagine if we had signed him with the money spent on Beltran?
General Manager Jeff Luhnow conceded at the recent FanFest that the Astros were probably done shopping and were now focused on getting ready for their first spring training camp in West Palm Beach, FL.
To the optimist, a rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers and Morton can carry the club until July when Luhnow can decide to push for another rotation piece if needed. Others, noting the regression in Keuchel and McHugh plus the injuries to McCullers and spotty health of Morton, have their doubts. Perhaps Joe Musgrove or Chris Devenski can be the answer but how much should the Astros hope on those two to keep the team winning?
I think it is natural for the fans to want to spend Jim Crane's money to build a winner when it is tougher to pull the trigger knowing the second-guessing that can follow. I, for one, was a big fan of acquiring Carlos Gomez and Scott Kazmir when the deals were announced. How do those look now?
The Moneyball-Billy Beane formula is a proven winner if you disregard the playoff results. It may take time for Luhnow to find the right formula to reach deep into the playoffs but there's no reason to give up on it now. The irony is that the shortcuts seem to do more damage than standing pat.
- Bob Hulsey