Friday, November 13, 2009
Blogging the Offseason is a 30 team series in which I ask a blogging representative from each MLB team a series of ten questions about their desires and thoughts surrounding the offseason. Check out all of them here.
Today's NL team is the Houston Astros and our guest is HighLeveragePerformer from the Astros Blog, Crawfish Boxes.
1. The Astros have a big hole to fill in the back of their bullpen with both Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins headed for free agency. How do you think this gets addressed in the offseason?
I would not be surprised if both Valverde and Hawkins are re-signed. You have to remember that Ed Wade has shown a willingness to overspend on relief pitchers, and the only the only thing in my mind that will keep him from exhausting every resource to do so this off-season is the question marks surrounding team payroll for 2010. The market for closers probably won't end up being that strong, and Valverde may end up being more affordable than we were led to believe during this past season. Hawkins is getting up there in age, and his stats in 2009 may have been a bit luck induced, but he is still an above average reliever who would fit in nicely in the 8th inning for HOU. All bets are off as to what Wade will do if Hawk and/or Jose can't be resigned. The Astros have precious few young arms in their organization, but perhaps one of them (Wilton Lopez, Alberto Arias) could fit the bill.
2. Outside of Oswalt and Wandy, are you comfortable with any of the starters on your roster? Will they bring back Mike Hampton? Will they go hard after Lackey or another free agent starter?
Mike Hampton did file for free agency, but all signs point to the Bulldog being done as far as his major league career. It's a shame because Hampton was a fierce competitor and by all accounts a great teammate. Such is professional sports though.
I fear the budget restraints for Ed Wade will keep him from going after John Lackey or men of his ilk (i.e.: expensive starters). Maybe someone like Randy Wolf, Justin Duchscherer, or a reclamation project like Rich Hill could be in the cards.
As for our starters on the team today, I trust Brian Moehler. Yes, I've had to come to terms with that, but he is what he is: an average NL starter who does nothing spectacularly, but will throw six innings and give up three runs most times out. Now, if youngsters Felipe Paulino and Bud Norris can get their acts together, the Astros have the potential to have a top half NL rotation. Fresh faced reliever Wes Wright will be trying his hand at starting in winter ball, so he is someone to watch in Spring Training, 2010.
3. Miguel Tejada had a pretty good 2009 season for the 'Stros, will he be back? If not whom will be patrolling short?
Ed Wade has come out and said that he is comfortable with implanting Tommy Manzella as our SS in 2010. He is a defensive whiz, but comes up short with the bat. Tejada is an option at third base, but I'm not holding my breath.
4. Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman hit just 51 combined home runs in 2009. Are their days of being 30+ home run hitters in the rear-view mirror? Will Houston need to add some extra power to their lineup via free agency to compensate?
I think Lance Berkman's days as a 30 home run hitter are far from over. He suffered through an injury plagued, un-motivated 2009 season...and still managed to amass terrific numbers for most any other major league player. It's just that when you've put up Hall of Fame (yea, I said it) caliber numbers for a decade, an aberration causes folks to wonder if you've still got it. He does, and I think he'll show it in 2010.
Carlos Lee is not a 30 home run hitter. He is as consistent as they come with the bat, but when you think of great power hitters, Carlos does not come to mind. With his physique and commitment to control his eating habits waning, I would expect some decline in 2010, with 2011 being even worse.
Power may have to come from within for this club, as far as improvements go. Hunter Pence is capable of betting his power numbers, and up and coming third baseman Chris Johnson should be able to contribute at some point in 2010.
5. Who is the Astros 2010 catcher? The combination of Towles and Quintero look like a duo of automatic outs.
JR Towles projects to be an above average major league catcher with the bat. He is still way too young to write off. Q is Q: he has a job because catchers are in short supply and he is cheap. Jason Castro looks to be our starting catcher at some point in 2010, hopefully later rather than sooner.
6. What do you think about the hiring of Brad Mills? Do you know anything about him other than the fact he is really really bald?
He is a handsome bald man, yes. Other than that, he has made statements which lead me to believe that he is going to have the 2010 Astros as prepared every single game as any team in the bigs. He will not cowtow to the stars, which is good because Lance and Carlos are not Craig (Biggio) and Jeff (Bagwell) when it comes to veteran work ethic.
7. You've gassed your owner and convinced him to spend like the Yankees, which three free agents are you bringing to the Juice Stadium?
Rich Harden, Brett Myers and Chone Figgins.
8. Which Astros prospect are you most looking forward to in 2010?
Jason Castro, our 2008 first round pick, has a cannon for a throwing arm, a solid approach at the plate, and is a Stanford man. We haven't had a Cardinal on our team since Eric Bruntlett.
9. I'm giving you the option to cut players without any salary repercussions, which Astros do you part way with?
Kaz Matsui, Humberto Quintero, Carlos Lee and Geoff Blum. I have my reasons. Most of them being a combination of their age/salary/weight/injury prone-ness/weight/girth/rotundness...
10. Final Question, you've got a crystal ball, the Astros win the NL Central in _______.
2014. Sad to think about. Even sadder to actually type.