Well, maybe it's a stretch to say they made a "ton" of moves. They didn't move Carlos Lee, so maybe it wasn't quite a metric ton of moves. But, it was still a high volume of activity, even if they impact will be rather low. Let's explore the relevant points:
Tim Byrdak was released - As clack mentioned here, this was probably less about how the team feels about Byrdak and more about his new price point. Heading into arbitration as a lefty specialist, Byrdak figured to make more money than he'd be worth to Houston. This was probably the least surprising of the moves.
Gustavo Chacin was released - Call this Least Surprising Move 1A. Chacin was signed as a non-roster invitee last spring and stuck around even though he didn't make the team out of spring training. He had some value as a reliever, but was probably on the roster more for Brad Arnsberg's familiarity with him. He had a decent season, combining some very good outings with some very bad ones. Brad Mills didn't really use him as a lefty specialist, but he wasn't effective enough to be considered a regular in the bullpen next year. Add to that his pay raise via arbitration and this was a no-brainer move.
Matt Nevarez was outrighted to Oklahoma City - From what I can tell, this doesn't mean that Nevarez can choose to become a free agent. He was not designated for assignment and may not have to clear waivers. Basically, he was just taken off the 40-man roster and permanently assigned to Triple-A. This was mainly to clear some more space on the 40-man roster.
Carlos Corporan was signed to Oklahoma City - Again, this is a move for depth at a time of the season when that can be very important. While Corporan won't be an immediate improvement over Q or Castro, he does give the Astros some depth at Triple-A in case of injury or ineffectiveness. Basically, they won't have to go bargain basement shopping for Kevin Cash again if Q gets concussed again. Which is a good thing.
A whole mess of minor leaguers were cut - Notably, fifth-round pick David Duncan, 17th-round pick Justin Harper and two prominent first basemen in Aaron Bray and Mark Ori were all cut. Duncan is probably the most surprising, since he was such a high pick. I know these kinds of things are more about organizational depth and what kind of players the Astros had in short season ball. It's still tough to see two picks from the top 20 rounds three years ago get their walking papers so quickly. I have to think injuries played a big part in these moves.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I wasn't telling you anything new with any of those points. What's new about this? Well, what these moves mean about the rest of the Astros winter. Brian McTaggart spent a bit of speculation on what the Byrdak and Chacin moves mean for a guy like Fernando Abad. He'll probably go into spring training as the prohibitive favorite to win that lefty bullpen role. However, he also mentions that Abad may still be viewed as a starter. If enough people are impressed by him in the spring, he may go back to Triple-A as part of a rotation that figures to feature Jordan Lyles, Dallas Keuchel and possibly Douglas Arguello.
The Astros might try to find a lefty reliever in the Rule V draft, but that's about the only way I see them addressing this from outside the organization. There are some guys on the market that they could sign, but I don't see them spending that kind of money on a specialist for the bullpen.
No, the biggest impact of these moves is that the Astros have some roster flexibility. I do expect them to make at least one Rule V selection at the Winter Meetings, which leaves them two spots on the 40-man roster. These moves weren't done to clear space for free agents necessarily, but it may tip the Astros hand as to what they're thinking of adding. I expect this firms up the status of most of the other arbitration-eligibles. We'll explore the minor league moves in more detail later on, but were you surprised with any of these moves? Will you miss the goggles?