The Major League Baseball offseason, otherwise identified as the Hot Stove season, can be a wonderful time for a baseball fan. Coinciding with Christmas some teams will get wonderful new toys while others will get new socks or a sweater you can only wear one month out of the year. Still with the movement of players, coaches and front office personnel it can be an interesting time for any baseball fan. Here are some of the questions the Astros will have to answer before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
Who will be the new hitting coach?
Shortly after I wrote about Milt Thompson the Astros announced they had hire Mike Barnett who I will cover in the next paragraph. If you want a more in-depth look at Barnett check out David's article posted Friday.
By next week we should have our answer. The Astros have confirmed only one name so far Milt Thompson, who surprise surprise comes from the Philadelphia Phillies organization. He joined the Phillies organization in 1998, as a Minor League coach. He took over as hitting coach in 2005, having previously served as the teams first base coach. As for ties to the Astros, Thompson was traded to the Astros in a non-waiver deadline deal in 1994 from the Phillies to the Astros for Tom Edens. He remained with the team for the 1995 season as a part time player. Overall in two seasons with the Astros he appeared in 101 games posting a 75 OPS+ as an outfielder. His final season would be 1996.
In an house hire Mike Barnett, has some connections that certainly helped him get hired. First he's been working in the Astros Minor League system the past two seasons, so he knows several of the young hitters well. He also worked in the Boston Red Sox organization for part of the 2005 season. As far as coaching experience he's served as the hitting coach for both the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals. Welcome aboard Mike!
Who will be offered arbitration?
Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez are locks, but what about Gustavo Chacin, Tim Byrdak, Nelson Figueroa, and even Humberto Quintero. I know a lot of us here would love to be rid of Chacin and Byrdak, Figueroa on the other hand is another story. Many of us would like to see Figueroa take over that long reliever position and provide the Astros with some insurance in-case Bud Norris or Felipe Paulino falter. At 36 though it's anyone's guess what the Astros plan to do regarding Figueroa.
I'd consider Quintero a lock to be offered arbitration, but with the talk of looking for a veteran backstop that can provide the Astros with some offense while mentoring Jason Castro, I'm not so sure. He has proven to be one of the better defensive backstops, however with Castro's defensive ability he seems a bit redundant. If the Astros are looking to upgrade the backstop position it may very well come at the expense of Mr. Pickoff.
Will the Astros make any trades to upgrade the team?
As a fan this is one of the more fun questions to discuss and speculate during the offseason. Who could the Astros trade for Carlos Lee? Who could the Astros acquire to bolster the offense, and pitching staff? The Astros will entertain offers for any player on the team, but they'll be focused on upgrading the shortstop, second base, catcher, and left field position. It's like going back to the day when you traded baseball cards in your younger years. I had the unfortunate experience of having a Nolan Ryan trade nixed because of the other GM's dad.
Who will the Astros sign via free agency?
This years the pickings are fairly thin as teams have started to lock up their younger players early. With the Astros in rebuild mode, it pretty much dooms the chances of the Astros signing a Carl Crawford, or Cliff lee. Still the Astros will most likely explore upgrades at shortstop, catcher, left field, and the pitching staff. Yes that includes Wade's love child the bullpen. It should be a fairly quiet offseason for the Astros in free agency market.
Where will Lance Berkman sign?
Deep down I still hope Lance Berkman returns to Houston, unfortunately it looks very unlikely to happen. There's just no room for Puma at the Juice Box anymore. If it's not going to be Brett Wallace it's going to be Carlos Lee and despite Berkman's nickname he wouldn't be very Puma like in left field. The question is then what team does he end up on. His preference would be a National League team. Just off the top of my head Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Giants, and Rockies could all use first baseman. There are some interesting first base free agents so he either may have to sign quick for less money or be willing to entertain offers from AL teams.
Who will the Astros pluck from the Rule V draft?
Finding a Major League impact player in the Rule V draft is rare. If you don't know what the rule V draft is, it's essentially where Major League teams draft players who have been sitting in other organizations Minor League system for far to long. The Astros have had some success in the Rule V draft the past few years in plucking both Wesley Wright and Drew Locke. I wouldn't call them impact players, but Wright has shown enough ability that the Astros attempted to make him a starter. Drew Locke as the prospectors will tell you is an interesting Minor Leaguer who could see time as a reserve outfield eventually. Look for a Rule V draft primer here on TCB as we near closer to the Rule V draft.
What questions might you have for the Astros this offseason?