After Game 7 of the World Series tonight baseball will enter it's next stage, the Hot Stove season. This fantastic World Series has been a nice distraction from some of the issues plaguing the Astros fan base. After tonight though the focus will shift to issues that will have a huge impact on this franchise.
Typically with a rebuilding team you figure to have a fairly quiet offseason. Not so this year. Not only are we waiting for an ownership change but a move to the American League may very well accompany that change. Throw in the problem of what to do at the short stop position and Hall of Fame voting for an Astro icon and we'll have plenty to talk about this offseason.
Approving Jim Crane
I only want to briefly touch on this because it's already been discussed at length. Reports indicate that Crane and Major League Baseball are negotiating compensation for an Astros move to the American League. If that isn't worked out Crane may not be approved as owner and we as Astro fans are back to square one.
The least likely scenario at this point appears to be that Crane will not be approved as owner. In which case Drayton will have to begin the search for a buy all over again. An even worse scenario is that Crane and MLB extend the negotiation window, thus further frustrating the fan base.
Front Office Reorganization
First on the agenda, should Crane be approved, is enacting a new direction for the Astros. Will Ed Wade be initiating that first phase or someone else.
As the approval process dragged on I began to believe that both Wade and Brad Mills would be around for the 2012 season. I didn't think Crane would want to start a general manager and manager search this late into the offseason. I'm now starting to believe that Mills has a good chance to be around but Wade won't be. The question then is who will be piloting this franchise back to respectability.
The favorite candidate is Andrew Friedman who has been flirting with the Angels. It appears now though that he won't leave Tampa Bay for Los Angeles. Would he leave Tampa Bay for his hometown?
I imagine if he's having discussions with the Angels there's a possibility he'll have one with Houston. The problem is the Rays and Angels are in better places than the Astros are. Is Houston being his hometown a strong enough draw to leave what he has or what he possibly could have. I don't think the Astros have to have Friedman to be successful. There are other candidate GM's available with Friedman's same mind-set, that I'd be comfortable with the Astros getting. The obvious difference being Friedman's proven track record.
Free Agency and Trade Market
With or without a new GM what does Houston do in the free agent market. They've got holes all over the field and in the pitching staff but the most glaring one is shortstop. Can the Astros
sucker lure Clint Barmes into re-signing with the team. If not Barmes then who.
The in house options are scary. Angel Sanchez how bout no. I wouldn't mind seeing Matt Downs getting in the lineup at short, but I find that highly unlikely. Dipping into the farm system Jonathan Villar doesn't look ready. Wladmir Sutil is defensively sound but offensively lacking. Brandon Wikoff only got 15 plate appearance at AAA. Anderson Hernandez could be an option but he doesn't provide anything significant over Sanchez. What about the free agent market.
Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins are out of the Astros price range. Among the more interesting names are Alex Gonzalez, Cesar Izturis, Nick Punto and Jack Wilson. Clubs hold options on guys like Yuniesky Betancourt, Ronny Cedeno, Rafael Furcal and Marco Scutaro so one or two of those guys may become available. Several free agents will be out of the Astros price range. Others will be looking for a more competitive team. That limits what the Astros can acquire on the free agent market, however I think there's enough intriguing names available that they could snag a decent option.
There may be a couple low key, low risk signings or trades, but overall it should remain relatively quiet for the Astros on the free agent and trade market.
Jeff Bagwell and The Hall of Fame
it's another year and aside from some marital issues Bagwell has gone a full year without some sort of steroid controversy -- cause you know the first five years of waiting weren't enough.
Among some of the interesting newcomers on the ballot are Bernie Williams, Brad Radke, Carl Everett, Vinny Castilla, Phil Nevin and Jose Lima. None of them are any where near Bagwell in terms of wins above replacement player according to Baseball Reference.
Among those returning from last years voting are Barry Larkin, Jack Morris and Lee Smith.All of whom garnered more votes than Bagwell. Larkin looks to continue to gain support with a chance of being elected this year. This will be Morris' 13th year on the ballot . With 53.5% of the vote last go around he may require a couple more years to get in. For Smith he's never been able to crack 50% and probably won't with some of the players expected to be on the ballot in the coming years.
It will be very interesting to see how much support Bagwell get's this year as he's been the first true slugger to come out of the steriod area without any sort of allegations against him. I'll als be interested to see if Lima get's some sort of nod in this years voting.
Enjoy Game 7 tonight. It'll be a while before we see good baseball again.