Spring Training is here. With it comes imagery of sun filled blue skies, fresh cut green grass, and a new outlook on baseball. It's true that it may be a rough year for Astro fans, two icons are gone, in are some fresh new faces with their own faults to overcome, and an impending sale, almost assure us that we shouldn't get our hopes up. But as the snow smelts, beginning the process of packing up the winter clothes, and pulling out that old baseball jersey, that seems to of held onto that mustard stain you thought you got out, we can't help but find that small glimmer of hope.
The Astros did not make any sexy moves this offseason. However they did make some moves, and before we get to deep into Spring Training, let's review this past offseason's transactions.
October 6, 2010
A day after granting Gary Majewski, and Casey Daigle free agency, the Astros continued to clean house letting Josh Banks, Yorman Bazardo, and Chris Sampson go. The only real disappointment I felt was Sampson being let go, but not from a statistics standpoint, but a personal standpoint. My first memory of Sampson was when he made a spot start against the Cubs going seven innings without allowing a run, earning the win. That wasn't his actual debut as he had come in for 5.1 innings of relief five days earlier against the Reds, but it's the one that sticks out the most. He signed a minor league deal with and invite to spring training with the Colorado Rockies. I wish him the best.
November 1, 2010
Two veterans were let go, Brian Moehler and Geoff Blum. Moehler has gone unsigned so far this offseason, while the Astros made a run at Blum, but couldn't compete with a two year $2.7MM deal from the Arizona Diamondbacks. While Blum does bring some strong intangibles to the club house, they're not worth $2.7MM and the spot of a young player on a rebuilding team.
November 9 2010
Normally I would skip the signing of a minor league bullpen arm, but with Ed's affinity and success with bullpen it's worth it to make note of it. November 9th Ross Wolf was signed, the very next day Fernando Rodriguez. Neither look all that intriguing, except when you compare Ross Wolf and Alberto Arias minor league numbers.
As you can see both pitchers profile very similar, with Arias striking out batters a bit more, but Wolf allowing fewer home runs. Don't be surprised if Wolf follows the same path as Arias and more recently Wilton Lopez as a productive member of the bullpen. Rodriguez numbers don't stick out, was probably signed more for minor league depth.
November 18, 2010
The Astros first significant move came when they swapped Felipe Paulino for Clint Barmes via the Colorado Rockies. Depending on your feelings for Paulino you either were happy to see the struggling pitcher go, or felt it was a mistake to see the unlucky pitcher moving to a higher elevation. Regardless of your feelings the Astros did receive in return an upgrade at shortstop both offensively and defensively.
November 29, 2010
Tim Byrdak granted free agency. I'm pretty sure i did a fist pump when I heard he signed with the New York Mets, but to be fair to Byrdak he didn't pitch all that bad in his three years with Houston. Still it was a relief to see the Astros pass, and move on with some of the younger more promising left handed options. (Of course they go and re-sign Gustavo Chacin a few weeks later, but I guess you can't win them all)
December 10, 2010
Hoping for another Brett Myers like signing, the Astros this time decided to sign former Seattle Mariners pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith to a one year deal. A fan favorite in Seattle, Rowland-Smith (aka Hyphen) struggled in 2010 posting a 6.75 ERA in 109.1 innings. His three previous season he had posted ERA's below 4. While some considered those statistics a mirage, based on more advanced statistics, The Hyphen entered the offseason determined to erase the memory of 2010. With the help of Randy Couture and Jay Glazer, he began an MMA offseason workout regime, rebuilding his confidence with the hopes of having a bounce back season.
December 15, 2010
The return of Slingin' Sammy. On December 2, 2010 the Astros granted Samuel Gervacio free agency. Some speculated that he would return, but it was anything from a sure thing. Two weeks later those speculations were confirmed. According to Z-Lev on twitter Sammy is still rehabbing and will not be pitching this Spring Training. He should contribute at some point this season, though.
December 20, 2010
Bill Hall was not the Astros first second base target, Orlando Hudson was. But after the O-Dog signed with the San Diego Padres, the Astros went and got Bill Hall to play the position. Hall has had a bit of an up and down career offensively posting an OPS+ as low as 67 and as high as 125. Last year in part time duty he posted an average OPS+ (103). He does appear to provide positive defensive value, having performed well at some of the more premium defensive positions. His time at second base however has been limited, and so far he appears to be only average, but given a full season he should perform at an above average level. At the least he should be a push over Jeff Keppinger at second base, that is unless he pulls a Kaz Matsui.
December 23, 2010
The last significant move of the offseason came right before Christmas, when Matt Lindstrom was traded to the Rockies for minor leaguers Jonnathan Aristil and Wes Musick. This move solidified Brandon Lyon's role as the closer for the 2011 Astros. Dealing with back issues Lindstrom struggled in 2010 eventually relinquishing his closing duties to Lyon. Still Lindstrom provided a power arm for the bullpen, something that may be lacking for the Astros in 2011. The prospects received in return for Lindstrom are not all that exciting, but do have some potential, and was considered about the same as what the Astros had to give up in exchange for Lindstrom from the Marlins.
January 10, 2011
Finally the most criticized move by many fans Albert Cartwright for Philadelphia Phillies Sergio Escalona. The debate over this trade was reminiscent of the Drew Sutton for Jeff Keppinger trade in 2009. With the drafting of Delino Deshields and Jose Altuve tearing up the minor leagues, it appears Cartwright became expandable as he was third on TCB's own prospect ranking board in regards to second baseman. Escalona does appear to be solid addition to the bullpen, as he has a strikeout for every minor league inning pitched, and has the ability to keep the ball in the park, at least according to his minor league .5 HR/9. Wade sure does love him some bullpen arms.