Lets not waste time and hop right into it. These are the biggest stories we'll be talking about while we wait for pitchers and catchers to report in February.
Bo Porter's On-Field Coaching Staff
We've already been told four names that will be on the coaching staff, leaving two spots yet to be determined. Also to be determined are defined roles. We know Doug Brocail will be back as pitching coach and John Malee will be the hitting coach, but no other roles have been defined. It's assumed Dave Trembley will be the bench coach based on his experience in the American League. Dave Clark also didn't have his role defined leading us to believe he'll be in either the first base or third base coaches box. Clark's decisions at third base received much ire from fans this past season and a move to first base might be the plan, but it's not necessarily a guarantee.
That leaves an infield and a bullpen coach yet to be named. I'm guessing part of the reason why some of the roles haven't been defined is because they're looking at adding coaches who may fill those roles. We assume Trembley is the bench coach, but what if they want a coach who will only come on as a bench coach. Maybe Trembley's agreed to be apart of the staff as either a base coach or a bench coach. Same thing with Clark, maybe they want to add someone who will only come on if they're able to coach first. Bo Porter and Jeff Luhnow may be trying to give themselves a little flexibility in looking at candidates for the coaching staff. This story sounds like it will be resolved within the next few weeks.
Re-branding Of Uniforms And Minute Maid Park
November 2 is the go date for the reveal of the new uniforms. Although, it appears the marketing department may have goofed that up already and revealed a little too much about one of the uniforms. We expect a return to the blue and orange uniforms of the past. No we didn't have any insight on our site in the re-branding, but we did have the foresight back when the changes for this site were brought to us to suggest that's where the Astros branding would be heading. It didn't take much to sway Trei Brundrett, a huge Astros fan and lead on the SB Nation United refresh, that a return to some of the more classic colors was in our best interest.
As for the re-branding of Minute Maid Park, expect a fresh paint job and a decision to be made on both Tal's Hill and the train. We're still getting some mixed messages, but it sounds like both might be staying. At one time I was a big proponent to bulldozing the hill in center but I think it brings a little excitement to the park so I don't have a problem with it staying. That being said, I don't have a problem with them removing it either. At the very least I wish they would remove the flag pole that is in play.
It's unlikely but I'm starting to wonder if they're having second thoughts about the signage in left field. Yes it's for the greater good of the community, but the Astros would be fooling themselves if they thought we didn't see the real intention behind that eye sore. Revenue. I'm sure they are putting money back into the community, but they're also taking a small piece of that pie for themselves. And If the train is staying it makes even less sense to keep the signage. It's big, it's ugly, it makes Friday night fireworks annoying. I hope at the very least they're considering moving or removing the signage all together. It would be a goodwill gesture to fans who have stuck with the team through the switch to the American League and the blood bath that has been personnel changes in the organization.
Arizona Fall League And The Continued Development Of Prospects
If you thought we were done watching prospects playing baseball, then you haven't discovered the Arizona Fall Leauge. Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, Jiovanni Mier, Bobby Borchering, Jarred Cosart, Nicholas Tropeano, Chia-Jen Lo and Alex Sogard are all playing in the Arizona Fall League.
Head over to What The Heck, Bobby? for a full list of players playing this Fall and Winter and where they're playing. The Arizona Fall League will run through mid-November, and conclude with a postseason. Last year the championship game was broadcast on MLB Network and I imagine they'll do the same thing this year. The AFL is a league that features top prospects close to the Major Leagues from each organization. For players who struggled with injuries this year (Jarred Cosart and Jiovanni Mier) it's an opportunity to get some playing time that they missed out on. For players like Jonathan Singleton and George Springer it's an opportunity to see how they do against tougher competition. For fans it's an opportunity to watch a little more baseball and keep up with the progress of some prospects.
There are other leagues going on and you can check in here weekly for a recap of those other leagues, courtesy of Brooks (aka Subber10).
Rule 5 Draft
The "other" draft takes place during the Winter Meetings in early December. In this draft each team gets to select players who are not on a teams 40-man roster and, depending on age, have between four or five years in the teams Minor League system. For a full explanation check out the FanGraphs page on the Rule 5 draft. Both Marwin Gonzalez and Rhiner Cruz were Rule 5 picks and because they stuck with the team the full year now belong to the Astros. Wesley Wright was another Rule 5 draftee selected out of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
The Rule 5 draft is more miss than hit. For a team like the Astros getting Cruz and Gonzalez was about adding depth to a depleted organization. Stars coming out of the draft are rare, but they do happen: Johan Santana came out of the Astros system; Jose Bautista and Josh Hamilton are two other players who became starts. So there's the possibility of getting a star, but it's highly unlikely. With the Astros new found depth in the farm system I wouldn't be surprised if they lost a few Minor League players in this years Rule 5 draft. Farmstros has a list of Astros Minor League players eligible for this years draft. The selection order follows the summer draft so the Astros will have the first selection and it's likely they'll take one maybe two players to get a closer look at in Spring Training.
Likely the biggest topic of discussion this offseason will be free agency. With Carlos Lee finally off the books and Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez gone the Astros do have some money to spend this offseason. It's likely not going to be a big name like a Zack Greinke or a Josh Hamilton, but it may be a player looking to rebuild value or if they're young enough a player that can help this time in the distant future. It appears the Astros will be looking at the outfield and designated hitter position. Pitching will also be an area of need so expect a few signings in both the bullpen and rotation.
In discussing free agents the players looking to rebuild some value is a good starting point. Melky Cabrea is coming off a PED suspension and it appears the San Francisco Giants have no desire to bring him back (they could have put him on the playoff roster, but didn't). Then there are guys like Edwin Jackson who are looking for that big deal and not getting it. Last offseason Jackson end up signing a one year deal for 10 million dollars with Washington after not getting the multi-year deal he was looking for. Jackson is again a free agent this offseason and probably again looking for a long term deal. I don't know that he'll get that after a season in which he pitched 189.2 innings with a 4.03 ERA, and a 98 ERA+, but he is only 29 and something to not is that he pitched for the Cardinals in 2011. The Jeff Luhnow connection is there and Luhnow has said that he's not opposed to adding someone long term that can help this club in the future.
It'll be a much more interesting and refreshing offseason in the free agent market for the Astros
I expect a couple Jeff Luhnow curveballs this offseason, but overall the stories above will be our main focus. Are there any offseason stories I missed?