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Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, Did: Grading the 2011-12 Offseason

Generally I've been extremely pleased with the moves Jeff Luhnow and the Astros have made this offseason. They filled a gaping hole at shortstop in the Melancon trade. They got 2 decent prospects for 2 AAAA players. But there were a few things I wish they'd done that they haven't.




At the end of the 2011 season, I felt like Houston had needs at C, SS, CF, SP, and Closer. I was comfortable with Carlos Lee and/or Brett Wallace at 1B. I liked what Altuve and Downs brought to 2B. I felt that between Paredes and Chris Johnson, 3B would be adequately filled. Bogusevic and JD Martinez showed me enough to feel good about the corner outfield. I felt like any rotation featuring an ace followed by Wandy, Norris, Myers, and Happ would be average at worst, and I liked the depth of youngish relievers Ed Wade had gathered.

Going into the offseason, I made a wishlist of free agents I thought Houston should look at. I knew it was unrealistic to expect any major signings, but I thought Houston could benefit from bringing in free agents to fill holes on 1 year deals that might have value at the trade deadline. For catcher, I thought Castro would need some time in AAA to come back from his injury and I didn't think there was room on this roster for an offensive black hole like Quintero. Jeff Luhnow ended up doing exactly what I wanted him to do by bringing in Chris Snyder on a 1 year deal with an option. He has a chance to be a solid offensive contributor and a good defensive backstop. Castro ended up being healthier than expected and also had a great spring, so there was good reason to allow him to begin the season in the big leagues. Still, I consider Castro a big question mark and might be a little happier if he were in OKC with a guy like Dioner Navarro (1 yr, $800k) teaming up with Snyder. That said, I give Luhnow a B+ for addressing the catching situation.

The free agent options at SS were horrendous; Yuniesky Betancourt got $4.3M, so the Melancon for Lowrie and Weiland was a genius move in my eyes. To trade a good young setup man for a good young starting shortstop and a middle of the rotation starter is a no-brainer. Lowrie has a chance to be an above average offensive SS with average defense, which is a very valuable commodity. Adding Marwin Gonzalez as a possible long term utility guy was a bonus. Given his limitations, I give Luhnow an A+ here.

Given Jordan Schafer's injury history, consistent underperformance, and off the field issues, I was not comfortable going into the '12 season with him as the starting centerfielder. There seemed to be a long list of cheap free agents who may not be able to replace Michael Bourn, but would make decent stopgaps while Schafer reproved himself. Cody Ross, Nate McLouth, Endy Chavez, Scott Hairston, and Rick Ankiel all could have played CF in Minute Maid for a pittance. In hindsight, given Schafer's fantastic spring, it looks like Luhnow may have made the right call, but I would have taken Ankiel (1yr, $600k) as SchaferInsurance instead of Jack Cust, Travis Buck, or Justin Ruggiano. That said, I liked the Buck signing a lot and could see him in RF with Bogey shifting to CF if Schafer is injured or struggling. I give Luhnow a B grade here.

There were a handful of starting pitchers that signed deals that I think would have been friendly to Houston. Erik Bedard, Brad Penny, Kevin Millwood, and Jon Garland all signed 1 year contracts that I think Houston could have handled and flipped them for prospects at the deadline. I hope Houston at least touched base with Roy Oswalt to see if he'd be willing to come take the all-time franchise wins record on a 1 year, $8M deal with a partial no-trade clause. I'm not completely unhappy with the way things turned out. Harrell and Weiland have a chance to provide a lot of value and get an opportunity they otherwise wouldn't have, but I salivate thinking about Roy O or Erik Bedard returning to form and bringing a bevy of prospects when Houston trades him midseason. Livan and Duke were decent gambles that didn't work out, and I applaud FO for staying the course, although I would rather have Duke on the roster than Wright or Abad. I'll say C+ grade. .

Brad Lidge's 1 year, $1M deal is a potential steal and I'd much rather have him as the closer than Brett Myers. That said, the Myers move has upside and his salary is a sunk cost, so I understand the logic. Rhiner Cruz appears to have been a prudent Rule 5 pick. C. .

Here's how the roster might look if I were GM (and able to coax another ~$5M out of Crane): .

CF Ankiel
SS Lowrie
LF Martinez
1B Lee
RF Bogusevic
3B Johnson
C Snyder
2B Altuve
Bench: Schafer, Buck, Downs, MarGo, Navarro
Rotation: Bedard, Wandy, Norris, Myers, Happ
Bullpen: Harrell, Duke, Rodriguez, Lyon, Carpenter, Lopez, Lidge

I'm stoked for the season and expect the 'stros to exceed expectations, and would give Luhnow B+ overall. I assume there wasn't much market for guys like Lee, Lyon, Wandy, or Myers, and that's why there weren't more veterans traded. What do y'all think? What moves do you wish Luhnow would've made and how would you grade what the FO has done this offseason?
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