I'm more excited for this offseason than I've been for years. Jim Crane is finally showing a willingness to allow Jeff Luhnow to spend money, and Luhnow is indicating that it is time to move on to the next step in his plan. It seems like all signs point to the team signing (or trading for?) some solid players. But really, does anyone have any confidence in what they think Luhnow will do? This dude is unpredictable. So writing this write-up is pretty pointless, considering I highly doubt any of my predictions will actually come true. But it's still fun. So here it goes... my predictions for this offseason are:
1. Luhnow will grab another reliever in the Rule 5 draft. This seems like it's basically a lock to happen. The bullpen sucked, as everyone knows, and we have the #1 pick again in this year's Rule 5 draft. Of course, I can't really make a prediction as to who it will be yet since 40-man rosters aren't submitted yet. But I'm pretty sure it'll happen. Maybe he'll even grab two relievers if the FA market isn't panning out. I believe Luhnow will for sure once again grab two players in the draft. The first will be a reliever, and if the second is not a BP guy, it will be another first baseman (kinda like big Nate last year). There's no reason to not take two players. If either doesn't pan out during Spring Training, just send them off.
2. Luhnow will acquire a starting pitcher through a trade. I'm looking at the list of starters on the free agent market, and I just don't like it. Tim Lincecum? The Giants will probably offer him a contract, meaning we'd lose our comp. pick for him. I'd be okay with giving up that pick, but I don't think Luhnow would be. Plus, if I'm not mistaken, Lincecum has had some off the field issues. That's not something you want to bring into a young team like the Astros. AJ Burnett? I have a feeling he'll get resigned by Pittsburgh. And if not he'll go to a contender. Dan Haren? No thanks, not a fan. If anyone, I think it will be someone like Paul Maholm or Ricky Nolasco. Either would probably be signed to a 1 or 2 year deal. But none of this will happen because Jeff Luhnow will go ahead and acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs for Max Stassi and Nick Tropeano. Samardzija is coming off a down year (if you wanna call 4.34ERA "down"), and the Cubs are probably eventually going to trade him. He's 28, right in the middle of his prime. And honestly I think the Astros could use him more than Max Stassi and Tropeano. Jason Castro is our catcher (and we already have a good back-up) and losing Tropeano wouldn't hurt all too much. The Cubs would get a power-hitting catcher, which is needed in windy Wrigley Field.
3. As for relievers in free agency, Edward Mujica is my #1 prediction. I also think he will be our closer next year. He's absolutely solid, he would come in and immediately be our best option in the 'pen. Also, JP Howell will be brought in. I recommended signing him last offseason, I'm going to do it again.
4. One outfielder and one middle infielder will be brought into the mix. Of course, we all want to see someone like Choo get signed, but I think a more realistic option is someone like Michael Morse. Morse was injured most of this season, so he will come cheaper than usual. Choo will probably go to a contender, whereas Morse probably will not get those offers from first place teams because of the uncertainty coming along with him. As for the middle infielder, I really want Willie Bloomquist. Another player coming off of an injury, the dude can is a solid hitter and fielder. He would be a great influence for Villar while providing spot starts for 2B, SS, and 3B. He can even play outfield if needed.
Opening Day Lineup: