FanPost

The 2014 Astros: A Realistic Look at What We Might Expect: Part 1: The Infield

The goal of this Fan Post is to provide a place for those of us who want to discuss reality. There should be no talk about adding any of the 13 Free Agents that have been given QO's. This should not be a place for wishful thinking but rather honest discussion of what makes sense given the parameters that we know will be in place this year. Someone once said that "The Best Predictor of Future Behavior is Past Behavior".

A quick word on budget. If my research is right as of today we have only one player signed to a long term contract. That is Altuve who is on the books for 1.4375M. We have only a single player that is arbitration eligible in 2014, Jason Castro who is expected to command a contract in the range of 2.2M if he goes to arbitration. If the rest of the 25 MR that starts the season is made up of 23 minimum salary guys (approx. 0.5M) the budget will amount to about 15.1375M. Add in the 5.5M still owed on the Wandy deal and we get to 20.6375M. Last year we spent 2.9M on Pena, 1.850M on Veras, 1.150M on Bedard, 0.75M on Ankiel and 0.718 on Cedeno in FA pickups so it is reasonable to expect that the same kind of cash is available this year-about 7.3M. Let's be optimistic and use 10M as the amount of cash available for FA pickups. Bottom line then will be a 2014 budget of around $30M.

Part 1 of this Fan Post will deal with the infield, excluding catcher but including utility players that cover MI and CI spots. For each position the discussion will include the current major league depth chart (as posted by MLB and those prospects that might realistically impact the near future. If there seems to be a need to fill the spot with a FA pickup there will be a discussion of the available players that fit within the financial parameters outlined above.

First Base: B. Wallace, J. Singleton and C. Carter provide our current depth at 1B. Let's start with Carter. He's has the power (29HR) and can play 1B, LF and is a classic DH. He hit only .223 and had 212 Ks (ouch) so he really needs to move his game to a new level going forward. Wallace (always a possible trade candidate) is also a guy with issues that we have seen for a few years. He can play some 3B and has some power but his bat is just not there, hitting .211. Having two guys that hit for average like this pair make me want to look for a way to make things better ASAP. Is Singleton the answer? IMO it all depends on which Singleton shows up in 2014. Will it be the top prospect that everyone believes will be dominant in the majors? Or will it be the guy that had a terrible AAA (.220, 6HR: 245 ABs) season following a suspension? Spring Training will be the key for Singleton. I can see him either on the 25MR or starting the season in AAA.

Behind this group, short term, are really only two interesting guys, Bobby Borchering, who is restarting his career, and a 26 year old, 6 foot 4 inch, 305 pound power bat named Japhet Isidro Amador. Amador is hitting .284 (OPS .793) with 4 HR in 67 AB in the Arizona Fall League. Can one of these two make a difference in 2014/15?

Let's assume that we will need to add a 1B power bat from the available free agents. Here are the 1B FA that I see as possible adds for us with their age and last years salary. Y. Betancourt (32-.9M), C. Kotchman (31-.7M), L. Overbay (37-1.250M), C. Tracy (34-1M) and T. Wigginton (36-2.5M). To be honest, I don't see any of them being worth adding unless it was on a minor league contract with an invite. So IMO the bottom line at 1B is Carter and Wallace with Singleton as the wild card for 2014.

Second base is easy. Altuve. DeShields and others are behind. No FA needed. Done.

Third base is easy. Dominguez. Wallace as backup. Ruiz and others are behind. No FA needed. Done.

Shortstop is not so easy. The future is clear with Correa (2015-16) and others but is Villar the answer for the 2014 season? In 58 games he hit .243 with no power. He has shown some pop in the minors so maybe he will grow into the position. If we wanted to look for a FA to bring in at SS who would be available that could fit our budget? R. Andino, C. Barmes, W. Bloomquist, J. Carroll, A. Casilla, L. Cruz, R. Furcal, A. Gonzalez, B. Harris, C. Izturis, J. McDonald, C. Ransom and B. Ryan are available. While many in this group are lackluster several offer some possibilities.

If there is a spot where we can seek out a FA it just might be at Utility Middle Infielder. Elmore (16 games @ SS and 11 @ 2B) and Gonzalez (51 games @ SS and 11 @ 2/3B) occupy the spot on our current depth chart. I like Elmore, but I can see adding a veteran MI that can add some experience to the clubhouse.

What's your take? I don't see the infield as a place where we will be spending much of our available FA money. Having said that I don't see our infield improving much in 2014 either.

If this Fan Post attracts some interest I will do Part 2: The OF and Catcher.

UPDATE: Brandon Ryan to sign with Yankees. This removes one of the more interesting possibilities from the list of potential FA SS.

UPDATE 2: B. Harris has signed with the Dodgers. The utility MI group is shrinking.

UPDATE 3: 11/20: Two transactions reported. 1. Jake Elmore is claimed by the White Sox off waivers. 2. Houston claims Ryan Jackson (SS, 2b, 3b) off waivers from the Cardinals. These two transactions are shaping the utility role discussed.

UPDATE 4: J. Peralta signs with St. Louis. Not that this was relevant to our discussion directly.

UPDATE 5: 12/2: Bloomquist to Seattle 2 years- $5-6M

UPDATE 6: 12/4: Morneau to Colorado, 2 years $13M, Konerko to return to White Sox

UPDATE 7: 12/5: Kelly Johnson to Yanks: 1 year/ $3M

UPDATE 8: 12/5: Furcal to Marlins, 1 yr., $3M

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