Some things to talk about while Braves executives move quickly and quietly on a deal that's not the Michael Bourn trade...
1) Are DHs freely available?
Rob Neyer talks about the designated hitter over at Baseball Nation here. He's prompted by a story that the Rays are moving to a four-man DH rotation that includes four of their outfielders and will be predicated on a platoon. But, Neyer takes it further than that to examine the realities of the DH.
Remember when we were a National League club and assumed it would be easy for our smart front office to find a DH? I'll let Neyer take it from here.
Well, that doesn't seem to be true. If those guys were really so available, the smart teams would find them. They would sign them as six-year minor-league free agents, or pluck them from the waiver wire, or trade a bucket of batting-practice baseballs for them. But this does not happen. Turns out that finding good hitters, even good hitters who can't field a lick, is pretty hard.
Astros designated hitters batted .218/.308/.408 in 1,140 plate appearance last season. Turns out Neyer is right. You can see that in the trends in Tampa Bay and Oakland, where they moved to platoons at the position a couple of years ago.
I'm sure the Astros will try to find complementary players to plug in there if they can, but what the Astros might be doing is developing DHs internally. If you read Neyer's article, he talks about how hard it is to find these hypothetical hitters with little defensive value. Well, Houston traded for one in Chris Carter last year and drafted another guy in Preston Tucker who's limited defensively and could make a ton of sense in a DH role soon. They got Tucker in the seventh round, which is late for a guy who could become a big league regular.
Which should tell you that the Astros already understood the realities of finding a DH before they even switched leagues.
2) Streaming coming soon?
Missed this note late last week about the Astros and the CSN Houston cable deal. Jim Crane spoke to Evan Drellich about it and said the team has talked about an idea we've kicked around here before:
"Certainly, we hope it's resolved in some favorable manner to all the parties," Crane said. "We want to get that done. We've gone out and said that we would be hopeful that we'd be able to come with some other type of streaming, or some other mechanism, where the fans could see the game. Once we get past this stage, if we don't get something resolved, then we'll be working on that. We haven't really put a plan together on that. We've got until April 1 to do it. But I want the fans to see the games, that's clear."
There are more hurdles to streaming games for fans than just that. Like the MLB blackout rules and the monopoly that MLB.TV has on that product. Can Crane work some magic and get that blackout ban lifted? It's possible, as it's also possible that blackout ban gets taken down anyway. There are multiple lawsuits moving forward against sports blacking out games from fans in certain territories and if those are struck down in the coming years, this would be a non-issue.
That being said, the biggest takeaway here is that the Astros are going to pull out every possible stop to get on people's TVs by next year. For those of us who missed an entire season already, that is hopefully more comforting news than empty promise.
3) Not you too, Jeopardy
Come on, Alex. I thought you had more class.