Some things to talk about while the Astros front office proves again how smart it is...
1) Why is Houston trying to upgrade first base?
Since the middle of last week, baseball media has been churning out connections between the Astros and different first basemen. Those include the latest link to Nationals first sacker Tyler Moore, who had a decent 2012 campaign and didn't hit at all in 2013. With the news that the Rays re-upped James Loney, it appears there are less and less options on the market for Houston to go after.
But, why are they pursuing a first baseman at all?
Well, Houston first basemen hit .224/.316/.423 last season. That's the second-highest OPS of any Astros position group. But, to get there relies heavily on Chris Carter's 58 games at the position. In the 104 games started by other first basemen, the Astros hit .222/.307/.419 with 19 home runs and 142 strikeouts in 434 plate appearances. Again, that's in non-Carter games.
It may seem like Houston has enough guys who can fill in until Singleton is ready to take over here, but there isn't. Not if Houston wants to have a sustainable offense in 2014. First base is the easiest spot to add offense and the Astros certainly need an offensive complement to Carter here.
2) Tanaka not posting...for now
This has got to be the see-saw story of the offseason, narrowly edging out the Shin-Soo Choo story for reverses and false hope generation. But, apparently the Rakuten Golden Eagles will not post Masahiro Tanaka after all. From MLBTR:
The Rakuten Golden Eagles will try to convince Masahiro Tanaka to stay in Japan for one more season, according to a Sponichi Report passed along by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman (Twitter link). Taking things a step further, a source indicated over the weekend to George A. King III of the New York Post that Tanaka won't be posted until after the 2014 season.
Of course, the Golden Eagles do not need Tanaka's consent to retain him for another season. However, denying their ace of his wish to come to the United States may not look good to the public and could damage the club's relationship with Tanaka and other players down the line. Last Sunday, Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana told reporters that he would likely post Tanaka is he wished to come to MLB.
Any guesses how many times this goes back and forth? What are the odds that Tanaka is actually posted this year? I'm going with our Twitter friend KevinBassStache in thinking there's more smoke than fire here. In fact, I'd bet Choo signs with the Astros before this posting stuff is worked out. After all, what incentive do the Japanese teams have to cooperate with the new system? Just good faith with their own players so their game doesn't fall off?
Tanaka will ultimately get posted, but whether it's this year or next is anyone's guess. The Astros don't have a realistic shot at him, but talking about it whiles away the time.
3) Baseball back in Montreal?
Rob Neyer weighs in on the story of whether Montreal will get baseball again. It's worth your time:
Maybe it's true that the Dodgers and Giants moved to California purely due to unbridled greed; after all, New York then and New York now could support three major-league teams in style. But Montreal isn't California; I suspect that nearly every owner goes weeks or months at a time without even thinking about Montreal. The same wasn't true of the Lords and California back in the 1950s, when there was actually a sort of competition between the leagues to see who could get there first.
Neyer does a good job of breaking down the reasons teams move or the league expands. It doesn't sound like either of those are happening right now, which means that Montreal might be out of luck. Which is a shame, sort of. I always liked rooting against the Expos. They had fun uniforms, a terrible stadium there in the end and good players. If the Rays went up to Canada, how many of those would still be true?