Monday's Three Astros Things

Talking about waiver wire shenanigans, Cliff Lee's trade status and the shift...

Some things to talk about while I try to decide what my house motto should be...

1) Waiver wire shenanigans

Over at MLB Trade Rumors, SB Nation's own Charlie Wilmoth has a great argument against the Blue Jays' penchant for abusing the waiver wire lately.

Houston has been victim to this recently, as the Jays plucked Edgar Gonzalez off waivers and kept him from being part of Houston's piggy back system in either the majors or the minors. To wit:

Also, the Jays' use of waiver claims enables them to beef up their minor-league depth at virtually no cost. And the only way other teams have to defend themselves against the Jays' strategy is to do exactly what the Jays are doing, which would lead to more waiver claims, and more periods of waiver limbo. The Astros signed Edgar Gonzalez as a free agent last year; if he's going to be pitching in the minor leagues so soon after being designated for assignment, it should be in Houston's system, not Toronto's.

His suggestion to fix the problem is pretty simple: make a team carry a player claimed off waivers on the 40-man roster for at least 30 days. While the length time here might not work, you have to imagine the player's association would be in favor of any rule change that helps its players get more opportunities to succeed.

It's also an interesting explanation for why the Jays are doing this that Wilmoth posits. It also may explain why Houston's brain trust hasn't attempted it. The Triple-A team doesn't need much bolstering in this way, so Houston hasn't adopted the strategy...yet.

2) Cliff Lee may join trade market

Remember those heady days when Bud Norris was the best starter on the trade market and visions of Top 100 prospect danced through your heads?

Not so fast, my friends. While Norris may draw a good return if/when he's traded, it looks like there may be bigger fish in the pond than the humble Astros starter. Apparently, the Phillies may put Cliff Lee in play once again if they are out of contention. That's according to Ken Rosenthal in his latest Full Count video. Here's a summary from MLB Trade Rumors:

If the Phillies fall out of contention, Cliff Lee could become a trade target once again. They declined to trade him last August after the Dodgers claimed him on waivers, but it would make sense to make a deal if they're not winning. However, Lee is earning $25MM per season through 2015 and has a $27.5MM vesting option for 2016. On top of that, he can only be traded to nine teams without his permission. The Phillies may have trouble making a deal for Lee because of those issues, but a shortage of quality starting pitching could lead to a swap with a contending team. Rosenthal lists the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cardinals as teams that could be interested, depending on their needs.

Notice how most of the teams listed as possibly interested in Lee are also the teams that have been linked to Norris? Yeah, that's not a good sign.

There's a lot of "ifs" here, as the Phillies may well be in contention in July while Houston most certainly will be out of contention by then. But, it may be in Houston's best interest to try and swing a Norris trade sooner rather than later to get a better value, before Lee muddies up the market.

3) The shift becoming divisive?

When Brian T. wasn't writing about something I did earlier in the week, he was talking to Bo Porter and Terry Francona about the Astros' defensive shifts.

More to the point, he was talking about the possible unhappiness about the strategy by players and pitchers:

With the Astros entering Sunday with the worst team ERA (5.42) in MLB and tied for 16th in errors (10), the club’s shift-heavy approach has drawn notice.

The Indians observed an Astros starting pitcher became "aggravated" when a hit went through a hole a standard-placed defender likely would have filled.

Porter had a typically Bo Porter response:

"You don’t hear anything when a guy scorches a ball and it two-hops the second baseman in short right field. … You can’t have the best of both worlds," he said.

If you've seen Alan Ashby on TV or listened to Steve Sparks on the radio, you probably already know that there's some culture shock going on with the shift. Ashby absolutely destroyed it back in the Angels series, and I'm sure the criticism will reign down for much longer.

Houston has been one of the shiftiest teams in the league this season, but they've also been one of the better defensive teams so far. Are those two things related? It's much to early to tell.

Over time, pitchers may become used to the shift and its benefits. Until then, we'll continue to hear grumbling about ideas that differ with traditional baseball wisdom.

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