TCB Podcast Mailbag: Where do all the Astros pitchers go?

When is a surplus not a surplus?

Now that the draft has wound down, it's time to get back to the basics here at TCB. That includes a weekly podcast mailbag, where we answer some of the questions we missed in our live show. If you'd like to get a question answered, you have multiple options. You can drop by and ask us something in our live chat Sundays at 7 p.m., when we record the show. You can also ask us questions on Twitter, by email or call in to our new phone line.

Without further ado, let's get to the questions.

Brad Rine asks:

What do you do with the starting pitching surplus, including AAA?

I'm sure Mike Fast, if he's reading this post, just chuckled to himself. There's no such thing as a starting pitching surplus. Ask the 2013 Dodgers about that. Heck, ask any Astros team for the last decade.

Do you know the fewest number of pitchers to start for an Astros team in the last decade? Seven, back in 2005. In every other season, Houston has needed at least nine starters and, most years, the Astros have needed at least ten. In 2004, when Houston went to the National League Championship Series and nearly got to the World Series, the Astros used 12 starters.

Pitching depth is ephemeral. There was once an idea of pitching depth. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish... it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the summer.

Sure, Houston has four pretty solid starters right now in Jarred Cosart, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Scott Feldman. But, what if any one of those guys gets hurt? Look at what's happened to Asher Wojciechowski this year. Look at what happened to John Ely last year or poor Kyle Weiland, banished to an island that now bears his name.

Good teams, successful teams, have pitching depth layered throughout the system. They understand that injuries happen and have enough arms to deal with it. They've got talented players parked in Triple-A, waiting for a chance at a call-up, so they don't have to rely on Armando Galarraga or Shawn Chacon at the last minute.

It's pretty popular this time of year to start selling off excess pieces in trades. At least, among fans that practice gains momentum at this time of year. We spin Nick Tropeano or Wojo or Mike Foltynewicz off to some team for big reward. But, that's not how teams think. Pitching is precious. It's why teams are always looking to add arms at the trade deadline. They're only looking to trade arms away if they have to do it.

That's the Cardinals attitude, too. Jeff Luhnow took plenty from his time there, but you can see from the way he's stockpiled quality arms and created depth in the upper minors that he took this point to heart.

You can never have too much pitching.

Brad Rine also asks:

Could you envision Max Stassi & Jason Castro sharing C/DH duties when Stassi is called up?

There are a lot of dominoes that need to fall for something like that to happen. With the production Houston is getting out of Carlos Corporan, both offensively and defensively, they'd either have to trade Corp or be facing an injury situation.

They'd also have to sort out the first base/designated hitter situation. Chris Carter isn't going anywhere (sorry, y'all Khaters), because he brings power and there's a market scarcity for elite power hitting right now. Jon Singleton needs playing time, too, and neither he nor Carter should really be playing left field ever.

So, Houston would have to be in need of a backup catcher AND clear up that first base situation. The likely solution there is to say goodbye to Jesus Guzman. But, that also limits this roster's flexibility by depriving Houston of a backup third baseman in a pinch.

To get to the point where Castro and Stassi platoon, we'd need Carlos Corporan to be traded away or hurt, Jesus Guzman to be off the roster and for Houston to feel comfortable with its infield depth (basically, Marwin playing all the positions or an outfielder filling in if necessary).

Then, there's the added wrinkle of Stassi's bat. His biggest asset may be his power, but it's only an asset when he's making contact to support his good defensive reputation. As a backup, that doesn't matter much, but in this scenario, he'd be playing more often, either as a DH or behind the plate.

If Houston boots Carter from that DH role, it can't lose the power that has driven this offense in 2014. Thus, they have to feel good both about Stassi's contributions at the plate and that Jason Castro's offense will return to 2013 form.

Then, I could see Stassi and Castro sharing the DH/catcher roles.

Look, it's not as far-fetched an idea as I just made it sound. We've been floating that idea since the winter, at least. But, with the current roster, it's unlikely to happen.

No, for Stassi and Castro to fit those roles, some roster shakeups need to happen and I don't anticipate those kinds of moves going down before this winter.

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