The Astros seem to be filling out their spring training roster with minor league invitations rather than the more formidable free agents which other teams will sign. By and large, the invitees are veterans who are several years past their best ML seasons.
This statement from the Chronicle today:
Meanwhile, the Astros created more competition for spring training by signing five players to minor league deals with invitations to camp: righthanders Jose Capellan, Danny Graves and Chad Paronto and catchers Brian Esposito and Toby Hall.
A previous post pointed to supposed negotiations for a Paul LaDuca minor league contract. Now that the Astros have signed Toby Hall to a minor league deal, it is unclear if this means that the Astros have moved on from LoDuca. Hall and LoDuca seem to fill a similar role at catcher. Hall, 33, hasn't posted a good offensive season at the ML level since 2006. He had 120-136 at bats with the White Sox over the past two years with weak hitting results. He has no power (ISO consistently below .100) and doesn't walk much. Arguably, LoDuca would have been a better choice, with more potential to add a decent OBP in the lineup. But, given LoDuca's age (36), some might argue that the choice between the two catchers is marginal.
Brian Esposito is a 29 year old minor league catcher in the Rockies' organization with uninspiring minor league offensive stats. I assume that he will likely end up at Round Rock
You have probably heard of Danny Graves, but assumed that he was out of baseball. Graves, 35, has been kicking around minor league systems over the last few years without outstanding results. Graves hasn't shown tolerable results in the majors since 2004. But in seasons prior to that, Graves was one of the better closers in baseball, throwing a hard fastball and a good slider. Graves is from the Houston area, and it would be a nice story if he could help the Astros in relief. However, realistically, one has to wonder if he can help the Express, much less the Astros.
Jose Capellan is an interesting relief pitcher. At one time he was considered pretty good prospect. He has pitched at the ML level a few time, At ages 24 and 25, he posted ERAs of 2.87 and 4.40 for Milwaukee. But mostly he has pitched with minor league teams in recent years, with mediocre results. At age 28, Capellan may seem young compared to the other recent Astros acquistions, but he is far from being a prospect anymore. He has a decent K rate, which is perhaps some cause for hope.
Chad Paronto is a 33 year old relief pitcher who the Astros plucked from the Braves last off-season. He pitched 10 innings for the Astros last year with unnoteworthy results (4.36 ERA, 5.20 FIP). He pitched well at Round Rock (3.08 ERA, 2.81 FIP), and exhibits a decent groundball rate. I would expect him to provide depth for the bullpen again.
If you were expecting the Astros to take advantage of the decent mid-level free agents who might become bargains in this market, I can only give you Wade's quote from the astros.com article referenced in the fanpost below this one:
"Circumstances can change," Wade said. "We can see if we can create more flexibility to make it happen, but right now, the feeling is the group we've committed to at this point is the group we'll go with, with 99 percent certainty."