clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hindsight is 20/20: An Astros Offseason Mulligan

"No! It can't be; I just sent you back to the future!"
"No, I know; you
did send me back to the future. But I'm back - I'm back from the future."
"Great Scott!"

-Back to the Future Part II

The off-season wasn't quite "ugly" for most of us Astros fans, but it was certainly unsatisfying; the front office seemed to let many good deals pass them by after jumping the gun and overpaying for lesser players.  A month and change after the beginning of the season, some of those lesser players have worked out better than expected; Brett Myers has put up 40 solid innings of 3.60 ERA starting pitching, and he's stayed in games to save the bullpen even on occasions when he was getting pounded by hit after hit.

Other players, like Pedro Feliz, haven't worked out so well.  As David discussed in a recent article, Feliz is just one of many Astros batters who haven't been able to hit their way out of a wet paper bag, and early returns on his defense, with the usual small sample size caveat, have been negative.

So I thought I'd ask, if we could do it all over again with the knowledge we have now, wipe all the signings off the books and start over from the beginning of the offseason, which would we keep and which would we change?  What would our Astros team look like today?  Remember that we don't know all the circumstances involved in free agent signings; players may have preferences regarding teams and cities which influence their decisions, for instance.  However, as long as we're playing with time, we'll ignore that for the purposes of this article.

My thanks to Cot's Contracts for the salary information listed below.

First, I'll list some moves that might be advantageous to wipe off the books.  I'll reluctantly leave out exercising Brian Moehler's option, as there has been some discussion that it may have been a vesting option the team was contractually required to pick up.  I'm not sure whether this is true, but I'll give the Astros the benefit of the doubt.

  1. Geoff Blum ($1.5M) Geoff Blum has been a solid bench player to start the season, with some big high-leverage pinch hits and a decent batting line. Nevertheless, he seems redundant alongside other options available, such as Jeff Keppinger and Chris Shelton; would you cut him and his $1.5M in favor of Shelton's lesser salary to save some money?  Keep in mind Shelton was projected to hit better than Blum coming into the season, but that he is a worse defender and has less of a MLB track record.
  2. Brandon Lyon ($4.25M). Lyon has done a decent job of late, but he still seems severely overpaid given his talents and the team's (lack of) need for him. Personally, I'd rather have handed his job to any of a number of other relievers already within the organization instead of spending so much money on him.  Would you do this much-decried deal over again?
  3. Pedro Feliz ($4.5M). As mentioned above, Pedro Feliz has been terrible--one of the worst, if not the worst, starting third basemen in baseball to begin the season. Nevertheless, I still don't think this was a terrible signing; I expect him to pick things up as the season goes on and perform better than he has so far. However, in light of some of the better options who wound up being signed for similar or lesser amounts, would you make this deal again?
  4. Brett Myers ($5.1M). Arguably the Astros' best offseason acquisition, Myers has worked out better than we could possibly have hoped. If the season were to end today, he would have the lowest ERA (3.60) of any season in his career. Signing a pitcher for back of the rotation money and getting top of the rotation performance is the very definition of a good contract.  The question is, can he keep it up?  He's never performed this well in the past, which makes his ace-like pitching seem unlikely to continue, at least at this elite level.  For myself, I'd take that chance and keep this deal on the books.
  5. Jason Michaels ($0.8M).  There were long stretches in the 2009 season where Jason Michaels was nearly useless at the plate.  Nevertheless, he's a good defender, and the price tag is right.  His overall offensive numbers were also fine for a fourth outfielder.  Would you bring him back for this money, or try to save a few hundred grand by taking a chance on a guy like Jason Bourgeois?
  6. Cory Sullivan ($0.7M following minor league contract). Sullivan has been bad to start the season, but the sample size is small and his BABIP is low.  That said, he hasn't looked good at the plate.  Would you have handed his job to another outfielder out of spring training?
  7. Tim Byrdak ($1.6M).  Byrdak has been overachieving for the past few years, and it appears to finally be catching up with him. Would you consider non-tendering him and using a different lefty to save some money, like Gustavo Chacin, Wesley Wright, or Polin Trinidad?

What were some of the best signings during the off-season who could have replaced any players cut from the above list on the major league roster?

  1. Kelly Johnson (signed with Diamondbacks, $2.35M).  Johnson has been hitting like Albert Pujols to start the season, and on a bargain of a contract.  His defense also seems better than expected, albeit in a small sample size.  Clack has called this the best signing of the offseason, and it's hard to disagree, even if Johnson regresses significantly over the rest of the year.
  2. Felipe Lopez (signed with Cardinals, $1M).  In limited playing time, Lopez has performed better than projected, batting .273/.347/.432 with good defense even at shortstop.  He would likely be the starting third baseman on the Astros, and the second best infielder on the team, behind only Lance Berkman.  For $1 million, that's a steal.  If character concerns were such an issue, why did we sign Brett Myers?  Other than the fact that he's one of Wade's ex-Phillies...
  3. Marco Scutaro (signed with Red Sox, $5M).  Though he signed a multiple year deal with Boston, it's a team-friendly one, with only two guaranteed years (plus a $3M player option for '12). In a small sample size, he's performed right around where he was projected (.742 OPS) with solid defense at shortstop. If you look a little deeper, you'll notice a theme with all three of these players: They get on base at above average levels, something the Astros desperately need.
  4. Aroldis Chapman (signed with Reds, $1M).  Chapman's $1M for 2010 is deceptive, because he's owed $29M more over the next five years. If you could do the off-season over, would you consider cutting some of the above pitchers, such as Brandon Lyon, Tim Byrdak, or Brett Myers in favor of signing Chapman?

With changes involving some of the players above, or perhaps others, would Houston's story (10-21) be different to start the season?  What changes would you make, given the opportunity?

Now can somebody build me a time machine and a phone with a direct line to Ed Wade's office?  Make sure you put them in a DeLorean.