1) More front office hires
Earlier this week, the Astros hired two new faces into their front office. David Stearns is a 27-year old wunderkind who has been working in both the Cleveland organization and helped hammer out the latest collective bargaining agreement. They also added Marc Russo as an international cross-checker. Russo was the international scouting director for the Angels, but was not retained.
The Stearns hire in particular piques my interest. His work on the collective bargaining agreement means he has a very solid working knowledge of the draft rules and regs. With how Houston handled the draft last season, it seems like adding a mind like Stearns means the Astros are trying to gain a competitive advantage through maximizing their draft resources.
As Zachary Levine pointed out on Twitter, he also makes yet another Harvard hire for this front office. I don't have anything of substance to add to that, but think it's worth pointing out.
2) Luhnow on the offseason
Jeff Luhnow talked with MLB Trade Rumors last night about a number of different situations. First of all, he's not willing to trade anyone else off this roster unless he's blown away by an offer. I guess that rules out a Trevor Bauer for Jose Altuve swap, right? Here's the quote:
"We’ve got some assets that other clubs are interested in, but they’re valuable for us because they help us win games in the short term and they’re cost controlled," Luhnow said. "So the return would have to be significant to go down that path."
It's a really good, short interview, as Luhnow also addresses that the club needs more pitching just to hold the line from where they were last year. He's also not going to trade Lowrie, and expects the shortstop to have a healthy, solid 2013 season.
3) Houston angers Rosenthal
Oh, boy. Now comes the article that was teed up for Astros blogger vitriol. Ken Rosenthal has a whole article dedicated to the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that the Astros have zero dollars committed in 2013.
But how this club will compete in its first season in the American League West, I have no earthly idea.
That's a little disingenuous, as he explains that the minimum salary guys will earn part of that while the arbitration cases will add about $8 million more in salary. But, that still only brings the payroll up to $27 million for next season.
Rosenthal cannot fathom that the team would willingly go into the AL West with so little talent. After all, money is the best indicator of talent in baseball, right? A guy like Jose Altuve couldn't possibly have been the best position player on the team last season, since he made minimum wage.
So, what will the team’s payroll be next season?
"I don’t know," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We’re still in the middle of season-ticket renewals, still in the middle of understanding the economics of our cable deal. There are still enough moving parts where I don’t have a number that I’ve been given. I do know we’re going to look at all opportunities to get better."
See, the problem with this analysis is that Rosenthal wants a commitment from Luhnow that he will spend X amount of dollars this winter, so his payroll can get up to a certain level. But, Luhnow isn't going to do that. The Astros will not spend money just to spend money this offseason, and Astros fans should feel good about that.
If they can add a player like Lance Berkman or Brandon McCarthy, who will help in the short term while also providing a good example for younger guys, it makes sense. Signing Kyle Lohse to a huge contract? That contract might be an albatross by the time this team is ready to contend.
So, no, Luhnow isn't going to come out and say Houston will spend about $25 million on the free agent market, but I also wouldn't be shocked if that happened. As Rosenthal notes, Houston will have to overspend a bit to attract free agents, but that's happened in the past too. Remember how much they had to pay Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens to get them to come home?
I guess I'm just tired of people piling on this front office. It gets old pretty fast.