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Thursday's Three Astros Things

Talking about CSN Houston, another Cuban free agent and a 2014 draft profile...

Some things to talk about while we worry about unhealthy fascination...

1) CSN Houston hearing Thursday

David Barron has a good story up on the ongoing effort to get CSN Houston on TV. Seems Jim Crane is perplexed at how hard it has been:

"It continues to puzzle me why this market can't get a deal done when you look at things that happened in Los Angeles (with the Dodgers-Time Warner Cable network agreement) and some of the press on Philadelphia signing a $180 million rights deal with Comcast, and we can't get a deal done in the fifties here and make the network viable," Crane said.

"Something just doesn't add up, and eventually that will come out in the wash. We continue to believe the rights fee (is fair) and that this market is a good market and we should be paid fairly and we should get the games on TV and everyone should be happy. We're working on it."

I'm not sure what the hang-up is, either. Unless these providers are just making a stand on principle to burst the regional sports network bubble, but I doubt that kind of collusion would happen.

No, the sneaky takeaway from this that fans of both the Rockets and Astros should pay attention to is this line:

Crane, who failed to receive most of his scheduled $56.6 million in rights fees this season because the network did not meet its projected income and carriage levels. The Rockets received their $45 million rights fee last season

I'm clipping sentences here, but the point is that the Astros did not get much of its rights fee while the Rockets got a full share last season. Might you see why the Astros have been the most vocal about the network being profitable and not taking a subpar deal? Why the Rockets don't seem to have a problem? They got paid. The Astros didn't. The schism becomes a bit clearer with this, doesn't it?

2) Another Cuban free agent

Another Cuban baseball player has defected and may become a free agent this winter. Following fellow countryman Jose Dariel Abreu is shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena. Here's a quick scouting report on him from the Overlords:

His arm at shortstop is outstanding, allowing him to make difficult throws across the diamond. Defensively, he has drawn comparisons to fellow Cuban Jose Iglesias, who currently plays with the Tigers.

Arruebarruena is even more of a question mark at the plate than Iglesias, however. He hit .275/.324/.366 in the first half of the most recent Cuban season before earning a .317/.415/.495 line in the second half. He posted an 887 OPS in the 2011-12 season. Scouts say he has a long swing and struggles with breaking balls and pitch recognition. It's possible he may not even be someone who can get on base at a .300 clip in the majors.

Should the Astros go after him? Here's what I had to say back when the Astros were involved in the Jose Dariel Abreu bidding.

Why has there been such an emphasis here? One reason may be due to the international signing rules. Putting a cap on international free agent signings makes players like Abreu more coveted. IFAs who are over 25 don't count toward the cap, so teams can still flex their financial muscles in this one niche.Think of it as the Japanese free agency system without the posting fee.

I'm not sure it qualifies as a trend, since so few Cuban players defect now, and fewer still are over the age cutoff. That limits the number of players which teams can bid for, but does create interesting situations like this one once or twice an offseason.

The Astros can provide opportunity in Houston and can spend whatever they need without being restricted by caps or draft pools. That means they can continue to rebuild without having to spend on a fancy, older free agent.

Is Arruebarruena worth it? He's not the hitter that Abreu is, but if he can find a happy medium between Jose Iglesias' defense and bat, he'll be worth a look.

3) Profile on Alex Jackson

Is it too early to start talking about the 2014 draft?

Never. It's never too early to talk about the draft.

Minor League Ball has a profile up on Southern California catcher Alex Jackson, who's not just one of the top prep hitters in the draft, but one of the draft's top players period. Here's what Matt Garrioch had to say about him:

Jackson's ultimate value will be decided by which defensive position he plays but in the end, the bat projects to play any position if he improves his hit tool. The hit tool is the biggest question with the largest range of meaningful outcomes.He could hit .280-30-100 in the middle of the order for a contending team if everything works out. He could end up being a guy who swings and misses too much and never makes a true impact. He is one of the top position prospects in this class and there are only a handful of high impact bats this year. I don't see him getting out of the top 10 come June.

John Klima over at Baseball Beginnings had some of the same reservations about Jackson's hit tool that Garrioch expressed, but there's a long way between now and the draft. I'm not sure the Astros would seriously consider drafting a high school catcher over Rodon, especially given what Chris' research has shown.

Any early thoughts on Jackson?

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