Lots and lots and lots of things happened at the Winter Meetings this week. They officially closed on Thursday, but that doesn't mean we're done talking about them. In lieu of another list of all the transactions that happened yesterday, let's look at what the week's movement means for the Astros in a bigger sense.
You don't care about Yoenis Cespedes getting moved for Rick Porcello. Well, maybe you don't, but you should care in how it may affect the Astros plans this winter.
The pitching market
Name a team looking for pitching this offseason. The Red Sox? They added two (Rick Porcello, Wade Miley). The Marlins? They added Mat Latos. The Cubs? They added Lester. The Dodgers? They added Brandon McCarthy.
That leaves the Giants as the only contender actively looking for pitching. While they may engage James Shields, it seems they're looking for quicker means to improve. Since the Phillies still have Cole Hamels to deal, and since the Red Sox no longer make sense for Hamels, he could move to the Bay Area.
What that does mean is that those top guys could find their prices compressed. Someone will pay Shields, but with so many other options on the market, is anyone desperate to do so? Why not strike a deal for Jordan Zimmerman or Doug Fister and try to re-sign them during the season? Or, pick up Ian Kennedy from the Padres, who could also cost less than the giant free agent contract Shields could command.
Teams always need pitching. Someone will convince themselves they are one pitcher away from contending (and that team is likely in the AL Central). As Peter Gammons noted, the AL East finds itself without a true ace at the moment, so you can expect both Shields and Lester to end up there by the end of the winter.
The Scherzer question
Speaking of Scherzer, the winter's top free agent has gotten surprisingly little traction to this point. Where will he sign? What is the market even like for him?
The Tigers insist they are not interested in retaining him, even after dealing away Porcello. That may just be posturing, but if true, Scherzer appears poised to go elsewhere. The Astros have reiterated twice they're not in the market for a top starter, so cross them off.
They apparently met with Boras about Stephen Drew and a possible reliever, like Francisco Rodriguez. But, one thing about Boras. He'll find a team to give his top guy big money. It makes no sense for Scherzer to sign a lesser deal, either. Even a one-year contract could backfire for him, since he doesn't have medical concerns to overcome.
Will he top Lester's $155 million deal? Right now, I'm guessing he does. Who ends up giving that contract is the $175 million question.
The catching market
Much like the pitching market, there appears to be less movement on the catching front now. Back when Houston acquired Hank Conger from the Angels, we speculated that there could be plenty of fits with teams for the Astros surplus backstops.
Well, the Blue Jays signed Russell Martin. The Dodgers traded for Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs traded for Miguel Montero. The Mariners, ever searching for bats, have Mike Zunino entrenched there. Who needs a catcher?
More importantly, which teams could value one of Houston's framing heroes?
Last year, the Rays, Reds and D'Backs were involved in a three-team deal that sent Ryan Hanigan to Tampa Bay, and also sent Heath Bell to the Rays for minor leaguers. That suggests the return for someone like Carlos Corporan could be a little light. Houston could take on an unwanted salary. Do you want Andre Ethier's deal? Didn't think so.
Still, Tampa Bay released Jose Molina, the Patron Saint of pitch framing, earlier this offseason. They currently have Hanigan listed as a starter with Curt Casali, he of 30 MLB games, as the backup. The Rays also have outfielders to spare. Could Houston match up for someone like Matt Joyce?
Either way, Houston's prospects to trade any of their four catchers this winter seem to have dimmed for the moment. It may be better for Luhnow to hold onto his glut until February or March and swing a deal during spring training after a team suffers an injury at the position.
If Houston doesn't want to sign Stephen Drew or Jed Lowrie to expensive contracts, there are options out there on the trade market at shortstop. Now that the Dodgers have Jimmy Rollins as a bridge to Corey Seager, they may have Erisbel Arruebarrena available. The Cuban defector has four years and $16 million left on the contract he signed with the Dodgers.
Could Houston pick him up as a stopgap for Correa? A young, talented defender like Arruebarrena would also hold some value in trades once Correa and Colin Moran have established themselves.
In a similar vein, the Reds may now be willing to move Zack Cozart since they have Eugenio Suarez from the Tigers. Cozart was miscast hitting at the top of the Reds lineup and had a very bad offensive season last year. He doesn't walk, but does have good pop at a position without much power. Also, Cozart is an excellent defender by all accounts and is under team control for three more seasons.
He's exactly the kind of player who could come to Houston for three years, serve as a stopgap for Correa and then move to a reserve role once/if Correa and Moran establish themselves.
Just like the pitching and catching markets, outfielders are becoming scarce. Melky Cabrera hasn't signed yet, but could be close to picking a team. Matt Kemp is off the market after being traded to the Padres. Nick Markakis signed a while ago with the Braves and promptly had neck surgery.
Justin Upton still lurks out there along, but one theory suggests that the Reds' trades of Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos could have been to clear up room for an Upton deal. That could also take Jay Bruce off the market, as the Reds would want to pair him with Billy Hamilton in a pretty powerful outfield.
That leaves three teams potentially with needs in the outfield and not many options. We know the Rockies have received plenty of interest in Corey Dickerson this week and there are fallback options for the Royals, the Orioles and the Mariners.
But, one or two of those teams will still need a starter on the corner. Could they match up for Dexter Fowler?
Houston doesn't need to trade Fowler. He was their third-best offensive player last season. Yet, if a team gets desperate and wants to overpay? Would you take Greg Holland for Fowler? Kelvin Herrera? Would the Orioles give up Jonathan Schoop for Fowler? Would the Mariners talk about Taijuan Walker?
Those are the kinds of deals that could get Houston to move him. They aren't realistic. But, if the outfield merry-go-round stops and a contending team is left without a corner outfielder, Fowler could start looking pretty good.