Hey, remember those times during the season when I'd make crazy predictions and have a super-low batting average on them? Well, let's revisit that failure of my prestidigitation prowess for this week's Winter Meetings.
Just like every other team, the Astros will be active throughout this week as the baseball world descends upon San Diego. What could happen? A lot, or maybe nothing. What should happen? Well, read on to see exactly how this week will go down. I guarantee it or your money back.
1. Houston will make at least one trade
Lock this down now. If there's some off-brand casino in Reno that you can bet on such things, go put a Lincoln on it. The Astros will pull off one deal this week. Don't let Jeff Luhnow fool you, people. Do you remember his talk with Brian McTaggart previewing this week's festivities? Here's what he said about his crowded catching situation.
We're not actively looking to trade one of our catchers. We do have depth there, and it's a good area to have depth, because you have one injury and all of a sudden you've gone from too many to just right, and then you have two injuries and you don't have enough. Obviously, we tendered Corporan. We see him as a Major League catcher. We see Conger and Castro, obviously, as a big part.
JEFF LUHNOW IS LYING TO YOU. DON'T BELIEVE HIM.
Why on Earth would the genteel Mr. Luhnow do something so heinous to you, dear reader? It's all about leverage.
When Houston made that much-ballyhooed deal for Hank Conger, they basically announced to the entire baseball world that they had a spare catcher. As such, teams likely are yawning audibly into the phone when Luhnow calls up and asks for a real major leaguer or someone for Carlos Corporan.
OF COURSE Luhnow is saying this now. He has to pretend like he's happy to keep three catchers on the roster. Otherwise, he'll get bupkus for a decent receiver in Corporan. He wants more than bupkus. I predict he'll get it.
2. Houston will not select a player in the Rule 5 draft.
For the first time in three years, I predict the Astros will not make a selection in this year's Rule 5 draft. That's not as much to do with the talent available and more to do with their precious 40-man situation right now. They just don't have a lot of room on the roster.
If you are worried about them missing out on talent, consider their Rule 5 pick this season to be Michael Feliz, who was a last-minute add to the 40-man just before the deadline a few weeks back.
3. Jason Castro and Dexter Fowler will both still be Astros.
Dexter Fowler was Houston's third-best offensive player last season. Jason Castro was Houston's best offensive player two years ago. For a team on the way up, it makes no sense to deal either of these guys.
Just listen to what Luhnow has to say on Fowler:
I think it's primarily Internet rumors, to be honest with you. Clearly, they're both good players that have one year [Fowler] or two years [Castro] left of control, and those players are always going to be talked about in trade rumors. I'm sure there's a lot of teams out there that have interest in them, and some have reached out, but we're not actively looking to deal either of those guys, because they both provide value to us in 2015, and we want to make sure any moves we make are keeping an eye on improving this team in 2015.
As we've established, Jeff Luhnow never lies to us at all. He's a straight shooter in all things. Why would he deny interest in trading these two if he plans on actually dealing either?
Well, um, just don't read that first prediction again. Don't scroll up. No need.
Again, this is a leverage play. While Houston could extract more for Fowler by trading him before the season and giving the receiving team a chance to recoup a draft pick if Fowler receives qualifying offer status, they don't have to do anything. They've got him for a year and could just as easily flip Fowler at the deadline.
In fact, by flipping him then, they could do a solid for frenemy Casey Close, as that would prevent Fowler from getting a QO after the season and, thus, giving him a more robust free agent market.
We've seen in the last two years that there's still a good market in July for players who could leave for FA. Unless some team blows Houston away with an offer (Greg Holland and Moustakas for Fowler and stuff), I don't think either player gets moved this week.
4. The Astros will be more active than the rumor mill suggests.
It'll drive you batty, not seeing Houston listed as a potential suitor. That doesn't mean they aren't involved in many, many talks this week.
The Astros FO's MO keeps things close to the vest. They don't play with "internet rumors." They don't like talking and that's a product of the close circle Luhnow keeps around him.
You know, until all those trade discussions get leaked in a data breach. But, other than that, it's a pretty tight-lipped ship.
5. The Astros will not get into any negotiations for Matt Kemp.
It makes some sense, I'll grant you. Kemp is under contract for a few years, could fill that hole in left field nicely and has Houston ties. The Dodgers will probably have to kick in money to trade him, so his exorbitant salary won't seem as bad.
A MLB executive interested in acquiring Matt Kemp told me that His contract has not been insured.Would be a major issue to trade for him— Jim Duquette (@Jim_Duquette) December 7, 2014
That's a huge issue for a player with as many injury concerns as Kemp. I see that as being a big enough stumbling block to keep Houston from making that deal.