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Wednesday's Three Astros Things

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Talking about Tracy McGrady, Baseball Prospectus' awesomeness and free agent compensation...

Some things to talk about while my life gets consumed by realignment and national signing day...

1) Tracy McGrady trying to pitch?

We are ever so close to the beginning of spring training, when baseball showers down on us again like magic fairy dust. But, the news can't sleep, since it's been mainlining caffeine for the past three years and compulsively checking Twitter every five seconds.

That's how we end up with Tracy McGrady trying to pitch turning into a real, live national story. From his Facebook page:

"As some of you may have heard, I have been practicing with The Sugar Land Skeeters, and working out at Constellation Field," McGrady's statement read. "It has been a longtime childhood dream to play baseball and for the past few months I have worked on my pitching with the team. Don't yet know where this will go but I do know I am having a great time and throwing pretty well. Love the game of baseball and always wanted to give it a try. Feels like I am a kid again, playing a sport for the pure love of the game. @SL_Skeeters @AtlanticLg"

I know. I'm at a loss too.

Since I now live next door to Constellation Field, I feel obliged to bring you this news. I also feel obliged to bring you the press release statement from the Skeeters on McGrady.

"Tracy McGrady is one of the most elite athletes of this era and we appreciate his interest in pursuing a life-long dream with the Sugar Land Skeeters and the Atlantic League. While the Atlantic League is considered the highest level of baseball outside of Major League Baseball, McGrady has demonstrated skill, determination and diligence during his training program at Constellation Field. We look forward to monitoring his progress."

Note that they don't say they've signed him. They also don't refer to him as a current Skeeters player. This is all in the early stages of figuring out if McGrady can actually play or not. He's using his position to work out with Roger Clemens, but that doesn't mean he'll get thrown into the fire just for notoriety*, right?

* I'm totally writing a #longform on McGrady's pitching, aren't I? And I'm totally going to say the ball "Rocketed out of his hand as if by Magic." Let the public shaming commence now.

2) BP doing work

First, listen to this Effectively Wild podcast where Zachary Levine and Evan Drellich, where they discuss the Astros and all manner of other things. It's worth your time, especially for the discussion of Jason Castro's trade value.

Next, check out this story from BP on the least interesting spring training storylines to come up in the next month. Learn them. Know them. Love them. Never fall for them again. We have gone for so long without meaningful Astros news (a second Dominican team notwithstanding) that it will be easy to get seduced by the siren song of a fifth starter battle between Lucas Harrell and Rudy Owens.

But, before you give in to temptation, look to last year. That's when we thought Philip Humber winning a spot was a big deal. That's when we thought Alex White losing a spot to Brad Peacock was huge, before one ended up hurt and the other ended up terrible. Remember Brett Wallace retooling his swing under John Mallee? No, because his season was a dud.

We won't be able to resist all these non-interesting storylines, so bookmark that BP article and check back on it every week or so.

3) Do the compensation rules work?

When the last collective bargaining agreement was...bargained..., one of the big changes came in free agent compensation. Since teams were shying away from players marked as Type A free agents, because they'd lose a draft pick for signing them, MLB did away with that designation.

In its place is one that is much more selective, but also more prohibitive, as teams have to give up a pick not in the Top 10 for signing a player tied to compensation. How much more prohibitive? Well, consider these five players who still are without a home, a week before camp opens:

And yet, there are still five key free agents this offseason that have yet to find a new home. It's not that these players are bad. In fact, all of them are almost certainly starting-caliber and at least one had been eyeing a nine-figure contract. The problem is these five players all turned down qualifying offers and will require a signing team to forfeit a draft pick. With high salary expectations and teams valuing their draft picks more than ever, all five of the following men are still searching for a new deal:

Five players who should have jobs, don't. Five players who should have gotten paid well this winter have not. That does not reflect well on the MLBPA or the current system. Sure, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Kendrys Morales all have questions surrounding their performance. But, are there more questions there than around Corey Hart or Scott Feldman? I think not.

Maybe this isn't a huge issue. It didn't really shake out like this last year, with only a few players caught in this limbo. But, if there's one thing that could be opened up before the last CBA is up, it's this. I can't imagine the MLBPA is happy about how this is shaking out.