Offseason In Review: Houston Astros

The Astros welcomed a new owner, hired a new GM and agreed to switch leagues this past offseason.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Landon Powell, Justin Ruggiano, Mike Hessman, Travis Buck, Diory Hernandez.

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Draft Picks Gained or Lost

  • Obtained 41st overall selection for losing Barmes.

Drayton McLane and Ed Wade have moved on and before long the Astros will be an American League team. The first offseason under owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow was full of off-field change, and the team itself will also have a new look after the GM's offseason trades.

Luhnow, the Cardinals' longtime VP of scouting and player development, dealt Major Leaguers for prospects in his first offseason as Houston's GM. He also hired analytically-minded baseball people such as Sig Mejdal and Mike Fast to help the club improve its decision making.

In the short-term, the Astros project as one the worst teams in baseball. No National League club allowed more runs a year ago, and the Astros outscored just three of their NL rivals. It's hard to imagine significant improvements given the current roster.

Luhnow's turned Mark Melancon into a shortstop (Jed Lowrie) and a starting pitcher (Kyle Weiland) in his first major trade as a GM. The Astros obtained more upside in the Melancon deal, and it could pay off as soon as 2012. Lowrie has shown promise at the plate over the years and Weiland progressed steadily through the minors before struggling at the MLB level in a 2011 cameo. He's not considered a top prospect, but may contribute at the back of Houston's rotation.

The Astros moved Brett Myers to the bullpen, where he'll close again. Myers had been a dependable fixture in Houston's rotation, so it was surprising to see him move to the bullpen where he'll pitch in 60 innings, rather than 200. While it's important for the Astros to see what Jordan Lyles and Weiland can do at the Major League level, opportunities would no doubt have emerged even if Myers had started. Perhaps the Astros know something we don't or believe Myers will have more trade value out of the bullpen.

It will remain hard to assess the trade that sent Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero for Kevin Chapman until we learn the identity of the player to be named later heading to Houston. While Chapman's strikeout rates are intriguing, he appears to be a marginal prospect, so Astros fans are hoping for more. Luhnow told's Brian McTaggart that the player to be named will be a "key component" of the trade. 

The Astros exercised remarkable caution this offseason. They didn't sign any extensions or agree to terms with any free agents who cost more than $1MM; Chris Snyder's $850K deal represented the Astros' biggest expenditure of the offseason. Splashy free agent signings may have generated buzz and goodwill, but they weren't a priority for an Astros team that lost 106 games last year. Better to save up for this year's first overall draft pick.

Luhnow claimed Fernando Martinez off of waivers, and the Astros will try and extract some value from the former Mets prospect this season. The 23-year-old doesn't have to become an impact MLB player to justify the claim. It makes sense for a team such as Houston to make 40-man roster space for a once-promising player who may become a useful fourth outfielder in time.

The Astros' most recent offseason wasn't about increasing the team's 2012 win total. Few will be surprised if the Astros lose 100 games again this year — it would actually represent a six game improvement over last year's team. But new leadership is in place and the Astros select first overall this June, so there's increased optimism that the Astros can draft and develop enough talent to contend for the postseason once again.

22 Responses to Offseason In Review: Houston Astros Leave a Reply

  1. chico65 3 years ago

    Any chance you guys will take Melancon back?
    -Red Sox Fans

    • East Coast Bias 3 years ago

      Everything is going as planned. 
      – Yankees Fans

  2. formerdraftpick 3 years ago

    I think that the Astros did a pretty good job in the off season and gained some nice talent for little money.  Jack Cust and Travis Buck were the only questionable signings and one of them is long since gone and it looks like I am wrong on Buck so far.  Most of the minor league signings are off to a good start, especially F Martinez and Powell.  Not bad for a team of outcasts.  

  3. UltimateYankeeFan 3 years ago

    The way Melancon is looking pitching for the Red Sox in the AL East, Lowrie and Weiland might be the steal of the season.

  4. Myers had been a dependable fixture in Houston’s rotation….not last season, he was terrible, only slightly better than Happ last season who was horrible

  5. After the season Carlos Lee’s 18 mil comes off the books. I’m ok with the losing for the next couple of season as long as some of the kids show improvement

  6. BrickTops 3 years ago

    I can say this as an Astros Fan, JD Martinez is a freaking beast and will be an Allstar for years to come. 

    • NickinIthaca 3 years ago

       Is that because they need to have at least one representative from every team?

    • BWillie 3 years ago

      I agree, BrickTops.  JD can flat out rake.  He just isn’t getting much media love because the rest of the team is so bad.  I have enjoyed watching all of them compete so far this year, which in itself is an improvement over 2011.

  7. goner 3 years ago

    The way Clint Barmes is playing so far (3 hits, 10 K, and 2 errors in 10 games), I’m not sure he counts as a notable loss either.  :(

  8. I am really proud how things are shaping up . After Berkman , Bourn , Oswalt , and Pence were dealt I wasn’t sure I had much faith in my team at all .
    My projected lineup for 2015 😛 Jarred CosartP Bud NorrisP Jordan LylesP Brett OberholtzerP Paul Clemens/Mike FoltynewiczC Jason Castro1B Jonathan Singleton2B Jose Altuve3B Jimmy ParedesSS Jonathan VillarOF George SpringerOF Ariel Ovando/Austin WatesOF J.D. Martinez/Domingo SantanaI’d like to have Delino Deshields in here somewhere , because I believe in his tools and although it is early he’s showed much better progress so far this season . Foltynewicz I believe is going to be a complete beast , his velocity is up around 95-97 and his breaking stuff looks much better than last season . His K Rate needed improvement for someone who had velocity like him last year , and this year he’s came firing straight out of the gate . By this point I’m willin to bet we’re winning 90 games , This lineup is potentially dangerous . If Springer develops as planned he should be a 30/30 guy , J.D. Martinez is going to be a .300 plus hitter with 30 homer potential every year , Altuve is supposedly going to be a future .300 plus hitter with refined defensive skills , Domingo Santana might be a future 40 + homer guy if he can keep developing , if Villar develops some hitting skills he could be a future Elvis Andrus , Paredes looked really good at the end of last season and looks like someone who could fill out and become an everyday 3rd baseman with 20-30 HR potential and .280-.290 AVG. Potential , Austin Wates is tearing it up so far in AA and I believe he’s the next Michael Bourn but right handed with a more power . If ovando’s investment pays off he could be a future-all star , and Singleton could be the next Ryan Howard .Cosart could be a future 200 K / 200 IP starter along the lines and become an Ace , Lyles could be a nice addition as well if he keeps his control up , Norris could be a veteran arm in his prime , a lot of people have compared Paul Clemens to a young Brad Lidge type but a starter of course . I believe we are doing what’s necessary to become a winning franchise , I’m really excited for our future . June needs to hurry up , I wanna see who we take number 1 . Kyle Zimmer , Bryon Buxton , Mark Appel , or Marcus Stroman would be fine by me .

    • BrickTops 3 years ago

      I would be happy if half of that happened.  The reality is we can’t do much until Mr. Cheto Lee and his contract are gone.  So we spend the next couple off seasons building a young cheap core and farm (Which btw went from 30th to 16th this year) then we can go out and add the Vet free agents to get us over the top.  Think Tampa Bay with 5 times the payroll.  People often forget how large of a Market Houston is.  The brass won’t spend money until the farm is rehabbed, and they shouldn’t.  I do agree that the young talent on the Astros is better than most would admit.  

      • coldgoldenfalstaff 3 years ago

        It’s nice to see a few pieces of a future contender in place already. It’s been fun watching J.D. Martinez and Jose Altuve this year so far.

        What’s going to keep them from getting above 5th place is pitching. Other than Carrpenter there aren’t many keepers in the pen, and while it’s nice to see what we have early with the young starters, other than Norris there’s little chance any of them being with the team in 2 years when Cosart, Oberholzer, Foltyniewicz (and whatever starter they pick first this year) starts to impact the big league roster.

  9. trevorc 3 years ago

    Both rule 5 guys look like they are going to stick and be solid contributors as well.

  10. formerdraftpick 3 years ago

    It seems like the Astros got the edge early in the deal with Lowrie.  Kyle and Mark both have 2 loses and not really helping out their respective club at this early stage. Let’s see if Mark can keep that ERA under 50.00.  

  11. UltimateYankeeFan 3 years ago

    Obi – all of that may be true but as best I can tell at this point in the season Weiland’s ERA is about 40 points lower than Melancon’s.  As for Lowrie being injury prone.  Which is better Melancon giving up 11 ER’s in 2 innings pitched (his last outing giving up 6 ER’s without retiring a batter) or Lowrie?   Let me know how long it will take you to decide. 

  12. UltimateYankeeFan 3 years ago

    Obi, I agree with you about the AL East being tough. But let’s keep in mind he doesn’t have to pitch against the Red Sox based on last year the most prolific offensive team of the 5 in the division.  As for him being in Houston and the NL Central last year.  I wouldn’t exactly call the 2011 Cardinals and Brewers exactly offensive eunuchs.  In fact in most offensive categories they were both in the top 5 in the NL. 

  13. BWillie 3 years ago

    He’s hitting .167 for the Nats AAA team.  He needs to be a notable loss for them, too.

  14. redsx968 3 years ago

    UltimateYankeeFan- all of that may be true but as best I can tell at this point in the season you are taking a guy’s inflated ERA after his 6th and 7th career starts and comparing it to another guy’s inflated ERA after pitching two innings. Don’t get me wrong the Sox lost that trade easily and it’s frustrating as a Sox fan, but give it a month at least before you storm in with your “stats.” I guess CC’s going to finish with a 5.59 ERA too and Cano’s going to hit .239 with no home runs. Come to think of it, it’s too bad they didn’t trade Cano instead of Arias as the PTBNL in the A-Rod deal, because Cano is such a waste now. What a bust…

  15. UltimateYankeeFan 3 years ago

    Leave it to a Red Sox fan to turn this into a referendum on Yankees players.  Redsx968, get back to me when Melancon has the pedigree of any of the Yankees players you mentioned then we’ll talk. Of for that manner any Red Sox player has the pedigree of CC, A-Rod or Cano.

  16. redsx968 3 years ago

    No need to be hostile haha- When did I say Melancon has the pedigree of anyone on the Yankees? I said not to read into his first two innings. I used the Yankees as an example because you’re obviously a Yankees fan. But since that doesn’t work for you, fine. I’ll use another example. I guess Pujols is going to hit .267 and slug .356. There. I hope you don’t mind me turning this into a “referendum” on Angels players. But Melancon doesn’t have the pedigree of Pujols, so I guess it’s a pointless comparison anyway.
     Last, I put ‘referendum’ in quotes because I think you might want to reconsider your interpretation of that word. I don’t think it means what you think it does.

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