Astros Notes: Luhnow, Free Agents, Abreu, Castro

The Astros might not aim on contending in 2014, but don't be surprised if Houston is one of the offseason's busier teams as the team continues its extensive rebuilding project.  Evan Drellich of the Houstron Chronicle has the latest from Astros GM Jeff Luhnow…

  • The Astros will look to add some pop to their lineup, Luhnow said, with the outfield being the most logical spot given that most of their infield is set.
  • The club could also add a hitter to the first base/DH mix, which is why Luhnow said the Astros were contenders for Jose Dariel Abreu, who ended up signing a six-year, $68MM deal with the White Sox.  “We pursued that player and we came up short,” Luhnow said. “That particular case was interesting because the player’s never played in the United States, but the track record in Cuba is pretty impressive, and we had done our homework and felt like that player should produce immediately.”
  • The Astros intend to raise their 2014 payroll, and Luhnow said this allows the team to pursue some new avenues.  “We have the resources to sign players and agents reach out no matter what,” Luhnow said. “(The level of communication has) not changed. We’re able to engage in a lot more conversations that we weren’t the past couple years. It opens up a different caliber of pool of players for us.”
  • The Astros' first overall draft pick is protected but the team would still have to give up its second round pick if they signed a free agent who has rejected a qualifying offer.  Luhnow said the Astros would "have to think hard" about giving up such a valuable young asset for such a veteran who could help immediately but would come at a high price.  There have been rumors that Houston is willing to make a big splash this winter by pursuing Shin-Soo Choo.
  • Whle the Astros are still focused on adding young talent, they could be open to trading some of that young talent if they feel they have a surplus in a certain area.  "So we’re not going to do anything to block any of our players or disrupt their development. But you can argue that we’re in a position where we have some areas of excess in terms of future talent, and we could potentially use some of that to get something," Luhnow said.
  • The team hasn't begun talks with Jason Castro's representatives about a long-term extension and none are expected until around January when arbitration decisions are nearing, Luhnow said.  Castro is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is Houston's lone remaining arb-eligible player.  MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Castro to receive a $2.2MM salary for 2014.

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