Unfortunately, neither of these two pitchers was the #2 starter we so desperately need… but I’m happy to see that we signed Hawkins to a contract, this one worth 3.5 million for 1 season plus incentives. The other pitcher signed is the 1st Taiwanese player ever signed by the Astros in Chia-Jen Lo(CJ for short) who is a closer by trade and will more than likely start out in A-ball next season, but if he adapts well, could find himself in Double-A. Lo is a right hander who has 4 pitches, a slider being his best.
The Lo signing is more of a long term thing… he’s probably not going to even have a chance of being on the big club for another 2-3 years… This signing kind of goes to show that the Astros are broadening their horizons and actually looking for talent in the Asian countries; something that the Astros have been criticized about in the past.
Hawkins is a good signing… but I’m kind of surprised that they gave him 3.5 million. Not that I think 3.5 million is too much(especially if he stays on track with what he did for the Astros last season), but more because the Astros turned down a 3.25 million contract on Brocail… if Brocail comes back, he’ll probably be the primary set up man, and being that the Astros turned down the 3.25 million contract, you can expect them to try and sign him for a lower salary. Just something to think about. If we can get the same Hawkins back that we had last season and a healthy Brocail(that isn’t overused), the Astros could have a very formidable bullpen next season.
Now it’s just time to ink a couple of starting pitchers. The Astros have stated that they are talking to Wolf’s agents and are having good conversations with them… but that means little to nothing. Now is the time to see how much Wolf’s comments about liking Houston last season really mean anything.
There are also notes that the Astros are still in talks about signing Peavy, but the chances of that happening are still slim at best… Here are a couple of quotes from uncle Drayton about signing Peavy from here.
“Jake Peavy is going to be a big task and the real reason is he’s
not a free agent,” McLane said. “We’ve specialized in free agents over
the last few years. He’s not a free agent, so San Diego has given us a
big list they would want from the Houston Astros, and it’s multiple
players and some of our best players. Most likely that would be the
“We don’t want to wind up giving up three or four players for
one player. Jake Peavy is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.
We would welcome him with open arms, but that’s going to be a real task
with the demand that San Diego has and the type of talent they want
I would love to see this list…
Looks like the Peavy deal isn’t going to happen… see the Hot Stove Blog for more.
There were a lot of people talking about the Astros needs to be a contender this off season being very extensive… I on the other hand am one to think that the Astros are just a few key moves away from being in playoff contention. My reasoning? Well… let’s take it one step at a time.
The bullpen is pretty much okay in my opinion. My assumptions are that Valverde, Wright, Sampson, Byrdak and Geary will all be back. I think Brocail might be back as well and I hope we get Hawkins back… but we’ll see. In my opinion, that’s a pretty decent bullpen… maybe I think too highly of Sampson as a reliever… we’ll see.. I don’t think there is really a glaring need in the bullpen. Maybe we pick up someone to fill some space or maybe a minor leaguer comes in and fills a hole… no worries here.
The infield is set. Berkman, Matsui, Tejada and Wigginton can fill the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and short and I’m okay with Quintero as the catcher. Maybe Towles makes the team… maybe someone else comes out of the woodwork’s and takes the backup(or starters role)… but I’m not seeing this as a glaring need either.
The outfield… Lee/Pence are set… I’m good with that. I’d like to see us pick up someone to either take over right field and move Pence back to center, or someone to take over some playing time in center and not have to rely on Michael Bourn to sit in that position. Some people say the Astros should go after Rocco Baldelli. I would be okay with that. I’d also be happy with going after a guy like Garret Anderson… but I think he’ll probably stay in California. Adam Dunn isn’t an option(we can’t have 2 OF spots filled by below average defensive players), but maybe a guy like Scott Podsednik… Okay, I realize his .253 avg isn’t all that exciting and that he only had 162 AB’s last season… but we could probably get him on the cheap and I have faith that he can be more productive than Bourn. One downer is that he’s a lefty, so there wouldn’t be a platoon option with him and Bourn.
That leaves… the real glaring need in my opinion… the rotation. Okay, so we have Oswalt, Rodriguez and Moehler set in the rotation(at least for the start). Maybe Backe is in there somewhere(if he’s even on the team)… The Astros seem to really want to get Wolf back… he’s still a question mark in my mind whether he’s even a good pitcher or not. Even getting Wolf back means we still need another pitcher… and he needs to be a #2 or better pitcher. Sheets would work… but then again, he would have to stay healthy. I’m not even going to mention Sabathia, because he’s not going to be an option. A couple other names to throw out would be Jon Garland, and Derek Lowe. Maybe a guy like Orlando Hernandez? But we definitely need a #2 pitcher.
That’s pretty much it. Yea, we’ll need a few fill in players… but no real huge needs. Maybe I’m too optimistic… but I think this team could at least sniff at being a playoff team with as little as 1 signing… the # 2 pitcher. Obviously I’m saying this as a minimum. If I’m saying what I would like to have(reasonably), I’d ask for the #2 pitcher, a better than average CF and another catcher who can hit at least .260(and doesn’t hurt you behind the plate). I don’t think that would be too much to ask either.
Three more components of the Astros’ 2008 roster filed for free agency
on Friday: catcher Brad Ausmus, right-handed reliever LaTroy Hawkins
and left-handed starter Randy Wolf. Infielder Mark Loretta filed on Thursday, leaving right-hander Doug Brocail as the last Astros free agent yet to file.
Obviously we all know that Brad Ausmus will not be back next season in an Astros uniform. He “retired” from the Astros last season and if he continues to play, would like to do so closer to his home in sweet sweet San Diego CA.
Of the 4 Astros who have filed for free agency… I expect Mark Loretta to have the biggest chance of staying on the team. In the article above, it states that the Astros plan to pursue Wolf and Hawkins, but doesn’t mention Loretta… but I still think he’ll be back next season. Loretta isn’t the most sought after free agent in the bunch, but like the past couple of seasons, he likes Houston and Houston seems to be the only team that really likes him. That’s good for us because Loretta has been a very solid player for the Astros and can play anywhere in the infield. The only reason I see that Loretta may not be around is because Blum is already guaranteed a contract this season, and he can fill the role that Loretta fills. But the Astros seem to like utility players and will probably keep at least 2… so there should be room for both.
LaTroy Hawkins was plucked out of his living room last season by the Astros and had an excellent end to the season. In his 24 games with the Astros, he threw 21 innings and gave up just 1 earned run for a .43 ERA. Not too shabby for a guy who was DFA’d by the Yankees. Hopefully other teams looking at possibly signing Hawkins will look at what he did with the Yankees and allow the Astros to keep him on the team without having to overspend. I’m still not convinced that Hawkins is a good pitcher… but he sure looked good in an Astros uniform. Hawkins turns 36 this December.
Randy Wolf… another guy who seemed to turn his season around after joining the Astros. Wolf was traded to the Astros last July after posting a 6-10 record and 4.74 ERA for San Diego… but Wolf turned it around after joining the Astros and went 6-2 with a 3.57 ERA over the rest of the season with the Astros. Before Wolf was traded to the Astros, he stated that he wanted to stay in San Diego… but after the trade and after some success with the Astros, he seemed to pull back on that statement and show some love to Houston. Who knows if that was him just being nice… but hopefully he will stay with the Astros. He would fit in well at the back of the rotation(assuming the Astros try to sign a #2 starter to slide in behind Roy).
And last but not least(well… maybe not least), Doug Brocail. Brocail was a solid reliever for the Astros last season… he might have been even better if he wasn’t overused in the 1st part of the season, but all in all, still a decent season. in 72 games, Brocail threw 68.2 innings with a 3.93 ERA with 3 blown saves. If the Astros can get Brocail back and spread his innings out a little more, he can probably be an effective reliever. But then again… he’s on the wrong side of 40.
Here is the full list of players who have filed for Free Agency. Pedro is on the list!! Anyone want to take a shot at him??? Kidding…