The Astros' offseason gets off to a pathetic start

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Manny Acta was drafted by the Houston Astros when he was 17 years old, spent six years toiling in their system, then spent nearly a decade coaching and managing in their system as well.  Mere weeks ago, he called the possibility of managing the Astros “too good to be true.”

And now we learn that the Astros lost out on him, not because the Indians were quicker on the draw, but because they weren’t as cheap:

Astros general manager Ed Wade confirmed on Sunday that the team made an offer to Manny Acta to be its next manager before he opted to fill the same position with Cleveland, and Wade said he was confident the club would be able to hire a quality manager.

According to sources close to the negotiations, Acta turned down the Astros’ offer of a two-year deal plus a one-year option to manage the team in favor of Cleveland’s three-year deal with a one-year option for 2013. Acta said Sunday he wouldn’t comment on contract negotiations, but Wade confirmed with MLB.com he and president of baseball operations Tal Smith met with Acta on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.

Maybe Manny Acta isn’t the alpha and omega of managerial candidates, but given that Acta was clearly the guy the Astros wanted, why on Earth wouldn’t they match the three years Cleveland was offering? The only possible explanation that doesn’t make the Astros look bad here is that Acta didn’t give Houston a chance to match the Indians’ offer. But that flies in the face of Acta’s previous comments regarding his desire for the Astros’ job and his reputation as a standup guy.  It’s also worth noting that, at present, no one has said that Acta didn’t give them a chance, and under these circumstances, someone probably would have said so by now if it was true.

As Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle notes, why now, after giving all kinds of money to the Carlos Lees and Mike Hamptons of the world, would the Astros draw the line at paying a manager an extra year at roughly the same rate of a middle reliever?  Does it gall them that they’re still on the hook for Cecil Cooper for $800K next year?  Why wouldn’t they do what they needed to do in order to get the man they obviously wanted?

An even bigger question: What’s the biggest problem facing the Astros these days? The lack of young talent, or the lack of front office sense?

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.