Diving into the depths: Houston Astros

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Houston Astros
Rotation
1. Roy Oswalt
2. Wandy Rodriguez
3. Brett Myers
4. Bud Norris
5. Brian Moehler
6. Felipe Paulino
7. Yorman Bazardo
8. Wesley Wright
9. Gustavo Chacin
10. Polin Trinidad
11. Chris Sampson
12. Josh Banks
Who knows just what Myers has left, but the Astros rotation sure looks nicer now than Moehler can be viewed as a fallback, if that’s the way manager Brad Mills wants to go. Given that GM Ed Wade just committed $3 million to Moehler, he’d probably like the veteran in the rotation. Paulino, though, needs to be given every chance to win the fifth spot. The Astros will have to catch some breaks in order to have any hope of contending, and a breakthrough season from Paulino would qualify as a big one.
Bullpen
1. Brandon Lyon
2. Matt Lindstrom
3. Alberto Arias
4. Tim Byrdak
5. Jeff Fulchino
6. Sammy Gervacio
7. Wesley Wright
8. Chris Sampson
9. Brian Moehler
10. Felipe Paulino
11. Roy Corcoran
12. Gary Majewski
The top five should be locks for spots. Gervacio might well prove to be better than any of them, but since he has options left, it’s possible he could be pushed back to Triple-A for the start of the year. It’d become a more likely scenario if Paulino wins a rotation spot, putting Moehler in the bullpen. That’s leave just one opening for Gervacio, Wright and Sampson. Sampson was a forgotten man in the second half of last year, but the Astros kept him in their plans when they decided against non-tendering him in December.


Catcher
1. J.R. Towles
2. Humberto Quintero
3. Jason Castro
4. Brian Esposito
First base
1. Lance Berkman
2. Geoff Blum
3. Chris Shelton
Second base
1. Kaz Matsui
2. Jeff Keppinger
3. Edwin Maysonet
Third base
1. Pedro Feliz
2. Geoff Blum
3. Jeff Keppinger
4. Chris Johnson
Shortstop
1. Tommy Manzella
2. Edwin Maysonet
3. Geoff Blum
4. Wladimir Sutil
Plenty of weak links here. The Astros aren’t likely to suddenly start trusting Towles, and Quintero isn’t even a good backup. Since Castro would benefit from another year in the minors, the team could use Rod Barajas or Yorvit Torrealba. They’re out of budget room now, but maybe they’ll be able to steal one of the two for $1 million.
The rest of the infield is set. At the end of last season, it sounded like Maysonet would have a utility job. However, since the Astros retained both Blum and Keppinger and brought in Feliz, there’s not going to be any room for him unless someone gets hurt. Manzella will be the shortstop and should do a decent Adam Everett impersonation.
Left field
1. Carlos Lee
2. Jason Michaels
3. Brian Bogusevic
4. Alex Romero
5. Yordany Ramirez
Center field
1. Michael Bourn
2. Jason Bourgeois
3. Jason Michaels
4. Brian Bogusevic
5. Yordany Ramirez
Right field
1. Hunter Pence
2. Jason Michaels
3. Alex Romero
4. Yordany Ramirez
5. Brian Bogusevic
Between Michaels, Blum, Keppinger and the backup catcher, four of the five bench spots are set. Bourgeois is still the in-house favorite for the one opening, even though he’s currently on waivers after being dropped from the 40-man roster. Ideally, the Astros would find a better backup center fielder. Michaels lacks range, and neither Bogusevic nor Ramirez figures to prove a capable replacement in the event that Bourn gets hurt.

Are the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks too friendly?

Scott Boras
Associated Press
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Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1. There have been comments from both commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA director Tony Clark suggesting that progress was being made and there has been no suggestion thus far that there are sticking points which could lead to a work stoppage. Heck, even a few acrimonious rounds of negotiation before it’s all said and done seem unlikely.

That’s good news for fans, but it’s not making certain agents happy. Smooth labor sailing likely means a new CBA that is pretty close in most terms to the current CBA. Agents — especially agents who represent veterans — don’t like that because they believe that the current rules regarding free agency, draft pick compensation, luxury taxes and qualifying offers penalize the players they represent. Today Ken Rosenthal has a story about that anger, talking to both anonymous agents and super agent Scott Boras about how baseball’s middle class is disappearing and baseball’s median salary goes lower and lower.

Major League Baseball counters that while the median salary is going down, the average salary is going up. And baseball is right about that. But it’s also the case that the average is propped up by a handful of superstar contracts while the somewhat less lucrative but still nice mid-level contracts for mid-level veterans are disappearing. The financial landscape of the game is morphing into one with a small upper class with nine-figure contracts and a large lower class of pre-arbitration players and veterans on shorter, smaller deals, squeezing the old veteran middle class out of existence.

Sound familiar?

Baseball, of course, is not the American economy. There are some good reasons why those mid-level contracts have gone away. Specifically, because they tended not to be very good deals for the teams who signed them. At the same time, baseball is far better able to tweak its rules to spread the wealth than the U.S. government can, and those rules — like the qualifying offer and luxury tax — have had a harsh impact on a lot of players.

There’s not a clear answer on what the best system is for free agents, draft pick compensation, draft bonus pools and the like actually is. I tend to favor the fewest restrictions on a player’s right to negotiate freely with teams, but I’ll also acknowledge that there is a less than perfect market at play in baseball given revenue disparities between teams and the need to maximize, within reason, competitive balance. It’s not an easy trick even before you get into the B.S. team owners tend to spew about pocketbook matters.

But it’s also the case that an all-too-friendly relationship between the union and the league — one in which a given set of rules is rubberstamped from CBA to CBA — is not an ideal situation. No one wants acrimony, but the fact is that the players and the union are slicing up a pie. If the person you’re slicing up a pie with is all-too-happy to keep slicing it the same way, it probably means that they’re getting a bigger piece than you. Maybe, if it’s your job to grab a bigger piece?

The agents Rosenthal talked to, who represent a good chunk of MLBPA membership, certainly think the union should be doing some more grabbing. I wonder if their clients do too.

Four baseballs autographed by Jose Fernandez wash ashore

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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This is just . . . ugh.

WSVN-TV in Miami reports that a black bag containing Jose Fernandez’s checkbook and four baseballs signed by him washed ashore on Miami Beach. Probably a bag to keep stuff dry while out on the water.

The bag was given to a lifeguard. Hopefully the bag finds its way back to Fernandez’s family quickly.