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Hating on the Astros is trendy. But it’s also rather silly.

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I’ve noticed a pretty marked trend in Astros hate the past couple of days.  Yesterday Buster Olney wrote at length about how bad the Astros are, how low their payroll is and how they are being rewarded for it in the form of profitability and draft picks. Buster basically accused the Astros of tanking the season. This morning Peter Gammons tweeted out the same, couching it as the Astros being “rewarded for losing.”

There are no factual inaccuracies in any of that. Yes, the Astros stink. Yes their payroll is low. Yes, they are being “rewarded” insofar as the worst team in baseball has been given the top draft pick since the advent of the draft nearly 50 years ago. But the critics seem to have it in for the Astros way more than your typical not-very-good major league team and I don’t really get it.

The Astros’ previous owners totally strip-mined that team. They left the minor league cupboard more than bare, in large part because they tried to squeeze way too much out of the Biggio-Bagwell years and put off rebuilding far too long. With the team in the gutter and Houston being about as low on the free agent-desirability list as it comes what, exactly, should the Astros have done differently than they have? Signed Michael Bourn or Josh Hamilton? That woulda been swell. They may have challenged for 60 wins in such an event and raised their TV ratings from 0.0 to 0.2 maybe.

The talk that Jeff Luhnow and his team of forward-thinking scouts and executives are geniuses poised to usher in a decade of Astros dominance can get a bit much at times — smarts are important and they have them but results are never guaranteed — but I am struggling to think of what else the Astros could have or should have done differently than they have. It is essential that they rebuild the farm system. It is essential that they not waste money on things that will not make the Astros better and put all efforts into things that will. Yes, that makes for a bad major league product at the moment, but there is no obvious way for them to have changed that while still rebuilding the franchise. This was not a 75-win franchise with some diamonds in the rough or otherwise good but injured players who needed a little boost to get back into contention. This was a tire fire.

And, if the system, rather than the Astros, is the problem, what changes do Olney and Gammons suggest we make to it? A salary floor? Neither of them have ever advocated for that to my knowledge and both stop short of doing so now. Changing the draft to a “make it take it” system in which the best teams in baseball draft first? Of course not. The system of talent distribution/development/payroll is the only one we have, is the best that anyone has come up with and it has been in place forever. Why is it now such a problem that the Astros are taking advantage of it? That’s the entire point of it.

Is it so galling to see a team lose 100 games multiple years in a row and to see them ending the season so poorly? Is it all the more galling to see a team losing because it simply lacks talent rather than because it lacks money and talent? Maybe that’s what the Astros’ critics are on about. I have no idea. All I do know is that nothing that the Astros are doing suggests that they particularly enjoy losing or want to continue losing. They simply stink and are doing what they can to get better while the system’s chips fall where they are designed to fall.

Or am I missing something?

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.