Running down the rosters: Houston Astros

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The 2012 Astros are pretty sure bets to lose 100 games, with the big question being whether they’ll top last year’s mark of 106 losses. That achievement will be tied to their ability to move the contracts of Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Carlos Lee. Ideally, they’d be able to sell off at least the latter two. Still, as marginal as Myers and Lee have become, they still rank among the team’s better players.

Rotation
Wandy Rodriguez – L
Brett Myers – R
Bud Norris – R
J.A. Happ – L
Livan Hernandez – R

Bullpen
Wilton Lopez – R
David Carpenter – R
Sergio Escalona – L
Wesley Wright – L
Juan Abreu – R
Fernando Rodriguez – R
Rhiner Cruz – R (Rule 5)

Disabled list: Brandon Lyon – R
SP next in line: Jordan Lyles (R), Zach Duke (L), Kyle Weiland (R), Henry Sosa (R), Paul Clemens (R), Lucas Harrell (R)
RP next in line: Fernando Abad (L), Aneury Rodriguez (R), Jose Valdez (R), Enerio Del Rosario (R)

I had Lyles penciled into the rotation before the Hernandez and Duke signings, but unless Rodriguez or Myers is dealt this spring, now it seems likely that he’ll get some additional minor league seasoning. That’s probably for the best. Lyles held his own in the majors last season, but he’s just 21 and he still has some work to do.

The bullpen will be one of the game’s least experienced even if Lyon makes it back from shoulder surgery and contributes this season. I think it’s a long shot that he’ll prove useful, but since he’s making $5.5 million, he’ll probably get a chance to close if he proves healthy. In the meantime, just about anyone could win the job. Lopez has far and away the best track record, but no one seems to buy him as a long-term option as a closer. Carpenter might be the better bet. Abreu has the best stuff of the group, but his control is awful.

I’m giving Cruz a spot initially, though I’m skeptical he’ll be of any use.

Lineup
CF Jordan Schafer – L
2B Jose Altuve – R
SS Jed Lowrie – S
1B Carlos Lee – R
LF J.D. Martinez – R
RF Brian Bogusevic – L
3B Jimmy Paredes – S
C Jason Castro – R

Bench
C Chris Snyder – R
INF Matt Downs – R
INF Marwin Gonzalez – S (Rule 5)
OF Jack Cust – L
OF Jason Bourgeois – R

Next in line: C Humberto Quintero (R), INF Angel Sanchez (R), 3B Chris Johnson (R), 1B Brett Wallace (L), INF-OF Brian Bixler (R), OF Travis Buck (L), OF Fernando Martinez (L), OF J.B. Shuck (L), OF Justin Ruggiano (R)

That’s the lineup of a team that simply doesn’t figure to score many runs. The Astros would probably be better off for 2012 with Downs at third base and Cust in left field, with Martinez sliding to right, but those make for small gains and they might as well see if Paredes and Bogusevic belong in their future plans. I’m not really expecting either to stick.

The more important players here are Schafer, Lowrie and Castro. If they can overcome their injury histories, then they might join Altuve on a competitive Astros team come 2014. No one from the group ever figures to become an All-Star (well, except for the fact that someone will have to represent the Astros in the Midsummer Classic), but they can be solid players at key positions. When the Astros are ready to contend again someday, it’ll be easier to upgrade at the corners than it will be up the middle.

Braves sign Marcell Ozuna to one-year, $18 million deal

Marcell Ozuna
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The Braves have announced on Tuesday evening the signing of free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that it’s a one-year contract for $18 million.

Ozuna, 29, hit .241/.328/.472 with 29 home runs, 89 RBI, 80 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 549 plate appearances for the Cardinals last season. He’s been consistently above-average in each of the past four seasons, which also included a career year in 2017 in which he was worth 6.1 WAR, per Baseball Reference.

It is surprising that Ozuna, a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, had to settle for a one-year deal. The Braves are happy he did as he will help make up for some of the offense lost when third baseman Josh Donaldson became a free agent and ultimately signed with the Twins. Ozuna can become a free agent again after the 2020 season but won’t have qualifying offer compensation attached to him, part of the reason why his market may have been slow to develop.

Along with Ozuna, the Braves have signed in free agency this offseason reliever Will Smith, starter Cole Hamels, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud. They re-signed relievers Chris Martin and Darren O'Day, catcher Tyler Flowers, infielder Adeiny Hechavarría, and outfielder Nick Markakis.