Posted on January 23, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
One of the biggest winners of the baseball offseason has to be the Houston Astros. Perhaps wisely so, the Astros were active early in the winter and have put together what on paper looks like one of the best offensive lineups in baseball. However, we’ve heard little from the Astros of late, and over the weekend Houston GM Jeff Luhnow implied that the team is done for the winter and won’t make any impactful moves between now and the start of spring training.
“I feel good about the roster we have right now,” Luhnow said at a fan event over the weekend. “The roster we have is probably the roster we’re going to have to start the season. We’re always open to considering ways to improve it, but right now I’d set the expectations low there’s going to be any major changes. We’ve got a good roster of guys that I think can compete for the division title this year.”
Luhnow’s words are notable because the Astros have been one of the teams most frequently linked to some of the top starting pitchers available on the trade market, most notably Jose Quintana and Sonny Gray. A week ago, there were reports that teams were increasing their offers to the Chicago White Sox for Quintana, and it was assumed that the Astros were one of those teams. There were also reports last week that Houston had been in contact with the Oakland Athletics about Gray, perhaps as a fallback option. If the Astros are no longer engaged in trade talks for a starter, it drastically changes the outlook on those pitchers being traded, particularly Quintana.
Despite the Astros being closely linked to several starters via trade this winter, Luhnow is confident in the starters Houston already has in place. “We feel like we’ve got enough depth in the rotation that we’ll have five guys in our rotation that are going to be able to compete every night, and our offense is going to keep us in games,” explained Luhnow.
The caveat is that both Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers ended last season on the DL, and so the Astros need to ensure both are healthy and ready to go when spring training gets underway next month. This has Luhnow keeping the door slightly ajar for a possible move.
“I think we’re in a good spot. It doesn’t mean I don’t consider opportunities to bring someone in that can slot toward the middle or top half of our rotation,” he said, adding, “I’m not expecting anything to happen, but it’s something that we definitely consider on an ongoing basis.”
If healthy, the Astros will have Keuchel, McCullers, and Collin McHugh leading their rotation, with free agent signee Charlie Morton penciled in as the no. 4 starter. That leaves Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove, and Brad Peacock battling for the fifth spot during spring training. In Luhnow’s mind, that’s enough, at least until the season gets started.
“Once we start the season and see how our guys are doing, then obviously we react,” Luhnow said. “If we feel like we need to go out and get somebody, we’ll make that happen. But if we don’t, then we probably saved ourselves a few prospects.”
So while Luhnow has pumped the brakes on the Astros making any big moves before the start of the season, he is at least cognizant that Houston’s current crop of starters may not be enough to carry them throughout the entire season. If the Astros need to add a top-flight starter in 2017, Luhnow appears ready to go out and do it; it just won’t happen before the start of the season.