By Will Martin
Baseball’s Winter Meetings are now in full swing in grapefruit country. Lake Buena Vista is a virtual hotbed of talks and rumors and speculation and scenarios. Usually it seems the big market teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, and Dodgers make all the big splashes this time of year.
Robinson Cano to Seattle for 240 million? What changed in 13 years that A-Rod couldn’t make that and stay a Mariner? Is Jeff Kemp next?
With the start of spring training about 60 days away for the pitchers and catchers there have been some curious acquisitions for the Houston Astros to begin 2014, hopefully ending it on a much higher note than 2013.
On December 6th the Astros signed one time Texas Ranger Scott Feldman to a three year deal through 2016. Prior to splitting up 30 starts with the Cubs and Orioles in 2013, eight years were spent in Arlington where his best season was in 2009 as a starter with a 17-8 record. This trade in my estimation fills a void left behind by Bud Norris.
“We wanted an experienced starter to anchor our pitching staff,” said Luhnow. “Scott is a great fit with our club. He throws strikes and gets ground balls, and will be a great example for the rest of our young rotation.”
Feldman has a career record of 51-56 and a 4.62 era. In 2013 Scott was 12-12 with a 3.62 era pitching for two clubs outside of Texas.
In a sign that the Houston brass is ready to spend a little money and get past the stigma of three straight 100 loss seasons-111 in 2013-Houston dealt pitcher Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes to the Colorado Rockies for an established speedster in outfielder Dexter Fowler.
Fowler in 2013 hit .263 with 12 home runs, 42 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 65 walks in 119 games with Colorado starting in center field. 106 of those games he was a starter. On paper it would look to be a no no-brainer to have a starting lineup of Fowler at leadoff and Jose Altuve bat second or vice versa. Fans of Michael Bourn will be happy with the intangible a Dexter Fowler shall bring.
“We’re going to continue to look at both avenues [trades and free agency], but we’ve been talking to a lot of different players and their representatives,” GM Jefrey Luhnow said. “We’d like to bring in a couple of players.”
In other Astro happenings at Lake Buena Vista there was talk about Jose Veras making a return to Houston but no confirmation from Jeffrey Luhnow for the moment. We can confirm that San Diego Padres righty reliever Anthony Bass will be playing in Houston out of the bullpen in 2014 along with a player to be named later for cash considerations and what may end up being a Rule 5 draft pick that San Diego would get before the Astros.
“I’m not going to comment on specific players we haven’t reached an agreement with, but we are looking for options to improve our pitching, and Bass is a nice option,” Luhnow said.
Last week Chad Qualls, was signed a two-year deal with an option last week. The Astros also added Darin Downs and Raul Valdes to their bullpen mix this offseason.
“We’re going to give [manager] Bo [Porter] a lot of options this spring to pick guys that are going to help us get outs,” Luhnow said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress. We’re not done and we’re looking at every opportunity out there.”
Now that the winter meetings are about to come to an end is the wheeling and dealing done?
“There are still some moves we may make,” Porter said. “We’re always looking to upgrade our roster. You look at the first base position, another bullpen arm, maybe another starter. It’s areas that we would definitely look at to improve from the free-agent market to the trade market, and we’ll just see what happens.”
Having Scott Feldman as a #2 or #3 starter on a young staff is a definite plus!
Spring training just around the corner and 2014 will begin the same way 2013 ended… with the New York Yankees in town.