Winter Meetings may be quiet for Astros
Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith, general manager Ed Wade, assistant general managers Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck and the rest of the club’s front-office crew arrived in chilly Indianapolis late Sunday in advance of baseball’s Winter Meetings.
The Winter Meetings begin Monday and figure to bring some wheeling and dealing, but the Astros likely won’t be making much news. They don’t have a lot of money to spend and don’t have many tradable commodities, but you can’t rule out Wade from doing something.
The No. 1 piece of news figures to come Monday when the Astros find out if closer Jose Valverde accepted arbitration. If he did, he’s a signed player and will return for 2010 at probably around $10 million. If he rejects and signs with another team, the Astros get two draft picks.
Yes, the Astros need starting pitching like every team, but they aren’t in the market for big-name starting pitchers because the market is expensive. Wade wants to add some bench depth, beef up the back end of the bullpen and he will explore third base options.
Houston has already re-signed Geoff Blum to play third base and also can put Jeff Keppinger at third, but Wade would like to beef up the offense at third base if possible.
“We like the job Geoff Blum has done us the last two years or we wouldn’t have signed him,” Wade said. “Geoff did a tremendous job for us defensively and has done a pretty good job overall. We just look at our situation, and if there’s a way to tweak the offense a little bit, we’ll try to do something like that.
“Keppinger can play over there, and [Blum and Keppinger] did a good job for us. Both can play around in the infield and help us. Keppinger’s a very professional hitter and did a good job after he came over here. We’ve got Chris Johnson, and we still think he had a chance to be an outstanding big league player, whether that happens on Opening Day this year or down the road remains to be seen.”
The Astros’ starting outfield of Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence is set, and it appears Tommy Manzella could begin the season at shortstop. The right side of the infield has returning starters in Kaz Matsui (second base) and Lance Berkman (first base).
At catcher, Humberto Quintero, J.R. Towles and Jason Castro will compete for the two roster spots, barring some additional roster moves between now and February. There is a chance to the Astros could be in a low-cost free agent to be in the mix.