Have the Astros gotten better?
With most of their major offseason shopping done, the Astros will be limited to adding a few non-roster players between now and the start in Spring Training in two months. In a whirlwind few days at the Winter Meetings earlier this month, the Astros said goodbye to Jose Valverde, LaTroy Hawkins and Miguel Tejada and hello to Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon and Pedro Feliz.
There’s no doubt the Astros got a little bit younger, but did they get better? Valverde and Hawkins at the back end of the bullpen are certainly a better option and more proven than Lindstrom and Lyon. Tejada, even though he’s declining in his mid-30s, would have been a better option at third base than Feliz.
When you consider the economics, the Astros had to move in another direction. Valverde, Hawkins and Tejada made a combined $26 million last season. Owner Drayton McLane wants to cut the payroll to about $95 million from last season’s $107 million, and getting rid of Tejada and Valverde pretty much accomplished that. They would have loved to have Hawkins back, but Milwaukee swooped in and signed him.
Lindstrom is still arbitration eligible and comes at a relative bargain considering his age and his stuff, but Lyon is getting paid $5 million per season. Many around baseball believe the Astros overpaid for Lyon, but it’s not like they gave Carlos Lee a six-year, $100 million deal. Spending a little extra money for a proven pitcher doesn’t make the Astros dumb.
Of course, no matter how good these new additions are, it’s all going to come down to starting pitching. And the Astros are going to need some of their young arms to step up next year — Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, Wesley Wright or Wilton Lopez. If at least one of these guys doesn’t plug one of the gaps in the rotation, it won’t matter what Lindstrom and Lyon are able to provide.