New Astros first baseman Carlos Pena was the most significant offseason addition by GM Jeff Luhnow. (23) Mandatory credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros Offseason: The Winter of Houston's Discontent

The Houston Astros offseason was a difficult one for fans of the team.

Houston heroes Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were shut out from the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Killer B’s were the core of a successful Houston franchise that reached the postseason six times in the from the mid 1990’s to the mid 2000’s..

During the offseason, no significant upgrades were made to an Astros team that has two consecutive 100 loss seasons. Last years team had a run differential of -211, only the 2010 Pirates were worse in the past five years. Making matters worse, owner Jim Crane agreed to move his franchise to the rugged AL West from the mild NL Central.

Judging by the 2013 offseason signings and trades, Crane has already waved the white flag and is angling for a second consecutive top overall draft pick during the 2014 offseason. Planning for the future is fine, but Houston ownership and management owe their paying customers a semblance of a major league team.

GM Jeff Luhnow went shopping in the discount aisle and turned up Carlos Pena. The first baseman is the only addition that should open 2013 as a starter. He hit 19 homers in 2013 as a Cub, but hit less than .200 and slugged at a paltry .354.

Philip Humber was selected off waivers from the White Sox. The former third overall pick is on his fifth team since 2007 and is trying to avoid being tagged as a bust. After throwing a perfect game in April, Humber disappointed the rest of the season going 5-5 with the White Sox. The Astros are counting on Humber being a significant member of the starting staff.

Jed Lowrie, his $2.4 million dollar contract and 16 home runs were dumped to the Oakland A’s for right handed hitting 1B/DH Chris Carter. A middle infielder with significant pop is a valuable commodity.  Cornerman/DH types who hit 16 home runs are more common. Luhnow and the Astros could have found Jack Cust drinking protein shakes at a Golds Gym or Wily Mo Pena playing beer league softball and kept Lowrie.  Either erstwhile St. Louis Cardinal Tyler Greene or Marwin Gonzalez are now the starting shortstop by default.

Pitcher Brad Peacock was also acquired in the Lowrie trade. Peacock was the fourth rated prospect in the A’s system by Baseball America entering 2013. However, Peacock had a rough 2012, pitching to a 6.01 ERA at Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League. Peacock figures to challenge for a spot in the rotation.

The trade of Lowrie reduced the Astros estimated opening day payroll to about $25 million, or roughly what Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton will average per year for the Angels.

The high point of the offseason may have been minor league prospect Jarred Cosart starting the Arizona Fall League Prospects Showcase in November. The Astros farm system has found success, leading the U.S. based minor leagues in winning percentage in 2012. Prospects like Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and George Springer may soon lead a Houston revival.

The revival will not happen in 2013, the Astros may be historically bad. Hopefully for Astros fans, the prospects that are currently developing and future first round picks can begin to turn the franchise around.

Tags: Houston Astros

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