The Astros officially changed hands back in November of 2011. Houston business man Jim Crane purchased the team for $615 million. Crane received a discount when he agreed to move the team from the National League Central division to the American League West. In moving the Astros to the AL, MLB has put into place a major overhaul of its playoff structure and season scheduling. How does this effect new general manager Jeff Luhnow’s approach to putting a competitive team on the field.
The last few seasons haven’t been kind to the Astros. They made the World Series in 2005 but have since plummeted in the standings and have shed a lot of their talent. In that time span, the Astros said goodbye to, among others, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers, Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, Wandy Rodriguez and Chris Johnson. Jose Altuve is the one a few bright spots currently in the Astros lineup.
Luckily for the Astros they won’t be the only team in their division that is struggling to put together a winning season. The big hurdles will be overcoming the power house Texas Rangers who not only have a good team at the major league level but have a great deal of depth throughout their minor league system. The Los Angeles Angels will also pose a problem being a large market team with deep pockets.
So what should Luhnow do? Coming into the 2012 season the Astros’ farm system was ranked 18th out of 30 according to Baseball America. Mike Elias, the Astros new scouting director will have his work cut out for him. The Astros will have to change the organizational mind set of how they develop their team. No longer will they have the automatic out in the 9th slot of the lineup. The DH will play a big factor and will allow for some room in signing a potential older big bat to mentor some of the younger talent.
I could easily see the Astros trying to bring Lance Berkman back into the fold next season. Though not a long term solution he would provide exactly the type of leadership and bat the Astros would need in the middle of their lineup. At DH Berkman would be able to keep himself healthier as well. However, Berkman has been vocal about the Astros move to the AL and he hasn’t minced words. “I feel basically like the commissioner extorted Jim Crane into moving the Astros.” His comments have been directed at Bud Selig mainly and this shouldn’t pose a problem in him returning to the fold.
Jonathan Singleton, the Astros top prospect will be important to the long term success of the team. The 20 year old first basemen came over in the Hunter Pence trade. No longer stuck behind Ryan Howard Singleton is expected to make his big league debut in 2013. He is currently hitting .280 with 19 home runs and 76 RBI in 120 games for AA Corpus Christi.
Luhnow and Elias need to focus on building up their minor league system develop some long term success. The timing of the move the American League will help as well since they won’t be expected to compete, the playing field will be somewhat level and they are in a position to reshape the team how then need to be for the future.
What would you do if you were in Luhnow’s place?