First and foremost, the Houston Astros should be commended for their recent additions of Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek; a 911 call to its bullpen was at the top of their Christmas list — 73 save-situation meltdowns combined with a 4.69 ERA over the last three campaigns will leave an organization scrambling to stop the bleeding.
Now, the problem at hand: according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Astros have thrown their hat in the diamond-ring to acquire the services of Philadelphia Phillies‘ southpaw Cole Hamels; becoming the “sleeper team” of would-be suitors.
Existing as a bottom feeder has brought shame to this franchise for far too long. The aforementioned three-year span comes attached with a 176 – 310 overall record, an average season of 59 wins and 103 losses, and a declining popularity level within the city’s sports pyramid — hook, line, and sinker.
A little Bad News Bears, circa 1977, reversal of fortune, perhaps?
There is a reason the Chicago Cubs‘ have skyrocketed up Las Vegas’ 2015 World Series hierarchy; opening at 45/1, currently siting at 14/1 — capitalizing on a team making headlines to induce betting is just one side of the story, the contrary angle resides with the Cubbies actually on the cusp of substantial and prolonged progress.
What brings the Cubs into that conversation? … Well, for starters, a proper brand has been rebuilt. A youth movement takes time; knowing when to jump on a high-level asset to meet the same clock is what takes a team to the next level — insert Jon Lester‘s $155 million (plus $30 million signing bonus) contract, here.
As for Houston, let’s paraphrase everybody’s favorite detective, Bunk Moreland: “That’s your problem. Making a splash when it ain’t your turn to make a splash.”
The agony of the annual defeat does own a positive spin for the Astros, however. The ability to stockpile draft picks has turned Houston’s up and comers into one of MLB’s great envies — do you attempt to land Hamels and risk depleting what you’ve already constructed?
What’s the lefty’s price-tag? … Without a doubt, a lofty expectation. Philadelphia is in need of a makeover in their own right, but no transaction will take place without top-tier talent shipped the other way.
Whether it’s the likes of George Springer (power/speed breakout candidate), Carlos Correa (across the board contributor), Mark Appel (future staff ace), or Domingo Santana (the man that stands 6’5″, weighing in at 225 pounds, who slugged at .474 clip on the farm) — Houston must resist the urge to cut ties with its young guns.
This squad still occupies stages of develpoment. Why mortgage your future, plus the chemistry already cultivated for a player who doesn’t complete the puzzle?
If the Cubs fall flat, a financial burden is the outcome. An Astros’ debacle on the other hand, holds much more sizeable implications.
The Astrodome crowd concurs. Let the kids play!
Michael Holian, MLB Correspondent for Baseball Essential
You can follow him on Twitter @Michael_Holian