|Could this be the new face of your favorite franchise?|
I'll wait for you to stop laughing...
Seriously, can I get on with this thing?
The Houston Astros have been one of the quietest teams of the 2024-15 offseason. There was some talk about them being the highest bidder on Andrew Miller (why would Houston go big on a reliever?), but not much after that. Position wise they probably feel like they have enough young players coming up through the system to try and hold tight for 2015 to see what they have.
Starting pitching wise paints an interesting picture. The arrive of Dallas Keuchel (about to be 27 year old w/ a 2014 ERA+ of 133) and Collin McHugh (27 yo; 2014 ERA+ 143 in 25 starts), and the steady veteran presence of Scott Feldman (more or less an average pitcher) the Astros already have the foundation of a fairly solid pitching rotation. Who else rounds out that rotation is anybody's guess, but should be some mixture of Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock, etc. are young and cheap, but hardly inspiring options.
This is where Mad Max fits in to the picture. Houston could really use an established "ace" at the top of their rotation. Some one to lead that staff and show all these young players how to get the job done year after year. Also, some one to convince people that the Astros are at team that wants to win and will go to the lengths necessary to do it. And finally, they need Max Scherzer to just plain win some games for them.
A similar parallel that I pointed out in the James Shields post from last week is the 2015 Houston Astros and the 2011 Washington Nationals. Everyone panned that Nats that offseason when they gave big money to Jayson Werth, but they had to shell out that kind of coin to attract a free agent (BTW Werth has been worth the money). The Nats were also loaded with prospects coming up through the system after years of terrible records. The Astros find themselves in a very similar position. Years of poor finishes have restocked the Astros system (ranked no. 5 in 2014 by BaseballProspectus.com) and their projected 2015 payroll is just a hair under $40mil (MLBTradeRumors.com). The Astros could certainly use that promising foundation and financial flexibility to attract a big fish like Scherzer.
Now could be the time for the Astros to make their big splash. They could wait a year and jump in on the 2015-16 SP FA crop or they could steal the headlines now and sign Scherzer to that big money contract that Scott Boras usually delivers his clients. I think that the Andrew Miller angle tells us that the Astros are already looking to open up their pocket books and possibly make a run at a franchise altering player. Who better than a former Cy Young winner and rotation cornerstone?
You will continue to hear a lot of speculation about Scherzer in the coming weeks. The Yankees will keep coming up. The Tigers or the Dodgers will always be around. Even the Nats and the Red Sox (Scherzer is NOT signing with either of these teams) will seem like logical destinations to some. But when you hear that a mystery team is in on him, remember the Astros. They make a lot more sense that it seems.