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When will the window be closed?

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by Snake Diggit, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. Snake Diggit

    Snake Diggit Member

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    There’s been consistent debate about how “all-in” Houston should go this offseason, so I thought it might make a decent thread.

    Many of us think Houston should be willing to trade any prospects and spend any money necessary to field the absolute best 2019 roster possible, citing the following reasons:
    -7 pending free agents on the pitching staff, including Verlander and Cole
    -Injury risk surrounding McCullers, Correa, and Altuve
    -The lack of enough prospects in the system who profile to be able to replace core players as they reach free agency

    Then there are many of us who think Houston should take a longer term approach, citing these reasons:
    -Altuve, Correa, and Bregman all being under contract thru 2021
    -Luhnow’s documented ability to develop prospects, including several already in the system (Tucker, Whitley, Alvarez, JBB, Martin, etc.)
    -Potential available payroll and additional draft picks as core players reach free agency

    I’ve put some thought into it, and the tipping point I think I would use for when a competing team should rebuild is this: when a team cannot field a group of 6 (or less) players who project for a total of 25 WAR and represent <50% of the total payroll. With those conditions met, a team will always have enough core talent to be competitive and enough payroll flexibility to add to that core talent to field a championship contender.

    The current group has featured Altuve, Springer, Correa, Bregman, Cole, and Verlander (along with Keuchel, who is now gone) as star players. For 2019, those 6 project for 28.3 WAR with total salaries of $60.4M. So I don’t think anyone would contend that Houston should start a rebuild this offseason. And I also think we’d all agree that Houston should keep the window open as long as possible, without ignoring reality.

    But there will very likely come a day when the Astros cannot present a core that meets the requirements I listed above. When will that be? That depends on a lot of very unpredictable factors, led by the continued health and production of the current star players who they control into future seasons as well as the front office’s ability to identify and develop cheap star talent. Based on my (very) rough estimates, unless Houston is able to add cheap star players via the draft or otherwise, extend one of their current core players at below market value, or is able to afford a payroll >$180M, they will need to rebuild after the 2021 season, when Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Roberto Osuna reach free agency.

    The 2020 season will be the last season of the big 4 (Springer, Altuve, Correa, Bregman). Lance McCullers, Forrest Whitley, Josh James, and others will lead the rotation. Houston will have to spend money and/or prospects to reload the pitching staff, but there should be plenty of resources to field a championship caliber team.

    2021 will see Springer leave, but Bregman, Correa, and Altuve still present enough affordable talent to warrant continuing contention, assuming Houston is able to find 2-3 really good (but maybe not quite star level) cheap players. For this exercise, I am assuming that Whitley, McCullers, and Tucker will add to Altuve/Bregman/Correa to get them over the 25 WAR hump while accounting for less than $90M total.

    But by 2022, unless they unearth a cheap superstar, the run may be over. Correa will reach free agency, where he will be playing elsewhere and paid $40M+, leaving an aging, expensive Altuve and arbitration eligible Bregman as the only remaining members of the current offensive core. On the pitching side, Lance McCullers, Chris Devenski, and Roberto Osuna will be gone, leaving zero members of the 2018 pitching staff remaining. By that point, trading Bregman and whichever other valuable veteran players they have should make the rebuild much less painful than the one they began in 2011.

    That said, the possibility certainly exists that Houston will indeed be able to develop a replacement core. Forrest Whitley could be a young Verlander. Kyle Tucker might be Christian Yellich. Yordan Alvarez could be David Ortiz. But the odds are stacked heavily against even one of those comps playing out, much less all 3.

    So there’s my assessment. What say you? When do you think it will be time to tear it down?
     
    #1 Snake Diggit, Nov 25, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
  2. Major

    Major Member
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    My opinion is that I think it's insane to try to project a roster 3 years out. :) Just look at the 2015 Astros - could you have foreseen most of the current roster? The same will be true 3 years from now, thru endless FA signings and trades.
     
  3. Snake Diggit

    Snake Diggit Member

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    Not projecting 3+ years out is how you end up like the 2010 Astros. Yes, the predictions are likely to be largely inaccurate. But GMs should be able to get a general idea for when their competitive window will close. Rebuilding takes years. Knowing when to start a rebuild can save an organization 2-3 years of fielding mediocre teams who have no realistic chance of winning but also are failing to build toward the next winner.
     
  4. Redfish81

    Redfish81 Member

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    Hard to know. The Astros could extend their window for years if even a few of the guys like Tucker, Whitley, Beer, JBB, etc turn into all star players. The Astros will most likely never be a top 3 or 4 team in terms of payroll. They need to be selective on which players they give large contracts and contiune to develop players from the draft and international signings. Baseball is the hardest sport to predict draft picks success in MLB. You never know when a 7th round pick is going to turn into Dallas Keuchel, or the 1st pick turns into a Mark Appel.

    Another thought that popped into my head is if for some reason the Astros struggle big time out of the gate in 2019 they could have the mother of all firesales at the All-star break..... Verlander, Cole, Springer, McHugh, Pressly, Rondon, Smith, etc. They would have an absolutely stacked farm system again to go along with Bregman, Correa, Altuve, Whitley, McCullers, etc

    Of course, I fully expect them to run away with the division since Seattle is selling, Texas is awful, Angels have no pitching, and Oakland likely won't be the same without Manaea and some of their free agents leaving.
     
    #4 Redfish81, Nov 25, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
  5. sealclubber1016

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    Good organizations don't have to rebuild.

    Will we have to step back and retool for a year or two, probably. But if we have to go full rebuild Luhnow screwed up.
     
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  6. Major

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    That depends if you're just building up and tearing down, or trying to constantly replace your core piece by piece. Lots of middle-payroll teams like the 1990s-2000s Atlanta & St. Louis, even the Astros from 1996 to 2006, just try to keep changing out pieces and remaining competitive instead of doing a full rebuild.

    The way you end up as the 2010 Astros is by failing at both the major league and minor league level.
     
  7. CometsWin

    CometsWin Listening to Tupac Westsiiiiide
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    The window to win a World Series is closed after this season imho.
     
  8. Stros4me

    Stros4me Member

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    Thanks for the in-depth speculation. I do think you are leaving out the possibilities of free agent signings and trades as the years unfold.
     
  9. sealclubber1016

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    Why?

    We didn't have Cole or Verlander in mid-2017 and we were gonna win 100 games.

    We nearly beat the would be champs in 2015, and could have won it all that year.
     
  10. Snake Diggit

    Snake Diggit Member

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    Yes. But a midmarket team can’t sustain a contender just with free agent signings and trades. If they aren’t able to produce enough star players internally then eventually they will have to rebuild.
     
  11. Stros4me

    Stros4me Member

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    When do the cardinals start ‘rebuilding?’
     
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  12. Stros4me

    Stros4me Member

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    #cardinals?
     
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  13. Snake Diggit

    Snake Diggit Member

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    The Cardinals have continued to produce star players internally. Of their 8 position players projected for 2+ fWAR in 2019, 6 were produced internally. 5 of their 6 SP were developed internally. And I would argue that the last few seasons the Cardinals have not really been World Series contenders. Playoff contenders, sure. But their teams have not been in the same talent level as the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros. So the Cardinals can serve as a good example of how a midmarket team can stay competitive long term without ever rebuilding, but I’m not sure they serve as an example of a sustained championship contender, and there’s certainly nothing about the way they have been run that discounts anything I laid out in my original post.
     
  14. Snake Diggit

    Snake Diggit Member

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    When they want to have a real chance of beating teams as good as the Dodgers, Red Sox, Astros, and Yankees. Their current roster projects to be a full 10 wins worse than the real contenders, and they’re not even currently favored to win their division.
     
  15. Stros4me

    Stros4me Member

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    That’s a flawed model. You don’t tear down your team in order to improve a few positions.
     
  16. Stros4me

    Stros4me Member

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    The correct way to fix that is to look for a few good pieces to improve your team. These pieces could come internally or externally. You certainly don’t go into full rebuild mode when you are only a ‘playoff contender.’
     
  17. Snake Diggit

    Snake Diggit Member

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    It depends on the goal. If you want to win the World Series, you do. You have to have controllable stars/superstars. If you want to just field a good team that you know is extremely unlikely to ever win it all, then you can be like the Cardinals.
     
  18. Snake Diggit

    Snake Diggit Member

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    That’s how you end up like the 2009 Astros. They were just a Miguel Tejeda trade away!
     
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  19. Major

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    If you look at just the last few years, this is true - the Cubs, Astros, and Red Sox were all arguably the best team in baseball or at least one of the top 2 or 3. But prior to that, bottom-tier playoff teams regularly won the World Series. The 2 recent Cardinals championships, for example, were 88 and 90 win wild card teams. San Fran also won their last one as an 88 win wild card team and their other two were not as the best-team-in-baseball tier teams. Making the playoffs regularly is a legitimate way to win a World Series.

    Teams can build either way, but I'd much prefer an 8-10+ year window of being consistently really good than a 2-3 year window of being great and then several years of rebuild and forgetting all the players anyone cared about. Beyond that, you have to consider human nature - no matter how much analytics is involved, you can be sure Crane and Luhnow, once they experienced the feeling and stadium energy of winning, don't want to go back to the rebuilding days. Same with fans.
     
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  20. Joe Joe

    Joe Joe Contributing Member
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    I'm guessing most teams probably project out about 5 years. In 2015, it should have been easy to see Astros would likely have Altuve, Springer, Correa. While it is impossible to project who would be around those guys, it was very easy in 2015 to see that they likely had money to add some guys and had prospects (to trade or to keep) to have a very good team in 2019. Verlander and Cole trades really elevated this team from very good to great.
     
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