How far have recent moves by Luhnow made a swift return to respectability more likely?
Coming into the offseason, Astros fans probably had a wishlist, a separate one to that ownership and league switching stuff.
In order of priority:
1) Do not under any circumstances re-sign Jason Michaels.
This has been swiftly and decisively achieved. Michaels is now with the Nationals.
None of these look like happening. The Yankees have signed Hiroki Kuroda and made a deal for Michael Pineda, the Red Sox went for cheap options in Aaron Cook and others. The Colorado Rockies, who claimed Wandy Rodriguez last summer have reached their payroll limit for 2012 already. The Detroit Tigers have already made their splash for Prince Fielder this week.
3) Do something about the uniforms/logo/mascot/identity of the franchise
It was initially announced that Pam Gardner would stay within the franchise, but she left voluntarily last week, much to the dismay of Red Sox fans everywhere. The playing of 'Sweet Caroline' incensed most of the fanbase and was the last straw and a terrible black mark against what was a truly terrible marketing organisation. Even when they milked Hunter Pence, the Phillies eclipsed everything the Astros achieved in about 10 minutes with the 'good game, let's go eat', catchphrase.
A total return to the 80s rainbow colour scheme may be too far, but a smart adaptation with a return to the starred H, would be popular. As has been alluded to several times, Junction Jack should be taken out the back and shot. Changing the name of the Astros however, too far. Perhaps they just put out the wrong press release.
4) Raid the free agent bargain bin
As free agent pickings go Jack Cust and Chris Snyder are fair acquisitions. Zack Duke was signed to a minor league deal, and maybe he will stick in the rotation or be shunted sideways to the bullpen as the long-man. Cust and Snyder for the price they were available at were both semi steals. Jason Castro will likely not be ready for opening day and the move spares us any more Carlos Corporan at bats in 2012, just as the Jed Lowrie acquisition has led to Angel Sanchez being DFA'd. Fernando Martinez should probably be added to this list, but as has been previously mentioned Luhnow can't get much credit for a no-brainer of a waiver claim.
This plays out quite straighforward until you read this. Luhnow is going after Roy Oswalt? Huh? If $10m is Roy's price range, and the Tigers declined offer would suggest that is the amount they thought a deal could be done at, then that figure would represent the amount Wandy Rodriguez will receive in 2012. Not only would Luhnow take one of the better arms off the market, he would possibly drive up the demand for Rodriguez's services. If he wants to flip Oswalt at the deadline, that would also make sense for the Astros, but not for Oswalt.
Why would Roy consider coming back to Houston now of all times. The franchise is a bit of a mess right now. And St. Louis and Texas just makes more sense, since they are both contenders. Ken Rosenthal says the Cardinals probably need to move Westbrook or Lohse to get a deal done, unless there is an injury they have kept quiet, while the Rangers addition of Darvish and Oswalt would make them formidable in the AL West in 2012 (they will reportedly meet on Monday).
Of course this could be all hokum, or Luhnow just testing the waters, or perhaps he's just hoping to muddy the waters for other teams. Oswalt would be a marquee name if ownership did manage to move Rodriguez and Brett Myers. I assumed there would be an attendance bounce, but looking at 2010 before his move to the Phillies, the average attendance for Oswalt's starts was 29,231 while those made by others were 27,318.
But is there really a market for Wandy left? The Tigers will reportedly fill their fifth-rotation spot with an in-house candidate. Edwin Jackson is reportedly willing to take a one-year deal to pitch in Boston, who seemed unwilling to sign him to a multi-year contract. Luhnow may have to wait until July to get what he needs back for Rodriguez, and hopes he has a dominant first half of 2012.
Overall, you know, business as usual for the Astros' new GM.