The baseball world descended on Orlando, Fla., yesterday to begin what should be a whirlwind week of rumors, innuendo and baseball writers hounding general managers all through a hotel lobby.
What does it mean for the Houston Astros?
Well, first off, let's review Ed Wade's shopping list. I've talked about this before over at TCB, but it's worth mentioning that Wade had three big priorities heading into the offseason:
1) Help at shortstop
2) Depth in the rotation
3) Platoon bat for left field
That's not what many fans would want, especially since that "rotation depth" is not Cliff Lee. Instead, the Astros will probably make a strong play for another cheap, yet high-upside arm like former Colorado starter Jeff Francis. The Astros have already seen Francis a couple of time this winter and are among a handful of teams to express interest in the left-hander.
Houston has already addressed the need at shortstop with the Clint Barmes trade, but don't let that keep you from reading about potential deals. Just look at this report from the Minnesota Star Tribune, which reports that six teams have had interest in Twins starter J.J. Hardy. That's despite the fact that three of those teams (Houston, St. Louis, San Francisco) have already addressed the shortstop position in some way this offseason. Yes, Hardy would probably be an upgrade over Barmes/Tejada/Theriot, but it makes the rumor a little less substantial.
There is also the fresh rumor floating around about the Astros wanting to cut payroll in the wake of a potential sale. Take this for what its worth. The two guys floated as possible candidates are Keppinger and Lindstrom. Kepp had an excellent year in 2010 and the team seems very high on him. To move Kepp would take a fairly substantial haul, so don't expect it to happen. Lindstrom, on the other hand, struggled with injuries and inconsistency down the stretch and could probably be had for fairly cheap. You never know about these things, but since the reason (payroll cutting) flies directly in the face of public comments Wade made after the sale, I think this could just be rumor too.
And that's what you're going to hear a lot of this week. "Wade, ChiSox are talking Lee deal" or "Wade, Padres discuss Heath Bell." 99.9 percent of the rumors will turn out to be nothing, but Wade does like making Winter Meeting deals, so don't be surprised if the Astros come away with a couple new players this week.