If you’re going to rip Jeff Luhnow, do it now.
With Houston Astros pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training tomorrow, the offseason is officially over.
Free agents have been signed. Trades have been made.
Considering how playoff expansion has undercut mid-season trades, what you see tomorrow — at the club’s brand new facility in Palm Beach County, Fla. — is likely what you’re going to get in 2017.
So, if you’re going to rip the GM, don’t do it in September, if (when?) the team falls short of your expectations.
Do it now, and say where he whiffed, specifically.
Luhnow was busy this offseason, landing catcher Brian McCann via trade from the New York Yankees, and signing outfielders Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki. Considering Jason Castro, Carlos Gomez and Colby Rasmus were literally some of the worst offensive players in the sport at their respective positions, the help is more than welcome.
Add that to a lineup that already boasts Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman, and the Astros should be closer to what they were, offensively, in 2015, as opposed to last season.
But then, there’s the starting pitching and the bullpen.
Little went right for the Astros starting rotation last season. Dallas Keuchel had one of the worst Cy Young hangovers we’ve ever seen. Lance McCullers emerged as a phenom, in every sense of the word, but was also nagged by elbow injuries.
If healthy and “on,” Keuchel and McCullers could be among baseball’s best 1-2 combinations. Then again, sports history is a graveyard of GMs and coaches who lost their jobs to “if.”
Collin McHugh, Jose Musgrove and Charlie Morton — who signed in free agency, brings a 4.55 career ERA as a starter and likely replaces Doug Fister — likely round out the rotation.
Maybe they should have traded for Chris Sale, who got gotten by the Red Sox in one of the biggest Winter Meeting blockbusters in recent history… in exchange for, among others, MLB.com’s No. 1 prospect, Yoan Moncada and fellow top 100 prospect Michael Kopech.
Should Luhnow have dangled a package of prospects headlined by Bregman, their former No. 2 overall pick?
What about Aroldis Chapman, who signed with the Yankees for 5 years, $86 million, and comes with all kinds of baggage?
Though starting pitching and the bullpen leave something to be desired, there isn’t a staff in baseball you can feel good about. Though their importance rivals quarterbacks in the NFL, and stars in the NBA, their collective durability has reached epidemic proportions.
Maybe Luhnow is putting his money where he thinks it’s safe, in the lineup. Maybe he’s too gun shy to make the type of moves necessary to build a championship caliber roster.
But whatever you say about him or the team, just make sure you say it now.
Matt hosts Saturdays from 1-4 pm on SportsRadio 610. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter @MattHammond