Luhnow 'confident' Astros will make moves to help team

Luhnow 'confident' Astros will make moves to help team

HOUSTON -- As the Astros prepare to head to San Diego next week for the Winter Meetings, general manager Jeff Luhnow still has a lot of work to do to improve the club. He's been working the phone for weeks trying to acquire relief pitching and beef up the offense on the infield, and things tend to heat up when GMs and agents are under the same roof for a few days.

Luhnow said leaving San Diego with a deal in place isn't a must considering Spring Training is still more than two months away, but it won't be from a lack of effort. Luhnow took some time Thursday to answer from questions from about where the club stands heading to San Diego in terms of what it's trying to accomplish, as well as a look at the future of some players currently on the roster. As you head to the Winter Meetings, where do you stand in terms of being close to making a roster move?

Luhnow: The Winter Meetings is just that. It's a time when we all get together, but the work starts well before that. We've been having active conversations with multiple free agents as well as multiple teams, basically throughout the entire process, so I can't say anything is close or not close. That's not a productive conversation. We'll let you know when something happens. Are we closer? Certainly, the landscape clears up every week, because players get signed, trades are made and you know who's available and you know more or less what they want. Every day moves us closer toward something, but I'm not sure when that's going to happen. A lot has been written about your pursuit of a top-notch reliever. We've seen reports free-agent reliever David Robertson is using the Astros as leverage, and free-agent lefty Andrew Miller has ruled the Astros out, but are you still confident you can get one of these top guys?

Luhnow: We are confident that we're going to be able to make moves to help our team, and we recognize one of the areas of greatest need over the past couple of years has been the bullpen. And there are a lot of options out there -- some high profile, some not-so-high profile -- that we believe will help our bullpen, but we're exploring every possible option to improve our bullpen. We're leaving no stone unturned. With the catching situation muddled with four catchers (Jason Castro, Hank Conger, Carlos Corporan and prospect Max Stassi) on the 40-man roster, is it likely one of those guys will be dealt?

Luhnow: Not necessarily. We're not actively looking to trade one of our catchers. We do have depth there, and it's a good area to have depth, because you have one injury and all of a sudden you've gone from too many to just right, and then you have two injuries and you don't have enough. Obviously, we tendered Corporan. We see him as a Major League catcher. We see Conger and Castro, obviously, as a big part. We're going to have to figure something out, but we don't feel like we're under any pressure or have to do anything, even prior to Opening Day. If need be, we could keep one of the guys at Triple-A. It's not ideal, but if we don't see a spot for all three of them on the Major League team, we could have one at Triple-A. Castro and center fielder Dexter Fowler have been the subject of trade rumors. What's the market like for them?

Luhnow: I think it's primarily Internet rumors, to be honest with you. Clearly, they're both good players that have one year [Fowler] or two years [Castro] left of control, and those players are always going to be talked about in trade rumors. I'm sure there's a lot of teams out there that have interest in them, and some have reached out, but we're not actively looking to deal either of those guys, because they both provide value to us in 2015, and we want to make sure any moves we make are keeping an eye on improving this team in 2015. How do you balance adding some punch to the lineup at third base and first base while not taking any away too many at-bats from young players in Matt Dominguez and Jon Singleton, who could still develop?

Luhnow: We can't put ourselves in a position where we have to rely on the players from last year, because if they don't perform the way we think they're capable of performing, we're going to be sorry. But at the same time, we know what they're capable of doing, and we don't want to block them or not allow them to fulfill their potential. It's a tricky situation. The ideal fit for us is someone who can play first or third and who could sort of pick up wherever there is some slack. There aren't too many of those types of guys out there. We're looking at every possible permutation, including signing guys that [could play] those positions. We're certainly going to do that recognizing the cost of not giving the guys we have the opportunity there. What's your stance on trading some of your top prospects at this point?

Luhnow: We've moved [Jordan] Lyles, we've moved [Jarred] Cosart, we've moved [Nick] Tropeano. All three of those are good, young pitchers. We really feel like we had the ability to do that in order to improve our team in the near term, and that's why we did those things. We would consider move a prospect if it were something that were compelling for 2015 without significantly harming 2016 and beyond. Nothing is off limits, as far as we're concerned. We're entering a different phase, where we really want to make sure we utilize all of our inventory of players to maximize the output at the big league level, which may mean turning Minor League prospects into big league value again, like we've done in the past.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.