-P- MLB.com lists Russell Martin among its potential bargains of the offseason, saying he should be a three-win upgrade over Rod Barajas. It will be interesting to see how Martin turns out -- his offensive profile makes me a little uneasy, but, much like Clint Barmes last year, Martin could provide a lot of value that we don't end up realizing is there until about halfway through the season. Check out this video about Jose Molina and pitch-framing. Martin is probably among the best in the world at pitch-framing, at least among guys not named "Molina."
-P- David Laurila interviews Gerrit Cole about his approach to pitching. If you didn't know who he was, you'd probably think he was primarily a ground-ball pitcher.
-P- Ken Rosenthal writes about the Astros' situation after their recent trade of Jed Lowrie. They've been trading anything that isn't nailed down, and there's a good chance they're going to come out of it with three straight No. 1 draft picks. If their next two drafts are anything like their last one, there's a very good chance they're going to be excellent in about five years. As I've said before, it's a shame the Pirates won't have the Astros to beat up on in the NL Central this year, but ultimately, we're going to be glad they left.
-P- Speaking of the Lowrie trade: In return for Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez (sort of a random hard-throwing, frustrating reliever whose fly-ball tendencies are better-suited to Oakland than they were to Houston), the Astros get Chris Carter, who should provide respectable power at first base, along with Max Stassi and Brad Peacock. Stassi has been hurt a lot and hasn't yet established himself offensively, though he still has time to do so. Peacock is interesting -- he struggled last year in Sacramento, but he has good stuff and racks up strikeouts. He also, however, has control problems and is a fly-ball pitcher, which probably won't play well in Houston. He's young enough that he could turn a corner and become a good starter, but his numbers just scream "reliever" to me. The good news is that if the Astros do make him a reliever, he could be a really good one.
One wonders, also, how the Astros will split time between Carter, Brett Wallace and Carlos Pena. At this point, they're concerned with piling up talent and not so much with filling particular positions, which makes sense, but right now, they've got three major-league-caliber players who can't really do anything but play first and DH. Carter is the only righty of the three, so presumably they'll be able to break him in by giving him a fairly high percentage of his at-bats against lefties.