Astros seeking outfield bat, relief help, veteran starter
Club has checked in with several free agents, ready to spend significant money
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter said Thursday the team has reached out to several free agents in its quest to find an outfield bat, relief pitching help and a veteran starting pitcher to add to the young rotation.
The Astros are taking a wait-and-see approach before diving in, but this will be the first time under the current ownership and management regime that they're going to spend significant money. Owner Jim Crane said last month the payroll could wind up between $50 million to $60 million.
"It's an ongoing conversation each and every day," Porter said. "All the conversations are fluid. There are a lot of free agents out there that we have checked in with and I believe are going to be able to help out our ballclub.
"As the market starts to shake out, we'll get more aggressive for the guys we believe will really make an impact on our ballclub. We're in a better position this year than last offseason, as far as acquiring players that will be able to help the Major League team."
Dawson says Bagwell belongs in Hall of Fame
HOUSTON -- Andre Dawson didn't think twice when asked if former Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell deserved to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Bagwell is on the ballot for the fourth time. Dawson had some career numbers that were pretty similar to Bagwell, and "The Hawk" had to wait until his ninth time on the ballot to get inducted in 2010.
Dawson -- who finished his career with 438 homers, 1,591 RBIs, 1,373 runs and 2,774 hits in 20 seasons -- got 45.3 percent of the vote on his first time on the ballot in 2002 and 50 percent the next two years. His total rose slightly each year, getting 65.9 percent in '08 and 67 percent in '09 before finally getting 77.9 percent in '10.
Bagwell garnered 41.7 percent his first time on the ballot in '11, 56.0 in '12 and 59.6 in the vote before last season. He played five fewer seasons than Dawson, but had 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs and 2,314 hits. Both players won Most Valuable Player Awards.
"The thing about the Hall is, it's a process," Dawson said. "There's no protocol unless you have the automatic numbers they like to throw out. If you're a Hall of Famer, you're a Hall of Famer and should be elected when it comes time for you to seek election. Jeff Bagwell was a great ballplayer, a first baseman in the era I played, and undoubtedly put up Hall of Fame numbers."
Former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who amassed 3,060 hits in 20 seasons in Houston, will be on the ballot for the second time after getting 68.2 percent vote in his first shot. Players need 75 percent of the vote to get inducted.
"He had 3,000 hits, and that is what they call one of the automatic numbers," Dawson said of Biggio. "There was a time where [if] you had 3,000 hits, you were a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. I had to wait nine years before I was put in the Hall of Fame. He has the 3,000 hits, so why does he have to wait?"
Young open to playing in hometown of Houston
HOUSTON -- Former All-Star outfielder Chris Young has certainly found a comfort level hitting at Minute Maid Park, but could it be his home ballpark next year?
Young, who is a free agent after hitting 12 homers and driving in 40 runs with the A's in 107 games last season, said Thursday he would like to play in his hometown of Houston, but he said he didn't know if his agent had been in contact with the Astros.
"Every team is an option," said Young, who went to Houston baseball power Bellaire High School. "I love Houston. I'm from Houston and play well in Houston and always have. Something about being home that's refreshing to me. I love everything about the city and the team. They're growing, and I feel they're going to make some moves here soon. They have a good future. I'm open to all the possibilities."
Young, 30, is a career .235 hitter, with 144 homers and 448 RBIs in eight years, including seven with the D-backs, where he was coached by current Astros manager Bo Porter. In 52 games against the Astros, he's a career .325 hitter with 12 homers and 47 RBIs, including .392 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 23 games at Minute Maid Park.
"There's quite a few teams I'm in conversations with right now," Young said. "It's an exciting time for me. It's the first time I've been able to have more of an input on where I played and where I end up at, and now it's prime time for me to be able to go somewhere I want to go and help the team win."
Former Astros pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, who had a strong year with the Mets last year, says a return to Houston isn't in the cards.
"I've got some teams that are showing a lot of interesting right now," Hawkins, 41, said. "But it's still early. Hopefully things will shake out towards the Winter Meetings next month."