Meetings under way, Luhnow expects to be active
Astros GM anticipates trade or signing; acquiring DH remains at top of list
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow described his first day at the Winter Meetings as productive, saying Monday he had several meetings with agents and exchanged phone calls and texts messages in an effort to try to upgrade the club.
Luhnow, who arrived with several members of his front office at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center around noon CT on Monday, told reporters later in the day he's optimistic the team will leave the Music City having acquired at least one player outside of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
The Astros hadn't made any offers to any free agents as of Monday afternoon, Luhnow said.
"Day 1, you feel like there's a lot do and it seems like it's impossible to accomplish any of it because you still have a lot of conversations to have, but I suspect we'll end up doing something besides taking a Rule 5 pick," he said. "Whether it's a trade or a signing, we're going to work towards all of our goals, and whether we accomplish it or not remains to be seen. This is a good forum to accomplish things, because everybody is here."
The Astros, above all else, are in the market for a designated hitter, something they will need upon their move to the American League next year. Signing a DH capable of knocking the ball out of the ballpark will also allow the Astros to upgrade their run production, which is sorely needed.
At this point, the Astros are more likely to sign a free agent than they are to make a trade, considering the majority of their players are under team control and affordable.
"But I do think you look at the last of available bats out there, whether it's outfield, first base, DH, there's some interesting options, and we're going to pursue as many as we possibly can this week," Luhnow said.
The only name the Astros have acknowledged as having an interest in is Lance Berkman, one of the most popular players in team history who still lives in Houston. The DH position is likely to be held by a veteran player, a tricky proposition when you consider the Astros are rebuilding and might not be viewed among older players as an attractive landing spot.
Still, Luhnow said the Astros can offer more at-bats than other teams. The type of player who could be attracted to Houston are veterans who are still productive on the field and interested in mentoring a young clubhouse, Luhnow said. He also said right-handed hitters will always find the Crawford Boxes in left field at Minute Maid Park attractive.
"Those are the types of players that would be a good fit for us," he said.
Luhnow admitted shortstop Jed Lowrie, who missed 52 games in the middle of the 2012 season with an ankle injury, has attracted some attention on the trade market, but he's unlikely to be moved.
"Being our shortstop and top offensive producer, it would be very difficult for us to see this club going forward without him next year," he said.
First-year Astros manager Bo Porter, who is scheduled to meet with the media on Tuesday afternoon, has been in constant communication with Luhnow about any potential additions to the club.
"Jeff has done a good job with the research team and putting a lot of information together and identifying the type of players that will help our team," Porter said. "If we have an opportunity to upgrade the team, that's something we'll discuss."