When I arrived on the last day of the Winter Meetings, I was not sure what to expect. However, when I got there, I was catching many GM's and their advisers walking back from breakfast. I first talked to Brian Cashman, and after I spoke with him, I was lucky enough to catch GM Ed Wade walking away from reporters.
I was curious to see what he had to say on returning to the GM role in a rather slow year. Still, there was plenty to talk about with him.
Although the Astros brought back long time catcher Brad Ausmus, JR Towles showed he had what it takes to compete at the big league level. When I had heard he was called back from the Arizona Fall League, it made me think that he would be the everyday starter. However, Wade said everyone will get a fair look:
"No," when I asked him about Towles being the everyday catcher. "We called him back from the Arizona Fall League because when he was placed on the roster, he was still a minor league catcher. He ended up getting regular service at the Major League level. He was brought back in September from a work load stand point because we thought that it was best for him to come back and get into his conditioning program so he can be strong coming into Spring Training."
The biggest off season acquisition for the Astros so far has definitely been Kaz Matsui, who replaces Criag Biggio at second base. Matsui was drawing serious interest from the Cubs and Astros, and I, like many others, want to know what the turning point was in negotiations with him:
"In a free agent signing, it is a players decision where he feels most comfortable. So Cecil Cooper and I flew to California and spent a few hours with Kaz and his wife, and I thought that was a significant meeting for us from a stand point of his ability to talk directly to both the manager and the general manager. Kaz and Willy Taveras had a good relationship in Colorado and Willy was sort of serving as an advocate for our organization. At the same time, he was talking to Cecil, telling him 'You have to get Kaz.' Those types of relationships do play a role when he's got a friendship with someone who can convey stuff about Houston that he probably really takes to heart."
With the signing of Matsui, it gives the Astros three potential lead off hitters with Bourn, Pence, and Matsui. So if the season started tomorrow, I was wondering who the leadoff hitter would be:
"If the season started tomorrow, based on my conversations with Cecil, Bourn would leadoff, Matsui would hit second, and Pence would hit third."
Finally, I asked about the new pitchers for the Astros who busted onto scene this year, specifically Matt Albers and Troy Patton, and what they are doing to prepare for the upcoming season:
"Both have been working very hard. Albers has spent a lot of time at Minute Maid working out, ready to go, and compete for jobs in Spring Training."
According to reports, the Astros and Orioles are working on a Miguel Tejada deal. However, I heard those talks stopped late last night. The Astros still hope to add a reliever, so expect them to be busy coming into the holidays.