Tim Purpura is the Assistant General Manager of the Houston Astros.
Tim Purpura: Welcome to today's BBP chat. I'm certainly glad to be with you for the next hour or so and talk about the Astros and baseball in general.
Brian Progar (Amarillo): Carlos Hernandez is now headed from the Instructional League to the Venezuelan League, scheduled to start on Sunday. The 1 run in the Instructional League is impressive, but can you tell us how he is throwing velocity and "stuff" wise?
Tim Purpura: Brian - Thanks for writing. Carlos is in VZ preparing for his start. His velocity is upper 80's to low 90's, his stuff is pretty crisp for what he has been thru surgery wise. He'll pitch until 12/15 and then shut it down for the winter.
Greg D (Austin): Tommy Whiteman - is his future at SS or 3B? What improvements do you want to see from him at the plate?
Tim Purpura: I think Tommy can play either at the major league level. He just needs to continue the strides he made this year on concentration and work ethic. Power-wise he may not project at 3B as a regular, but defensively he'll do fine there.
chandler44 (texas): Is 2004 going to be another year of status quo for Houston, or is the extension of Hunsicker an expression from McLane that he finally wants to win it all. $10 M added to Hun's budget would go a long way to adding depth in the rotation. Wouldn't Batista or Colon look great in brick & sand?
Tim Purpura: Just like my personal budget or yours, unless someone infuse a large amount of income into the system, it is difficult to add that kind of salary and more importantly the long term committments that those players may require. With that said, we will continue to look at all avenues, free agency, trades, rule 5 draft, etc. to try and improve our club.
Jason (Atlanta): Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Will the Astros continue to split time at 3B between Morgan Ensberg and Geoff Blum next year, or will one win the job with the other traded?
Tim Purpura: You are welcome. As for Ensberg and Blum, we feel that Ensberg has certainly done everything he could to place himself on the top of the list as our everyday 3B for next season. I'd bet that even Blum would admit that. However, Blum brings a great deal of versatility defensively and also has godd offensive ability. In addition Blum will be a second time arb-eligible. I think alot will depend on whether we resign Vizcaino as our utility guy.
Fred (Houston): What type of questions were you asked in the CIN GM interview? I always wondered how those interviews went...questions about philosophy or what?
Tim Purpura: Thanks for the question Fred. Alot of you have asked about the Cincy GM job so let me address that as well. I was honored to be considered for the position in such a baseball rich environment, and a club with such tremendous history and tradition. I am also very happy for Dan O'Brien, who I worked with here in Houston for 2 years. He'll do a fine job there. With that said, he'll also have his challenges with payroll, staff commmittments, etc.
As for the interview, by far it was the most comprehensive I've had. It ran abot 5 1/2 hours and covered roster composition, development philosophy, scouting philosophy, budgeting issues, etc. A very thorough and enjoyable experience.
BSmith (Houston): Free Jason Lane!
Tim Purpura: Alot of you have asked about Lane. In my opinion he has the ability right now to be an everyday corner outfielder at the major league level and maybe even play CF. He has good power, is athletic and runs well. His only problem is that we currently have others in the Major's ahead of him. I do think he'll be on our club next year and get a significant amount of playing time.
phil (tx): Given the exceptional performances given by Lidge and Dotel this year, what is the probability of moving Wagner?
Tim Purpura: As we have been doing for the past 6-7 years, we'll look this off-season to gain payroll flixibility and improve our club. As for trades, you are always better dealing from a position of strength and we do, as you note, have strength in the bullpen. So that maybe a target. However, to use Wagner as an example, when you make a trade it's about talent and now days it's about money. We have $8 million committed to Wag's for 04 and $9 for 05 (or a $3million buyout) so you have to find a club willing to take on that amount. Easier said than done.
Greg D (Austin): Please describe your thoughts on Jesse Carlson. As a lefty reliever, do you see him advancing rapidly through the organization a la Mike Gallo?
Tim Purpura: Jesse is an example of good scouting and taking risks. He was released from DET last spring under some circumstances that we ultimately were ok with and came on and dominated the SAL. He has as nasty a breaking ball as any young lefty. He'll start at Round Rock and I would think be on a fast track, so long as he continues to compete as well as he did this season. Also, he's pitching in Puerto Rico this winter so that should give us a good reading.
Pancho (USA): In your opinion, is Henri Stanley ready to help the club in the major leagues as a #4 or #5 outfielder?
There is no denying the guy plays with a lot of hustle and desire. He is Houston's version of Bo Hart it seems.
Tim Purpura: Henri is one of my favorites. A non-drafted FA out of South Carolina who plays hard, which is the Astros way. He and Charlton Jimerson have the best approaches to the game in our system. This past season was a challenge to him at 3A, but I do think he'll get his opportunity someday sooon.
Joe (Trenton): What do you see as the timeframe for statistical analysis predominating major-league scouting bureaus? 5 years, 50 years? Will there always be more than one way to skin a cat?
Tim Purpura: Another question alot of people have asked or referred to. Statistical analysis is critical to succes at procuring players. It gives you a picture of what a player is capable of, and helps you project. However, as our 2A manager Jackie Moore always says, "Baseball is still a people business." I think you have to balance the two approaches, and have people who are qualified on both sides. I don't know anout you, but failing 7 out of 10 times in what I do would affect me. And having managers and coaches around to help me deal with that would be important.
Fred (Amarillo): Chris Burke put together a nice year in RR for 2003 and is now part of Team USA. How will his participation on Team USA affect him at New Orleans next year?
Tim Purpura: Burkey is on a plane to Panama tommorrow and his participation will only help him as the Olympics did with Oswalt and Adam Everett. They say there is no comparison when you, as a player have that "USA" across your chest and are competing on behalf of your country. A great player development experience.
Josh (Illinois): Are you guys still high on Buck after his disappointing season? Further, what will the catcher position look like next season?
Tim Purpura: Buck season was interupted by a broken hand that he suffered running to 1st. WHile his number weren't stellar, we were very pleased with his progress this year, and but for the injury, he may have been up in Sept. As for next season it will hinge on Brad Ausmus and his interest (unknown at this point) of returning. We still have Raul Chavez, a true diamond in the rough as a backup catcher, and we also have Buck.
Morgan Ensberg (Boston, MA): Tim, do I have to break Mr. Blum's legs this offseason, or will I get my fair share of at-bats this year?
Tim Purpura: Morgan- See my earlier answer. It's just what you told me to say, isn't it!!!
Greg D (Austin): Hector Gimenez continues to flash superior defensive skills but his offensive numbers declined for the second year in a row. Where do you see him playing next season -- Round Rock or returning for a second year at Salem?
Tim Purpura: I think Hector will start at Salem and if he progresses offensively will have a chance to get to RR sometime this year. He is still maturing and made great strides this season. He sometimes takes his offense behind the plate with him, but he has come along way in that regard.
Dave (Victoria): Do you ever look at the Astros.com BB postings or fan sights like AstrosDaily to get the pulse of the fans?
Tim Purpura: Dave-
I do and I think these forums are great to see what the fans think and it also gives you an idea of how the business of baseball works. We are all fans at heart. However, when you get into one of these jobs, you have use your head as well as your heart.
Jimmy (Houston): I've always disliked the roster expansions in September as I feel that it fundamentally changes the game (in terms of using relievers, managing PH, etc.) I know it's great for a peak at players for the next year, but I wanted to hear your opinion.
Tim Purpura: I have mixed feelings. It can be a boon to a tired club, but it can also lead to longer, less exciting games. It also has to be used wisely because you can add 30 or so days of service time to a player that can later affect arbitration eligibility or free agency, which is ok if the player helps out in Sept. but not so good if they jsut sit around.
AustinAstrofan (Austin, TX): Matt Albers is not getting much attention despite an excellent season in the Tri-City rotation. What do you see as his future potential?
Tim Purpura: Matt is a good example of how we have balanced the drafting of college players with a high ceiling HS player. Matt has made steady progress in learning the game and what it is like to be a professional. He, like Jimmy Barthmeir, a young buck from Georgia we drafted this year, give our player "portfolio" some balance, ie: college players, high ceiling HS players and foreign players.
Kellen (Seattle): Tim, we're in need of a GM here in Seattle. Have you been contacted by the Mariners? If not, would you like to have a shot at getting the job?
Tim Purpura: Given my penchant for expresso, I would love to live in Seattle. So far though, no contact from the Mariners. As I have said before, there are only 30 GM jobs in the world and I would be honored to someday get the chance to build a championship organization. But like all of you who want to get into the game, patience, persistence and hard work are needed. Look, it took Dan O'brien 26 years....
Brad (Brooklyn, NY): How likely a scenario is the following: Bagwell traded, Berkman to first, making room for Lane and/or Stanley?
Tim Purpura: Bagwell has a no-trade provision, and a great deal of salary committments for the next several years. Probably not likely.
coney (md): I hear that good organizations have themes that are stressed to players from single A to the majors - organizational philosophies and such, so all players are on the same page and know what's expected. What are the essential elements that make up the Astros' organizational philosophy in terms of player development?
Tim Purpura: Great question. We have a few: "Play hard or play elsewhere." Coined by Bagwell and Biggio. Also, we have what I call "high standards." These include how a player plays the game, how he takes BP and IF, how the pitchers dress when sitting in the stands charting, how they dress for road trips, how they treat the fans, etc. We also stress doing the little things correctly on the field. We are obsessed with detail. We expect alot from our players but we treat hem very well in return.
Henry (Ohio): Hey Tim, FWIW I think these teams are shooting themselves in the foot for not taking a shot at a guy like you or Paul DePodesta.
When did the organization decide that it was ok to draft short pitchers? Was it something you, Hunsicker, and Lakey figured out, or did it just work out and you figured you try again?
Tim Purpura: Thanks Henry. Some of it was based upon our position low in the draft due to our success, but also it was due to a mentality of taking risks with smaller guys with arm strength. Some we have hit on, some not.
coney (md): What do you think about the Red Sox firing Grady Little?
Deserved or disgraceful?
Tim Purpura: I highly respect Grady Little. He managed for myself and Mike Port when we were all in the Arizona Fall League 10 years ago. He like Jimy Williams is a teacher and a leader of men. I guess I was was wrong, but I thought the goal was winning, and getting to the playoffs. Grady will do fine and I wish him well.
Fred (Houston): Do you play in any fantasy leagues? If so, who with and how do you do?
Tim Purpura: Never have. But I don't really have to. We spend our lives in this game putting together rosters, making trades, waiver claims, etc. And we do it for one Major League team, 6 domestic minor league teams, and a team in the Dominican and Venz.
Brian (Amarillo): Are the Winter Meetings as exciting and busy as they appear to be with all of the "Hot Stove" type reports? How many offers are truely made and received during the meeting?
Tim Purpura: Very busy, very enjoyable. Alot gets done. They are also great for networking. For example, last year that is where we met with Jeff Kent's agent and got that deal done.
Tim Purpura: Well that about does it for me. I really enjiyed this and I hope you did too. Before I get back on the phone with other clubs, I'm headed downstairs to ice down my fingers!! Thanks again.