Dexter Fowler understands the situation he is entering, and he embraces it.
Fowler, 27, figures to take over the leadoff spot on a team that ran through eight No. 1 batters while going 51-111 last season.
"There's definitely challenges (in joining a struggling club), but at the same time you have to look at the positives, and the positive is you have the young guys and they're eager to win and they're eager to put their imprint into the game," Fowler said. "That's awesome. Anything I can do to help, I'm going to go out and play hard every day, and I'm sure we'll see the tides turn."
Fowler was a solid leadoff man for the Rockies in 2013, batting .263 with a .369 on-base percentage, a .407 slugging percentage, 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 119 games. He started just three games after Aug. 26 due to left knee soreness, though he said Dec. 3 that he was fully recovered.
"I get a fresh start out here," Fowler said.
The deal costs Houston two of its young players, most notably Lyles, a 23-year-old with a promising arm.
Lyles, 23, went 7-9 with a 5.59 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) for Houston last season. Over three major league seasons, he is 14-29 with a 5.35 ERA -- not exactly numbers that scream top prospect -- yet the Rockies remain high on him.
Barnes, 27, hit .240 with a .289 on-base percentage, a .346 slugging percentage, eight homers and 41 RBIs in 136 games for the Astros last season.
2013: 51-111, fifth place in AL West
TEAM MVP: Jason Castro, the Astros' lone All-Star, took a dramatic step forward. He was a strong presence in the middle of the lineup and also guided the young pitching staff. He hit .276 with a career-high 18 home runs and 56 RBIs over 120 games. He also was the AL Player of the Week twice this season, becoming the Astros' first catcher to accomplish that feat in more than two decades.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: A year after going 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA over 32 starts, RHP Lucas Harrell was bumped from the starting rotation in July. It's a testament to Harrell's downfall that he was actually considered a candidate for the opening day start that went to Bud Norris. He led the team with 16 losses this year.
TOP PROSPECT: OF George Springer, who is likely to man center field at Minute Maid Park at some point next season, combined for 37 home runs, 45 stolen bases and 108 RBIs between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He also had a .600 slugging percentage and 1.010 OPS.
--RHP Chad Qualls signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Astros, reuniting him with his first major league team. Houston holds a contract option for 2016. Qualls, 35, went 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 66 appearances for the Marlins last season. He spent 2004-07 with the Astros, going 23-16 with six saves and a 3.39 ERA. Over a 10-year career with eight teams, Qualls is 45-37 with 51 saves and a 3.79 ERA.
--RHP Scott Feldman finalized a three-year, $30 million contract with the Astros on Dec. 6. Feldman, 30, went 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 181 2/3 innings this year with the Cubs and Orioles combined.
--INF Ryan Jackson was claimed off waivers by the Astros from the Cardinals on Nov. 20. Jackson, 25, went hitless in seven at-bats for St. Louis this year. He went 2-for-17 in 13 big-league games with the Cardinals in 2012.
--LHP Darin Downs was claimed off waivers by the Astros from the Tigers on Nov. 1. Downs, 28, went 0-2 with a 4.89 ERA in 29 relief appearances for Detroit this year.
--OF Trevor Crowe, who would have been eligible for arbitration this winter, was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City as the Astros removed him from their 40-man roster. Crowe, 29, appeared in 60 games for Houston this year, hitting .218/.287/.291 with one homer and 13 RBIs.
--RHP Jorge De Leon was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City as the Astros removed him from their 40-man roster. De Leon, 26, went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 11 appearances for Houston this year.
--LHP Raul Valdes was claimed off waivers by the Astros from the Phillies on Oct. 2. Valdes, 35, went 1-1 with a 7.46 ERA in 17 games for Philadelphia this year, all but one of them in relief. He previously played with the Mets, Yankees and Cardinals.
--1B Jonathan Singleton, who served a 50-game suspension this year for failing a minor league drug test due to marijuana use, was added to the Astros' 40-man roster. Singleton, 22, hit a combined .230/.351/.401 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 90 games this year in Class A, Double-A and Triple-A.
--INF Brandon Laird, RHP Philip Humber, C Matt Pagnozzi and C Cody Clark were all outrighted off the Astros' 40-man roster Oct. 2. Clark will become a minor league free agent in late October, while the others can all choose free agency. Laird, 26, hit .169 with five homers in 25 games with the Astros this season. Humber, 30, went 0-8 with a 7.90 ERA in 17 games (seven starts). Pagnozzi, 30, was acquired from the Braves in exchange for cash considerations in early September. He batted .143 with no RBIs in nine games with Houston. Clark, 32, made his big-league debut with the Astros this year, hitting .105 in 16 games.
--LHP Erik Bedard, a free agent, will have plenty of teammates hoping he returns. Jarred Cosart and several of the rookie starters praised him for his leadership. Manager Bo Porter also appreciated his willingness to do whatever needed. "He's taken the ball. We put him in the bullpen. He pitched out of the bullpen. He's done everything we've asked him to do," Porter said.
--C Jason Castro, who underwent surgery Sept. 19 to remove a cyst in his right knee, expects to ready for spring training. "Surgery went well," Castro said. "I have to keep it kind of straight for the next couple of weeks just to let the incisions heal. But other than that, once the healing takes place I'll be pretty much good to go and ready to start workouts not too far after that."
--1B-DH Chris Carter finished the season with an American League record 212 strikeouts, but he also led the Astros with 29 home runs and 82 RBIs. "I feel pretty good," he said. "I had a rough year up and down, but as far as numbers go I think I did all right."
--C Max Stassi didn't get a start behind the plate, but he was happy to finish the season healthy after spending a month on the disabled list with a concussion he suffered on Aug. 21. He made his first major league appearance behind the plate for three innings on Sept. 23 and said he learned a lot catching the starters' bullpen sessions and warming up the relievers in the final two weeks of the season.
--3B Matt Dominguez made dramatic strides in his first full season, finishing second on the team with 77 RBIs. His RBI total ranks 10th all-time by an Astros third baseman.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's extremely important (to end losing ways), not only for our fan base but also I think just for the mental psyche of the organization. We decided to tear this thing down to build it back up to the point where we allowed our young players the opportunity to establish themselves." -- Manager Bo Porter said, hoping for better in 2014.
The Astros lost a franchise record 111 games, establishing a new losing record for the third consecutive season. They also ended the season with the longest losing streak in franchise history. The farm system is strong, but the major league club needs major upgrades.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Astros must address the bullpen, as manager Bo Porter and general manager Jeff Luhnow acknowledge. The young starting rotation showed great flashes of brilliance, but there is no established setup man or closer the team can count on. The Astros might also seek a veteran starter.
ARRIVALS: CF Dexter Fowler (trade with Rockies), RHP Scott Feldman (free agent from Orioles), RHP Chad Qualls (free agent from Marlins)
DEPARTURES: RHP Jordan Lyles (traded to Rockies), OF Brandon Barnes (traded to Rockies)
FREE AGENTS: LHP Erik Bedard
The Astros will talk to Bedard about returning, but it's unclear if they'll be serious about retain him. He was extremely respected by his teammates.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: C Jason Castro.
The Astros might want to lock up the All-Star Castro to a multi-year deal.
IN LIMBO: OF J.D. Martinez might be at risk of being designated for assignment so the team can protect some of the top prospects in the Rule 5 draft. There aren't many players who have any trade value.
--C Jason Castro (right knee surgery in September 2013) had a cyst removed. He expects to be ready for the start of spring training.
--RHP Alex White (Tommy John surgery in April 2013) is probably going to be ready to at least start throwing in spring training.
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