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Meetings productive, but work remains for Astros

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow left the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center early Thursday having checked a few items from his offseason to-do list. There remains work to be done.

The Astros came to Music City in search of their first full-time designated hitter as they prepare to play in the American League next year. Luhnow had several conversations with representatives for free agents and threw around some trade scenarios, but he wasn't able to acquire a bat.

Luhnow was able to add some depth to his pitching rotation by acquiring Alex White in a trade with the Rockies.

White, 24, and was a part of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal in 2011 and was a well-regarded prospect. Cleveland took him No. 15 overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He has 33 Major League appearances under his belt, 30 of them starts, between the Indians and Rockies.

The Astros had to give up veteran reliever Wilton Lopez in the deal with the Rockies, creating a glaring need at the back end of the bullpen. Luhnow would like to add a veteran closer, though there are some internal candidates who could close games.

With the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft, Houston helped shore up its bullpen by adding right-hander Josh Fields from Boston. It's unlikely the Astros would use him as closer, but he'll get a chance to pitch late in games.

The club has taken some calls about trading pitcher Bud Norris, who's arbitration-eligible. The Astros haven't been shy about trading players who are making good money in exchange for prospects, so don't be surprised to see them make a deal.

It's likely they'll bide their time in the free-agent market for a designated hitter -- Lance Berkman remains high on their list -- and let some of the other chips fall.

The Winter Meetings are over, but Houston's work remains.

Deals done: The Astros acquired White and fellow right-hander Alex Gillingham from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Lopez and a player to be named. White will be plugged into the rotation.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Astros selected Fields with the first overall pick in the Major League portion and infielder Nate Freiman with the first pick of the second round. In the Triple-A phase, Houston selected outfielder Michael Burgess and right-handed pitcher Cameron Lamb.

Goals accomplished: The Astros came to Nashville trying to get a veteran designated hitter, something they're willing to wait to acquire. They also wanted to add some starting pitching depth and achieved that by signing White. Fields, taken in the Rule 5 Draft, will bolster the back of the bullpen, and fellow Rule 5 Draft pick Freiman brings much-needed power.

Unfinished business: There is still a big hole at designated hitter, something the club will need on a full-time basis for the first time when it moves to the AL next year. Houston also created an opening at closer when Lopez was traded to the Rockies.

Team's bottom line: "We're not necessarily concerned about leaving Nashville with a DH in place. I think we've got a long time between now and Opening Day, so we'll definitely have an opportunity to fill that spot." -- Luhnow.

Houston Astros