HOUSTON -- The Astros haven't made much news at the General Managers Meetings since then-owner Drayton McLane flew into Naples, Fla., in 2006 to wine and dine Carlos Lee, who wound up signing a six-year, $100 million contract.
There doesn't figure to be nearly as much drama when Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow travels to Indian Wells, Calif., for this year's meetings, which are Wednesday through Friday. Unlike next month's Winter Meetings in Nashville, the GM Meetings serve as a precursor to the Hot Stove firestorm.
"It's mostly just touching base with agents and other clubs to see what their priorities are and see if there are any matches," said Luhnow, who was hired at last year's Winter Meetings.
The Astros aren't expected to be active in the trade market, though Luhnow said he's going to explore those avenues as part of his due diligence. Houston will be looking to add some run production and starting pitching through free agency.
Luhnow has already talked to about half of his fellow GMs in baseball in the last week to 10 days to see what other teams are looking for.
"Right now, it's a start of feeling each other out and trying to get a sense for which of our players they have an interest in, which of their players they might be making available," Luhnow said. "I don't necessarily think we're going into the Winter Meetings or GM Meetings with an idea that we're going to try to trade any of our players because we have a lot of young players with a lot of upside, but certainly I'm going to have all those conversations because I feel the need to do that in the best interest of the organization."
Luhnow would like to improve the Astros' young starting rotation and bullpen, as well as add some much-needed run production. That includes finding a designated hitter as the Astros prepare to move to the American League.
The challenges when it comes to starting pitching are the high costs and trying to sell the Astros, who are coming off 213 losses the past two seasons, to a free agent. Luhnow says Houston can offer potential free agents the playing time they might not get elsewhere.
The early read on this year's free-agent class is that it isn't as strong as some previous years, but that doesn't mean there's not talent to be had. The Astros aren't yet at the stage of their rebuilding process where they can pay a lot of money or commit long term to big names.
"There's some quality at the top, but not a lot of depth," Luhnow said. "The reality is we're probably not going to be aggressive early in the free-agent market. We're going to wait and see how it develops. We know what we're looking for.
"As I've stated several times, we don't want to block our prospects from being able to progress, guys that are here already. We do need more pitching, we need more run production and we'll be looking for whoever we can, even if we have to wait until February or March. We'll get it eventually."
The Astros' need to bolster their offense is magnified when you consider they'll need another bat in the lineup next year with the designated hitter and are entering one of the toughest divisions in baseball in the AL West.
"We will look externally," Luhnow said. "I think there are internal candidates, but we need to augment our run production for next year, and the easiest way to do that is to sign a DH that's going to help us with our goal in mind."