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Luhnow sets stage for Astros' upcoming moves

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Astros will add at least one player later this week when they make the first selection in the Rule 5 Draft, and general manager Jeff Luhnow has been laying the groundwork in recent weeks to perhaps make even more additions.

The annual Winter Meetings begin on Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, where the Hot Stove will heat up as executives from every team will rub elbows with each other and top agents. It's baseball's ultimate swap meet.

The Astros' front office contingent, led by Luhnow, will arrive in Music City on Monday. First-year Astros manager Bo Porter, hired in October, will meet with the media at 4:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday to give his thoughts on taking over a club coming off 107 losses and heading to the American League.

Houston's offseason so far has been limited to a few waiver claims, including signing Philip Humber to a one-year contract with a club option for 2014 to bolster the rotation. But the Astros hit Nashville in the market to bolster run production -- most notably, adding a designated hitter.

"We have, really, one spot for a bat, and we have to see who the potential players are available on the free-agent market once the top bats are off the board," Luhnow said. "I think we want to look at all of that. We don't want to jump into something right now without understanding what our alternatives are."

Luhnow has gone public with the team's interest in signing Lance Berkman, who could be lured back to his hometown of Houston to become the Astros' first full-time DH. Berkman has to decide whether he wants play next year first.

"I think he'd be a good fit for our club," Luhnow said.

Luhnow has also said the Astros would like to add to their pitching depth in both the rotation and bullpen without breaking the bank.

"The biggest dominos to start falling [on the free-agent market] are the pitchers, and there's a pretty long list of pretty good pitchers," Luhnow said. "We're not competing for the [Zack] Greinkes of the world, so we kind of have to get that settled before you're talking about the guys we want to take a look at."

The Astros will certainly take a shot at a player in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, which closes the Meetings. Houston acquired two players at the Rule 5 Draft last year -- pitcher Rhiner Cruz and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez -- and both are in the team's plans next year.

While baseball executives and agents meet behind the scenes this week, fans can converge on for all the latest news and debates about which teams are making the biggest impacts.

Lance Berkman