For Part One, click here:
TC: So back to you, of the impending free agents, who should Ed Wade keep, and who should Ed Wade drop like 3rd period French?
DJ: Slogan for next season "Dummyball Fever, Catch it!" Easy Eddie has his tiny, manicured hands full this offseason. Does he now subscribe to popular theory that any good reliever or average starter can be made a closer? We'll see what he thinks about overpaying AGAIN for a guy who only throws 50-75 innings. It seems to me, Eddie wants to keep his label as a good judge of talent, particularly through the draft. The best way for that to happen, is to get some of his drafted players up to the bigs ASAP (Jason Castro, Ross Seaton, Jordan Lyles, C-Lo). If that means letting guys walk, so be it. I'm looking at you Pudge, Erstad, Valverde.
While Pudge's eventual replacement is foreseen in the tea leaves, when it will happen is not as clear. I am leaning towards this offseason because of the pricetag that Pudge will command next year. Probs $1M which Eddie can use on signing draft picks and 16 year old Dominicans. Erstad just doesn't cut it any longer as a major leaguer. In fact, were he released, would anyone even sign him? We have enough vets to fill the leadership void, so filling his roster spot with an younger, more athletic utility man would be ideal (ex: Bill Hall). And Valverde. It's not that I don't like him as a closer, I just happen to believe that a $35M closer is a luxury the Bros cannot afford. They are going to let him walk, get 2 draft picks as compensation and have tryouts in the spring. Which I'm cool with. Totally. Lahawk can fill that spot for a season if needed while C-Lo gets his feet wet as a setup guy. Arias will figure into the mix as well. I'd go ahead and add Mike Hampton to this list but I do not think he'll make it to the offseason (If he does, it'll be on the DL).
Sometimes you have to make hard decisions, and having good people makes those decisions harder. There is not one guy on the team I think is a douche, but the Turk doesn't care if you are the world's greatest philanthropist. It's just business. Aside from those three, we are in danger of seeing the same group again next season barring a significant trade. You think there are empty seats now? Wait till we're out of the race next year.
So that bring me to my question, TC. If a significant trade is going to be made to get intrest in the team moving in a positive direction, who do you see Eddie moving?
TC: You're spot on with Eddie wanting to be known as a good talent judge. I read somewhere earlier this season that the Astros are going to be more aggressive in promoting players, because in a negotiation, the target is going to be thinking, "Hey, Player X was the first rounder three years ago, and he's still at Double-A." I would like to see Castro on the squad next year, and I'd like to see Lyles, Seaton, Dydalewicz - basically that whole core of pitchers at Lexington - skip Lancaster and start the season in Corpus next year. If they can't cut it, well, it's a game of chance. I can't imagine there's a huge step from A-ball to Double-A, and why go through them risking losing their confidence playing on the moon in the California League?
Richard Justice mentioned briefly Drayton saying he was interested in bringing Pudge back. I'm okay with this, but for the sole purpose of mentoring Castro. It's been years since the Astros got any kind of production out of the catcher's spot in the lineup, but if Pudge is playing below replacement level, he's worth $1-2 million to be the catching coach. I'm guessing that Castro is on the OD10 roster, and I'm way more comfortable with a Pudge/Castro platoon than Quintero/Castro. I agree on the overpriced closer, and it's not like Valverde is blowing batters away. Every game is interesting.
I looked this up: Valverde has pitched in 34 games this season (NOTE: this was as of Thursday), he has had a perfect outing of 2 outs or more in exactly six of those games. He's allowed a hit in 22 appearances. If he had 50Ks in 40IP, I could see wanting to bring him back, but you don't exactly settle down when he comes in to the game, because there is a pretty good chance the game is about to get interesting. His K/9 ratio is lower this season than ever before, and his K/BB ratio is at its lowest since 2004. Valverde can go, and we'll take the draft picks. I'd like to think Matsui can go, but he's under contract through next season, too, though his price is at a fairly-low $5.5 million.
I can't imagine anyone taking a chance on Erstad after this season, but I also didn't think Russ Ortiz would get signed, either, so you never know.
As far as trading any of the Astros core players, I have no idea who they might let go? Carlos Lee's contract is too huge, Bourn's here to stay, as is Pence. The guys with value would be Berkman and Oswalt - and I just don't see Drayton signing off on it. I looked this up, too, but no one who has received a bulldozer for winning a playoff game has ever been traded in the history of the Major Leagues. I don't think Lance has ever played a home game outside of the state of Texas, and he's basically the face of the Astros now, a True Astro. I think you're right, we're going to see the same thing next year, except with Norris/Bazardo in the SP3/SP4 spot. The bullpen will probably look different, but that's where the youth of the organization is now. Position players are blocked, especially in the outfield, by silly contracts. The future of the Astros probably isn't at Triple-A, and if Bill Hall comes on and we trade anyone below Triple-A, I'm going to be pissed.
Look for Part III tomorrow!