H-Town Sports

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Who to Move? Ensberg's the Answer

My guess is that the Astros stand pat through the July 31 waiver-free trade deadline, mostly because history indicates that Tim Purpura is very conservative on the trade market and especially considering that the Astros are considerably closer to the top of the division and wildcard races than they were a year ago. The concern that this year's team is not as good as last year's team is offset by the fact that the Mets are the only really good team in the entire National League this season, as opposed to last year when the Cardinals and Braves both were considered World Series candidates. Don't forget, also, that the Astros did not exactly blaze a glorious path in the postseason last season; they eked in by the slimmest of margins. Combine these factors, and you can see a situation materializing in which the Astros feel that their best bet for short and long-term success is to hold onto their prospects and go to battle with their current squad for the remainder of this season.

Part of the problem for the Astros in brokering a deal is that the majority of players whom other teams were thought to covet during the most recent offseason (Lane, Everett, Lidge) have been exposed this season. The other part is that the Astros' front office clings tightly, and understandably so, to the prospects who would likely garner the most attention from other teams (Hirsh, Burke, Nieve, Pence, Patton, Albers). As we all know, if the Astros decide that they absolutely most acquire a proven bat to improve their offensive production in order to ensure a postseason berth, then they are going to have to be willing to part with a package that will sting not just a little, but likely a helluva lot. The pipe dream of Everett, Lane and Lidge for Tejada has most certainly past. So who fits the bill?

I say Morgan Ensberg. First off, he's young and inexpensive ($3.8 million this season), which will make him attractive to many teams, as he still has another year of arbitration eligibility before he is scheduled to hit the open market. Secondly, he's been productive in the big leagues, as an All-Star, a Silver Slugger award and a 4th place finish in the NL MVP voting in 2005 will establish. Sure, he's down a little bit this season, with his average currently wallowing in the .230's. However, his OBP is still .391 and his OPS is scaring .900, despite his horrible batting average, and he is a notoriously streaky hitter, so there is not excessive concern that this 'slump' is anything more than a temporary issue. Also, he is not just a product of the Crawford Boxes, as he has hit equal number of home runs (27) at home and on the road since the beginning of the 2005 season. He's also a first-class guy who will become a fan favorite, no matter the destination.

Why trade him? Because you need an OF bat, and you have a 3B solution in-house. Lance Berkman is playing out of position in RF (and tempting fate with his history of leg problems), and Mike Lamb can play 3B in place of Ensberg. Lamb's certainly a defensive liability at 3B, but Ensberg's no Brooks Robinson himself (25 errors since Opening Day 2005). Philadelphia's had a hole at 3B for several years now, and Chipper Jones can't be counted on everyday in Atlanta anymore. Vinny Castilla in San Diego? Ty Wiggington in Tampa Bay? Ensberg would be a significant upgrade at 3B for each of those teams, whether the team in question is looking for a bat right now or a long-term solution. Moving a quality young player like Ensberg, in conjunction with another young player would likely attract a significant amount of interest and a very productive bat in return. Granted, Houston fans have proven their ignorance with their stubborn refusal to acknowledge the possibility that Mario Williams and Shane Battier may well prove to be more valuable additions to their respective teams than Reggie Bush, Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift, but you cannot run a team in fear of public relations problems. If I can get Carl Crawford, Bobby Abreu or Andruw Jones for Ensberg and a prospect, then I strongly, strongly consider it.


Blogger Tim said...

The only one I'd move Mo for is Crawford, and the Rays would be nuts to part with him for almost anyone (including Mo). That said, you make a great point. You're the Kirk Bohls of H-Town Sports.

Thu Jul 06, 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Ensberg, Luke Scott and Nieve for Crawford and C+ pitching prospect? Would you do it if you're Houston? If you're the Rays? Tampa's got Baldelli and Gomes with Delmon Young waiting in the wings, so their OF could still be young and talented, even without CC.

Thu Jul 06, 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I'd make that deal in a second if I'm Purpura. But I can't see Hunsicker parting with Crawford over Baldelli or Gomes. Unfortunately, I think we're just blowing smoke if we think Davis High's finest is coming home.

Thu Jul 06, 04:34:00 PM  

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