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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Some Tips for T-Poo

Soriano, Lee, Schmidt and Zito. While certainly a quartet of talented players, none of these will wear an Astros jersey in 2007, and that's not all bad. While any of these four would certainly prove a boon to the Astros' on-field success, all four will sign with a team for a excessive amount of money, and in a year or two, whichever team signs each of these year may well find itself desparately trying to shed salaries to absorb the blow. A budget-conscious franchise like the Astros simply is not going to win a bidding war for one of the big name free agents this offseason, but there are alternatives, and here are a few that are not only practical, I believe that they would prove more beneficial than signing one of these four to a monstrous deal.

1. Upgrade the bullpen depth via free agency. This is one area where there is significant value available. Bring in JC Romero or Alan Embree as lefty specialists. Look at David Aardsma, Danys Baez, Justin Speier and Chad Bradford as additional bullpen depth behind Qualls and Wheeler. Qualls and Wheeler...am I forgetting someone? Nope...

2. Trade Brad Lidge. I still believe that Lidge will prove valuable again, but I just think it won't be in Houston. I love Lidge's toughness, his stuff and his personality, but he's going to be attractive to one of the multiple teams in baseball who need a shutdown closer, and he's obviously accumulated a fair amount of baggage here in Houston. He's too good (potentially) and too expensive to keep for the 7th inning, and you have a couple of reliable guys in Qualls and Wheeler at the back of the pen. There are plenty of holes on this team, and you've got to part with something of value to obtain a valuable return. Lidge is a guy who it makes sense to trade. Ideally, T-Poo can spot a team who has an excess of young positional talent available with whom a match can be found (Tampa Bay, Arizona and Atlanta spring to mind).

3. Bring in some bench guys who can actually hit. Mike Piazza, Todd Greene and Gregg Zaun are available at the catcher spot. For the record, if I was truly in charge, I'd already have bone in a direction other than Ausmus at starting catcher, but I'm dealing with the cards that have been dealt already, so let's have one of these three guys on the bench as an offensive threat. Also, please...no more Palmeiro or Bruntlett. There are some guys available like Frank Cattalanotto, Tony Graffanino, Jay Payton and Todd Walker who I'd like to see on the Astros' bench ahead of those two, and it shouldn't cost too much to make these moves.

4. One of the punchless trio of Ausmus, Everett or Taveras cannot start everyday. Having four spots in the lineup (including the pitcher) with < .600 OPS cannot continue any longer. To me, Taveras is the guy that goes, as he is the youngest and most exciting of the three and thus will generate the most interest on the trade market. Naturally, trading a young, exciting player is risky, but I am willing to take that risk. All the speed in the world is not too dangerous with .320 OBP. But who's going to play CF now with Taveras gone?

5. Trade for Vernon Wells.
He's only 27, plays an above-average CF and has put up very good numbers for several years, albeit in the AL. This is a guy who is worth $85-$100 million, I think, and he'd fit perfectly in Houston's lineup. Dangle Pence, Hirsh and Taveras at the Blue Jays and see if they'll bite. Mix and match some young pitchers (or even possibly Chris Burke) and see what you can work out. I think that there's enough on both sides of this equation to suggest that a deal could be worked out. Wells is a free agent at the end of '07, so acquiring him obviously hinges on getting him to sign a long-term deal in Houston, but let's assume that 5 years, $85-95 million or so would get it done. If it does, this is a move that makes a whole lot of sense.

If the above all worked out, then I think you could quite easily convince Andy and Roger that another shot is worth their effort. Sign Andy for a two-year deal worth about $22M, and do another 1/2 year special with Roger.

Burke - LF
Lamb/Ensberg - 3B
Berkman - 1B
Wells - CF
Scott/Lane - RF
Biggio - 2B
Everett - SS
Ausmus - C


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