Dear Drayton McLane: Blow Up the Houston Astros

Joel KochSenior Analyst IAugust 26, 2009

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 17:  Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane attends Game Five of the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2005 in Houston, Texas.   The Cardinals defeated the Astros 5-4 to make the series 3 games to 2 Astros.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I can tell you the most enjoyable thing is to watch your division rivals falter. This, however, is not true when it comes to the Houston Astros.

Why? To be honest, I don't really know.

Something about the Astros makes me like them a little bit, but something has to change with them. They have dead money on the payroll, useless players earning a hefty pay, and a general manager that wouldn't know how to get out of a maze with signs at every corner saying "This Way."

Drayton McLane: it is time to blow it up.

If you need reasoning, then here you go:

Keith Law ranked the Astros 30th out of 30 teams in his organizational rankings for 2009 (ESPN Insider required).

Jason Castro, a very mediocre prospect, was their top prospect in their system, after being drafted in 2008.

Yes, Drayton, it is time to blow this team up, but how to start?

Fire Ed Wade. Hire Mike Arbuckle.

Arbuckle, who just joined the Kansas City front office in November of last year, is the man responsible for the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies World Series title. He found Ryan Howard and company. He needs to be brought in, and now.

Next move? Hire Marti Wolever from the Philadelphia Phillies to be your Assistant General Manager. Wolever has run the Phillies drafts since 2002, and just to name a few of his picks: Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ.

These two have worked together before, and not only would make good front office chemistry, but also know how to make a winning franchise.

Time to revamp the Major League team.

You have Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt under contract for 2010. You are not going to make a run then, so as the saying goes, "Why win 70 games with them, when you can capitalize on a return and win 66 without them?"

This is where it can get very tricky. You have to take the best deal available (and for these three, there will be a long list involved), but you have to support the receiving team.

My proposal would be to take advantage of the Boston Red Sox. They could have an inking to take Berkman and Oswalt, and they have a superb system. Maybe the cross state rival Rangers would like a new ace for the young staff and will part with top talent from their top system for him?

There is always a price for a player, just sometimes it can be insane. In this case, a sane price with a gimmick can land you a haul.

What's the gimmick? "Sure, we'll throw in some money to even out the deal, as long as we get nicely compensated for that money."

That line right there will get you farther than the Roy Halladay trade talks, or even land you a better haul than the Indians got for Cliff Lee AND CC Sabathia, combined.

The other thing to remember is to never eliminate division rivals off the list. The price will be bigger for them, but they know what they would be getting because of how many times they see your team.

Let us also not forget the current free agent crop from the Astros themselves. They have two type-A free agents (Miguel Tejada and Jose Valderda) and one type-B (LaTroy Hawkins) hitting the open market. None should return.

The Astros need to take advantage of this and offer all three arbitration and wave goodbye. Valverde WILL find a job, even as a type-A, and Hawkins will as a type-B (no lost draft picks for the signing team).

If Tejada moves from shortstop to third base for a team, he will find work as well.

That is two first round draft picks and three sandwich picks. For a team with a horrible farm system, that is some good eats. Add that with the trades of Oswalt, Berkman, and Lee, the Astros could be looking at six first round picks, and nine sandwich picks (turning the prospects in return for the Oswalt/Berkman/Lee into draft picks to make the visual a little easier).

That right there would be an amazing haul for the Astros.

If you factor in that kind of impact on the system, added in with some role player type signings (Geoff Blum would be good to bring back) and comeback type players to fill up the roster with, this team would be very well off.

What I meant with the above is that the Astros have Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, and Kaz Matsui (unless they can convince a team to take him off their hands, which I would surely hope they can do) on the roster if I were running the team. Everyone else would be gone either via trade, or not resigning. Arbitration eligible players would also be dealt off if at all possible.

Why? The Astros have to capitalize on a weak free agent market and a bad economy. If they can offer their arbitration players to teams, they may be able to land a mid-level prospect in return. That's how you start restocking your system.

You can't add star players at every turn. Every team has its core, plus the supporting cast. The supporting cast-type players are the mid-level prospects, and by adding plenty of these to the system, the Astros can possibly stave off complete abyss in 2010 and 2011.

Bring in the mid-level prospects, let them work themselves up, and introduce each to the majors slowly, but surely. By 2013 or 2014, this team's farm system could be ranked in the top 10, and their team competing once again.

The solution is simple: blow this franchise up, from top to bottom. Improve the farm system, improve the Major League roster, and improve the front office.

A losing 2010 season is coming with a blow up or without, so why not capitalize on a weak free agent pool this coming off-season with a great pitcher (Oswalt), a great teammate and leader (Berkman), and a good power threat (Lee) to re-stock the system?

There really is no reason not to.


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