Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle is tired of all the fan bellyaching down south in Big Texas , and he has decided to offer the fans a forum to give management their advice.
Justice lays out a couple of basic (fair) rules: Lee, Berkman, Oswalt, Matsui, Moehler, Blum are all back for a total commitment of $58M. If the plan keeps Pence and Wandy (which mine does) add another $10M. If it keeps Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins (I keep one and toss the other) add another $15M. This total comes to $83M.
My plan comes in under this at $72-74M because I am letting Valverde walk, and bringing back Hawkins on a two-year $8-10M dollar deal. I will be taking the optimistic side and hoping that LaTroy signs for the $4M dollar price tag. This will leave me roughly $28M to fill about half of the roster.
While I would love to find a taker for Matsui, and sign a free agent 2B like Orlando Hudson, I just don't see it happening. So for our purposes I will keep and start Matsui at 2B. That leaves me holes at 3B, SS, SP, CL, and on the bench.
At 3B I think the Astros should sign the best defensive player on the market (and probably the best offensive option too), Adrian Beltre. Beltre will make considerably less than his last contract, and I don't think it's too optimistic to think he could be had for three years and $18M. He would hit sixth in my Astros lineup, and provide protection for the young and aspiring Hunter Pence.
At SS I would allow the departure of Miguel Tejada to open the door for an Astros product, Tommy Manzella. Manzella has about run out of time in the minors, and now has to show if he will ever be a major league caliber starter...I think he can be.
He can hit and he can pick, the only thing we don't know is if he can do it for 162 games at the Major League level. I would bring Jeff Keppinger back (around $400K) just in case, and I might even eye signing free agent Adam Everett to give me some extra protection.
The SP openings (not really openings, more like a lack of any other viable option) should be filled by Ben Sheets and Todd Wellemeyer.
Sheets is a Texas guy, but all the rumors thus far have linked him to the Rangers. Well it's time the Astros stepped in and changed that. Signing Sheets would make the Astros immediately competitive in the NL Central, and it would also give them a nice hometown hero story for the papers.
Sheets can be had for the right price, and though a bidding war could drive the price out of Astros reach (I don't think that will happen), a good start would be to offer a one-year $5M guaranteed contract heavy on incentives.
The other two SP openings should be filled by a free agent (Todd Wellemeyer) and a home grown product ready for the big time (Bud Norris).
Wellemeyer made $4M pitching ineffectively for the Cardinals last year, but I think this is a positive for the Astros. It means that Wellemeyer should come a little more cheaply (a two-year $6-7M deal) this time around, but his ability hasn't really diminished. He had a rough time last year, but the talent and "stuff" are still there. A change of scenery could be just what Wellemeyer needs, and he might end up being a bargain for the Astros in that fourth SP position.
In the fifth spot in the rotation should go the young Bud Norris. He will be making roughly $400K and will one day soon play an important part in the Astros' rotation.
At closer I opt to bring back set-up man LaTroy Hawkins and give him yet another shot at closing. He seems comfortable in Houston, and has shown even at 36 that his "stuff" is as good as ever. He may be a little more costly than last year, but he will be a much cheaper option than last year's closer, Jose Valverde. I figure that it will take a two-year deal worth about $8M ($4M per) to bring back Hawkins.
On my bench, Blum and Keppinger are back in the infield. I would also bring in Fernando Tatis for a little RH pop, and Endy Chavez for speed and defense. The two taken together should cost about $4M next year.
Below I have listed out the team and their relative cost for the 2010 season. I think this is a viable squad for the Astros to run out next year. This team could compete (and I daresay WIN) in the NL Central in 2010, and for LESS money.
This team ended up costing me about $94M.
CF: Michael Bourn
2B: Kaz Matsui
1B: Lance Berkman
LF: Carlos Lee
RF: Hunter Pence
3B: Adrian Beltre
C: Humberto Quintero, JR Towles
SS: Tommy Manzella
SP: Roy Oswalt
SP: Wandy Rodriguez
SP: Ben Sheets
SP: Todd Wellemeyer
SP: Bud Norris
Closer: LaTroy Hawkins
RP: Brian Moehler
RP: Jeff Fulchino
RP: Alberto Arias
RP: Tim Byrdak
RP: Wesley Wright
RP: Chris Sampson
Bench IF: Geoff Blum
Bench IF: Jeff Keppinger
Bench OF: Endy Chavez
Bench OF: Fernando Tatis
$48M Lee, Berkman, Oswalt
$10M Matsui, Moehler, Blum
$10M Pence, Wandy
$4M Hawkins (2/8M)
$4M [$0.4M each for: Manzella, Towles, Keppinger, Fulchino, Sampson, Wright, Norris, Arias and $0.8M Quintero)
$5M Ben Sheets ($5M guaranteed + incentives)
$3M Todd Wellemeyer (2/$7M)
$6M Adrian Beltre (3/$18M)
$1.5M Fernando Tatis
$2M Endy Chavez
That leaves roughly $6.5M left over.