I stand by my attempt to make them competitors in the 2010 season, as I believe the team has a solid core and enough money to surround that core with players who can help them win.
I did, however, have a thought that kept gnawing at the back of my mind; "This will fix them for 2010, but what happens in 2012?"
With that thought in mind I set about trying not to fix the Astros for 2010, but deciding to rebuild the Astros into a contender for the next decade.
The Astros start with a leg up on about half the league, namely, they can afford $100M plus payroll . With an eye to the future, we'll save owner Drayton McLane millions in 2010, but fret not, Astros fans, the savings will reap rewards within two seasons.
How can we build a winner for the future? It means making cuts (and cuts always hurt), and trading our chips (even the blue chips).
Looking at the Astros' 2010 roster, they have a couple of chips that can be moved for long-term help; Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Roy Oswalt.
I am loathe to trade Berkman, and I don't think the Houston fanbase would abide a move like that, so let's just say that Berkman stays.
That leaves Lee and Oswalt, and before we decide what to do with these two, let's consider what their names would mean to the 2009-2010 winter market.
Lee would become one of the top three offensive players on the market, probably behind Matt Holliday but at least a wash with Jason Bay. Oswalt would also become one of the top three pitchers on the market, behind John Lackey and Roy Halladay.
Not only would these two players revolutionize the winter market, but by trading them away the Astros would cut a full third of their $100M payroll from 2009.
Oswalt is due $15M in 2010 ($16M in '11) and Lee is due $19M per year through 2012. It just so happens that there are multiple teams looking for a frontline SP and a power hitting LF this winter, let's talk about some of our options.
A few scenarios that could happen to move Carlos Lee:
1. Lee and $9M (over three years) to the Giants for prospects Nick Noonan (2B), Kevin Pucetas (RHP), and Roger Kieschnick (RF).
2. Lee and $9M (over three years) to the Yankees for Phil Hughes (RHP) and Melky Cabrera (LF/CF).
3. Lee and $9M (over three years) to the Red Sox for Daniel Bard (RP/CL) and Lars Anderson (1B/OF).
A few scenarios that could happen to move Roy Oswalt:
1. Oswalt to the Mets for Fernando Martinez (OF) and Eddie Kunz (RHP).
2. Oswalt to the Red Sox for Michael Bowden (RHP) and Lars Anderson (1B).
3. Oswalt to the Yankees for Zach McAllister (RHP) and Brett Gardner (OF).
4. Oswalt to the Dodgers for Josh Lindblom (RHP) and Chris Withrow (RHP).
If the Astros find a way to move Oswalt and Lee for value, their Opening Day roster would look something like this:
Lineup : CF: Michael Bourn 2B: Kaz Matsui (who is untradeable) 1B: Lance Berkman RF: Hunter Pence LF: Brian Bogusevic 3B: Chris Johnson C: Jason Castro/JR Towles SS: Tommy Manzella
Rotation : SP: Wandy Rodriguez SP: Brian Moehler SP: Felipe Paulino SP: Tim Byrdak SP: Bud Norris
Bullpen : RP: Jeff Fulchino RP: Alberto Arias RP: Chris Sampson RP: Wesley Wright RP: Tyler Lumsden RP: Sam Gervacio RP: ?
Bench : IF: Geoff Blum IF: Jeff Keppinger OF: ? C: Humberto Quintero
I know what you are going to say - "This roster is not strong" - and you would be right. Don't forget we are inserting some of those players we traded for, and our payroll is now about $43.5M.
We have two spots open (RP and Bench OF), if the team doesn't feel comfortable filling these slots with the pieces acquired in trading Oswalt and Lee it would be a simple task to sign a Free Agent OF, and I would suggest signing a starting pitcher and moving Brian Moehler into the bullpen.
I like Endy Chavez (OF), and Todd Wellemeyer (SP) for the way we are building this team, I think that these two players would cost the Astros about $5M in salary next year, which would put the Astros at a payroll just under $50M (which is roughly half of what it was in 2009 ).
While this team may not be a winner in 2010, it will help make the Astros competitive over the next few years, it will save Drayton McLane money and it will add some valuable prospects to the Astros farm system.
Brian Bogusevic, Chris Johnson, Tommy Manzella, Jason Castro, Bud Norris, and Felipe Paulino are all big parts of the Astros future and the playing time they would get in 2010 would be invaluable to their development.
I think the Astros have some great pieces for the future and the time to move in that direction may just be the 2010 season...no one likes to rebuild but what if it assured that your team would be competitive for the next decade?