Houston's Recent Pitching Acquisitions Suggest a Big Gamble

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 29:  Matt Lindstrom #22 of the Florida Marlins throws a pitch against the New York Mets on April 29, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Marlins defeated the Mets 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

LaTroy Hawkins is gone, having left the Houston Astros for the Milwaukee Brewers. Jose Valverde's all but gone; any day now, I expect to hear of some other team signing him. He won't be back in Houston, simply because the Astros feel he's too expensive and too much of an investment.

So to replace these two pitchers, the Astros have acquired to new pitchers.

The first is right-hander Matt Lindstrom, who came over from the Florida Marlins. He's 29 and throws gas, with a fastball that's around 100 mph. One positive that Lindstrom brings is that he converted 13 of 15 save opportunities last year. The negative is that last season his ERA was a whopping 5.89 and he dealt with elbow problems. Despite his occasional struggles of a year ago, some think he may be the team's next closer.

Memo to Lindstrom—try to pitch in ways where players will hit the ball to straightaway center field in Minute Maid. To my knowledge, nobody's ever smacked it over the 436 foot sign. If you allow a right-handed power hitter (like Albert Pujols) to pull the ball, you can stick a fork in it. Just ask Brad Lidge.

Through free agency, the 'Stros have also acquired right-hander Brandon Lyon, who was signed to a three-year deal.

This deal confuses me. Why would you give a three-year deal to a guy who went 6-5 and had 29 combined saves, but who had a 4.70 ERA?

Granted, LaTroy Hawkins is 60-81 in his career (it's common for relievers to lose more games than they win) with a 4.52 ERA. One plus is that Hawkins is 36 while Lyon is 30. I'm guessing Houston's hoping that Lyon matures and becomes a pitching asset.

The plan is to try to replace the departed with what you perceive to be the best available. Sometimes it works and other times it flops. I wonder if we're going to look back at the winter meetings and scratch our heads in a few months—especially if Houston has problems with its bullpen. I'm still hoping Houston will add a quality starter.

Last but not least, Houston concluded the Winter Meetings today by signing free agent third-baseman Pedro Feliz to a one-year, $4.5 million contract.

One has to wonder if Ed Wade's a Napoleon Dynamite fan and kept screaming at Drayton McLane, "VOTE FOR PEDRO! VOTE FOR PEDRO!"

Feliz, whose surname means "Happy" in Spanish, hit .266 with 12 home runs and 82 RBI last season in 158 games.

One has to wonder if Houston signed Feliz to be a place holder until next year in hopes of developing a good third baseman in the minors or in case someone more lucrative is available. They say Feliz is a decent power hitter (although 12 homers in 158 games isn't a whole lot, though he did average at least 20 big flies in his final four years with the San Francisco Giants). His career batting average is .254 and his career on-base percentage is .293. Yikes.

What's more, Feliz walks a little but strikes out a lot. However, he is solid in the field, with a .964 career fielding percentage at third base.

Only time will tell if these are good deals.

Richard Zowie, who blogs about the Houston Astros at Bleacher Report, can be reached at richardzowie@gmail.com .