With the Astros continuing their recent slump and offensive slumber, it’s time to quickly take a look at a few trade options especially if Houston has to begin looking at 2011 rather than making plans for late October.
Big names that are obviously wanted by other clubs include the likes of starting right-handed pitcher Roy Oswalt (who has a no-trade clause), first baseman Lance Berkman (also has a no-trade clause in his contract), and All-Star youngster outfielder Hunter Pence (whom is likely untouchable as a major part of the future of the franchise).
Some other Houston players who may draw some trade interest include outfielder Carlos Lee (who has a big contract that most teams will aim to avoid), second baseman Kaz Matsui (whom has been overpaid and underachieving since joining the Astros), left-handed starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (a lefty in the rotation is always something big league managers are looking for), and reliever Chris Sampson (who has a sparkling 1.64 ERA this season).
Of the seven aforementioned names, I truly believe Berkman and Pence are in Houston to stay. All five others, however, (including starters Oswalt and Rodriguez) could very well be used as part of a major trade as the Astros begin building towards the future around the young guys like outfielders Pence and Michael Bourn, pitcher Bud Norris, and infielders Jeff Keppinger and Tommy Manzella (just to name a handful of the up-and-comers in the majors).
Could Roy Oswalt be pitching elsewhere come late summer?
Will Carlos Lee still be an Astro in August?
Is Wandy Rodriguez going to be with the ball club next year?
All these answers and more as we quickly delve into possible trade scenarios surrounding the Houston Astros and the future of the franchise…
Carlos Lee seems like the prime target (as far as Houston is concerned) for initiating a major trade with other MLB teams.
Lee, who is highly-overpaid for what he produces on the field of play, is playing awful to begin the season: not something Astros management can be happy about when looking into possible trade options with their starting left fielder.
It will also be tough to rid themselves of Lee’s contract due to the steep price and term-length: $19 million/year through 2012 (he signed a six-year, $100 million contract with the club in 2006).
With a mere .194 batting average and 17 strikeouts this season, it will be hard to trade Lee.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the coming months.
Unfortunately, Roy Oswalt is probably the most-likely to be traded in any major deal if the Astros decide to begin looking towards their future.
Although Oswalt has a no-trade clause in his contract (he’s being paid $15 million this season), I could easily see Houston’s All-Star pitcher approving a deal to a competitive team of his choice.
Oswalt still has plenty of solid years left in his arm, and I wouldn’t blame him for bolting for greener pastures if the right deal is presented to him.
However, Oswalt could also easily say no to any offers on the table and may opt to remain in Houston for the long-haul.
Oswalt, 2-3 with a 2.73 ERA this season, has 28 strikeouts and just nine walks in 2010.
Kaz Matsui also falls into the “Carlos Lee” category: he’s overpaid, and he yearly underachieves after high expectations upon him first landing in Houston as the Astros second baseman.
But through his past few seasons in Houston, Matsui has done a whole lot of major disappointing—from injury-plagued time with the team to absolute pitiful hitting at the plate (while getting paid $5.5 million this season).
Matsui will also be a tough player for the Astros to include in any MLB trade because unfortunately, Houston’s second baseman has far from shown up since his arrival to the team, and he’s only getting older.
Batting just .190 this season through 16 games at second base, Matsui has just eight hits and one run scored in 2010.
Houston’s southpaw starting pitcher may become untouchable depending on what the organization wants to do with their future, but Wandy Rodriguez would definitely draw interest from other MLB clubs.
What the Astros could get in return for Rodriguez have yet to be seen, but it’s an absolute possibility that Houston could consider shopping their lefty if the team continues their downward spiral.
Rodriguez (who is being paid $5 million this season) has continued to improve every year since joining the big leagues. Houston still has high hopes for their southpaw starter, but if the Astros keep playing as awful as they have been, they may have no choice but to look at the options on the table for Wandy.
The No. 2 starter in Houston’s rotation, Rodriguez has a 3.64 ERA with a 1-3 record this season along with 19 strikeouts and a mere nine walks.
Chris Sampson, a major highlight in this year’s Houston bullpen, holds a sparkling 1.64 ERA through 11 innings pitched in 2010.
The starter-turned-reliever has done a phenomenal job coming out of the pen for the Astros, and Sampson’s trading stock has definitely risen since the year began.
In addition, Sampson (being paid $815,000 this year) has six strikeouts and four walks this season. Hopefully, he will remain a part of Houston’s future, but with how things are currently going, you really never know.
Regardless, Sampson will be getting lots of looks from other MLB clubs when it comes to trading time. The Astros may very well have to say goodbye to their star reliever if the price is right.
In all honesty, I really believe that IF Houston even decides to dissect the team, the only player to possibly be traded while getting something positive in return would be Roy Oswalt or Lance Berkman (with both having to approve the deal before anything could move forward), and as stated earlier, I really don’t see Berkman going anywhere.
Berkman, who went to college at Rice before joining the Astros, has high hopes of coaching at the University of Texas after he retires from the big leagues. I truly think Houston’s All-Star first baseman will retire as an Astro.
However, a trade could still happen in the coming months if Houston keeps falling further and further behind in the postseason race. Only time will tell who will be leaving and what will be happening when looking towards the future of Astros baseball…
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
[All Statistics Used Taken Prior To Houston Astros Hosting Arizona Diamondbacks On Tuesday Night, May 4 At Minute Maid Park]