As we move closer to spring training and the start of the 2011 season, teams are still looking at free agents and how they might be able to help their team.
This past week, Vernon Wells was traded, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon reunited in Tampa Bay, and it looks like Vlad is on his way to Baltimore. There are still some quality free agents looking for homes and some of these players could help the Astros this season.
The Astros' weakest areas heading into the 2011 season are the fifth spot in the rotation, the bullpen and the middle infield. These free agents could help strengthen those areas and give the Astros a better shot to be competitive this season.
Orlando Cabrera last year played for the NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds and could help strengthen the middle of the infield for the Houston Astros. If the Astros signed Cabrera, they could move Clint Barmes to second base and have Bill Hall be a utility player coming off the bench.
The 13-year veteran has lost some of his talent at the plate, batting only .263 last season with four HRs and 42 RBI. He did, however, show he can still be a good defensive shortstop. Last year for the Reds he had a fielding percentage of .977, which was fifth best among shortstops.
He also could provide some veteran leadership in the clubhouse, which a young team like the Astros could use.
Another player who played in the playoffs last season and made it as far as the World Series is catcher Bengie Molina. Molina would be a great player to add to back up Jason Castro instead of Humberto Quintero and provide some veteran leadership for him. He also wouldn't be a liability in the field or at the plate.
Bengie was always considered a top defensive catcher and could help Castro in this area. He also could provide some power at the plate and may really benefit from the Crawford Boxes in left field. In 2009 he hit 20 HRs and had 80 RBI for the San Francisco Giants.
Justin Duchscherer is an interesting free agent as he is coming back from injury and still needs to prove he is healthy enough to pitch for 2011. All reports are that he will be healthy, and if that is the case, he would be a great addition to the back of the Houston Astros rotation.
When he is healthy, Duchscherer has shown he has the ability to be a quality pitcher. In 2008 he went 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA and was an All-Star. If the Astros were to sign Duchscherer, it would allow them to move Nelson Figueroa to the bullpen, which would make that unit better.
Another pitcher the Astros should consider adding is Jeremy Bonderman. The seven-year veteran has struggled the past few years but could be worth the risk if he is able to get back to his 2006 form when he went 14-8 with 202 strikeouts.
The reason he is still a free agent is because he has not pitched well in recent years. Last year for the Tigers he went 8-10 with a 5.53 ERA and 112 strikeouts.
The Astros could use him in that final spot in the rotation, again which would allow them to move Figueroa to the bullpen. A change of scenery may be just what Jeremy Bonderman needs to get back to being a quality pitcher.
Scott Podsednik would be a great option for the Houston Astros to replace Jason Michaels as the fourth outfielder, to back up Lee, Bourn and Pence. The nine-year veteran still has plenty of speed left, stealing 35 bases last season, and could create a nice 1-2 punch with Michael Bourn at the top of the order.
He also hasn't lost much at the plate, either, hitting .297 for the Kansas City Royals and LA Dodgers last year.
He is another player who could provide the Astros with some veteran leadership as well as playoff experience. He won a World Series in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox, beating the Houston Astros.
If the Astros signed Podsednik, they also could try and move Carlos Lee and have Podsednik step in as the starting left fielder.