There really is a light at the end of the tunnel in Houston.
It was the worst season in franchise history on the field. The Houston Astros had been the only franchise in baseball not to lose 100 games in a season. That streak ended with a crushing 106 losses. More importantly, it was a rough season off the field. A sale that should have been approved in July still hasn't been improved.
Brighter days are ahead in Houston. They have an improved farm system and the No. 1 overall pick. Plus, the ownership situation seems to be clearing up. Also, Carlos Lee enters the last year of a contract that seemed to go on forever.
Bud Selig seems motivated to get this thing done.
Jim Crane didn't make more than a billion dollars by falling off the turnip truck. He knows that Bud is under the gun to get the collective bargaining deal done. If the sale is not approved, the Astros will not move to the American League. If they don't move, then Bud can't expand the playoffs like he wants to.
Crane is sticking to the November 30th deadline and says he will withdraw if the sale does not go through by then. So, Bud Selig and the other owners want to facilitate the move. For his part, Crane wants compensation for a move to the American League. He foresees increased travel costs and lost television revenue because of more trips to the West Coast.
Selig doesn't want to establish a precedent of giving money to a team so they can move leagues. Look for Drayton to lower the price magically by a figure all parties agree upon. The ownership may change hands soon as late October when the playoffs are over or early in November. It will get done though.
Ed Wade and new CEO George Postolos will not mix.
This will have little to do with the great pot bust of 2011. It has more to do with style of incoming CEO George Postolos. Postolos was the president of the Houston Rockets when they brought in stat guy Darryl Morey as their general manager. He likes analytical analysis and thinks it can play an integral role in helping build a winning team.
Ed Wade and Tal Smith are both old-school baseball guys. That style is dying out as more and more teams are seeing the value of adding statistical analysis to their operation. Both will find their way out of Houston before the 2012 season begins. The trouble will be timing as teams are preparing for the offseason now and preparing for the June draft once the season begins.
Andrew Friedman is a Houston native.
This one obviously is the boldest prediction here. Friedman has a great thing going in Tampa Bay, so he will be very careful about making his best move. The Rays have a ton of hot prospects and a business model that is second to none. It also has a stadium situation that threatens to shut the whole operation down within a few years.
Houston has a few things going for it that the other large markets do not. First, it is Friedman's childhood home, so the possibility of rebuilding ship in his hometown is a huge selling point. Second, the new ownership group doesn't need to be sold on the idea of rebuilding it the right way. They already believe it so we have a philosophical match.
Finally, Friedman has ultimate job security in Tampa because they've already laid the groundwork and he is treated like a god over there. Chicago and Boston (the other two possibilities) can't offer the same job security. Houston can because it is a more laid-back media market and people tend to be more patient there.
Rodriguez will be a hot commodity this winter.
This one isn't that bold, but what the Astros in return could be. They spent the 2011 trade deadline paring down the payroll. They traded Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Jeff Keppinger in deals largely designed to cut payroll. They added a lot of good prospects in the process. Pundits think they will do the same with Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. I think they'll go in a different direction.
When you look at the current roster and the farm system you can see glaring holes at catcher, third base and the bullpen. The Astros could fill some of those holes or all of them in the process of dealing both players. The Rockies wanted Rodriguez but not for Wilin Rosario. They think Rosario is ready. Fine, we'll take Chris Iannetta off their hands. Problem solved. Iannetta has one year left and a team option for 2013.
There are rumors that the Rockies are interested in David Wright. Even though the Mets have said he is not available, anything is possible with a rebuilding team in financial disarray. Okay, let's beat them to the punch and offer Rodriguez and a prospect for David Wright. He is also signed through 2012 with a team option. The Mets get much-needed pitching and fill our third base hole.
Finally, we get the Nationals. They were rumored to have interest in Rodriguez. The Astros could cut payroll two ways by getting Tyler Clippard and Ian Desmond in return. Both are under club control and getting Desmond would allow the Astros to let Clint Barmes go. Meanwhile, Clippard could slide in as the setup man or closer.
Myers will fetch more on the open market than you think.
This also doesn't register as a surprise. However, fans may be surprised to see what the Astros get in return. He had a losing record and an ERA near 4.50, but there aren't too many pitchers that have eclipsed 200 innings in each of the last two seasons. He would look really good as someone's fourth or fifth starter.
What the Astros get will depend on what happens with Rodriguez. If they are able to plug a hole or two with him they might just get prospects in return. However, they now have the payroll flexibility to take on some salary in return.
Cosart could make Jordan Lyles look like a bush leaguer.
Cosart skipped High-A without a beat when he was promoted to Corpus Christi. He already looks ready, but the Astros want him to get a little more seasoning. If Rodriguez and Myers are dealt there will be plenty of opportunities to break into the rotation. He likely will start the year in Oklahoma City.
This prediction depends on both Rodriguez and Myers getting dealt. After them, the Astros have three established starters in Bud Norris, J.A. Happ and Jordan Lyles. Henry Sosa showed some good things and might or might not make it. That leaves an open slot and Oberholtzer is the most polished of all the pitchers have that are close.
Shuck could be the beneficiary of Schafer's pot bust.
Make no mistake, this should happen whether Jordan Schafer is a pothead or not. Yet, the Astros are sometimes one of those organizations that needs an excuse to do the right thing. Shuck is a capable fielder, a good baserunner and has some decent power.
However, it is his ability to get on base that is the key. This team desperately needs players that will work counts and draw walks.
Domingo Santana was the player to be named later in the Hunter Pence deal. He has the potential to be the best player from that trade. After the deal, he stayed on the East Coast in Lexington. He hit five home runs in 76 at-bats in Lexington. Lexington is the better pitching league among the two levels of A-ball the Astros participate in.
Santana is going to Lancaster next year where the average hitter hits over .300. The ballpark has produced power numbers that are mind-boggling. So, you put a budding power hitter in a hitter's paradise. Yup, I think Domingo Santana is a name you are going to start hearing a lot.
Carlos Lee will likely have a good final season in Houston.
The Chicago Cubs are in salary hell, so their options are limited. The Astros, on the other hand, have options already on the roster and possibilities this winter. They were significantly worse than their projected record (according to Pythagoras). I would not be surprised to see them improve nearly 20 games in the standings.