2012 MLB Free Agency: Top 10 Astros Free Agent Targets

Scott BarzillaContributor IIINovember 14, 2011

2012 MLB Free Agency: Top 10 Astros Free Agent Targets

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    As our good friend Peter Brand said, you shouldn't be worried about buying players. You should worry about buying wins. In reality, you are really buying runs that turn into wins.

    A lot of teams will make the big mistake of going after the big name. The Marlins definitely seem to be going down that road. It will make them the darlings of November and December.

    So, the Astros aren't looking to make waves. They are looking for incremental improvement. They did it last year at shortstop.

    No one will think of Clint Barmes as an all-star level performer, but when you added it all up, it was a marked improvement. 

Ramon Hernandez

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    The Astros catching situation is horrible offensively. Nobody will ever cast a Hall of Fame vote for Ramon Hernandez, but he has been a solid catcher for over a decade. In particular, his defense is sometimes shaky, but he can hit.

    Out of 43 qualifying catchers, Humberto Quintero rated number 38th in total player rating. Jason Castro's 2010 numbers would rank him 36th in 2011. Obviously, you can't feel too good about the catching situation if you are an Astros fan. Hernandez ranks 17th among the 43 catchers. So, he would register somewhere in the middle of the pack of regulars.

    That shouldn't capture your imagination, but it does spell incremental improvement. If you do that at enough positions, you suddenly look up at a competitive team. What's more, you do it for far less than those teams that go after the big boys

Ryan Doumit

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    Speaking of incremental improvement, Doumit would represent great improvement at the plate. It is behind the plate that is the biggest question mark.

    He ranks one spot ahead of Ramon Hernandez, but supposedly has a number of suitors already going after him. Most of them are American League clubs that want him to DH some.

Kelly Shoppach

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    Kelly Shoppach only ranks 22nd among catchers in TPR, but that is still a darn sight better than any of the catchers the Astros have used the past couple of seasons.

    Jason Castro could conceivably platoon with Shoppach and the catching situation would still be considerably better.

Casey Blake

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    If there are any rules in free agency, buy low and sell high is it. Blake is coming off an injury-riddled season, so he may not get many offers. However, he was still better than Chris Johnson and Jimmy Paredes last year.

    Naturally, I think they should give the job to Matt Downs, but they may be saving him as a utility infielder.

Mike Aviles

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    Mike Aviles is not a prototypical free agent, but it is expected that he will not be offered arbitration. Aviles can play all of the infield positions and may come in handy at third or short in Houston if he is indeed let go. He isn't a gifted offensive player, but he might be equal to what Barmes produced. 

Edgar Renteria

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    In the movie Major League they described Jake Taylor as a former all-star before he had problems with his knees. One of the executives said, "I wish we would have had him two years ago." The GM answered, "we did." So, the executive shot back, "four years ago then." Such words could be used to describe Edgar Renteria. He has had a terrific career, but it is nearing an end.

    Renteria is what we would call a conditional target. If the Astros cannot re-sign Clint Barmes then they will have to consider a veteran to hold down the fort. Simply put, Angel Sanchez will not cut the mustard. As pedestrian as Renteria has become, he is still better than Sanchez according to TPR. 

Miguel Tejada

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    Believe it or not, Miguel Tejada was better than Angel Sanchez last season. I don't know if that says more about Sanchez or Tejada.

    Tejada was actually very good defensively last season. He has lost virtually all of his power at the plate. Yet, he was well liked during his time in Houston, and he was generally well liked by the fans.

Chad Qualls

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    The Astros bullpen was once of the worst bullpens in baseball last season. Their overall numbers didn't look bad, but when they were in high leverage situations they struggled. Since they spent a good portion of the season in low leverage spots, they tended to look better.

    Brandon Lyon is coming back, but they could use another veteran arm to take on those tough spots in the seventh and eighth innings.

Dontrelle Willis

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    It took Willis awhile to get back to the big leagues, and he stuck once he was there. He managed only one win and a 5.00 ERA, but he pitched better than that and finally found the game he had when he was in Miami.

    Who knows? Maybe he is ready to be the Dontrelle Willis from 10 years ago.

Livan Hernandez

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    When you have a young pitching staff, you need someone who can simply throw innings. The Astros will be shopping Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers this offseason.

    If they are able to deal both of them, they will need a veteran to get them 180 to 200 innings. If Livan Hernandez can do anything, he can do that.