- Winter Preview----Houston Astros:
They're old, have little minor league help on the way and have already made one ridiculous signing this off-season. Keeping the Pirates out of last place in the division is not an accomplishment.
What they need: Lots of starting pitching; a veteran shortstop; a veteran backup catcher.
Free agents: SS Miguel Tejada; RHP Jose Valverde; OF Jason Michaels; LHP Mike Hampton; 1B/OF Darin Erstad; RHP Doug Brocail; RHP Brian Moehler; 1B/3B Aaron Boone
Tejada has been under fire in recent years because of his lies to congressional investigators about his PED use and that he was found to be older than his listed age (as if that's some new occurrence with Dominican players); but what's ignored amid all the controversy is that Tejada can still hit.
No, he's not the basher he was when he won the MVP with the Athletics 2002, but as a shortstop or shifting over the third, he's an attractive and still-productive option for a club needing a veteran bat. Someone will sign Tejada and he'll be productive. He won't be back with the Astros.
The Astros have signed Brandon Lyon to a 3-year, $15 million contract (Yes. Really.) and traded for Matt Lindstrom from the Marlins, so they have replacements for Valverde. Valverde throws very, very hard and someone will sign him as a closer or flamethrowing set-up man.
Michaels makes me angry because he just looks like he should be a better player than he is, but never does much of anything aside from the occasional hit, fielding play or simple movement that makes a team executive someplace think the exact same thing. He'll get a contract elsewhere as a back-up outfielder.
Hampton's arm gave out again, but the Astros might bring him back on a minor league deal and give him a chance to rehab and pitch again.
Erstad was horrible for the Astros in 2009, but he can still catch the ball in the outfield and at first base. Perhaps a change to a better team would awaken his bat.
Brocail is a respected veteran who I think can still pitch. He and the Astros have parted ways, but someone looking for inexpensive, veteran bullpen help will sign Brocail.
The Astros declined Moehler's contract option, so he's gone. He could have some use for someone as a long reliever/swing starter.
Aaron Boone retired.
Players available via trade: RHP Tim Byrdak; INF Jeff Keppinger; 2B Kaz Matsui; C J.R. Towles
Teams have contacted the Astros about both Roy Oswalt and Carlos Lee and have been rebuffed. I wouldn't be surprised if inquiries have been made as to the availability of Wandy Rodriguez, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence as well. The Astros need to do a teardown and rebuild the farm system, but they're not going to do it.
GM Ed Wade isn't exactly Branch Rickey; and owner Drayton McLane is a meddler, so unless they bring in a solid, talent evaluating GM, it makes no sense to even start cleaning house. They could rebuild the franchise relatively quickly if they sold off their assets with a smart GM, but forget it.
They've got what they've got----an old roster, no starting pitching and a load of fill-in pieces around some star caliber players.
Byrdak appeared in 76 games and pitched well. He's arbitration-eligible and due a big raise. I doubt they'll trade him.
Keppinger has proven himself to be a useful utility player who can hit a bit. He's arbitration-eligible and could find himself playing shortstop every day for the Astros. I don't think he'll be moved.
The Astros would love to be rid of Matsui. He's only making $5 million next year, so after the free agent/trade chips fall, Matsui could be traded.
Towles has been a complete washout as a prospect. He's gotten chance-after-chance and simply has not hit. Given the Astros circumstances, they might as well go into the spring telling Towles that it's his job, sink or swim, and see if he hits.
Non-tender candidates: RHP Gary Majewski
The veteran Majewski spent the entire 2009 season in the minors. Someone will bring him to camp on a minor league contract.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); INF Jamey Carroll (Indians); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); LHP Jarrod Washburn (Tigers); C Miguel Olivo (Royals); C Brad Ausmus (Dodgers); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); INF Craig Counsell (Brewers); INF Felipe Lopez (Brewers); RHP Braden Looper (Brewers); SS Orlando Cabrera (Twins); C Mike Redmond (Twins); RHP Justin Duchscherer; RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); LHP Randy Johnson (Giants); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); RHP Joel Pineiro (Cardinals); C Rod Barajas (Blue Jays)
I know some of the names of starting pitchers----Martinez, Johnson----are Hall of Famers just hanging in; or are veterans who might not help the Astros all that much----Washburn, Davis----or probably aren't going to fall to them----Pineiro, Marquis----but the Astros need some viable starting pitching behind Oswalt and Rodriguez.
They've spent money foolishly on Lyon, so if they're not going to clean house and rebuild, they need pitching from somewhere. Garland was inches away from being traded to the Astros a few years ago before the deal fell apart, so that's a possibility.
There are veteran shortstops floating around. Orlando Cabrera's a real option for them and Lopez is a forgotten free agent who appears to have learned how to hit.
I'd faint if Redmond left the cozy confines of Minnesota and the warm embrace of playing behind Joe Mauer, but he's a respected free agent backup. Ausmus hasn't exactly retired, was a longtime Astro before moving on to the Dodgers; and wouldn't balk at being a backup and tutoring Towles. Barajas could fill that same role.
Via trade: RHP Andy Sonnanstine (Rays); RHP Jeremy Bonderman (Tigers); INF Jhonny Peralta (Indians); RHP Gil Meche (Royals); LHP Cole Hamels (Phillies); RHP Joe Blanton (Phillies); RHP Derek Lowe (Braves); RHP Javier Vazquez (Braves); RHP Mike Pelfrey (Mets); RHP Carlos Zambrano (Cubs); RHP Chris Young (Padres)
There are some gigantic rolls of the dice here like Sonnanstine and Bonderman, but they could presumably get both for next-to-nothing. Zambrano is pricey and has made the Cubs and Cubs fans very, very angry with his inconsistency and excuses. Lowe's pricey, but the Astros have spent money in the past.
Blanton's name is out there and if the Astros decide to put Lee on the market, the Mets would absolutely give up Pelfrey.
Peralta is reasonably priced and could move back to shortstop in a pinch.
- The soothing voice of the Prince of New York:
I was a guest on Sal Cartusciello's podcast yesterday. Sal does a great job talking about all sports and his website is SportsFan Buzz.
If you'd like to hear the dulcet sound of my voice (it ain't Ernie Johnson's deep broad-caster's...voice with perfectly irritating diction, but it's distinctive, like my style) and----good or bad----you ain't gonna forget it. Plus I'm interesting.
Click here and bask in my fantastic wonderfulness.
- Yankees intend to non-tender Chien-Ming Wang:
Note to Mets GM Omar Minaya: get on the phone to Wang's agent as soon as the non-tender is official and get him. Immediately.
With the Mets gigantic ballpark and their infield defense back intact with Jose Reyes, Wang would be a big winner with the Mets if he's healthy; plus he's a lot more of a competitor than his quiet demeanor indicates. He's love to shove it to the Yankees by helping the Mets.
The Mets need to jump in on that with both feet if they trust he'll come back healthy, and I think he will.
- Rich Harden is looking to give 200 innings to the Rangers:
After seeing the sun come up day-after-day for my entire life, I've kinda come to expect it without fail.
In a similar vein, I also expect Rich Harden to injure one (or several) parts of his flawed yet gifted anatomy and wind up on the disabled list for extended periods at any time.
I don't want to hear fractured logic about how trading Kevin Millwood's solid and reliable 200 innings for Harden's potentially Cy Young Award contending, great 200 innings was a worthwhile risk. They're not getting 200 innings from Rich Harden. Forget it.
They could've signed Harden and kept Millwood. That would've made sense. They're dreaming if they believe Harden's going to give them 30 starts. Much like the stat zombies (who are defending the trade of Millwood and signing of Harden) point to past performance on the field as basis for making decisions, it works with injuries as well. Past is an indicator as to whether a player will stay healthy; given Harden's history, does anyone think he's going to be able to get on the mound for anything more than 20 starts, if that? No way.
- Tiger, Tiger---heading for couples therapy:
It's not the womanizing that's making people laugh and shake their heads at Tiger Woods. It's never the actual act that causes the indignation with people who are living in reality---it's the hypocrisy.
Like former New York Governor Eliot (Black Sox Scandal) Spitzer, Woods was portraying himself as one thing in public while behaving as the exact opposite in reality as he made a vast fortune and crafted this image of perfection. Is anyone stunned? Really?
Now he's taking time off from golf to replenish his image. One thing I don't want to hear is the excuse floating around that he was so devastated by his father's death that he went over the edge. I was upset when my father died, you didn't see me going on a rampage.*
*Of course you could say my rampage is the basic template and----pardon the pun---par for the course, but that's neither here nor there.
Tiger had the best of all worlds. He had the beautiful wife and family at home; he had the carefully constructed and maintained image of family man; he had the endorsements; he had the trophies and status as a historic figure not just in golf, but in life; and he had the party girls on the side who kept their mouths shut because he bought them stuff or out-and-out gave them money. That's it.
He didn't lose his mind after his father died. He was going off and having a ball because he thought he'd get away with it. It was arrogance, narcissism and horniness. Pure and simple.
Don't believe any other PR stunt he uses to wriggle out of this mess because it's crap. He's not sorry for what he did. He's sorry he got caught. Period.