• HaroldHecuba: Mike Mussina is EASTERN EUROPEAN, not Italian....

This is part of a series of posts in which we call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.

For the past 10 years or so, the Houston Astros have had strong, talented squads and have proven they’re a playoff-caliber team. Although they’ve had the spoiler role in more than one postseason in the past, conventional wisdom will tell you that the Astros belong among the top teams playing each October.

Having reached the doorstep of baseball greatness in 2005, failing to go through the door, the team that plays in the stadium formerly known as Enron field will feature a much stronger, and younger, roster in 2007.

Gone are Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens; two all-time fan faves and local heros – can you say Jeff Bagwell day? – and Andy Pettite.

GM Tim Purpura brought in a big name player in OF Carlos “El Caballo” Lee, and two front-line starters in Jason Jennings and Woody Williams (far right). Lee’s addition alone was enough to bolster a line-up with Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg at the heart of the order. True, Ensberg had a rough 2006, posting career lows in hits (91), RBIs (58) and batting average (.235), but his underperformance was more a result of a nagging shoulder injury, and the fact that he minimized the pain, than a season-long slump. CF Willy Taveras is gone, and though Chris Burke won’t be doing full lay-out dives anytime soon, his bat will make up for the lack of flash.

The departure of Andy Pettite and the recurring retirement of Clemens (who is, again, flirting with a comeback) could actually be a blessing in disguise for the Astros. Pettite was never able to show true form while wearing Astros pin-stripes, and Clemens was more of a ceremonial addition than anything. The singing of Williams and Jennings gives manager Phil Garner’s rotation a solid one-two-three front-line, lead by ace Roy Oswalt; and with several young arms contending for the 4th and 5ht spots, the Astros rotation should be set after Spring Training.

There may be some lingering questions in the bullpen with closer Brad Lidge‘s ability to deal with pressure situations. After giving up that infamous walk-off home run to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS, he gave up another walk-off in game 2 of the World Series, only to blow a career high six saves and post a 1-5 record, with a 5.29 ERA in 2006 (highest since 2002, his rookie season, in which he started and pitched in one game).

Overall, though, general manager Tim Purpura assembled a strong staff for 2007, making the Astros a strong candidate to win the wild card, if not contend for the NL Central Crown.

Offseason Grade: A   B- (ugh, I get no respect, see comments)

Acquisitions: Carlos Lee, Jason Jennings, Woody Williams, Mark Loretta.

Losses: Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, Willy Taveras, Abrey Huff, Tyler Buchholz, Russ Springer.

Projected line-up, rotation, and closer

astros_logo2.gif2B Craig Biggio .246 / .306 / .422, 62 RBI

CF Chris Burke .276 / .347 / .418

1B Lance Berkman .315 /.420 / .621, 45 HR 136 RBI

LF Carlos Lee .300 /.355 /.540, 37 HR 116 RBI

3B Morgan Ensberg .235 /.396 /.463, 58 RBI

RF Luke Scott .336 / .426 /.621, 37 RBI (in 65 games)

SS Adam Everett .336 / .426 /.621

C Brad Ausmus .230 / .308 / .285

RHP Roy Oswalt 15-8, 298

RHP Jason Jennings 9-13, 3.78

RHP Woody Williams 12-5, 3.65

LHP Wandy Rodriguez 9-10, 5.64

RHP Fernando Nieve 3-3, 4.20

CL Brad Lidge 32 SV 1-5, 5.28

- Hot Offseason Action Index -

4 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Astros”

  1. Coley Ward says:

    Are there three more washed up players out there than Brad Lidge, Morgan Ensberg and Woody Williams? Is there any chance Carlos Lee will hit his weight? Could the ‘Stros finish any higher than last this year?

    No.

  2. Alejandro are you on crack? The ‘Stros have had a TERRIBLE offseason. They lost a 330+ game winner, a dominant lefty, their leadoff hitter, and one of their most talented pitching prospects. How in the world do you suppose that they scored an A?

    There is no better word to describe Woody Williams than journeyman. Carlos Lee is a guy that put on 30+ pounds during a contract year! Can you imagine what he will continue to do now that he’s not playing for money?

    As is, their 2-5 starters are ALL question marks and the bottom of their lineup is suspect at best.

    Time to reassess the grading system…

  3. Nick Kapur says:

    I hate to pile on here, Alejandro, but Zvee and Coley are right. You seem determined to give out the first “A” grade of our series, but you keep giving it to teams that had horrible offseasons.

    The Jennings trade alone has been universally derided as one of the worst moves of the offseason, since he only has one year left on his contract, and nobody thinks Carlos Lee’s hitting will keep up with his balooning weight.

    And Clemens and Pettite are gone.

    I don’t see how we can give an “A” to a team that is clearly much worse off as we head into 2007 than it was at the end of the 2006 season.

  4. Wow, Zvee actually reads us?!

    UGH! You people are the finest of critics.

    First of all, Clemens is not for sure gone, he’s 99% gone.

    Second, I take ZERO responsibility for whatever happens in the National League. It’s a lame league and I do NOT follow it.

    Third, I didn’t come up with this lame grading system; what criteria are we using?!?!

    Fourth, Pettite never pitched like he did in NY, he had ONE good season, one average season, and one dreadful season (yes, injuries count as dreadful). Williams has been consistent, sure he had an off 2005, but he bounced back in 2006. And he DID win 18 games in 2003.

    Fifth, Carlos Lee may be fat, but he’s increased or maintained his average while propping up his power numbers. So what if he’s fat? The man can hit, PERIOD! They didn’t sign him to steal bases, they signed him to give Berkman some damn protection.

    How on earth is this team worse now? How many games did Clemens win in 2006? 7, how many did he start 19. Fine, he had ZERO run support, HELLOO?!?! That’s what Lee is there for now!

    Pettite’s record was 14-13, with a 4.20 ERA in 2006; Jennings did have 13 losses versus 9 wins, but his era was considerably lower than Pettite’s (3.78), and though Enron Field is a hitter’s park, Jennings pitched in Colorado.

    The only significant contribution these two pitchers had was in 2005 when they lead the team to the World Series. But that was 2005, not 2006!

    Besides those two dinosaurs, the other “significant” loss was Willy Taveras. The only contribution he had other than steals was strike outs; and with no one other than Berkman to collect RBIs last year, what did those steals matter?

    And what’s with questioning my As? You people sure as hell don’t complain when I failed or gave Ds.

    If I do recall, SOMEONE sure gave the Cubs an A-.

    For what? For signing one of the most unreliable non-outfielder outfielders for ton of money?

    Bullocks!

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