This is one in a series of posts where we laud teams’ shrewd offseason acquisitions and pan their terrible trades and silly signings.

Last week, the Astros signed GM Ed Wade to a 2-year contract extension, and owner Drayton McLane was quick to praise Wade:

“Ed is an outstanding baseball man. He’s organized and has surrounded himself with a good, solid staff. Much of the work Ed did in Philadelphia had a lot to do with them becoming a champion. We feel he has us moving in the right direction to be a champion as well.”

Moving in the right direction? That’s a tough sell. The Astros finished 2009 in fifth place, 17 games behind the Cardinals. What’s more, they were incredibly lucky, as the team’s Pythagorean record suggests they should have won 7 fewer games.

Houston is one of the oldest teams in baseball and most of the organization’s best players (Carlos Lee, Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman) are in decline. What’s more, little help is on the way. Recently, Keith Law ranked the Astros farm system 28th, and only catching prospect Jason Castro is poised to make the jump to the bigs anytime soon.

With vacancies at shortstop and third base and McLane bent on spending less in 2010, what did Wade do this offseason?

He spent big on a reliever, that’s what. Brandon Lyon got a three-year deal worth $15M even though, in seven professional seasons, Lyon has only once been worth $5M. It was a reckless signing, a move that drew criticism from all parts of the interwebs, and for good reason.

Wade did make a few less crazy moves. He signed 3B Pedro Feliz for $4.5M — a lot of money to pay for a third baseman with a bad back who can’t hit, but at least it was only a one-year deal. And Feliz will almost certainly be an improvement over Geoff Blum, who played third for the ‘Stros last season.

For $5.1M, Wade landed Brett Myers, an asshole who gives up way to many home runs. His HR/FB rate in nearly 1,200 innings is 15.5 percent.

Wade traded for Matt Lindstrom, who at $1.6M for one year is a good gamble, even though he sucked last year. If Lindstrom can remember how to limit home runs, he could be a great bargain, and Houston didn’t give up much to get him.

As for the shortstop vacancy, Wade gave the job to slick fielding minor leaguer Tommy Manzella, who has a .321 OBP in five minor league seasons. Manzella is going to have to be awfully good with the glove to justify what most people project will be pretty meager offensive production.

I don’t expect the Astros to be horrible this season. Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez are a formidable pair atop the rotation (though the rest of the rotation is much less intimidating). And Houston has some power, with Lee, Hunter Pence and Berkman all capable of hitting 30 homers.

But these guys need to learn to take a walk. The Astros were 13th in the NL in OBP last season, and that doesn’t stand to improve much with Manzella replacing Miguel Tejada at short.

Moreover, even if Houston’s aging vets can stay healthy (a big if), the team doesn’t look built to compete with the Cardinals or Cubs. The Reds, too, look better on paper.

Maybe the best thing the Astros did this offseason is finish construction on their Dominican Republic Academy, which will open later this spring. After years of crappy drafts and inattention to international scouting, it seems the Astros are finally starting to wake up to the importance of building from the ground up. Better late than never.

Offseason Grade: D

Acquisitions: SP Brett Myers, 3B Pedro Feliz, RP Brandon Lyon, RP Matt Lindstrom.

Losses: RP Jose Valverde, 3B Brett Boone, RP Doug Brocail, RP LaTroy Hawkins, SS Miguel Tejada, 1B Darin Erstad, C Chris Coste.

Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer

C J.R. Towles
1B Lance Berkman
2B Kazuo Matsui
3B Pedro Feliz
SS Tommy Manzella
LF Carlos Lee
CF Michael Bourn
RF Hunter Pence

SP1 Roy Oswalt
SP2 Wandy Rodriguez
SP3 Brett Myers
SP4 Brian Moehler Bud Norris
SP5 Brandon Backe Felipe Paulino/Brian Moehler

CL Brandon Lyon

– Hot Offseason Action Index –

5 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Houston Astros”

  1. Best thing the Astros could do is blow the team up and sell off everything of value to the highest bidder. Oswalt, Wandy, Berkman, and even Lee could bring back solid value even if the ‘Stros have to eat some money to get them moved. Keep Pence to build around and so there’s at least one familiar face for the fans.

    Too bad the powers that be in Houston will never do it.

  2. Since Brandon Backe hasn’t been with the team in over a year, I seriously doubt he’ll be in the starting rotation…

    I think SP4 and SP5 will be Bus Norris and Felipe Paulino.

    Starting rotation is gonna be better. Bullpen will probably even out and be overall about the same as last year.

    The offense is 100% in the crapper! Tommy Manzella couldn’t hit water with his ass if he fell out of a boat. Kaz Matsui sucked last year, even when he was healthy. New 3rd baseman is in decline. And catcher’s gonna blow too. With the exception of Berkman, this will be the least productive infield in baseball… In spite of how much the defense is improved.

    Really sad to see. More than anything, the Astros need a new owner. Uncle Drayton brought a lot of winning years with him, but his time has come and gone.

    Here’s praying that my favorite team can figure out a way to play .500 ball.

  3. Kevin, you’re right about Backe, of course. To save time I copied and pasted in last year’s lineup and I forgot to take him out. I made the changes, though I’m curious if the Astros will give Paulino a shot. He seems like the kind of player the Astros would ignore, at their peril.

  4. Coley,

    I think the ‘Stros are fascinated by his big power arm. In reality, there are a few guys targeting that 5th slot… including Wesley Wright.

    I think it’s Paulino’s slot to lose. But Moehler blows and just isn’t capable of getting the job done anymore… his arm is shot and he’s a gopher ball waiting to happen. And unfortunately, we can’t unload him anymore.

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    The most amazing part of all is that the Astros had a payroll of $102 million last season, and are going to be very close to that again this season, which is crazy considering how bad this team is. That said, a huge number of contracts are coming off the books in time for 2011, so they will have a lot more flexibility next year. Too bad Ed Wade is still going to be in charge…

Leave a Reply

    Recent Comments

    • planet hobbywood: This is very interesting.
    • Bren: He is a awesome player and a good man.. sweet.. polite.. friendly.. down to earth.. he never acted as though he...
    • HADAJUN( Japanese): Okajima a Japanese hero?
    • Rickt: I am the biggest Cal Jr fan around but one of my good friends played minor league baseball in the Orioles...
    • HADAJUN: I wish for play in Japan. The death is regrettable.


    Subscribe via email

    Enter your email address:


Featured posts

December 5, 2011

Will anybody get elected to the Hall of Fame this year?

Last week, we asked you to vote for who you would like to see enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame. The verdict? If it were up to UmpBump readers, nobody would make it in. The leading vote getter (so far) is Jeff Bagwell, who has 60% support. Of course, in the real voting, players need […]

January 5, 2011

Annual UmpBump Hall of Fame Balloting: 2011 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, we here at UmpBump cast our ballots for the Hall of Fame on the eve of the announcements of the voting for the real Hall of Fame. Voters can vote for anyone ever who has been retired from baseball for at least five years and is not already […]

October 19, 2010

Crowdsourcing the Greats: The Top 10 Managers of All Time

Now that we’ve looked at every position on the diamond, as well as relief pitchers, we are nearing the end of our “Crowdsourcing the Greats” series. But before we finish, let’s turn one more time to the internet hoi polloi for answers on who the greatest baseball manager of all time was. As usual, we […]