We’re starting Spring Training and at this point, Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers are still with the team. I’m still hearing that Crane wants them off the team, as he wants the payroll as low as possible. He’s also offering Jason Bourgeois, Brian Bogusevic and Chris Johnson in trade – not sure if he wants them gone too, or if they are being used as carrots to get rid of Clank and Myers.
Money Bawl, all right. I’m bawling because Crane isn’t going to spend any money, not this year, not next year. If he ever decides to spend money, we’re going to be like the Pirates who say they are offering decent money to free agents (the 30 million for 3 years offered to Edwin Jackson) and they are being turned down – also see the Oakland Athletics with Adrian Beltre and Rafael Furcal, for a few examples.
Thing is that these days, there are too many owners who don’t care if they don’t win because they make money anyway. Trouble is that once a team gets into a hole, unless the owner is willing to blow Prince Fielder money, it’s going to stay in a hole, especially if the team is in a location which doesn’t draw attention, such as Oakland, KC or Houston. The Astros have not landed a top free agent, except for Clank, since they signed Doug Drabek and Greg Swindell, both on the downsides of their careers, back in 94. Not that Drayton tried to, except for Randy Johnson and Carlos Beltran, mind…
So here are the candidates so far.
First, guys who are candidates (only) to start:
Paul Clemens, RHP, age 24, just finished AA, he’s one of the guys obtained in the Bourn trade, so he’s gonna be pimped, you best believe it. Unless he pitches like an ace, Wandy and the ol WB are gone and nobody else besides Bud, Lyles, Livan and Happ pitch, he just might could make the rotation, instead of being sent to AAA, as he should be.
Zach Duke, LHP, age 28 – man I remember when he came up in 05 – he was 22, he just won and won and looked like he’d be The Next Big Thing – with a lowish K rate, but that’s how groundball pitchers are. But the next year, and the next, and the next, he struggled to get guys out, even though he didn’t walk many. He had a mini comeback in 09 – at least he pitched an entire year, but was terrible in 2010, threw 76 lousy innings for the DBax with 9 GS and 12 IP. Truth is that he wasn’t as good as he looked at first, and as lousy as he looks, he’s gonna either make the roster as the 5th guy (assuming the trades) or he’s gonna be stashed at AAA just like every other washed up, crappy pitcher we’ve stashed in AAA over the past few years – think Runelvys Hernandez or Gustavo Chacin, to be called up in case someone is hurt or if we need a 6th starter. Who knows, maybe Burt Hooten can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, youneverknow.
JA Happ, LHP, age 29: last year, at first looked as if he didn’t care, seeing as how he was stuck for life on the losingest team in the majors, then after he started getting creamed, he got that – oh pleeeeze GAWD don’t let em hit that pitch – kind of look, finally got sent down, got his head a little more together, and looked a little more like a major league pitcher when he got back. He’d be a #4 or 5 on any decent team, but he’s gonna be a #2 guy on ours (assuming the trades go through) and that tells you all you need to know about this here team.
Livan Hernandez, RHP, age at least 37, has spent most of his career with the Natspos, although I still remember him pitching batting practice in Game 7 of the 02 World Series, the must win game for the Giants. He doesn’t strikeout many, pitches a good 200+ innings/year, and his last 4 years ERA+ are 71, 76, 110 (yeah, dead cat bounce) and 87. He’ll fit right in with the Stros – this year’s Nelson Figueroa.
Jordan Lyles, RHP, age 21 – well, he’s one of those guys who the Astros WANT to succeed. He didn’t have a good year last year, and he obviously tired by September, when he was sent down for some rest. He didn’t get much support from his hitters/fielders, that’s fer sher. He may throw better this year, he’s only 21, youneverknow.
Brett Myers, RHP, age 31 – seems as if he’s been around forever. He’s going to be expensive, 11 mill this year + a 3 mill buyout for next year, so Crane wants to get rid of him. He’s going to have to eat money, that is fer sher, as Myers’ dead cat bounce of 2010 is unlikely to be repeated. His last 4 ERA+ are 97. 87. 127. 85. Last I heard, Luhnow is trying to package him with someone else who will actually be useful, like Bourgeois, but who knows whether they are more interested in getting rid of money or trying to get something back that is better than what Myers merits.
Bud Norris, RHP, age 27, finally pitched a full year in the majors, had a 3.77 ERA and a 100 ERA+ which, by the way, I never thought I’d see the day when a 3.77 ERA was league average for a starter, but I guess that’s what happens when you deaden the ball enough to show how those NASTY steroids are all gonsies. Anyway, he and Wandy were the only pitchers on the Astros 2011 pitching roster who were at league average or above. Which, given the number of blown saves and losses, doesn’t surprise me at all.
Wandy Rodriguez, LHP, age 33, is going to make 10 mill this year and next, and is therefore too expensive for the likes of Crane, so he IS gonna get dumped. He has started at least 30 games in 4 of the last 5 seasons, and has ERA+ of 97, 119, 137, 111 and 109 over that span. He was definitely a little off last year, had a bit of a time adjusting from Towles to Corporan, and for some reason, threw his wicked curve ball less and his not so awesome changeup more. But he has still been one of the top 10 lefty pitchers in the NL for quite a while and there is a very good market for him. As I’ve said more than once, I don’t know what Crane/Luhnow want, but it sure isn’t a team willing to just take his contract, all of it, because they’ve turned down those offers. I have heard that Crane really wants him and his contract gone by Spring Training, but here it is PACR and he’s still here. So youneverknow…
Next, starters or bullpen:
Lucas Harrell, RHP, age 26 – picked up off waivers from the White Sox – looks like a AAA guy who walks too many guys to be successsful, but I guess you can’t nevah stockpile too many guys at AAA.
Aneury Rodriguez, RHP age 24: the Rule V guy from last year who managed to tough it out and endewd up with a 72 ERA+ over 8 starts and 35 relief appearances. You wouldn’t think they’d give him a chance to be a starter, but after the crazy – let’s make Wesley Wright and Fernando Abad into starters thingys, it wouldn’t surprise me. And Aneury WAS a starter…
Henry Sosa, RHP, age 26: who we got from the Giants for Jeff Keppinger. He started 10 games, had a 72 ERA+ which was a 5.23 ERA over 53 IP with a 1.44 WHIP. And it’s not as if his minor league numbers are any better. This guy got TEN starts. Welcome to Astros baseball.
Fernando Abad, age 26: who pitched lights out in 2010, so the Astros “brain” trust sent his skinny ass to the Dominican to play winter ball as a STARTER, exhausted him, and he was injured and ineffective last year. Who knows how he’ll do if he really is healed up.
Xavier Cedeno, age 25: signed as a minor league FA last year, pitched decently in relief at AAA – too many hits gave him a high ERA, but he had relatively low walk rates and high K rates – much better than his lifelong stats. He doesn’t look ready for the majors.
Sergio Escalona, age 27: who we got in trade from the Phils in 1/11 for a nobody low ranking minor leaguer who was immediately released. He threw 27.2 innings of 131 ERA+ ball, mostly as a LOOGY. Or, I shsould say, he SHOULD be used just as a LOOGY because he has rather substantial splits – .859 OPS against vs rightys and .590 OPS against vs leftys.
Wesley Wright, age 26: our 2008 Rule V pick, who survived 08, declined in 09, had a wasted year in 2010, in which the “brain” trust tried to turn him into a starter, and last year, he finally really pitched lights out as a lefty reliever in both majors and minors. He really got his weaknesses, homers to rightys, and too many walks, under control.
Juan Abreu, age 27: who is one of the guys we got in the Michael Bourn trade – he throws 97 MPH, which makes the baseball people moan and drool. He had 12 K/9 IP and 5 BB/9 IP over 57 innings at AAA last year. He threw 6 good innings at the ML level last year. All the Michael Bourn tradees are gonna get more than a chance to succeed at the ML level, so expect him to make the roster unless he’s completely ineffective.
David Carpenter, age 26: who was the only good thing to come out of the stupid Pedro Feliz singing – we got him from the Cards in the trade. He threw 26 scoreless innings at AAA last year, was promoted, threw 27 innings of 131 ERA+ ball and will most likely close if Lyon is ineffective.
Rhiner Cruz, age 25
Jorge De Leon, age 24: converted from SS to pitcher – just finished his first year at A ball, where he pitched very well. No idea why he’s coming to ST – he is NOT making hte jump from A ball to the majors.
Enerio Del Rosario, age 25: bought from the Reds at the end of 2010 – he was a failed starter. He made the Astros 2011 roster by WOWing everyone in ST – gave up no runs in 11 IP but, um, came down to earth, returned to his Reds-like suckage and threw 53 innings of 83 ERA+ ball. You can’t just go by ST stats – if you could, Bradley Ausmus would be in the Hall of Fame with the highest average for any major league catcher.
Arcenio Leon, age 25: who threw 64 innings at AA last year – struck out a little over 10/9 IP and walked almost 7/9 IP. Yeah, one of those. Can’t see how he’s make the 25 man.
Wilton Lopez, age 29: our setup guy last year, well, most of last year, who got the job because in 2010, he only let 1 of 31 inherited runners score. Came back down to earth last year, let 42% of em score. He threw 71 innings of 136 ERA+ ball – which is hard to believe, seeing as how he lost 6 games and blew 2 more. And losing games as a reliever to me is more meaningful than losing games as a starter unless you left the game losing and gave up more than 3 runs.
Brandon Lyon, age 31: who is getting paid 5 mill, so he is on the poopoo list, but he was out almost all of last year with a shoulder injury, so we’re most likely stuck with him, unless he does well to start the year and we can dump him at the deadline. I’m sure he’ll close if he is even a little bit effective in ST.
Lance Pendleton, age 28: who I remember from those great Rice U teams of 03-05, and I remember him as a hitter. But he hasn’t picked up a bat in years. He was a Rule V guy last year, was sent back to the Yankees at the end of ST, pitched well for them – scoreless appearances except for 1 game, and that was against the Hated Red Sox, so he got released, and picked uyp by the Astros again. He’s competing for a bullpen spot again. Good luck there boy.
Fernando Rodriguez, age 27: who we signed as a minor league FA last year and who ended up throwing 52 innings of 96 ERA+ ball. He got tired and ineffective by the end of hte year, but he did quite well there for a while.
Jose Valdez, RHP, age 29: signed as a 6 year minor league FA in 09, don’t ask me why. He pitched lousy at AAA last year and lousier at the ML last year, so don’t ask me why he’s coming to ST. That said, just watch him be this year’s Del Rosario…
Henry Villar, age 24: I don’t remember exactly why he was given ANY major league innings to pitch in 2010, but his numbers at AAA last year were flat out bad. But you know how it is – if he pitches well in Spring Training, he just might could be another Rick White.