Jose Lima does it to us again

added 6/27/2001 by Todd Brody

All along, I have said that the Tigers were the most natural trading partner with the Astros for Jose Lima. Comerica has a reputation as a pitcher's park -- so much so that Juan Gonzalez refused to play there unless the Tigers moved in the walls, which thankfully was denied. So I wasn't particularly surprised when the Astros traded Lima to the Tigers. My surprise resulted from the fact that the Astros got Dave Mlicki in return. This deal was embarrassingly one-sided. And the Astros got the short end of the stick.

Say what you want about Lima, but he was 16-8 with a 3.70 ERA in 1998 and 21-10 with a 3.58 ERA in 1999. These are two very good seasons. And I believe that much of Lima's problems in 2000 and this season resulted from his inability to pitch in Enron, which effected his ability to pitch on the road. I know that people say that Lima's velocity, which was never great, is down, but I believe that Lima still has great upside -- if he is pitching in a park that is suited for his pitching style. He certainly can't get any worse. Well what about Mlicki? Does he have any upside? Based on his past history, I would say no. And can he get worse? You bet. How much worse is Mlicki going to be now that he is pitching in Enron Field?

So why did the Astros do the deal. It wasn't a salary dump. Mlicki is not a free-agent at the end of the year. He is signed for another season. And Mlicki isn't going to demand a trade (as he is entitled under the CBA) thus becoming a free agent if the Astros refuse. He is going to sit around and collect his check. And the Astros are picking up the difference between Lima's and Mlicki's salary. So what did the Astros get here? Essentially, the Astros got rid of a clubhouse distraction. But the Astros could have done that just as easily had they just released Lima. Yes, Drayton didn't want to eat Lima's salary, but now, he is going to eat Mlicki's salary because if the Astros are smart, they will not let Mlicki anywhere near an undecided game. As demonstrated last night, he shouldn't start (particularly if it means shutting down Tim Redding who definitely deserves another start or two based on his first game). And he shouldn't come into the game as a reliever unless the Astros are up or down by seven runs and he can no longer hurt the team. Goodbye Lima -- Hello Lima2. This deal was a waste of the ink it was printed on.

And now for something completely different: Has anyone else noticed how old the Astros are? Sure, everyone focuses on the young pitchers, but there was a game last week when the infield was Jeff Bagwell (Age 33); Craig Biggio (Age 35); Vinny Castilla (Age 33); Jose Vizcaino (Age 33); and {Brad Ausmus) (Age 32). And Moises Alou (Age 34) was in right field. And I can't decide if this is a good thing or not. Yes, I like the fact that these are all experienced players, but are we going to see a massive breakdown as the season winds down?

And speaking of Vinny Castilla, the more I see him play, the more I like the move the Astros made to pick him up. He plays solid, if not exceptional, defense every night. And his offense is really picking up. In his last six games Castilla has 9 hits in 24 ABs (.375 avg) with 7 RBIs. Castilla deepens the Astros lineup in a way that Chris Truby never did. Truby or Morgan Ensberg may be the future of the team at third, but for this year, Castilla is the right man for the job.

And finally, I can't decide what the Astros should do with Alou. I can't imagine trading him, particularly with the Astros in the hunt for the division title. (If anything, the Astros should be making moves that will increase their ability to make and go further in the playoffs -- which means taking on more salary.) On the other hand, simply letting Alou become a free agent would be an incredible loss for which no draft picks could compensate. Of course, the only reason why this is even a topic for discussion is because the Astros refuse to increase payroll by resigning Alou to a multi-year deal (which is a reason why the Mlicki deal should make us more enraged). Houstonians, and other Astros fans, should be rioting in the streets. But few except for the most hard-core fans seem perturbed by the events that are unfolding in front of our eyes. And that is a shame because in my 25 odd years of watching the Astros I have seen few players that can hit like Alou. Enjoy the rest of the year. Appreciate what he does. Because, one way or another, he's not going to be around much longer.

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