I have a dream
added 11/6/2001 by Todd Brody
I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Maybe it was the leftover chicken in garlic sauce that I ate at 11:00 p.m., while watching "Uprising." Maybe (just maybe) it was my son kicking me in the neck while I was trying to sleep. It could have been a lot of things. But while I was up, I began to think about the Astros (there's something that rarely happens). And I thought to myself "why not?"
Why can't the Astros be THE major player in the free agent sweepstakes this offseason? Why can't the Astros be the team that most improves itself during the offseason. Why can't the Astros sign Barry Bonds? And don't say, "the Astros will never shell out the dough to get Bonds" because I have worked it out. While the Astros will have to get rid of several veteran players (which I will discuss below), the Astros CAN afford to sign Bonds. And they can afford to go out and get a reliever like David Weathers as well. And they can afford to resign important free agents like Orlando Merced and Jose Vizcaino. Getting Bonds on the Astros would be such a tremendous coup. And it would mean so much extra revenue for the team that I can't imagine that Drayton wouldn't be interested. So without further adieu, here is the Brody plan for the 2002 season.
(1) Trade Richard Hidalgo and a low pitching prospect to the Yankmees for Randy Choate and Marcus Thames (if you are an ESPN insider read about his past season in AA). The Yankees are desperate for hitting and George & Co. new a right-fielder to replace the retiring Paul O'Neil. Hidalgo is reasonably priced, is a good hitter, and plays excellent defense. The Astros get a good left-handed reliever and a top centerfield prospect in return. This addresses the top bullpen need for the Astros in 2002 (the quality left-handed reliever) and also addresses the weakest area in the Astros farm system.
(2) Trade Shane Reynolds, Julio Lugo and a prospect to the Blue Jays for Jose Cruz, Jr. and Kelvin Escobar. In Reynolds, the Blue Jays get the experienced starter they most need. They also get Lugo who can step in and start at second as well as a prospect. Astros receive in return a home-town hero to play centerfield as well as a hard-throwing starter/reliever who seems to have had many of the same problems that plagued Octavio Dotel prior to this season - a couple of great fastballs, but problems controlling the breaking pitches. Sure, you would rather have Carlos Beltran in centerfield. But I just can't see the Astros being able to pry Beltran away from the Royals.
(3) Trade Billy Wagner to ???. The Astros can't afford to keep Wagner under my scenario because he makes too much money and will be a free agent at the end of next season. So we trade Wagner for top prospects and Dotel becomes the closer for next season. The problem with trading Wagner is that the teams that would be interested in Wagner and can afford him are limited. Moreover, a lot of these teams don't have anything that the Astros would want in return. I thought about trading Wagner to the Diamondbacks for Prinz or Kim but I don't think that the Diamondbacks are really in a position to pick up additional salary. But just before I fell back asleep last night, I started thinking about the following trade. Call me crazy. But what about Wagner for Rick Ankiel? Sure, it's a trade between division rivals, and sure, Ankiel is a huge question. But maybe what Ankiel needs is to get away from St. Louis and Tony LaRussa. And man, he had good stuff before he lost the strike zone. The Astros also have to find a taker for Dave Mlicki, which I don't think will be a problem based on how he pitched for the Astros after the trade from the Tigers. There are plenty of teams that need quality pitching.
(4) Sign Barry Bonds to a three-year, $60 million contract (18/20/22 per year). Yes, it's a lot of money. Yes, it would be around 30% of the total payroll. And yes, Bonds is a jerk. But Bonds has the ability (more than any player presently on the roster) to carry the team when they are struggling. Bonds also puts more fannies in seats than anyone in baseball right now and the Astros would make a ton of money selling Bonds uniforms and t-shirts and pennants and everything else. Sign Bonds to a three-year deal. Let him hit a bizzilion home runs in Enron Field. Let him chase Hank Aaron's home run record wearing an Astros uniform. And the beauty of this deal is that his contract would be up just as the Astros have to start paying a lot of money to pitchers like Roy Oswalt, Tim Redding, Carlos Hernandez and Wade Miller and position players like Lance Berkman. Bonds will be an excellent player for the next three years. Why not let him do it in an Astros uniform. Let him be our jerk.
(5) Sign David Weathers to a two-year, $6 million contract. Weathers has been one of the best set-up relievers in the National League for the past two seasons. He kills the Astros. He doesn't give up a lot of home runs, which makes him well-suited to pitch in Enron Field. He would be the perfect complement to the fireballers Dotel and Escobar. And best of all, we would be signing him away from the Cubs, which is a bonus in and of itself. The Astros also re-sign Orlando Merced and Jose Vizcaino to reasonable contracts.
So here is my opening day lineup for the Astros: Biggio ($9 million); Ausmus ($5 million); Bonds ($18 million); Bagwell ($11 million); Berkman ($500,000); Cruz ($4.5 million); Ensberg ($250,000); and Everett ($250,000). The starting rotation for the Astros is: Miller ($500,0000); Oswalt ($350,0000); Astacio ($9 million); Hernandez ($275,000); and Redding ($275,000). The bullpen for next season is: Dotel ($500,000); Weathers ($3 million); Choate ($500,000); Escobar (arbitration eligible); Cruz ($350,000); and Linebrink or Mann ($250,000). And finally, the bench is: Ward ($500,000); Merced ($800,000); Vizcaino ($1.2 million); Servais ($500,000); and Ginter ($250,000).
The total payroll for next year would be between $66 and $67 million, depending on what Escobar gets in arbitration. This is a perfectly reasonable payroll that only slightly increases from what the Astros spent last season. And the Astros keep Darryl Ward, which most people here still want to do (even though I would trade him). The biggest problem that I see is starting two rookies on the left hand side of the infield. But both Everett and Ensberg are supposed to supposed to be excellent defensive players and hopefully Ensberg will hit in the majors as well as he hit in AAA.
Maybe Barry Bonds won't leave San Francisco. Maybe the team decides to cut payroll next season. Maybe it was all a dream. But for a couple of minutes last night, I saw the field as clearly as Junuh in "The Legend of Bagger Vance." I saw a fiscally responsible team that can compete with any in baseball. I saw a team that focuses on its present as well as its future. And I saw the team that will win the World Series next season.