added 12/19/2002 by Todd Brody
I was not kind to Craig Biggio this past season. I said that his performance was lacking and the Astros should not give him a new contract after this season. A couple of people even accused me of being mean-spirited in my comments towards him. Now that you know where I'm coming from - I'm not a Biggio apologist - I think that he was given the shaft by the Astros this week. No one who has given as much to the team as Biggio should have been treated this way. It's just wrong.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the Astros signed Jeff Kent. Kent is a tremendous offensive talent. But Biggio is a fixture at second base. And if the Astros' intent was to give Kent the job at second base, and to move Biggio to the outfield, they should have spoken with Biggio before announcing the deal to the world. Biggio's 15 year career with the team demands that the Astros treat him with respect. This was bush league, particularly when Biggio was led to believe prior to his leaving on a hunting trip that, if the deal was going to get done, Kent would be moving to third base and he would remain at second. The Astros should have spoken to Biggio and he should have been at the press conference. The press conference could have waited a day or two.
Beyond the fact that the Astros handled this poorly, if Biggio is not starting at second, he doesn't really have a place on the team (at least as a starter). I don't think that Biggio is a realistic option in the outfield. The last time Biggio played centerfield was in 1991 when he was 25 years old. Biggio's legs and knees have a lot more mileage on them and he has had major surgery. Can Biggio cover the expansive centerfield at Minute Maid Park? I don't think so, even if he tries real hard in spring training to learn the position. And Biggio only makes sense as a centerfielder, which is a defensive position. His offensive numbers don't warrant him playing a corner outfield position for the team, not when Darryl Ward or Orlando Merced can probably put up better numbers with equal (or better) defense and for a lot less money.
It also doesn't make sense to move Kent to third to allow Biggio to start at second. Geoff Blum, who would lose his starting role under such a scenario, was a better hitter than Biggio last season (OPS .807 vs. .734). And Kent is not a good defensive third baseman (at least he doesn't think he is) while Blum made some very nice plays at third last season. Consequently, the Astros would be hurting both their offense and defense by taking Blum out of the lineup in order to find a spot for Biggio.
The reality is that the deal only makes sense if Biggio becomes a bench player or if you trade him. Frankly, I can't see Biggio as a bench player. It's not in his mentality. And if the Astros are going to let Biggio go after this season anyway (via free agency), doesn't it make sense to get some value in return? So here is what I propose. Trade Biggio (and a low-level pitching prospect) to the Yankees for El Duque (approximately $5.5 million in arbitration) and Rondell White ($5 million). The salaries aren't much different. Why do the Astros do the deal? To get a quality starter and outfielder. Why do the Yankees do the deal? Alfonso Soriano is not a good defensive second baseman and the Yankees have been talking about moving Soriano to the outfield. Obtaining Biggio allows the Yankees to make this move. There is one other party. As a 10/5 player, Biggio can reject the deal. Why does Biggio agree to be traded to the Yankees? To go home to New York. And to have a pretty solid chance at a World Series ring. Sure it would be strange to see Biggio in another team's uniform, but get used to it. Even if the Astros don't trade Biggio, Biggio will be wearing another team's uniform in 2004. Biggio is not retiring and the Astros can't afford to keep Biggio, while paying Kent and giving Lance Berkman, Wade Miller, Roy Oswalt, and maybe Octavio Dotel new contracts.
One last thing. I'm pretty sick of hearing how the Astros busted their budget to sign Kent. This contract, which has a ton of deferred money, is extremely favorable to the Astros. The payroll increase in 2003 is $3 million. The payroll increase in 2004 is $4 million. This is hardly what I would call an oppressive contract. Drayton wants to sell the team. By deferring money in this manner, Drayton will get all of the increased revenues that result from Kent being on the team - I am assuming that Kent will help the Astros make the playoffs - and the next owner will pay for it.
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