Search'n the Fro for next year's Roster

added 11/6/2003 by Jeff Schneck

I have been doing some thinking about what the Astros might/ought to do this

offseason to try to improve the team. I am no expert, but I have followed them for many years and would consider myself a die-hard fan. I also tend to be one who likes to play the "What if" type scenarios in my head until I find one that I like, and that seems to make sense. I am not, nor have I ever been one of those people who says, "Hey let's sign Shefield, Vlad, and trade for Beltran, then sign Pettitte, Roger and trade for Curt!" Let's face it we all have seen people who don't live in the real world put together "scenarios".

I have been in many camps recently, and have come to the conclusion that we ought to be more open minded in our approach. So let's look at the facts (thanks to FredUD and the Contract page for some of these numbers):

First, what is our current obligations:

We will only have around a $70 Million budget for next season. I think that is more than reasonable given our relative position in MLB economics (I don't care if our owner has more money than most others, if you don't pull in more than 2/3 of all other team, you shouldn't spend more than 2/3 of all other teams!). So our budget is $70, I am gonna shoot for $65 simply because I want wiggle room in mid-season and don't want to worry about being restrained then.

Those under contract:
Chavez - $305K (I think he will be out Starting Catcher)
Bagwell - $13Mil
Kent - $8.5Mil (plus $1Mil - part of signing bonus, not sure how to count it)
Ensberg - $325K
Everett - $325K
Berkman - $6.5Mil
Biggio - $6Mil (upto 7.5, but I don't think he will make it all)
Hidalgo - $12Mil

So the starters collectively will pull in $46,955,000.

65 - 46.955 = $18.045 Mil to fill our the rest of our team. Ooops, forgot the

other players under contract and the pitchers, can't forget them:

The Bench:
Lane - $300K (I would like to see him start, but at least he will be 4th OFer)
Porter - $300K (5th OFer, got some speed, lefty bat, cheap, already an Astro)
Blum/Viz - $2Mil (I figure one of the two will be the Utility guy)

That is all for the bench so far.... that comes to $2.6 Mil.

The Staff:

Oswalt - $3Mil (I am guessing a bit based on last year's arbitration guys)
Miller - $3Mil (Same logic, Miller has been around longer, may get more than Roy)
Dotel - $3Mil (He made 1.6 last year, and is projected to be the closer in '04)
Lidge - $325K
Stone - $350K (might be a touch higher, after all '04 is season #3 for him)
Gallo - $310K (Gotta have a lefty)
Robertson - $325 (15 wins as a rookie, gotta make the rotation)
Duckworth - $350 (I see him as our new Dotel project, see below)
Redding - $325 (He is showing improvement, still has a long way to go)

That is it. I do NOT want to pencil in anyone else, cause they may/may not actually make it. So no Saarloos... No Hernandez... Not saying they can't make the club, but at this point, I don't consider them ON the roster yet.

So the Staff of 9 pitchers (so far) will cost us around: $10.985 Mil.

18.045 - 2.6 - 10.985 = $4.46 Mil

Hmm... Trading Wagner really didn't open up alot of room did it? But don't forget I am trying to fill the team with $65 Million first. At this point we still need 5 more players, I am going for the 14 postion 11 pitcher mentality, but you never know if we might end up with 13/12.

Isn't this fun!

Ok, so we have $4.46 Mil to get 5 more players... What are our needs?

Well we need a back-up Catcher, 1 more starter (assuming Redding starts), 1 more reliever, and 2 Utility type guys (at least one an infielder type, so we have two on the bench).

Ok, we do have Meluskey who could fill in, in a pinch, or we can troll the free agent market, or we can look to Buck. Personally, I rule out Buck. He was out a lot last season with the hand injury, and didn't light it up, to where I can't deny him. Look for him to be on the ML roster in Sept, and then possibly start in '05. For now though, I would look at the back-up catcher slot costing around $350K-$500K.

So who is available at Catcher in the FA market:
Brook Fordyce - Baltimore holds an option on him
Bill Haselman - FA who backed-up in Boston in '03
Sandy Almoar - FA who played for the White Sox at then end of last season
Matt Walbeck - FA who played for Det last season
Mike DiFelice - FA who played for KC last season
Brent Mayne - FA who also played for KC last season
Thomas Prince - FA who also played for KC last season
John Flaherty - FA who played for the Yankees last season
Pat Borders - FA who played for the Mariners last season
Javy Lopez - MONSTER year for ATL last season, gonna command $6-$8 Mil range
Gregg Zaun - Didn't we already cut him last season?
Pudge - Don't ask, if he doesn't resign with Fla, I will be SHOCKED!
Ausmus - Do we really want him back? I love his defense but...
Keith Osik - He Platooned in Mil last season
Eduardo Perez - He also Platooned in Mil last season (former NLCS MVP)
Todd Pratt - Played in Philly last season
Kelly Stinnett - Also in Philly last season
Joe Girardi - Back-up in STL in '03
Chris Widger - Also in STL in '03
Alberto Castillo - Played in SF last year

So there you have it. Not very impressive outside of Javy and Pudge, who are not in our price range unless we trade away some of our high priced guys. Even then I don't see us being high on their lists anyway, so let's remove them. The only names that jump out at me are Flaherty, Ausmus, Mayne and Osik. The others are in three groups, getting long in the tooth, never have been impressive, don't want 'em back.

So let's look at each one:

John Flaherty: Very good defensive catcher who was a back-up last season with the Yankees. Only earned $750K, so might cost a bit more than my hope for the back-up Catcher.
2003: 104AB .260 BA .291 OBP 4 HRs 14 RBIs

Brad Ausmus: Known high quality Defensive Catcher, lost his stick in a big way, may be out of our price range.
2003: 450AB .229 BA .303 OBP 4 HRs 47 RBIs

Brent Mayne: Main Starter in KC last season. Also known more for his defense than his bat, lefty bat, but old (born in 1968). He earned $2.75Mil in '03
2003: 370AB .246 BA .309 OBP 6 HRs 36 RBIs

Keith Osik: Platooned with Perez in Mil last season. He has also been around and is not as good defensively as the other three, but is more in our price range.
2003: 241AB .251 BA .344 OBP 2 HRs 21 RBIs

I think alot depends on the view of Meluskey at this point. If he has matured, then I would seriously consider using him as the back-up for three reasons. 1) He is already in the organization and we are not likely to have to "bid" for him. 2) He is within the price range I estimated. 3) He is a switch hitter, and has a history of being a decent hitting, overall. If I didn't think I could depend on Mitch, I would pursue Flaherty and bite the bullet of having to possibly spend $750K on him.

Ok, let's focus on the 2 other postion players first. We definitely want an infielder for one. So again who are our options (infield experience only):

Deivi Cruz : Middle infielder from Bal (team holds option for '04)
Tony Batista: 3B from Bal. Has played SS before, would provide pop off bench.
Todd Walker: 2B from Bos, likely on the expensive side for a bench guy.
Roberto Alomar: 2B from White Sox, not in our range, but a fun concept (Biggio and Almoar on the same team)
Tony Graffanino: Middle infielder from the White Sox, always been a role player.
Shane Halter: 3B from Det
Joe Randa: 3B from KC
Chris Gomez: Middle infielder from the Twins (team holds option for '04)
Denny Hocking: Middle infielder from the Twins
Miguel Tejada: Umm, there is NO way we get him. And if we do I don't think he is a bench player, do you?!?!
Mark McLemore: He is ultimate Utility guy, can play OF and IF. Played for Sea.
Rey Sanchez: Middle infielder from Sea.
Travis Lee: 1B from TB, shooting star player who has faded for several years.
Rey Ordonez: Middle infielder from TB, All glove, not stick, and the glove has holes these days.
Mike Bordick: Middle infielder from Tor. Might be a bit pricey.
Carlos Baerga: He played all over the Infield in Ari last season.
Vinny Castilla: Starting 3B for the Braves, I expect him to stay there.
Julio Franco: The Ageless man in ML, still hitting well into his 40s. 1B
Matt Franco: Not much for Middle infield, but can play 1B and OF.
Mark Grudzielanek: Big role player/starter for the Cubs last season.
Eric Karros: Was a big power threat in his prime... He is not in his prime anymore. 1B.
Tony Womack: SS who is not great with the glove or getting on base, but MAN can he run!
Chris Stynes: 3B for Col. The kid could always hit a bit, but never could field well enough to start.
Greg Norton: 3B for Col in '03.
Luis Castillo: 2B for Fla. Great Lead off guy, WAY out of our price range, wants to start.
Andy Fox: Middle Infielder for Fla. Always seemed like a good bench guy.
Lenny Harris: 3B for Fla. If memory serves, he is all time PH king.
Mike Mordecai: 3B for Fla.
Fred McGriff: 1B for LA. Now in the 500 HR club, looking for him to head back to TB again, either as a player or retired.
Robin Ventura: 3B for LA at the end of last year.
Royce Clayton: SS for Mil last season (Team hold option for '04)
Wil Cordero: 1B for Mont.
Fernando Tatis: 3B for Mon. HEADCASE!
Todd Zeile: 3B for Mon.
Jay Bell: 2B for NYM.
Tony Clark: 1B for NYM.
Jose Hernandez: SS for Pit, K-King.
Keith Lockhart: 2B for SD.

Again, not very impressive, but keep in mind we are looking for bench guys. The names that reasonably stand out in this list to me are (Graffanino, Gomez, Hocking, Baerga, Fox, Lockhart)

Tony Graffanino: Solid Middle infield guy who is used to being a bench/role player.
2003: 250AB .260 BA .331 OBP 7 HRs 23 RBIs - Earned $575K last year

Chris Gomez: The catch is the Twins hold an option, decent glove, not alot of range.
2003: 175AB .251 BA .279 OBP 1 HR 15 RBIs - Earned $500K last year

Denny Hocking: Can play every position except C, also used to being bench/role. Also a switch hitter.
2003: 188AB .239 BA .291 OBP 3 HR 22 RBIs - Earned $1.1 Mil last year

Carlos Baerga: At one time was the next "great" star. Now a infield role player. Also a switch hitter.
2003: 207AB .343 BA .396 OBP 4 HR 39 RBIs - Earned $500K last year

Andy Fox: A lefty Middle infielder type.
2003: 108AB .194 BA .269 OBP 0 HR 8 RBIs - Earned $800K last season

Keith Lockhart: A lefty hitting 2B, always been decent at the plate.
2003: 95AB .242 BA .339 OBP 3 HR 8 RBIs - Earned $500K last season

I would pursue Baerga and Hocking to see if I could get both, since both are switch hitters and Hocking can be a 6th OFer and can play an IF slot. Also since I have heard about Baerga comming back I have always had that secret desire to see him on the Astros rosters. I look for something along the lines of $750K-$1 Million each. I did not consider the FA OFers since we already have 2 bench OFs AND the list was not that impressive for the money we can offer.

So that solves our Positions players, where are we money-wise?

Meluskey - $300K
Baerga - $750K
Hocking - $750K

4.46 - .3 - .75 - .75 = 2.66.

Hmm, $2.66 Mil and we still need 2 pitchers.... This is not looking good. Even if we add back in the $5 Mil I was holding back on, we are unlikely to get Andy Pettitte for $7 Mil. If you can, go for it! But for those that thought trading Wagner suddenly gives us the room to do this... Umm, WRONG!

Now I am not really considering alot of trades since, you never know who is willing to work with you in this regard. I feel it is always best to deal with as much certainty as you can when speculating. If a better deal comes along, then take it, and adjust you plans accordingly.

I imagine the most expensive options will probably be for Starters so who might be available for less than $5 Mil per season, that we might WANT on our staff.

The obvious in-house guys come into play: Saarloos and Hernandez, each would earn around $300-$350K so they work. We know about them though, Carlos Hernandez can get out of bed and not get hurt, and Saarloos has not had the best success, so far. I don't want to consider Rosario, mostly due to the fact that it was obvious last season, management was doing everything they could to avoid him pitching in the Majors, plus anyone comming back from injury should not be counted on initially. But what is out on the market?

Well it looks like the slag heap again (anyone remember Moehler, and others)

Pat Hentgen: 160.2Inngs 1.29WHIP 4.09ERA 25HRs in '03 for Bal.
Robert Person: Only pitch 11.2 Inngs in '03 and 87.2 in '02 for Bos and Phi
Kevin Appier: 111.2Inngs 1.46WHIP 5.40ERA 21HRs in '03 was FA during middle of '03
Jose Lima: 73.1Inngs 1.45WHIP 4.91ERA 7HRs in '03 for KC, do you want him back?
Kenny Rodgers: 195Inngs 1.42WHIP 4.57ERA 22HRs in '03 for Min, He is a lefty.
Ismael Valdez: 115Inngs 1.54WHIP 6.10ERA 23HRs in '03 for Tex. Really had a bad year in '03.
Miguel Batista: 193.1Inngs 1.33WHIP 3.54ERA 12HRs in '03 for Ari. WANTs to be a starter.
Shane Reynolds: If they didn't want him in '03 why now?
Shawn Estes: 152.1Inngs 1.74WHIP 5.73ERA 20HRs in '03 for the Cubs. He is a lefty.
Ron Villone: 106.2Inngs 1.30WHIP 4.13ERA 16HRs in '03 for us. He is a lefty.

There are probably a few others, but these are probably on the top of the list, for those who might be willing to earn less than $5 Mil. To me, this list boils down to 4 guys with the best chance of a)being successful and b)being willing to play for Houston. (Saarloos, Hernandez, Villone and Batista)

I would be happier if Villone or Batista is in the staff and the other two, but we "have" the other two already. Villone gives us a second lefty in the rotation which I like, but I have to admit I would prefer Batista, cause I think he has been getting the shaft in Ari. I think he could turn out to be a really good starter, especially on this team with this manager.

So IF we can get Batista (who earned $3 Mil last year) to sign a 3-4 year deal totally around $12-15Mil, I would sign him. That would likely cost us somewhere between $3-$4Mil. I know I have now gone over my $65Mil goal for payroll. Well we are working with a $70Mil payroll so let's consider what we can do for the final Bullpen slot:

2.66 + 5(the money I was orignally taking out) - 3.5 (spliting the difference) = 4.16

With 4.16 we have alot of options for a final Bullpen slot. We can give it to Saarloos/Hernandez for around $300-$325K. We can convince Villone to be our swing man for around $3Mil or so...


We can go after LaTroy Hawkins for around $3 Mil. LaTroy is considered by many the #2 set-up guy in all of ML last season, behind Dotel. LaTroy has also been tried as a closer and failed miserably, so he proably won't mind being used as a set-up guy. Now if LaTroy can't be acquired for around $3 Mil, I might then use Villone as my fall-back and Saarloos as my fall back from that. Heck, I might even pursue Arthus Rhodes from Seattle. He is a lefty, and in '02 was really affective as a middle inning guy, and was good last season prior to the All-star break.

So my order of preference would be:

Hawkins at $3-$4Mil
Villone at $3Mil
Rhodes at $2.5 Mil (he earned 3.5 last year)
Saarloos/Hernandez at 350K

So to recap my final roster:

The Everyday guys: C: Raul Chavez $ 305,000 1B: Jeff Bagwell $13,000,000 2B: Jeff Kent $ 8,500,000 3B: Morgan Ensberg $ 325,000 SS: Adam Everett $ 325,000 LF: Lance Berkman $ 6,500,000 CF: Craig Biggio $ 6,000,000 (personally I would prefer Lane) RF: Richard Hidalgo $12,000,000 The Bench: C: Mitch Meluskey $ 300,000 OF: Jason Lane $ 300,000 OF: Colin Porter $ 300,000 UT: Geoff Blumm $ 2,000,000 (I expect him to be chosen over Viz) UT: Denny Hocking $ 750,000 UT: Carlos Baerga $ 750,000 The Starters: #1: Roy Oswalt $ 3,000,000 #2: Wade Miller $ 3,000,000 #3: Miguel Batista $ 3,500,000 #4: Jeriome Robertson $ 325,000 #5: Tim Redding $ 325,000 The Pen: C: Octavio Dotel $ 3,000,000 RP: LaTroy Hawkins $ 3,000,000 RP: Brad Lidge $ 325,000 RP: Ricky Stone $ 350,000 RP: Mike Gallo $ 315,000 RP: Brandon Duckworth $ 350,000

So that brings my total roster value to $68.345 Million.

So it would appear that we do have SOME room because of the Wagner trade, but if you were having bigger thoughts, better trade one of the big salaries to get involved (Bagwell, Hidalgo, Kent, Berkman, Biggio).

Obviously there has been alot of talk about trading Hidalgo. I would imagine if they can, they will trade him. That being said, even if they trade him, they are likely to have to pick-up some of his salary (ala Hampton's trade last year). So we will probably not get full relief from his salary even if he is traded. However, it might allow us the extra space to pursure Pettitte instead of Batista/Hawkins.

Personally I like the team I have been able to put together here. The players I have the least confidence in getting are Hawkins and Hocking, but there are other options out there if we don't get them. Even if we can't land Batista, we do have Villone as a very comfortable back-up option, IMO.

So with a little reasoning, and some investigation, I think we can start looking at realistic options as well as hoping for the big surprise, ala Jeff Kent last season.

So don't be so down on the Astros and the moving of Wagner. As far as I can tell, if we are restricted to a $70 Million budget, the Wagner more was required to get the budget low enough to actually field a 25 man roster.

Keep Pick'n at ideas, just try not to pick at others. We are all Astros' fans and we should not lose sight of the, not matter what happends to the team!