Buy, Sell, or Stand Pat

added 6/15/2007 by Scott Barzilla

Obviously, there are a lot of important decisions general managers make in the game today. Chief among these is who to pick in the amateur draft each June. With the current free agency bonanza being what it is, developing young talent is paramount for any mid market club. The Astros have struggled to develop top notch position players in recent years. Beyond Hunter Pence, there hasn't been one impact position player to make it to the big leagues in the last five years.

The second biggest series of decisions a club must make comes every off-season in the free agent and trade market. Obviously, the results have been mixed on that front as well. Mark Loretta and Carlos Lee have been great additions so far. The Jason Jennings trade doesn't look good so far, and Woody Williams has been as close to a disaster to this point in the season.

Naturally, it is way too early to evaluate the Carlos Lee signing, Williams signing, or Jennings trade. Lee has to produce for a lot longer for the deal to be worth the money. Williams has pitched well of late and could still be worth the money paid. Jennings could sign an extension and become an established part of the rotation.

Still, issue number three for all general managers is how to negotiate the trading season during the season. Gerry Hunsicker was a master at it. When the Astros were in contention he always seemed to find a key part to help down the stretch. Obviously, the moves sometimes worked out and sometimes they didn't, but the fans were confident that he was working to improve the team. However, the best moves were often the ones he didn't make.

No general manager in Houston has made a bigger trade during the season than the Randy Johnson or Carlos Beltran deals. Both deals were huge during those seasons and have has long-term effects as well. John Buck could be our regular catcher right now. Carlos Guillen would look really good at shortstop as well. Freddy Garcia would round out the rotation nicely. If you asked Hunsicker if he would make those trades again he would likely say yes. Those teams (1998 and 2004) came close to winning the pennant. That wouldn't have happened without each player.

Yet, the 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2003 Astros were competitive as well. Why didn't he make major deals then too? The simple answer is that you can't make those deals every year. You also have to know when to sell as well. Hunsicker always seemed to have a feel for that. Purpura doesn't seem to have much of a feel for anything nowadays. So, it is incumbent on us to help him out.

Richard Justice, John Lopez, and everyone else with a keyboard has been telling Purpura to sell. It makes you wonder whether the Astros are holding on just to spite the Chronicle. Of course, that was the same rag that printed the tombstone in 2005. So, let them hear it from another rage. Please sell.

Adam Everett will be out for two months. No, Everett wasn't the best player this year, but he was improving and he is important defensively. Sometimes these injuries are more symbolic than anything else. Things just aren't going your way. Let it be a sign that this is not your year. It isn't the end of the world. Unless you're the Yankees, you have to accept that some years just aren't going to produce a playoff birth.

Every statement from management has shown they just don't want to admit that they are done. They have resisted calling up prospects because they don't know if they will help them meet their ultimate goal. Your ultimate goal has to change. Your ultimate goal should be to answer as many questions for 2008 as possible.

Every baseball team should start with pitching. The Astros have three productive starters and a trio of relievers that have a good track record. Then again, all three have had their problems this year. Yet, we can all agree that Trever Miller isn't doing anyone any good this season. Some people think he can be traded. Sure, while you wait on your A Ball backup catcher, we have two lefties in AAA that still aren't getting an opportunity. Before McLemore was called up, all three looked a lot better than Miller.

                    W-L    INN    ERA    SO    BB    HR
Philip Barzilla     6-4    70.2   4.97   42    27     4
Mark McLemore       0-1    40.1   3.12   40    24     2
Stephen Randolph    6-0    33.2   2.41   55     8     4

All three have their warts to be sure, but in comparison with Miller they are ready for the Miss Universe pageant. Part of the process of selling involves surrendering to the idea of giving younsters a full opportunity. I don't know that any of these guys will be an effective reliever at the big league. What we do know is that Miller isn't effective.

From there we start looking at the rotation. Wandy Rodriguez has been largely ineffective for three seasons and Woody Williams has been bad as well. Williams isn'g going to get any better at 41. He might be a nice guy to trade. You save six million dollars and another team might be desperate for an end to the rotation starter. He's done a good job of racking up innings. This is definitely a case where the six million on 2008's payroll is more valuable than anything that might come in return.

The decision on Jennings is even more important. He wants 12 million a season. When you add the six million and 12 million on next year's payroll you get a significant chunk of change. Could the youngsters hold down the fort or could the Astros parlay the dollars together to make a run at Carlos Zambrano? First, let's take a look at the youngsters.

                  W-L    INN    ERA    SO    BB    HR
Juan Guiterrez    3-6    76.1   4.13   50    28     8
Troy Patton       4-5    83.1   2.38   53    25     4
Felipe Paulino    2-4    33.2   3.74   27    11     1

Any of these guys could be called up to stem the tide. Whether they are ready or not to contribute this year isn't the issue. The issue is whether any of them can contribute for 2008. This year shouldn't be about 2007 anymore. It should be about 2008. Naturally, we haven't even left the mound yet. That shows you how pitiful the situation is. Next time we'll look at the position players.