added 11/19/2007 by Scott Barzilla
The off-season hasn't even made it to the one third mark and Ed Wade is already making waves. He traded closer Brad Lidge to the Phillies for a centerfielder, reliever, and a prospect. Then, he traded the "hot" prospect Josh Anderson for Oscar Villareal. Who saw those deals coming?
Truth be told, the Lidge deal probably could have been predicted from both ends. Supposedly, the Astros had a deal in place for Michael Bourn last year, but the Phillies backed out at the last minute. Considering Qualls was the player to go in return we can say they got the better end of the waiting game. Still, Bourn is the prototype for centerfield and if his minor league numbers are any indication, he will be a good leadoff man.
The Oscar Villareal acquisition was a stroke of genius. Josh Anderson looked to be running third for the centerfield position behind Bourn and Reggie Abercrombie. His minor league numbers point to anything but stardom, but the kid did hit .360+ in September. The Braves overpaid based on those numbers.
No, Villareal is not the second coming of Goose Gossage, but he is an above average reliever than can pitch in the seventh inning or give the team multiple innings. He will also do it cheaper than most. He is likely the replacement for Dave Borkowski and if that is the case it is a good deal. Borkowski could generously be called average (more like below average) and likely would make more money next year.
The closer's job is open and so is second base. Chad Qualls and Chris Burke sit there now, but the club is clearly not comfortable with either. The acquisition of Geoff Blum, Geoff Geary, and Villareal make those two expendable. Couple them with Luke Scott and you have the makings of a very interesting Winter Meetings. Combine the trade possibilities with 20 million to spend and it's really an exciting time to be an Astros fan.
With excitement come the usual caveats. If you don't know exactly what you have and what you are going to get you could come up lemons. Bourn could become the second coming of Gerald Young. Villareal could be nothing more than junk that mops up games. Lidge could go to Philly and be what he was in 2004. Yet, excitement could turn into a huge improvement in 2008.
In past off-seasons we were either waiting around for Roger Clemens or walking like a lemming off of the second starter cliff. We trudged up diligently to the Carlos Lee bandwagon and spent our pile of cash. Now, we aren't doing any of those things. No one knows for sure exactly what will happen. Real baseball fans couldn't ask for anything more. When next Monday comes, let the fun begin.