Winter Meetings Preview

added 11/29/2008 by Scott Barzilla

Recent stories in the Houston Chronicle have been uninspiring to say the least, but there is always something brewing under the surface. Apparently, the Astros are stalling on their negotiations with Randy Wolf. Naturally, the fact that this is even a story might be disconcerting to some. Wolf doesn't exactly have Cooperstown written all over him. His late season push is one thing, but his three year numbers (a better indication of what you have) are not that inspiring.

                   Wins      Losses       PCT        ERA        INN
Randy Wolf           25          18      .581       4.63       349.7

Call me unimpressed. I guess he's better than Brandon Backe, but that isn't saying much and I certainly wouldn't award anyone a three year contract based on that fact alone. However, the fact that they are waiting to sign him can have any number of implications. The most popular implication is that they don't have enough money to sign him without trading a few pieces first. This is only one of two plausible implications, but we will run with it for the time being.

We can jump to conclusions here very easily. Jose Valverde and Ty Wigginton are the only two significant players that have solicited interest by other teams while being plausible victims are our end. Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Roy Oswalt aren't going anywhere. Miguel Tejada would be great to trade, but no one appears to be interested. That leaves Valverde and Wigginton. Inevitably, this leaves fans wondering who is going to close games and who is going to play third. Those are fair questions, but they ignore the obvious caveat.

Most diehard fans have decried the lack of young talent on the team and in the organization. Those two players would bring that in and there is no question that at least one or two players would make an immediate impact. Currently, the Astros have question marks in the rotation, in centerfield, and behind the dish. It is fair to assume that such a trade would at least address one of those holes. Naturally, it would leave some holes to be filled, but it would also leave approximately twelve million to fill them. This is where we come full circle to Randy Wolf.

Before the 2004 season, the Astros traded Billy Wagner to the Phillies and arguably got nothing of value in return. However, the money saved went into Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens signed as a result of Andy Pettitte's signing. Somehow, Randy Wolf just doesn't carry the same gravitas as either of those two. However, this is where the other possibility comes into play. What if the Astros are waiting on Wolf because they have something bigger in the works? I know it's hard to see that possibility and I have been a negative nelly to this point, but I have to remain open that possibility.

I hate making shout outs in the columns, but my bet with RyanED comes immediately to mind. I bet him that we would not sign Ben Sheets. However, that possibility has to be considered. Then, you have the name that makes everyone salivate: Jake Peavy. Peavy is not likely now, but if you take prospects you get from a Valverde/Wigginton deal and spin them for Peavy then a trade does become possible. This is where the trade off becomes palatable. Getting a legitimate ace for a decent third basemen and very good closer becomes interesting instead of just defeating.

If we know two things about Wade we know this. First, we know he is not afraid to make a deal. More importantly though, we know that he will not get completely fleeced like his predecessor. People can quibble with his Villareal deal, Valverde trade, or Tejada trade, but we did get something of value in return. The Valverde trade has turned out to be virtually even. The Tejada trade is not that bad given the struggles of Troy Patton, and the Villareal trade is not that bad when you separate the decision to give him a two year deal. A week from Monday, Wade will be in the same hotel as 29 other general managers. Perhaps it is fitting that the meetings are being held in Las Vegas. Trying to forge a winner with a middle class budget is a lot like trying to roll 7 or 11. Let's see what happens before giving up.