Could Astros, Cards Swing Trade?

added 12/21/2016 by Bob Hulsey

Yes, there's definitely some bad blood between the Astros and Cardinals, moreso than when the two were division and LCS foes in 2004-05 (you remember the National League, don't you?). That's because Jim Crane hired Jeff Luhnow away from the Redbirds back in 2012 to become Houston's general manager and took others in St. Louis' scouting department with him.

This apparently ticked off the Cardinals enough that they hacked into the new database the Astros began which, despite former NASA folks running the blasted thing, was as easy to hack as John Podesta's emails.

One Cardinal employee fell on his sword for the crime and is doing jail time for the offense. Major League Baseball says they still plan on punishing the Cardinals but have yet to do so. Rumor is they plan to come down hard on the Redbirds, with punishment as harsh as forcing them to watch Bud Selig's Hall of Fame induction speech in Cooperstown or perhaps forcing them to re-draft Brett Wallace.

But the Cardinals can help sweep this under the rug in one relatively painless move that could bring detente, if not peace, between the two organizations.

If you haven't heard, the Astros are going all-in this year to try to win their division and maybe advance in the playoffs. That includes signing 40-year-old Carlos Beltran, hero of the 2004 playoffs, to a $16 million contract to make the batting lineup even more loaded after adding Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki earlier this fall to the usual right-handed cast of All-Stars.

Yet a hole (or more like a quagmire) exists at first base and the Astros have yet to find the right plug-in after using converted infielders Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez at the Not-so-hot Corner in 2016 while in-house solutions Jon Singleton and A.J. Reed failed to prosper.

Maybe McCann could play there, the pundits muse, or Beltran, or Yulieski Gurriel or Evan Gattis. Say, what is Lance Berkman doing these days?

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have decided to move Matt Carpenter to first base and are said to be "listening to offers" on current first baseman Matt Adams. If the Astros could step right up with a decent offer (pitching, most likely), Houston could patch Adams - a former Luhnow draft pick - as a hole-stuffer until Reed is fully ready or a better free agent comes to town.

Adams is a good fit for the Astros in several ways. The 260-lb mammoth bats lefthanded (check), hits for a higher average than Chris Carter (check), hits more homers than Marwin (check) and is cost-effective, becoming eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter (check). Projections are that he would cost about $2.5-$3.5 million in salary for 2017.

He's 28 years old and a career .270 hitter, a .770 OPS over five big league seasons that is even more effective against righties (.284, .811). He's yet to top 20 homers in a season but has been in double figures in three of those five years.

Adams also looks like he's a double cheeseburger away from eating his way out of a job. He has missed time with injuries and looks scarier than he actually plays. He's also no gazelle on the basepaths.

But Adams should be more productive than any of the current answers at first and can be platooned with Marwin or Gurriel to give even greater effectiveness. He'll probably be too expensive once he is out of arbitration years so he won't be closing the door on Reed for the future, just for a year or two.

Acquiring Adams would likely fill the last open roster spot among non-pitchers. Gattis and McCann would share catching duties. Adams, Gurriel and Marwin would join Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman in the infield. Aoki, Beltran, Reddick, George Springer and Jake Marisnick would fill the outfield and DH roles. That's 13 guys with many lineup possibilities for A.J. Hinch to tinker with and a bench with the pop to start some rallies.

What would he cost to acquire? I'd go as high as Michael Feliz, the starter/reliever who went 8-1 last season with a 4.43 ERA. Although I'd start by offering some combination of minor leaguers that might include Colin Moran or Brady Rodgers. The Cardinals are eager to deal Adams so the price should not be too high.

Ah, but then there is that bad blood. Maybe the Astros could blame the hacking on the Russians. That seems to be all the rage lately.