2007 Houston Astros

The Astros are due for the next Team Outlook. 

Tim Purpura’s contract obligations:

C – Brad Ausmus – $3.5MM
C – Eric Munson – $0.35MM
1B – Lance Berkman – $14.5MM
2B – Chris Burke – $0.3625MM
SS – Adam Everett – $1.9MM
3B – Morgan Ensberg – $3.8MM
1B/3B – Mike Lamb – $1.7MM
IF – Eric Bruntlett – $0.365MM
LF – Luke Scott – $0.327MM
CF – Willy Taveras – $0.4MM
RF – Jason Lane – $0.45MM
OF – Orlando Palmeiro – $0.95MM

SP – Roy Oswalt – $13MM
SP – Jason Hirsh – $0.327MM
SP – Wandy Rodriguez – $0.327MM
SP – Matt Albers – $0.327MM
SP – Taylor Buchholz – $0.327MM
SP – Chris Sampson – $0.327MM
SP – Ezequiel Astacio – $0.327MM
SP – Troy Patton – $0.327MM

RP – Brad Lidge – $3.975MM
RP – Trever Miller – $1.3MM
RP – Dan Wheeler – $0.93MM
RP – Chad Qualls – $0.376MM
RP – Fernando Nieve – $0.327MM
RP – Dave Borkowski – $0.33MM

SP – Brandon Backe – $0.4425MM
1B – Jeff Bagwell – $7MM buyout

I have this payroll at approximately $60MM, maybe a little more if raises are large.  The Astros entered ’06 with a $92MM payroll.  So where’s the extra money going to go?

At second base, it’s getting really hard to justify another year of Craig Biggio.  Objectively, he shouldn’t be around unless he wants to take $1MM to play a utility role.  Burke will be 27 next year.  He showed progress this season and would be a nice low-cost solution in 2007.

Luke Scott‘s earned a chance to begin 2007 as the everyday left fielder, given his .350/.436/.650 line in 203 ABs.  He turned 28 this year and hit .299/.400/.541 in 87 Triple A games.  Maybe he’s a late bloomer.

It’s impossible to recommend Taveras as the starting CF, given his hitting.  The Astros should probably pursue Jim Edmonds, Gary Matthews Jr., or Dave Roberts.  The likely need for a CF is one way the Astros resemble their division rivals the Cubs this offseason.

It’s also tough to see Lane as the starting RF given the kind of year he had.  I definitely didn’t expect this given his decent 2005.  He still has a chance to put up a few league average seasons, but it’d be a gamble.  The Astros should set their sights on Jose Guillen to man the position.  The outfield will be a huge challenge for Purpura this winter.

Challenge #2, which also resembles the Cubs, is the lack of starting pitching.  Like Zambrano/Hill, the Astros have Oswalt/Hirsh as a pretty good start.  But the rest of the starters in that list either aren’t ready or aren’t good.  They’ll need to sign two starters, and Woody Williams might be one of them.  Maybe Andy Pettitte comes back at a reasonable price; it’s up in the air as far as I know.  And the Rocket?  Public perception seems to be that he’d play in Boston if he plays at all.

I could list the usual suspects among free agent starting pitchers, but you know all the names.  The Astros probably won’t get Matsuzaka or Zito.  Jason Schmidt, a long shot but not a bad idea.  Maybe expect something more of the Wolf/Meche/Padilla speed.  Which is fine; you can’t throw Wandy Rodriguez out there for 24 starts again and expect to win.

Trade rumors: Carl Crawford has been mentioned, and he’d be a nice jolt to the outfield.  Of course, the Astros aren’t oozing with top shelf near-ready pitching talent to part with.  Luis Gonzalez could join the club assuming Scott could man right field.  But Gonzo isn’t a difference maker.  Perhaps Purpura will re-engage the Tejada talks, although Brad Lidge‘s stock has fallen.    

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