Let’s Talk Astros Fire Sale

A reader pointed out to me that the Astros are out of contention, and can’t possibly think they’re just a player or two away.  I hadn’t noticed how far back Houston has already fallen.  Every simulation I can find gives the Astros less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs.

The big three – Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, and Roy Oswalt – those guys are obviously staying put.  That’s about $40 mil on the books for ’08 right there.

Next we get to Woody Williams, who is unfortunately signed through 2008.  Williams and his 4.67 K/9 won’t help any American League team.  With a 5.58 ERA, durability questions, and a home run problem, Williams has very little trade value.  And he’s making $6.25MM in ’08, at which point he will be 41.  Yikes.

Then there’s Jason Jennings, earning $5.5MM this year.  The Rockies clearly got the better end of that trade, but it was a "win now" move by Tim Purpura.  Jennings needs to prove his health over the next couple of weeks, and then he’ll become the Astros’ best trading chip.  He’s dealt with shoulder and elbow tendinitis this year, but Jennings is a bulldog.  Could Purpura pry away an Andy LaRoche for him?  Maybe not, as Ned Colletti wouldn’t want to get burned by an injury again so quickly.  Not sure what the Phillies would spare, and the Astros don’t really have a spot for Mariner right field prospect Wladimir Balentien.  But this is a situation to monitor.

Perhaps Jennings could be packaged with Brad Lidge and sent to the Phillies for one truly good prospect.  Lidge is recovering from an oblique issue, but was on a nice run prior to that.  Despite his struggles over the last couple of years, Lidge’s skills will put him in high demand.  He’s got the name value that Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls don’t, and he should be the one to go.  I could rattle off ten teams that could use a guy like Lidge.

Morgan Ensberg is expendable; his bat has been anemic this year.  Maybe a fresh start and regular playing time would help him return to his 25 HR days.  He’s controlled through 2008.  The Twins, Phillies, and Giants seem like options, and Ensberg shouldn’t cost much.

Brad Ausmus will be a free agent after this year; his .335 OBP isn’t terrible for a catcher.  I’d suggest the Cubs but I think they really want to try Rob Bowen.

Mike Lamb is a free agent after the season, and he’s quietly hit pretty well for the past couple of years.  Again, the Twins or Phillies could snag him.  It’d be a very Twins-esque move.  The Yankees could jump in and get him for first base; he’d be better than Shea Hillenbrand.

Mark Loretta is hitting .322 and would be a nice versatile guy to bring along to the playoffs.  Maybe the Braves would have a look if Yunel Escobar tails off in July and Kelly Johnson doesn’t recover.

Dan Wheeler could turn out to be a nice buy low; he’s had a a run of success prior to this year and his peripherals still aren’t bad.  Plus he’s controlled through ’08.  Trever Miller‘s been awful as the lefty specialist, but maybe a new team could fix his control problem and get something out of him.   

Jason Lane is another good low-risk type acquisition.  He’s trying to recover his stroke in Triple A currently. The White Sox should go after him.

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