Offseason In Review: Houston Astros

Next in our Offseason In Review series, the Astros.

Major League Signings

  • Brandon Lyon, RP: three years, $15MM.
  • Brett Myers, SP: one year, $5.1MM.  Includes $8MM mutual option for 2011 with a $2MM buyout.
  • Pedro Feliz, 3B: one year, $4.5MM.
  • Brian Moehler, P: one year, $3MM.  Mutual option exercised.
  • Geoff Blum, IF: one year, $1.5MM.  Includes $1.65MM mutual option for 2011.
  • Jason Michaels, OF: one year, $800K.
  • Total spend: $29.9MM.

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses


Early in the offseason, it was suggested by some reporters that the Astros had the payroll flexibility to make only minor moves.  As Jeff Euston wrote for Baseball Prospectus in February, the team did ultimately trim roughly $15MM from their year-end payroll.  GM Ed Wade still is able to pay his offseason acquisitions about $20MM in 2010, since the '09 payroll featured larger commitments to veterans such as Tejada, Valverde, Hawkins, Brocail, Hampton, Erstad, and Backe.

I wrote in October that the Astros could contend in 2010 with the right additions.  Starting with the bullpen, Wade replaced Valverde and Hawkins with Lyon and Lindstrom.  The Astros might not lose much in performance here, and they will pay the new pair $4.125MM less in 2010 than the old tandem will earn.  Plus, the Astros snagged the #19 pick in the draft from the Tigers.  The downside to this bullpen swap: Lyon's contract is quite excessive, the pair comes with increased health risks, and Jimenez might've been useful.

Myers is a wild card as the new #3 starter; the Astros are looking for him to return to his 2006 level of performance (3.91 ERA in 198 innings).  My beef is with the Astros bringing back Moehler at $3MM.  There was no reason to overcommit to him in October.

There was early talk that the Astros would go with rookies Tommy Manzella and Chris Johnson on the left side of their infield in 2010.  Instead Feliz will handle the hot corner as the Astros take a defense-first approach toward the two positions.

For the Astros to contend in 2010, they'll need a huge performance from their rotation.  Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Myers, Bud Norris, and Felipe Paulino are all capable of big things.  They won't get much run support – the lineup is littered with easy outs and is the worst of the eight NL clubs I've projected so far (using CHONE and Baseball Musings' lineup analysis tool).

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18 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Houston Astros"

Pseudonymus Bosch
5 years 6 months ago

I think it’s rather generous to say that the Astros’ rotation is all “capable of big things.” Oswalt is, sure, and Wandy needs to prove he’s not a one-year wonder. But Brett Myers is capable only of league-average things, or worse (in the hitter’s circus that is Minute Maid), Bud Norris was promising but inconsistent last year (the Norris game I caught at the Juice Box was his one-inning disaster), and Felipe Paulino is risky business. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Norris stick, with bumps, but the other two will cause problems.

5 years 6 months ago

All of those back three starters have top of the rotation potential. That’s why it’s “capable of big things”. Also, Minute Maid Park is not a “hitter’s circus”–popular belief is incorrect on that. It has actually been almost dead neutral.

5 years 6 months ago

Not wanting to stir anything up with loyal Astros fans here, but you look over this and it should just start and end with fire Ed Wade. None of the moves/signs made can be looked at positively, the ML system is in a shambles and the core players are aging fast.

Time for please, please to dump Wade and get responsible ownership for this once proud team.

5 years 6 months ago

The beginning of the end was the Lee deal. It’s not that Lee has been a bad player. He’s actually held up remarkably well. However, his contract ushered in the “win now” mentality that led to other poor decisions.

For three years now I’ve been carping on this site about the Astros need to rebuild. And for three years they have delivered mediocre performances with a very high payroll. How different would life in Houston look if Lee was never signed, if Tejada hadn’t been traded for, and guys like Berkman and Oswalt were moved for younger, cheaper talent? Instead of being a bottom 5 club they could have restocked their farm system AND had plenty of money to fill in holes through FA.

There are a lot of poorly run clubs in baseball. The Astros near the very top of that list IMO.

5 years 6 months ago

Since when did Darin Erstad, Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz qualify as losses?

5 years 6 months ago

Brett Myers is one of the few one-year pitching deals that I don’t like. The Astros are going to end up paying $7.1M for one year of lousy pitching.

5 years 6 months ago

Tim, there has been some discussion that the Moehler deal might have been a vesting option, so Wade was forced to bring him back. I agree that it wasn’t a very good deal, but at least he’s a guy who can sit in the bullpen for spot starts.

5 years 6 months ago

That’d counter what McTaggart wrote at the time, but it would change the discussion.

5 years 6 months ago

Yeah, I think what I heard was that it was a complicated deal where the Astros half was a vesting option, then Moehler had the choice as to whether to pick his half up. I don’t have a source, so I could be totally off the mark here, but that’s what I remember hearing earlier in the off-season.

5 years 6 months ago

I’m surprised, Tim. For how much you’ve blasted the Lyons signing, you’re actually pretty easy on their offseason review.

5 years 6 months ago

Surprised myself a bit with that, this was just kind of the way it came out. This was a pretty bad offseason though, the team does not look better.

5 years 6 months ago

This team is still trying to recover from years of neglect at catcher and shortstop. It’ll take another couple of years before the ghosts of Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett stop haunting this team.

The biggest problem with this team over the last few years has been Tal Smith, Cecil Cooper, and the trainwrecks at catcher and shortstop.

They have addressed the manager issue. Improvement at catcher is currently a work in progress. Tal Smith is like a Weekend at Bernies movie — we can’t get rid of him. And shortstop is gonna be crap again since we decided to let Tejado go.

Uncle Drayton had a good run in the 90’s and the early part of this decade. But his time has come and gone. It’s time for a new owner to come in and surround himself with a team that understands the game and not a bunch of “yes-men.”

5 years 6 months ago

You’re pretty mistaken about the actual causes of the team’s problems. The biggest one was the neglect and wanton destruction of the farm system under former GM Tim Purpura, as well as the signing of Carlos Lee on an albatross of a contract.

Everett was a solid, slightly above average major league shortstop, due to his great defense. Over 2 WAR in every full season he played for us.

5 years 6 months ago

Not exactly sure what Flash Cooper could have done with the hand he was dealt and with the 2 ding bats running the team from above either. feel equally bad for another baseball lifer currently managing the team in Brad Mills, hopefully after he ends up as the fall guy for this teams failures (again) Francona will welcome him back to Boston where he has been a more than adept bench coach and companion to Francona for years.

5 years 6 months ago

Actually, that’s the one part of his post which was dead-on correct. Cecil Cooper was a terrible manager; he was saddled with a bad team, true, but he also completely lost his clubhouse (guys going around wearing shirts that said “Really?”), single-handedly burned out seemingly half of the relievers in the bullpen through poor use, and wildly changed his approach from game to game with seemingly no strategy beyond a roll of the dice.

5 years 6 months ago

The Matsui and Lee signing are why the offense will be below average.

Lee’s contract is why the rotation isn’t better; if they would have had the $, they could have afforded someone better than Myers.

Purpura is why the Lee contract happened and why the farm was neglected.

That said, things are looking up. There are some legit prospects in development, and the big league team is going to at least be competitive until 2012, when things should get a LOT better pretty quickly.

5 years 6 months ago

I don’t think the ‘Stros will be as bad as a lot of people seem to predict. I like the defense on the left side of the IF, and the rotation is at least somewhat improved. Though the days of Clemens/Pettitte/Oswalt (in his prime) are long gone, 2010 will be a significant upgrade over the Ortiz and Hampton disaster. I’ve been watching Paulino in some of his spring starts, and he’s starting to look like maybe he’ll finally come around. And if Myers can be effective again, a rotation of Oswalt/Rodriguez/Myers/Norris/Paulino would stand up pretty decent.

I’m not gonna’ be the delusional fan who sits here and swears they’re gonna’ win the division, but I think they’ll at least keep things interesting.

5 years 6 months ago

Myers 3.1 million w/ 8 million mutual option 2 million buyout second year