If The Astros Become Sellers

The Astros are ten games under .500 and 9.5 games back in the NL Central.  84% of the season remains, so they've got plenty of time to right the ship.  It's difficult to imagine this organization selling.  Recent history: on July 22nd, 2008, they were 12 games back in the division and 11 out in the wild card.  GM Ed Wade acquired Randy Wolf anyway, and the team went 40-22 from that point and finished 3.5 games out of the wild card.  The Astros hate to quit on a season, but let's suspend our disbelief and look at who'd be available if they did sell.

Carlos Lee could be attractive to teams if he starts hitting, except for the $55.5MM owed to him over 2010-12 and the full no-trade clause.  Here's what ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote about Lee a year ago: "One club that inquired about him over the winter says it was told Lee has already informed the Astros he's 'not going anywhere' as long as his no-trade is in place."  The no-trade apparently becomes partial after 2010.

Roy Oswalt is pitching well, with his best strikeout rate in years.  He's owed $31MM for 2010-11 and has a $16MM mutual option for 2012.  Stark heard from an Oswalt friend last month that the pitcher's preferred destinations are Atlanta, St. Louis, and Texas, if a trade becomes necessary.  The friend also opined that Oswalt might be willing to accept a trade to a team with a deep rotation, aside from those three.  Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports talked to Oswalt in February; he spoke about retiring after the 2011 season.  Oswalt made it clear that he'd want a trade if the Astros went into rebuilding mode.  Wade implied the team's asking price for their ace would be prohibitive.

Then there's Lance Berkman, who earns $14.5MM this year and has a $15MM club option for 2011 with a $2MM buyout.  He also has a full no-trade.  Berkman suggested in February he'd look elsewhere if the Astros decline the option, a decision they'll make toward the end of the season or after it.  Stark wrote recently that "there is also a lot of buzz that assuming the Astros pick up Berkman's $15 million option for next year, they'll tack on a short extension."  Stark talked to a Berkman friend who feels the first baseman is most likely to finish his career with the Astros.

Kaz Matsui has a limited no-trade clause; he's earning $5MM in the last year of his deal.  He's losing playing time to Jeff Keppinger and has negative trade value.  Similarly, Pedro Feliz at $4.5MM wouldn't net much.

Wandy Rodriguez is under club control through 2011; he's earning $5MM this year after losing an arbitration hearing.  He's a bit of a late bloomer, and swapping him for cheaper, controllable arms would have to be considered.  The Astros could also offer a rental in Brett Myers, who earns $3.1MM this year with a $2MM buyout for 2011.  Myers has been hittable, but otherwise pretty good this year.  Veterans such as Brian Moehler, Tim Byrdak, Geoff Blum, and Jason Michaels would probably be available.

Catcher J.R. Towles could be dealt regardless of the Astros' status.  He's frustrated about being demoted to Double A, and told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart he has to talk to his agent to see what his options are.  The 26-year-old has shown offensive promise in the high minors but it hasn't carried over yet.  The Astros' catcher of the future, Jason Castro, is playing at Triple A Round Rock.

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