Chris Johnson Rumors
Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle writes that the Astros are "unlikely to be significant players in free agency this winter." The team is trying to lower payroll and get younger, something signing free agents generally won't accomplish. Justice does say that the club would like to retain relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Valverde, both of whom will be free agents after this year.
Houston started the season with close to a $103MM payroll according to Cot's, but they could shed $17.75MM by letting Miguel Tejada, Mike Hampton, and Darin Erstad walk as free agents. However, a significant chunk of those savings will probably end up being redistributed to Wandy Rodriguez and Hunter Pence, both of whom should receive big raises in arbitration (Pence will likely qualify as a Super Two).
In their effort to incorporate more youth into their lineup, Justice says we could see third baseman Chris Johnson, shortstop Tommy Manzella, second baseman Edwin Maysonet, and catcher Jason Castro in the Opening Day lineup next year. The team will also probably ask reliever Wesley Wright to come to camp next year prepared to compete for a rotation spot.
According to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle, in the wake of Aaron Boone's announcement this morning that he'll miss the season with a heart condition, Astros GM Ed Wade received a call from a team "informing him they had a third baseman available" for trade.
It sounds like Wade will entertain the possibility of making a deal, but he first wants to see how prospect Chris Johnson and veteran Geoff Blum will respond to increased playing time. Spring training has been rough on both guys thus far. Johnson, 24, is hitting just .231 this spring with one dinger and six RBI. Blum, 35, is batting .158 with no home runs and just three RBI in 32 at-bats.
"If we think there's a need at the end (of camp), there's going to be guys available," Wade said Wednesday. "I got a call today from a club that's got a guy that they want to make available so if we have the need. We know what Blum's capable of doing and we like what CJ's shown so far. We'll let them play and see what happens."