OK Jack, maybe the Italian wine has gotten to you. Maybe you've eaten one too many Belgian waffles. Or maybe it's the stinky cheese.
We are not letting go of Bagwell. I hate to put a damper on your (wet) dreams about Carlos Beltran, but Bagwell is staying here until his contract is up. If the Astros were to trade him, it would spark a collective uproar from the city of Houston, kinda like when the Oilers decided to pack it up. It would turn too many fans off, myself included. The team would lose thousands in ticket sales. Trading Bagwell would go against everything the team has done in the past decade. Clemens signed because he liked how the organization treated their players: with respect. Sure, Bagwell would probably like to play for his childhood team, but between then and now he has helped redefine another.
As much as it pains me to say it, Bagwell and his disgustingly-backloaded salary will be with us. True, we might field a better team if we traded him and signed Beltran. But the heart of Houston baseball lies in Bagwell's funky stance, shaggy beard and corkscrew swing.
I completely agree with you that we need to sign our young stars. But I would almost say that signing Berkman might be more important than signing Oswalt or Miller. Why? Our pitching is in good shape for years to come. It's weird, though... we don't have good "prospects" because ours are all major-league ready. Hell, our AAA team could contend with some of baseball's weaker teams. We could have Duckworth, Robertson, Hernandez, Fernandez, Buchholz, AND Saarloos at New Orleans next year.
We have Pettitte signed through 2006, and Redding will be an Astro at least until 2005. With all our pitchers in AAA (I rate Buchholz higher than anyone here), Our staff won't be obliterated if we lose Oswalt and/or Miller. Clearly we should sign at least one of them, and clearly Oswalt is the better of the two.
Oswalt has one more year of eligibility left. If he has a campaign similar to 2002, he'll probably win a $6 to $7 million deal through arbitration in 2005. If we offered him a longer contract this year, what kind of deal should he get? I'd be fine with a 3- or 4-year deal worth $10 million a year.
Our line-up, as Jack pointed out, will have a much different look, as Biggio, Kent and Hidalgo all exit. Burke and Lane PALE in comparison to Kent and Hidalgo offensively. We will have Berkman through 2005, but signing him to a long-term deal (4 years, $40 million?) will be well worth the price. Having him, Ensberg and Lane as the staples of the franchise will be a solid middle-of-the-lineup trio.
I read a story on astros.com that management was reluctant to sign Berkman to a long-term deal mostly because of recent disasters in that area (Hidalgo). This scares me. True, Hidalgo did let himself go after his 2000 campaign, and started to look more and more like Fatty Ward in 2001-2. Despite last year's performance, he has hurt the team financially with his burdensome contract more than his bat has helped.
Still, this shouldn't dissuade G-Hun and D-Mac to look into a long contract for Berkman. Berkman seems to be more inspired and more excited about playing. Plus he's a hometown boy, and could become the next Bagwell as the premier Astro slugger.
Back to Beltran.... who else will be in the market for him? Seems to me the Wicked Witches of the East might already have centerfielders, in Lofton, Damon and Cameron. I know Cameron just signed a 3-year deal... how long are Lofton and Damon signed for? The other team that comes to mind is L.A. They have the resources and dire need for offense. Tha A's would gladly take him if they could afford him. And I bet the White Sox will take a look at him after they get rid of Magglio.
I say, forget Beltran. Let's get PEDRO.