Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Jake Peavy outdueled Roger Clemens last night in a 2-0 win. Clemens gave up both of the runs, the most runs he'd given up in a road start all year. Read that last sentence again. Clemens gave up both runs to Brian Giles (on a RBI single in the 1st and a solo HR in the 8th), one of the players I'd like to see the Astros pursue the offseason.

You can see his career numbers here if you'd like, but I'll give you the important ones:

Brian Giles, OF, 34, Bats:L, Throws: L

OPS+ the last few years:

2002: 173
2003: 146
2004: 128

Looks like a bad trend, huh? Not so fast. Giles is playing half his games in the best pitching park in baseball, which drags his offense down. For example, this year he's hitting only .256 / .379 / .404 (which would still be a huge upgrade at LF for us), but a monstrous .327 / .456 / .562 on the road, with 34 extra base hits and 55 walks! That's big time. He's also above-average defensively in either OF corner (he played CF for the Pirates for a year or two), hits lefties well enough to avoid being platooned (career 809 OPS vs. LHP, 1011 OPS vs. RHP), and has a career 925 OPS at Minute Maid Park. What's not to like?

Well, he is going to be 34 next year. That's why, if we do sign Giles, I hope it's a 3-year contract at most, preferably a 2-year deal (maybe 2 /18 or 3 / 24?). We don't have any high-level OF prospects, Chris Burke cannot hit enough to be a major-league left fielder, and Adam Dunn won't be a free agent for a few more years. This signing assumes Lance Berkman moves to 1B permanently, because I don't see how Jeff Bagwell can ever throw well enough to be a 1B again. Pinch-hitter? Maybe. Turning the 3-6-3 double play? I can't see it. Giles also gives us another power lefty bat, which we need to help out Berkman. All our other power hitters (Biggio, Ensberg, Lane) are right-handed. I've heard Giles would like to sign with ATL to play with his brother Marcus, but the Braves have a ton of young OF's that are getting playing time, and they may not be willing to show Giles the money. Playing in Houston would at least put him a little closer to Atlanta.

I'd also like the Astros to try and trade for Braves catcher Johnny Estrada. Estrada had a career year last year, putting up a .314 / .378 / .450 line in his first major league season (including an insane .351 / .407 / .498 line away from Turner Field). Estrada will be 29 by the start of the '06 season, but he doesn't have much wear and tear (only 332 games in his career), and he won't be arbitration-eligible for another 3 years, which means he'll come relatively cheap. So why would the Braves trade him? Well, Estrada's been hurt some this year, and his back-up, excellent prospect Brian McCann, has been awesome, putting up an 800 OPS in his first exposure to major-league pitching. The Braves don't need Estrada. Who could we trade for him? Well, that's kind of Purpura's job, but some combination of Brooks Conrad / Taylor Bucholz / Wandy Rodriguez might do the trick. Hopefully we don't have to give up Fernando Nieve.

Anyway, Estrada is a switch-hitter but he doesn't hit lefties that well, which means he and Quintero could form an excellent catcher platoon. Catcher is a position where you don't necessarily want a guy getting 90% of the at-bats; it's simply too hard on the body. In Estrada's 2004, for example, he faded badly in September and October (603 and 667 OPS, respectively). A 70% Estrada / 30% Quintero platoon would be sweet.

Finally, I think the Astros really need a solid 3rd / 4th starter behind Oswalt / Pettitte (I have no idea what Roger Clemens will do - obviously he can still pitch at a very high level, but he's earned the right to do whatever he wants) who can give them 200 innings of around a 4.00 - 4.50 ERA and isn't much of an injury risk. My recommendation? Paul Byrd. Yep, that Paul Byrd. He's put up 3.90, 3.94, and 3.92 ERA's the last 3 years in almost 6o0 innings; he doesn't walk many guys (79 over that span), and he's been pretty healthy the last few years. Like Giles, he has the downside of being 35 years old when the '06 season begins. But he's been solid, and we could probably get him for 2 years / 10 million or so. Unlike Giles, there are similar players also available (the entire list of FA's is here), such as Kevin Millwood, Esteban Loaiza, or Brett Tomko, but I think Byrd is the best value.

Finally, for the 3rd straight year, Craig Biggio has slowed down in the 2nd half (this year he had an 847 OPS in the first half, 686 since). It is simply unreasonable for a 39 year old 2nd baseman with almost 10,000 career AB's to be great all year. HE NEEDS MORE DAYS OFF. Luckily, our top prospect Chris Burke, plays 2B, so start him there more often!! At least once a week (when grounball pitcher Andy Pettitte starts, ideally), if not more.

And that's about it actually. Giles, Estrada, and Paul Byrd. A motley crew, huh? That makes our lineup next year

Taveras
Biggio / Burke
Berkman
Ensberg
Giles
Lane
Estrada
Everett
P

That's not too bad at all. I like the 2/3/4/5/6/7 right-lefty balance. I wanted to see if there was a better SS available, since Everett is having a rough year, but only Furcal or Nomar would be a big upgrade. I say we stick with him one more year.

Our rotation would be something like

Oswalt
Pettitte
Byrd
Backe
Astacio

which isn't nearly as good as this past year's, but you could reasonably expect ERA's of 3.00, 3.50, 4.00, 4.50, and 5.00 from that group, which would keep up in games.

A bullpen of

Lidge
Wheeler
Qualls
Burns
Harville / Springer (yuck)
Wandy Rodriguez / Gallo

is solid, too.

Well, that's about it. I know it's early to already be talking about the offseason when we're in the thick of a playoff race, but I like looking ahead.

1 comment:

Andres said...

You're forgetting one thing: Bagwell. It's nice to think of possible superstar cornier infielders or outfielders to sign, but it's close to impossible to dish out money when three players on your team are making half the team's payroll.

I honestly don;t know what to make of Clemens either. Eighteen million dollars is a LOT OF MONEY. How are we supposed to form a competitive team if he's making more than a fifth of our team's payroll? It's ludicrous. But he's SO GOOD! It's unreal.

I do agree, we need another 3rd or 4th starter. But Pettitte/Oswalt/Backe is a good front three.