The Astros, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, have also had talks with the Texas Rangers about acquiring left fielder Kevin Mench, who would fill the club's desire for a righthanded bat.
Why do we need a righty bat? Lane, Biggio, Ensberg, Taveras, Everett, Bagwell, and Ausmus not enough for you? We need a LEFTY bat to pair with Berkman.
"That was a nice commitment on (owner) Drayton's (McLane) part to lock up a guy who's been a nice part of our ballclub and a key contributor and is great with young players and a great role model," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "He fits with our mold pretty well."
It seems like Purpura mentions character and being a "great role model" a little too often. Ok, fine, he's a nice guy. But can he play? Note that I'm not criticizing the move, though I'm not that fond of it, but it's strange to justify it by mentioning how well he "fits with our mold".
The Astros also appear to be close to reaching a two-year contract agreement with free-agent catcher Brad Ausmus. Purpura said a deal could be worked out in the "next several days."
"We keep narrowing the gap, and everybody's working together," he said.
Kill me now. A two year deal?? Do you enjoy causing me misery? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?? Fine, we have no good catching prospects. Trade for someone! Sign someone next year! Anything but two more crappy years of no-power, overrated-defense, "he calls a game well", 37-year old Brad Ausmus. Piss poor.
Purpura said free-agent pitchers Jarrod Washburn and Scott Elarton, who will become a free agent if he declines the Cleveland Indians' arbitration offer, could be of interest.
Washburn is a lefty fly-ball pitcher (career 0.74 GB/FB ratio, 0.97 last year.) He also only struck out 94 batters in 177.2 IP. He would get destroyed by the Crawford Boxes. DESTROYED. But what about Andy Pettitte, you say? Pettitte is a severe ground ball pitcher (1.73 career, 1.62 last year). He makes Adam Everett look really good (maybe the other way around, I guess). He can succeed at The Juice Box. I don't think Washburn can. Oh, and he's a Scott Boras guy, so expect him to command top dollar. It damn well shouldn't be from us.
Elarton is a little more interesting. He had a decent year last year:
Unfortunately, he's also a fly-ball pitcher (0.67 GB/FB ratio last year, 0.79 career), and he's given up 65 HR's the last two years. I think he'd give up a lot of Crawford shots. Pass.
And as for my dark horse, Jason Johnson? Well:
1.74 GB / FB ratio (1.24 career)
First off, he's durable - at least 190.0 IP the last 3 years.
Second, he doesn't walk anybody anymore - from 80 walks to 60 to 49 the last three years.
Unfortunately, he doesn't strike out anybody anymore either - 118 K's to 125 to 93.
But he's redeemed himself by becoming a groundball machine. Ready for this?
Notice a trend? Those are Johnson's GB / FB ratios the last 7 years. I don't know how he's done it, but he's improved his ratio every year, and you have to assume he can keep it up. And with our infield defense (especially if we keep Everett), we can turn a lot of those ground balls into outs. Johnson is 32 years old, so we shouldn't give him a huge deal - he signed a 2 year / 7 million dollar deal with the Tigers 2 years ago - I'd be happy to give him 2 / 8 or 2 / 9. I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
SIGN JASON JOHNSON!
Finally, there is a really cool article over at The Hardball Times which looks at pitchers' home run rates and predicts starting pitchers who are likely to significantly slump or improve next year due to unusually large increases this past year. A few pitchers of interest:
Most Likely to Regress Next Year:
7. Roger Clemens, -9
12. Roy Oswalt, -7
Most Likely to Improve Next Year:
1. Javier Vazquez, 12
10. Ezequiel Astacio, 8
So this chart is telling us that given a pitcher's career HR rate and IP last year, we would have expected Clemens and Oswalt to have given up 9 and 7 more HR's last year and Vazquez and Astacio to have given up 12 and 8 fewer HR's last year. Yet another reason why I would love to pursue Vazquez and why Astacio will end up being much better than Wandy Rodriguez.