Monday, July 24, 2006

It's been a wild few weeks for me - I got back from an ultimate frisbee tourney in Chicago and a family vacation to the Galapagos a few days ago, and immediately found out I got a job and that an apartment that I had been looking at for a while was available. So today I went to NAU, chose an office, moved out of my place, filled out the application for the new place, and packed for a river trip that I leave on tomorrow. Whew. Let's talk some baseball:

First of all, the Aubrey Huff trade.

Astros get: 3B/1B/OF Aubrey Huff
Devil Rays get: SS Ben Zobrist, P Mitch Talbot

Big surprise here: I agree with Andy's earlier thoughts on the trade. Unfortunately, Huff can't replace Ausmus or Everett in the lineup. But he's a solid player, who has traditionally been better in the 2nd half, and the Astros are built (at least for this year) as a team that needs to go all out for the playoffs. Zobrist is a nice prospect, a SS who actually gets on base, but he hasn't shown too much power and management seems to love Adam Everett. Talbot isn't a big loss, with our pitching depth (more on that later). All in all, I like the trade. Huff is off to a slow start so far (.243 / .333 / .378), but give him a little time.

My only concern about the trade (and it's a fairly big one) is that we even think about trading Morgan Ensberg or cutting his playing time once he's off the DL. I know Ensberg is slumping, and he is 30 years old, so he's probably not going to improve, and he's streaky....but he has a career 864 OPS, including a 961 OPS at the Juice Box! He's also relatively cheap, solid defensively, and is absolutely the 2nd best offensive player on the team, and has been better than Berkman for fairly long stretches of time both last year and this year. He's also drawing walks like an absolute maching this year, so once he reverts back to his career batting average of .272, you're looking at an easy .400 OBP. In short, Ensberg is really, really good, and we should try to build the team around him, Berkman, and Oswalt for the next 2-4 years. If we trade him for Scott Linebrink, we suck.

A bunch of Rotoworld rumors involving the Astros lately:

We're interested in left-handed reliever Damaso Marte. Wow, what a surprise, we're looking for a lefty. What, John Franco, Mike Gallo, Trever Miller, and Wandy Rodriguez aren't good enough? Marte is actually pretty good, but he walks a lot of guys and Miller has actually been pretty decent this year at times, so I say just stick with him.

We're shopping Willy Taveras. Sweet! It's pretty apparent that he's not part of our long-term plans, which is fine, so we might as well try to deal him while teams remember his 2nd-place Rookie of the Year finish last year. Taveras isn't that bad - he's excellent defensively, can steal bases, and has shown the occasional ability to get on base. He'd make a fine 5th outfielder, but if we can get value in a trade, do it.

We might be shopping Preston Wilson (to the Yankees, who really need OF help). I like it a lot. Wilson is overrated, and we're certainly not going to sign him after this year (I hope), and with Berkman, Huff, Luke Scott, Jason Lane (at some point) all able to play corner OF, we should be ok there.

Like I said, the 2006 Astros are basically built for one last push: Pettitte and Clemens are probably gone next year, Biggio should start playing less once he gets to 3K hits, and a lot of our younger guys (Burke, Hirsh, Nieve) should start seeing a lot more playing time. Hell, Oswalt isn't even signed for next year - what would our rotation be without him? Yikes. But here's the trick - we're 9.5 back in the division and 5 back in the wild card, with 6 teams ahead of us. I know we've pulled this off in the past, but if something goes wrong (like Berkman injuring his groin yesterday), we shouldn't be afraid to have a fire sale and trade the vets. As much as I'd like to see this team make the playoffs, it's not too likely at this point.

Ok, I've gotta run, and I'll be out for a few weeks, but when I finally get back I promise to write more regularly and more interesting stuff. Later.

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