Jack and I both love the offseason. I think it's even better than spring training, because not only is every team tied for first, but every team has the chance to do great things and improve the team by making smart signings and trades. Plus, all the fans get to debate who we should sign and who we should trade.
Barzilla from AstrosDaily reported that Purpura said that replacing Ausmus AFTER 2007 would define his career as Astros GM. Well guess what, TP... maybe you should start looking early. Ausmus is clearly the weakest link in a very weak lineup. Taveras and Everett at least add above-average defensive skills; Ausmus's defense is mediocre and on the decline. We've competed with the miserable Everett-Ausmus-pitcher lineup for four years now, and we've been successful in spite of it. It's time to upgrade at one of those positions, and catcher is the obvious choice. There are several reasons why: 1) Everett's defense makes him a commodity despite the poor offense. 2) There are few possibilities to upgrade at SS. 3) There are many free agent catchers. 4) Many of the free-agent catchers have split time before. Check out these choices (with age by April 2007, career OPS and notes):
Rod Barajas: 31, .692 (.771 in 2005)
Mike Lieberthal: 35, .788
Javy Lopez: 36, .828
Doug Mirabelli: 36, .732
Bengie Molina: 32, .717 (.785, 19 HR in 2006)
Mike Piazza: 38, .931 (.843 in 2006)
Gregg Zaun: 35, .729 (.825 in 2006)
And here are some trade candidates:
Johnny Estrada: 30, .733 (.773 in 2006)
Toby Hall: 31, .685
Jason LaRue: 33, .740
Yes, several of these catchers are old and slow, but that's what catchers are supposed to be, right? Seriously, though, Ausmus should NOT be our starting catcher. He's a good guy and a great baseball mind, but he hasn't been a major-league hitter in several years. Honestly, I'd be happy if we signed any of these guys to split time with Ausmus. Piazza's my dream-signing this offseason, but I'm intrigued by all of them. Lieberthal and Lopez have had very good years in the past, but injuries have hindered them. Barajas had a breakout year in 2005 but regressed and lost his starting job in Texas to Gerald Laird. Zaun has been fantastic in Toronto; would he want to return to Houston, where he seemed to fit in well? Would Molina command too much, and would he mind splitting time? What would it cost to trade for Johnny Estrada? Who knows... but Purpura should be on the lookout.