I was happy to see that (Ivan) Rodriguez is no longer mentioning the
Astros as the teams who are supposedly interested in him. The latest
news I read listed only the Mets and Marlins. That is good, because
after checking with Ed Wade yet again today, I can assure you the
Astros are not pursuing him. And judging from the irritated look on his
face, I can also assure you I won’t be asking him about Pudge again
anytime soon. At least not for two weeks. Or maybe 10 days. At the very
least, I’ll wait a week.
Oh, and he’s not bidding on Pedro Martinez, either.
This was from Alyson Footer’s blog, Alyson’s Footnotes, three days ago. This morning, Roy Oswalt let loose with the scoop that he ran into Rodriguez at Dolphin Stadium during the WBC, and that Rodriguez greeted him with, “Hey, teammate.”
I respect and admire Alyson very much, and don’t blame her for the misdirection play Wade ran, despite many major media outlets continuing to say that the Astros were talking to Pudge’s agent, Scott Boras. If that’s how he felt he needed to play it, then so be it.
Yes, following the WBC and a physical, Rodriguez is expected to sign with the Astros (please keep in mind that he has not signed – he is simply expected to.)
On the surface, I have to admit that this makes perfect sense. The Astros’ catching situation is a quagmire. Neither Humberto Quintero nor J.R. Towles has separated himself from the admittedly-abysmal pack this spring, and here is one of the best, if not the best catcher of his generation, looking for nothing more than playing time.
And a $1.5m deal, with another $1.5m in possible incentives, doesn’t break the bank. Rodriguez comes with a solid resume. He’s raking for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He may have single-handedly carried the Marlins to a World Series championship in 2003. He’s probably the best dual offensive-defensive catcher since Johnny Bench. And despite a tumultuous time in New York at the end of 2008, he finished the year going .276/.319/.394, which by far bests the current Astros duo of Towles and Quintero, who went a combined .185/.255/.306 at the big league level.
As far as moves go, it was an instant and decisive upgrade at a reasonable price, and most Astros fans should be thrilled. As for me, I don’t really like the move.
My last entry detailed a lot of why this is. Over the past two seasons, Rodriguez has averaged 1.75 Win Shares with his offense and defense. Quintero, almost the very definition of league-average, contributed 0.0. Towles had -0.3. This gives, at the most, a 2-3 game swing. If that 2-3 wins is enough to get us into the playoffs, this is a great move.
If it isn’t, we’ve hurt ourselves in a few ways. First, we’ve lost money. Without knowing the incentives, let’s assume Pudge makes $3m in 2009. Since he’s unlikely to make the team significantly more competitive by himself, it’s unlikely the attendance figures will increase from 2008. In fact, a decrease in attendance is still more likely. The money going to Rodriguez, a temporary stop-gap measure that may mean the difference between 3rd and 4th place in the weak NL Central, would be far better spent on signing bonuses and development, in my opinion.
Second, assuming we pick up those 2-3 wins, we’ve hurt ourselves in the 2010 June draft. Last season, a 3-win swing could have hurt a team’s draft spot by as many as four draft picks (had Atlanta won three more games, they would have ended up drafting after Detroit, Cincinnati, Colorado, and Kansas City.) Additionally, though Rodriguez is a Type-B Free Agent and therefore doesn’t require the surrender of a 2009 draft pick, the Yankees do receive a sandwich pick for him. This means that there will be one more player off the board by the time we get to our second round pick, after what was already going to be the longest first round in history.
If I’m wrong and Pudge helps whip the pitching staff into shape and ignites the offense, batting second in the order and providing multiple opportunities for Berkman, Lee, Tejada, and Pence, propelling us into the playoffs, then I’ll be happy to be wrong.
But if all he does is put us into the hunt for a Wild Card late in the season, it will actually have turned out to have been a bad move for a team that needs to re-stock its farm system.
(Note: I was working on an article about the Boston Red Sox to post today. However, due to some unforeseen time constraints and this breaking news, I will have to delay it. I hope to have it completed by the end of the week.)