August 2010

My First-Ever Mailbag

I got an intriguing email from a fellow Astros fan today:

RR15: Why weren’t the Astros buyers at the trade deadline?  They’ve been playing over .500 since late May, they’re still within conceivable striking distance from the top of the division, and there’s a pretty good team out there available for bargain prices: Saltalamacchia, Lopez, Ludwick, Maholm, Church, Edwin Jackson, Tejada, and Haren, just to name a few.

There’s a lot here to digest, so let me try to break it down piece-by-piece.

The Astros may be playing over .500 since late May, but they’ve failed to rise above fifth place in a six-team division since April 25, when they were briefly in third place after sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates at home.  Consecutive sweeps by the Reds and Braves put them at the bottom of the standings, and they haven’t resurfaced since.
Even if the Astros were to continue to play above .500, the hole into which they’ve dug themselves is a gaping one, and would require fantastic flame-outs by several teams to translate into making the playoffs.  In this case, certainly, the cake is a lie.
As for the players you mentioned (and others), even if the Astros had the payroll flexibility to grab several of these marquee names, and even if all of them happened to play to potential, and even if all of them happened to jell as a Major League team, who would you suggest trading to get them?  It’s not news that the farm system is short of guys who can conceivably perform at the Major League level, and even if they did have those guys, continuously trading them at every deadline serves to do nothing but further deplete the minor leagues, creating an endless cycle that must be fed by more and more expensive free agents.
The upside to the Astros’ current approach is that they will get to see their younger players in action and determine whether or not they will serve as viable big league players in the future.  If they don’t work out now, the front office will know that they need to look elsewhere to solve their needs.  Meanwhile, scoring low in the standings might dishearten casual fans, but it makes for higher draft picks.  Not the sexiest sell on the planet, but it does lead to good baseball teams, as the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, and Philadelphia Phillies can attest.
It’s going to be an ugly team to watch sometimes.  They’re not going to win a lot of ballgames.  But it does explain Bagwell’s recent promotion: He’s been helping to develop kids for the Astros for quite a while now.  Well, that’s exactly what he’s going to be asked to do at the Major League level.  Help these youngsters transition into the Majors.
The only real question I have at this moment is: When does the Brian Bogusevic era begin?