What the Astros got for Pudge.
One scouting report describes Matt Nevarez as having a “huge arm” but also as “extremely raw.” The Astros do not see him as raw. They like his plus-plus fastball and see what could be the makings of an average slider. Nevarez is young, only 22, and even though that’s a little old for Class A, where he was at the time of the trade, he missed some time because of an elbow injury. Now seemingly healthy, the Astros envision Nevarez as a possible power arm for the back end of the bullpen.
Reportedly, the Astros also received infielder Jose Vallejo as one of the two players to be named later. According to this report, the Astros will get a second PTBNL if the Rangers reach the playoffs.
It’s obviously too early to tell if this trade will work in the Astros favor, but that they obtained a young power arm is encouraging. I would have preferred a starting pitcher, but it would have taken more than Pudge Rodriguez to get that.
Ed Wade addressed several topics during his briefing with the media Tuesday. First, he offered a timeline of how the deal was done. Rangers GM Jon Daniels, according to Wade, called him Friday after front-line catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was diagnosed with an arm ailment. Daniels expressed interest in Pudge, and after mulling over the Astros asking price, he called Wade again Tuesday morning and said he was prepared to move forward with the trade.
The Rangers, Wade said, did not have interest in Pudge until Saltalamacchia went down.
Pudge has a no-trade clause, and he had to agree before the two sides could make it official. That part is why it took so long between the news breaking that Pudge was headed to the Rangers and the Astros acknowledging that they had indeed completed the trade: Pudge first had to accept a trade that would push him into a backup role with his new team.
Wade also offered this interesting tidbit: during their parting conversation Tuesday morning, Pudge wanted to talk about next year, and his interest in possibly returning to the Astros. Wade told him they were prepared instead to look at some of their young catching prospects. “I advised him to take advantage of going ‘home’ and see what the offseason presents at that time,” Wade said.
Astros owner Drayton McLane was pressed about the public perception that the team was throwing in the proverbial towel by trading away one of their most experienced players, and McLane insisted this was not the beginning of the club going into full tear-down mode.
“If we were interested in changing the total texture of the team, we would have done it at the trade deadline,” McLane said. “We had not had conversations about trading Pudge. This was unusual. We got call after the Rangers No. 1 catcher was injured.”
McLane added that Rangers owner Tom Hicks called him about Pudge. “I was very reluctant,” McLane said. “I said, ‘You need to make a strong offer before we’d even consider this.’”
Astros players reactions ranged from disappointment to indifference. Some took it hard and feel that taking away someone with Pudge’s history is equal to giving up on the season. Others weren’t terribly surprised — after all, Pudge was pretty much down to catching a few times a week and splitting time with Humberto Quintero.
“Pudge wasn’t catching as much lately,” Lance Berkman said. “That’s what it seemed like. That’s why I thought there might be something going on even before this (trade). It’s one thing if he was the every day catcher. But he was more part-time.”
Roy Oswalt had this to say: “I guess that’s the process of trying to build the club for next year. That’s what I’m hoping they are doing now. There is a time where you have to start rebuilding, and if you wait until the end of the season, you may not get the pieces you need for the next year.”
My take: While I realize Pudge was a popular player in the clubhouse and with the fans, and he’s accomplished a heck of a lot in his career, and he’s probably headed for the Hall of Fame, I’m not understanding why this is viewed as such a huge loss. Pudge was hitting .251, he grounded into 13 double plays and was showing signs of wearing down, hitting just .170 (10-for-59) with one extra base hit over his last 15 games. And his defense, lauded for so many of his 19 years in the big leagues, wasn’t anything great. Five passed balls in 90 games is, in my estimation, too many.
The 37-year-old Rodriguez is going back to the Rangers, where he spent his best years, to be a backup to Taylor Teagarden. The Astros have a farm system with giant holes and a big league team playing poorly. At first glance, this appears to be a win-win for both sides.
The Astros were also negotiating from a position of strength, which doesn’t happen too often. The Rangers needed Pudge and the Astros were in no huge hurry to rid themselves of him. From the reports I’m reading, the Rangers didn’t give up just a bag of beans for Pudge. We’ll see.
As for how the catching situation will shake out…for now, Chris Coste and Quintero will share the time behind the plate. The Astros will strongly consider bringing up J.R. Towles when rosters expand to 40 on Sept. 1, which would give them a true emergency catcher. Jason Castro, who is headed for the World Cup games in September, does not appear to be on the radar this year. I am holding out hope they consider giving him a chance to win the starting catcher job out of Spring Training in 2010.
Fun at the Puma palace
We’ll never accuse Berkman of forgetting from where he came, especially when it comes to his alma mater.
Puma recently welcomed 25 Rice University students to his home as part of orientation week, during which co-eds are sent on a scavenger hunt with specific items to obtain on their excursion. Apparently, one of those items this year was a picture with Puma. A friend had reached out to Berkman ahead of time, so it was no surprise when the group showed up at his place wanting a quick pose. Berkman readily obliged, remembering his own “O-Week” at Rice nearly 15 years ago.
“I did it when I was a freshman,” he said. “We fit a full soccer goal into the back of a mini pick-up truck.”
Need to vent? Join Facebook.
Frustrated. Elated. Mad. Sad. Indignant. Excited. Optimistic. Annoyed. Indifferent. Hopeful.
Baseball evokes a wide range of emotions from its fans, and over the course of this season, and seasons past, I’ve heard from fans who have expressed one or two, or all, of the above. Now, thanks to social networking, we can be mad, sad, elated, hopeful and annoyed together.
Some of you post on my blog, some on Twitter, some on Facebook. Your comments (keep them clean, please) are always welcome and I try my best to join in the conversation and address/answer everything I can. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to join the Astros Facebook page. There are some lively conversations that take place there, and I promise that you’ll find a ton of people who think just like you, and another ton who will think you’re nuts.
Cheap tickets alert
Two of the more popular summer promotions have been extended to the end of the season…
Price Matters: For $10, you get a View Deck II ticket, a hot dog, soda and chips. The offer is for the following games: Aug. 23 (D-Backs), Sept. 4-7 (Phillies), Sept. 8 (Braves), Sept. 11-13 (Pirates), Sept. 22 (Cardinals), Sept. 25-27 (Reds).
Kids Free All Summer…er, season:
This offer was originally scheduled to end on Sunday, but it’s been extended to include all remaining home games. For every full price adult ticket you purchase in the View Deck I, View Deck II or Mezzanine you can get two free tickets in the same price level for kids 14 & under.