Moehler an Astro in 2010? I vote yes. Yes on Randy Wolf, too.

The Astros won’t have much money to play with next year, and I’d like to see what extra they do have spent on pitching. The first thing I would do is pick up the option on Brian Moehler’s contract, which will be worth either $2.3 million if he pitches fewer than 150 innings this year, and $3 million if he exceeds that total. He’s pitched 119 innings so far and assuming he makes six more starts and averages six innings per start, he’ll come in just over 150.

So, for argument’s sake, let’s say the option is worth $3 million. Going over the projected salaries for 2010, four players will take up more than half the payroll — Lance Berkman ($14.5 million), Roy Oswalt ($15), Carlos Lee ($18.5) and Kaz Matsui ($5). Including Moehler’s option, that’s $56 million for five.

Drayton McLane has not set the payroll for next season, but for now let’s estimate it at $95 million. They’ll need about $21 million to cover the arbitration-eligible players. That leaves $18 million to spend on the rest of the team, with more than half the 25-man roster still undetermined. If Miguel Tejada agrees to play third base for $5 million, and Tommy Manzella and Jason Castro make the league minimum as the starting shortstop and catcher, respectively, I would fill the rest of the infield with Jeff Keppinger, who will probably cost a little less than $1 million in arbitration, and Geoff Blum, who the Astros probably could sign now for around $2 million.

The Astros will probably have to round out the bullpen with mostly young guys — Yorman Bazardo, Alberto Arias, Sammy Gervacio, Wesley Wright and Jeff Fulchino (he’ll be 30 next season, but he’s not yet arbitration-eligible, which puts him in the category of “young”). I have no idea what they’re going to do with the closer situation. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to afford to bring back Jose Valverde, who I’m assuming will be looking for a multi-year deal exceeding the $8 million he made this year. The Astros may be forced to try to either convert one of their young relievers into a closer or trade for a young pitcher viewed as a possible future closer.

Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez will get hefty raises in arbitration. I do not know what the final figures will be but I have Wandy penciled in for $5 million and Pence and Bourn making around $2 million.There are still approximately two bullpen spots and the two backup outfielder spots to fill. That doesn’t leave a lot of extra money to play with, but whatever wiggle room they have should be spent on a starting pitcher, and I would like to see them once again pursue Randy Wolf.

In Wolf, the team would be getting a veteran pitcher who has had success here and is, most importantly, healthy. They pulled their offer to him last year when the economy went in the toilet, and they took their chances on Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz. That didn’t pan out.

I’d rather spend a little extra on someone healthy and have a rotation that can survive the realities of this organization — the promising pitching prospects are still working their way through the system and will not be ready in 2010. That leaves them with little Major League-ready depth, which means they simply have to strengthen what they do have at this level. A Randy Wolf would be the perfect No. 3 to slide in behind Oswalt and Rodriguez and ahead of Norris and Moehler.

That’s my two cents. What say you?

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Random pictures from a weekend of baseball at Minute Maid Park:

Michael Bourn, Sean Berry and Ed Wade have a laugh during batting practice.

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Roy Oswalt signs autographs for young fans.

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The Astros honor Kaz Matsui for logging his 2,000th career hit…

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…And Carlos Lee for his 300th career home run.

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Puma addresses a crowd of at least 5,000 on Faith and Family night.

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23 Comments

Alyson, I agree with your picks for next year with a couple caveats: Firstly, I would suggest that Moehler’s option should depend on how Bazardo and Paulino are coming along and what the FA market looks like. I like him but he may not necessarily be our best option for #5. Second, I wish we would at least try to find a buyer for Kaz, even if all we get is salary relief. It may be a lost cause, but he just hasn’t been producing and he’s been a big hole in our lineup for the most part. If we could free up some salary maybe we could get a little something more out of that position. Good call on Randy Wolf, regardless.

My two dream headlines – “Astros release Matsui” and “Astros Transfer Carlos Lee contract to Giants” (ala Alex Rios moving from Jays to White Sox). El Caballo’s contract will be an ongoing anchor on the Astros’ chances to compete in the future – too expensive to either keep or trade. Maybe giving him away would work, especially to a team like the Giants that clearly lacks offense.

The guy who hosted the Astros radio postgame show today made some salient comments. Astros = old. Old = slow and injury-prone. Slow = GIDPs (Astros lead MLB) and poor defensive coverage. If this year’s Astro roster was old and slow, next year’s (if unchanged) will just be a year older and slower.

He also decried the Astros lack of power. Their regular lineup for most of the season included four old players (Lee, Matsui, Blum, Pudge) who are ground-ball hitters.

As for pitching, Randy Wolf would be a decent addition. Moehler could come back, but as a #5 starter, not #3.

Well dadlak, Alyson’s lineup includes Tommy Manzella, which would improve our coverage considerably and add youth and speed. (Likewise with Castro except for the coverage part.) As was pointed out to me recently we can’t really do much about Lee unless he agrees to waive his no trade clause.

I like your suggestions Alyson. I’ve had one other idea for a while though; Eric Hinske. He’s only making $1.5 million with $1 million in performance bonuses; you could offer him LESS than Tejada’s $5 million and it would still be a large raise in Hinske’s eyes. He’s also got more power, is younger and is a much better on-base man compared to Miggy. I think he’d be a great pickup for 3B and it would save a little more money, which could make a Wolf signing more likely.

Remembering back to the days of the disastrous acquisition of Drabek and Swindell, I have always been very very pessimistic about free agent acqusitions of pitchers – see Hampton and Ortiz for the latest flop. Your position player thoughts are spot on, but I would make those changes and hold on to what pitching I had and continue to develop arms in the minors. The young guys can go in the bullpen and do spot starts. They are young and can do that. Finally, take a page from the Nolan Ryan school of pitching and throw out the pitch counts and let the guys pitch!

This idea may be scoffed at but I’ll say it anyway. If Billy Wagner shows that he can still be an effective pitcher the rest of this season and whichever team he ends up playing for doesn’t pick up his team option, what are the chances the Astros look into signing him to a short-term incentive based contract? They could bring him and in and let him compete for the closer job and if he loses out, he could still be a reliable back of the bullpen guy. Or do you think he’ll want to sign somewhere where he can be a closer no matter what? I don’t know what he would be looking for salary-wise. I’m also not sure what his current status with Drayton is, but I figured he might have some history with Ed Wade. Just a thought.

Remembering back to the days of the disastrous acquisition of Drabek and Swindell, I have always been very very pessimistic about free agent acqusitions of pitchers – see Hampton and Ortiz for the latest flop. Your position player thoughts are spot on, but I would make those changes and hold on to what pitching I had and continue to develop arms in the minors. The young guys can go in the bullpen and do spot starts. They are young and can do that. Finally, take a page from the Nolan Ryan school of pitching and throw out the pitch counts and let the guys pitch!

But is Roy a sure thing? Jose de Jesus Ortiz printed this quote on Sunday,

?Well, I’m hoping that we do make a big splash in the offseason and go out and put a good competing team on the field next year,? he said. ?I signed here for five years to win. I didn’t sign here to be mediocre. We’ll see how it works this offseason.?
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/bb/6583574.html

What does that mean? Is he looking to be traded?

I believe he is just talking about shaking things up and making changes for the better in the off season. But Roy has been seeming pretty unhappy with the management lately–I suspect he would be willing to be traded if it came to that. But would we be willing to trade him? I doubt it. Drayton has never shown a willingness to go into full-blown tear it down and rebuild mode, and I doubt he’s going to start now.

Yes on Wagner. No on Hinske. He hasn’t played 3B everyday for 5 years, and he wasn’t that good when he did. Trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chris Snyder. Let Miggy go, play Manzella/Maysonet at short. Release Matsui, move Blum and Keppinger to 2B. Randy Wolf sounds okay, I like Jon Garland, too.

Your Honor, (and by Your Honor, I mean Alyson,) I would like to file a motion to withdraw my recommendation that we trade for Chris Snyder. I was just reminded that he signed a three year, $14 million dollar contract last offseason. I like him, but he just isn’t that good. I would bring Pudge back, for the same money as this year. And I would like to reiterate how much I like Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Pravata, I haven’t gotten the impression that Roy’s going to ask for a trade. He’s planning to pitch two more years and as far as I can tell he is going to stick with the Astros. He could ask for a trade, sure, but I think he knows that the likelihood of the Astros being able to pull off a deal when there’s only a few places he’d agree to go to are slim. After reading that same quote in Brian McTaggart’s story about older players, I think Roy was implying that he simply has talked to Drayton about making the team good enough to win now, not in three years. I understand his sense of urgency; I also understand why the Astros do not want to sacrifice the long-term health of the team for a short-term answer.

My point on Moehler was not to suggest the Astros should cast aside the other pitchers who might be able to fill a No. 5 role. Good teams don’t have one option, they have several. So I vote for Moehler, Paulino and Bazardo all to be in the mix next year. My feeling is this — we know what Moehler is going to give you. He’ll give you 150 innings and a 4-something ERA, which is exactly what a No. 5 should give you. It’s not about looking for Cy Young. It’s about that veteran guy at the back end of the rotation who is consistent. Sure, he has a few stinkers here and there but for the most part Moehler is very, very solid. So just pick up the option and don’t worry about inviting 12 Russ Ortizes to Spring Training.
I don’t understand the Paulino logic. What has he done with the dozens of opportunities he’s been given? Very, very little. I like his arm but to pencil him in for anything next year, when he’s done nothing so far to show he has any shot at longevity in the big leagues, is silly. Same with Bazardo. Give them a chance, yes. A guaranteed spot? Not so much.

Not sure on Billy Wagner. He left Houston on some pretty bad terms. If he’s remotely affordable and everyone can move past the hard feelings, I’d definitely look into it. The Astros are likely going to be looking for a closer this offseason. They’re also not going to have a lot of money to offer. If Billy’s looking to break the bank, he’ll have to do it elsewhere.

I wouldn?t rule out Moehler. He?s been fairly consistent. Also given our lack of depth in our rotation, we can?t afford to let him go. However, I?d let him compete with Paulino and Bazardo for a spot. Paulino has been awful many times this year but he has a good arm, and if he stays healthy I?m sure he?s got room for improvement. Maybe he needs some AFL time and winter ball in Venezuela. It did wonders for Bourn last year. As far as Matsui, I wonder if we could try to send him to a team in Japan and get some salary relief. I mean the guy is a member of their elite club now so I?m sure some teams would be interested. That?s the only way we could get rid of him ?cuz I don?t see any US team in their right mind who would want to add him to their roster. Ms Footer: any thought on turning Fulchino into a starter?

I certainly didn’t mean to imply we should rule out Moehler, just keep our options open until we see how some other guys perform through the rest of the season. His option may not be particularly expensive but it’s still a lot more than a guy just up from the minors who might, just maybe do a better job. As for Paulino, I think a lot of us just see what could be a top of the rotation arm if he could get his problems figured out… Spot his pitches and pitch smarter. It’s true that he has been disastrous sometimes, but other times he has been brilliant.

Alyson…I know this has no bearing on 2009, but I looked up the Astros’ players’ contracts on Cotts Baseball Contracts and Cotts states that Carlos Lee signed a contract with the Astros for 2007 – 2012 with a full no trade clause for 2007 – 2010. Is that a typo or does Carlos Lee’s full no trade clause expire after the 2010 season? Of course he is due to make 18.5 million in both 2011 and 2012 so it may be impossible to trade him after 2010 anyway.

Moehler’s ERA is not 4-something, It’s 5.21 and it’s been above 5 for quite some time, his WHIP has gone up this year to over 1.5. He’s not worth anything close to $3 million. Bazardo or Trinidad could do the same for about 400K

I understand where you’re coming from, aggie06. Overall however Moehler has been pretty consistent. 16 of his 22 starts he has allowed four or fewer runs. He’s had a few stinkers, especially his first two of the season when he was hurt. I’m not sure he is worth a $3 million gamble but there is absolutely no proof that Bazardo or Trinidad could do the same thing. Maybe they could, maybe they couldn’t. With Moehler, you know what you’re getting.

geneelston — yes, that is correct. Lee has full no-trade clause through 2010. After ’11, however, he becomes a 10-5 player (10 years in the big leagues, five with the same team), so he gets veto rights then anyway. Basically that leaves the 2010-11 offseason to trade him. Teams aren’t exactly clamoring for one-tool players making $18.5 million. In other words, Carlos is here to stay.

Alyson, It’s Steve D – the guy who used to send you
emails. This is my first comment on your blog.
I hope I don’t bore everyone too much – you know
I love to ramble.
We need another good solid starting pitcher. It’s
alot easier to find cheap bullpen help than starters.
I’d rather start kids at third base, catcher, and shortstop and get the starting pitcher.
It’s still a box of chocolates – you never know what
you’re getting, but a lot of fun to watch.

Alyson I believe that we shouldn’t got after Randy Wolf he is a type A free agent and he is going to cost a lot more than that 4.95 million if your right and the Astros do have around 15 million then we might be able to get LaTroy Hawkins back for closer spot and a starting pitcher like Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer who was paid 3.9 million in 2009, Rich Harden who was paid 7.0 million and had a bad year so his cost can go down, and maybe Brad Penny who received 5.0 million on a decent year, and all those starting pitchers are younger than Wolf and may cost less or around the same.

Astros could also use a position player and a pitcher combo we need a third baseman or a short stop so I suggest a Chone Figgins who is a type B free agent and received 5.7 million and could raise that up a little or Adam Kennedy who had a great year and was paid 4.0 million or like you said maybe Miguel Tejada for 5-6 million at third base.

The Brian Moehler signing was okay didnt have a great year but I can see him as a spot starter sharing time with Felipe Paulino if the Astros do get a starter which i believe is the number one need they will improve cause the line up might not be in bad shape
1.Bourn CF
2.Tejada SS
3.Lee LF
4.Berkman 1B
5.Pence RF
6.Castro C
7.Johnson 3B
8.Matsui
9.Pitcher

Now come on not a bad lineup the pitching is the one that needs help.

1.Oswalt
2.Rodriguez
3.Sheets
4.Norris
5.Paulino

I like that rotation and the Sheets can be Penny, Duchscherer, or Harden

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