|No good options
Following yesterday's news that the White Sox were scouting Roy Oswalt -- and that he was having none of it -- comes two hope-springs-eternal stories from Houston.
First comes all sorts of optimistic rumblings from the Astros over at MLB.com:
As the Astros head into June on the heels of an 11-15 May, the scuffling team conjures up memories of 2004, when Houston sat 20 1/2 games back on August 22. Or perhaps this year's slow start is more equatable to the 2005 squad, which went 19-32 out of the gate. Both of those Astros teams dug themselves out of the hole -- posting respective runs of 36-10 and 74-33 -- to punch a playoff ticket in the seasons' final days. And while this year's beleaguered squad has been beset with injury and has underperformed, the Astros aren't counting on their history of second-half surges to guarantee October baseball.
Second, ESPN's Bruce Levine quotes an anonymous insider who claims that that Astros' owner Drayton McClane would rather add than subtract:
According to one of the top executives and most respected men in baseball, the Astros are not in the mode to trade any of their players, most notably Roy Oswalt. "The Astros owner, Drayton McLane, has always been steadfast on his direction of the Astros," the executive told me. "Mr. McLane will be more prone to adding to his team rather than trading his present players away."
I'm of two minds here. I'm 85% that the Astros actually adding players to make a run is lunacy. They're eight games out and in last place already, and that's with Miguel Tejada playing way over his head, and Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez and Hunter Pence playing about as well as they can expect to play. Lance Berkman could certainly do better than he is, but even if he picks it up, those gains will likely be offset by the losses when those other guys fall back to Earth. Same goes for the pitching. Roy Oswalt is better than he has shown thus far, but Wandy Rodriguez is probably not a 2.26 ERA pitcher. The rest of the rotation is pretty much what one would expect them to be. The upshot is that there isn't any real upside to this team in 2009, and short of adding several top players -- which Houston couldn't do even if it wanted to given the poor state of its farm system -- there can't be any serious expectation of competitiveness this year, can there?
The other 15% of my mind thinks like this: Lee, Berkman, Oswalt, Tejada and Rodriguez are either old or getting there quickly. There is nothing to replace them on the farm. In light of that, once the Astros give up on the current core and actually try and rebuild, the fallow period is going to be an extended one. So, if McClane doesn't mind wasting a bunch of money, why not trade whatever dreck can be scrounged up for guys with big, unwieldy contracts and see if they can't catch lightning in a bottle? Odds of success if such a path were taken: very, very low, though probably not technically zero. And unless you're an Astros fan, it would be really, really fun to watch, wouldn't it?
The spectacle, I mean, not the actual baseball.