Email of the Week: Fixing the 'Stros

This is a new feature on Diamond Hoggers, where we get a great question in an e-mail submitted by one of our beloved readers. This week’s e-mail topic deals with fixing the Houston Astros.
*If you have a question you’d like answered, please e-mail us at Diamondhoggers_at_gmail_dot_com or twitter message us.
Hello from Houston TX,
I enjoy reading your blog, and am a die hard baseball fan. I live in Houston, and although you may not be an Astros fan, I wanted your input.
There has been a lot of buzz that the Astros should go through with a major overhaul/trade. Naturally, this awful team, which has no hope of hitting win 81 this year needs something. Keeping in mind that no one wants Carlos Lee, or I should say, no one wants that loser’s $18.5 million dollar contract, and keeping in mind the Astros seem to refuse a trade involving Oswalt, much to his dismay, what do you predict and/or suggest for this club? I am at a total loss as to what should/will happen. It seems unreasonable to bundle a bunch of duds and expect to get much in return, but there has to be some sort of movement.
I enjoy reading your blog – one of the better ones out there. Keep up the good work. By the way, were you about to give up the dip? I’m nine years addicted (at age 25) and would welcome any tips. I can’t imagine a trip to Minute Made without Copenhagen.
Hey Eric from Houston-
Thanks for the e-mail. Sorry about all the shit that we give the Astros. They gave our Reds so many fits through the 90’s and early this decade. Houston was such a tough place for us to go in and play.
I won’t lie to you, cleaning up the Astros is not going to be a quick fix nor is it an envious job. It starts with the two guys you mentioned. In my opinion, Carlos Lee needs out of Houston. This was evident last year. The guy got his money, and he’s packed it in. He’s the type of low-energy guy who disappears on a last place team. He’s been a very good player in this league, but at 34 you’re approaching ‘old’ and it’s time for the Astros to move this guy. He’s hitting only .213 with a 27/9 number representing his BB/K ratio. A contender might like this guy in their 6th hole, and it might light a fire under his butt, but he serves no purpose out in Houston at this point. You deal him for prospects, and take less than a top tier set of guys to get rid of him. Addition by subtraction and deliver new blood into your franchise.
Oswalt is a different case. I can see why no one wants him dealt. As well as he’s been pitching, you have to remember he’s a 32 year old pitcher who has been taking shots in his back in order so he can pitch. This might be his last good year. He’s not a young player anymore. Despite what the Astros say right now, he won’t be in Houston after July 31. There are just too few top-flight pitching guys available for contenders around that time of year and someone will pay the King’s ransom that the Astros will ask to get Oswalt out from under the Astros. Again, he’s been a great pitcher for a long time in that city and the heart and soul of the franchise. You have to sell high while you can with Oswalt, and he’ll return some prospects to you that will help you contend again in a couple years. It’s like putting an old, awesome bull to pasture or to sleep but before you do his sperm delivered you some unreal calfs that will produce more championship bulls someday. This time next year you’re liable to get nothing for Oswalt, who could break down at any point.
If we’re playing GM for the Astros there’s a few things we’d do. You look at who you have as commodities you want to build around. There isn’t much, but I feel like Hunter Pence is one of the better outfielders in the NL Central Division. He’s 27, and he’s having a decent season for you. You build around him and a Felipe Paulino, who is young and has an electric arm. You sit back and you ask yourself–is Lance Berkman a guy who can play a Chipper Jones type role in two or three years? Do you keep him as your veteran cornerstone? Or do you ship him out also before the deadline to get some great young prospects to stockpile. I think you hang onto Berkman because he could chase a Hall of Fame berth and 3,000 hits in your city theoretically.
Other then that, you stockpile the young arms and the young hitters, draft really well (you’re going to have some high picks) and bring in the right GM and Manager combination, they’ll be back at NL Central threats again.
Thanks again for the question.