What do you want to see in the final month?

We’re into September and the Astros are all but eliminated. That’s pretty much unchartered territory around these parts. We’re used to seeing the Astros play meaningful games up until the last week of the regular season, even if they fell short the past few years. It’s been pretty rare that the Astros have played meaningless games in terms of the standings, but we have plenty of those coming up.

So what’s on tap for the rest of the season?

Well, the Astros owe it to their veteran players to try to win as many games as they can and avoid a losing season (they’d have to 18-11 to finish .500), but perhaps it’s time to give some of the young players a look. I know, it’s not like the Astros have a wealth of young talent at the upper levels of the Minor Leagues, but there some interesting players.

Shortstop Tommy Manzella, a Major League-ready defensive player, could be among the next wave of Minor League call-ups, and if so I’d play him as much as possible. That wouldn’t sit well with Miguel Tejada, but he’s slumped terribly in the second half and likely isn’t coming back. Let’s see what Manzella has got. He might be the starting shortstop next year.

Same is true with Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino. No matter how poorly they pitch, I’d tell them they’re taking the ball every five days and don’t worry about results. Rack up some innings and learn as much as you can and be ready to win a job in spring training.

I’d like to see what catcher Jason Castro can do, too, but he’s headed off overseas to be a part of Team USA in the Baseball World Cup.

I don’t anticipate the Astros calling up any more pitchers. They’re already sitting at 14 pitchers, which means veterans Geoff Geary and Chris Sampson will have some free time in September. That will undoubtedly be difficult for them.

Other than that, I think we’ll see pretty much the same club the rest of the season. I think it’s important for Wandy Rodriguez and Michael Bourn to cap off their fine seasons in style, along with younger guys like Wesley Wright re-establishing themselves.

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The Astros’ .247 team batting average in August was third-worst in the National League, ahead of only Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Pittsburgh was the only NL team to score fewer runs.

And there were some woeful individual numbers in August. Hunter Pence hit .232, Jeff Keppinger .226, Miguel Tejada .212 and Kaz Matsui .202.

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Michael Bourn had reached base in 25 consecutive games via a hit or a walk prior to going 0-for-1 on Wednesday in Chicago. Bourn didn’t start and was used as a pinch-hitter late in the game, so that’s a tough way for a streak to end. The streak was the longest current streak of its kind in the Majors and a career-long for Bourn

18 Comments

In the final month? Like you, I want to see Manzella. There has been so much talk going around about Miggy playing third base next year, too–if that’s even a serious consideration, move him over to 3B, call up Manzella, and play them both every day.

I also wouldn’t mind another look at Towles. If nothing else, perhaps he will play well and gain a little trade value; it’s doubtful he has much future here even if he turns things around the next time up, due to Jason Castro breathing down his neck, but it would be nice if we could make a straight trade for another infield prospect, or perhaps even package him with Kaz Matsui and get some salary relief.

I’m not sure I agree about giving Norris as many innings as possible. I want to see him make at least a couple more starts, but they need to watch his inning count–he’s already pitched more than any previous season, and he’s showing signs of fatigue. We need him healthy and confident next season.

Finally, I think the time has come for Cecil Cooper. There’s some buzz that he might be let go today. I hope it’s true. He does not have the confidence of the players, has made many poor game-time decisions this year, and has been especially rough on the pitching staff.

Shut down Norris no sense in him pitching anymore with the playoffs out of reach, let him rest up for next season. Move Tejada to 3rd so you can evalute his play 3rd base to see if he’s a fit there, he’s already mentioned he’d be willing to move. Give Paulino and Bazardo the ball every 5th day to see what they can do, and just acquire experience.

I remember in a previous post you mentioning that it is safe to assume that all the players on the Astros roster have at some point this season been put on waivers. When that player goes on waivers and is then pulled back, then the Astros are stuck with keeping that player the rest of the season. Is that why we haven’t seen any waiver trades in the last few weeks besides the one with Ivan Rodriguez? We have some particularly big names headed for the free agent market, am assuming the Astros won’t be willing to spend the money to re-sign them (particularly Valverde) and am hoping the Astros get something in return for losing them. Will the Astros at least follow the necessary measures to ensure they get draft pick compensation if these players end up going elsewhere? I remember a similar situation not being handled in this way a few years ago, when a few big name players left through free agency and the Astros ended up with nothing in return. Could you comment on this?

David,
Yes, once a player is placed on waivers and pulled back, he cannot be traded. If the Astros hope to get compensation draft picks for potential free agents in Valverde and Tejada, they are going to have to offer them arbitration. If they decline and sign with another team, they will get compensation. If they accept, they are on the hook for huge contracts for 2010. It’s very risky. Players don’t get pay cuts in arbitration. Valverde is making $8 million this year, and Tejada is making about $15 million, so if they get get raises in arbitration, that’s at least another $25 million on top of the $54.5 million already tied up in Berkman, Lee, Oswalt and Matsui, bringing the total to nearly $80 million for six players. Plus, there are eight abitration-eligible players due for raises, particularly Pence, Bourn and Wandy, so you can see the money is disappearing fast. That’s why I don’t think they will offer arbitration to Valverde or Tejada.

Which is why we should be gotten something at least Valverde in trade even if it was just a low-tier prospect or two. I understand that some of these waiver claims were probably to block other teams from trading for them, but on the other hand, surely they would at least give you a lowball offer. Better something than nothing when you’re out of contention.

Of course hasn’t there been some discussion along the lines of Valverde wanting a multi-year deal and probably not accepting arbitration? Or is that wishful thinking?

“Well, the Astros owe it to their veteran players to try to win as many games as they can and avoid a losing season”

I could not disagree with that sentiment more. The Astros owe their players NOTHING, they’re making their money regardless. The Astros owe the FANS that pour their very limited and very hard-earned money into this organization despite playoffless season after playoffless season. Excuse me, but if these veterans want to not lose, then they can stop hitting into double plays and starting running out some ground balls.

The fans have had it up to the neck with Drayton’s promises of “being champions” and yet failing to deliver. He skimped on Wolf and we got failures like Hampton and Ortiz. He skimped on getting a legit third baseman and we’ve watched a couple of utility guys platoon there. He put an inexperienced Cooper in charge of the clubhouse and we’ve watched him completely lose the team and destroy the bullpen with his boneheaded management of the pitching staff.

We want to see some of the young players. Actually, since we’re eliminated, I’m honestly hoping that we do terribly the rest of the way, perhaps then we can get a higher order in the draft and not be tied down from signing Type A or Type B free agents (not that our multi-billionaire owner will actually spend some necessary money, but at least then he won’t have the excuse).

Last year we were a team with major holes, and sadly the late run only served to fool Drayton into thinking we were close; we were NOT. There needs to be a major overhaul of the offense, a solid, legit starter or two added to the mix and keeping the bullpen together, otherwise we simply will NOT contend next year, period. The worst thing that can happen to this team right now is another semi-strong finish that will hamper us in the draft next year, tie our hands on the free agent market and fool our blind owner into thinking this is a legitimate contending team.

Good afternoon everyone, I’m glad to see you’re all here. Ashitaka, I’m happy to see that you’ve been able to overcome you inability to vent your frustrations. Thank you for sharing. Great improvement. Mr. Tag, would you permit an ignorant question? How is it determined whether or not a player is or is not a Type “A” or “B” free agent? I understand the compensation is different if a player is classed one or the other. I’m afraid I’ve never understood.

What do I want to see?? I want to see Cooper gone, Clark
gone, Dewey gone, Tal Smith gone….the WHOLE coaching staff except Cruz, needs and should get fired!!!

lefty_77517: The Elias Sports Bureau determines Type A and B; put simply, if they decide that a player is in the top 20% of all players based on the last two seasons, they’re Type A. A player in the next 20% is a Type B, and everyone else in the bottom 60% is Unclassified.
b2too: If I may say, wanting the entire coaching staff gone means Sean Berry too, and in case you haven’t noticed, he’s turned Michael Bourn into a star pretty much overnight. You want him gone? Why? The double play problem lies mostly with Tejada and Lee; you can’t teach an old dog new tricks you know.

Thanks Ashitaka. You’re a good sport. So, are Valverde and Tejada Class “A” or Class “B?” What is the difference in draft compensation? What can we expect? If Tag is to be believed, nothing, if the “Stros don’t offer arbitration. That would be a waste. I don’t believe this team can be tinkered with to the point of being a contender. It’s time to start over.

Ashitaka: I agree with you completely. The last thing we need is another strong finish that will get us nowhere and will hurt our standing in the 2010 draft. That?s what I?ve been saying since ST. I also agree that we don?t owe the players a 500 record?a 500 record doesn?t mean anything if it doesn?t get you to the playoff. At this point, pride tells us to play well until the rest of the season and maybe finish on top of the Cubs, but reason dictates we blow it off completely and we start focusing on 2010.
On another note, we should have traded some players when we had the opportunity, especially Valverde. Now that we pulled them back from waivers, we?re stuck with them for the rest of the year, then we have two options: offer them arbitration (very risky as Brian said), or we just let them go (and get NADA). Had we traded them, we could have gotten something in return (if nothing else, a little help on their huge salary). I don?t know what the Astros? strategy is, but from a fan standpoint, it seems that it?s another case of missed opportunity. I can see why they want to hold on to Tejada (3rd base next year??), but Valverde?? This I can?t understand.
Anyhow, call up Manzella and Towles, and see what they have to offer.

lefty_77517: the stats used when judging a reliever are: Total games (total relief appearances + 2 * total starts), IP (weighted slightly less than other categories), Wins + Saves, IP/H ratio, K/BB, ERA. Based on that, Valverde is almost certainly going to be Type A, because he’s a closer and gets saves, and has a low ERA and an excellent K:BB ratio. Miguel Tejada is likely to be at least a Type B, and probably a Type A, simply because SS is traditionally a defensive position. The problem is that Tejada wants to stay here and would likely accept arbitration, and Valverde might accept it simply because the market is down right now and arbitration would likely net him a raise.

As a baseball fan, it is tough every year when you realize that all of those things that had to fall into place for your team to contend just aren’t. This past stretch of failure against strong (St. Louis) and weak (AZ) teams was brutal. So, yes it’s time to say: “Wait ’til next year.”

Do we really want Tejada back even at a lower salary? To my way of thinking, it would have to be much lower. His on base percentage stinks, he hits into too many DP’s and his power has dwindled to insignificance. I like what Miggy says, but I just don’t think he brings much to the dance as a 3B. Take the cash and find another reliable starter. Bring back Rodriguez, Oswalt and Moehler; then hope to find a youngster from among Norris, Paulino and Bazardo (in order of expectations).

Wow, the Kaz signing didn’t do much did it? Too bad we didn’t wait and get Orlando Hudson (cheaper and better). Boy we have 20-20 hindsight, nicht wahr?

Good year for Wandy. Maybe the naysayers will admit they might have missed the boat on him. Here’s hoping Roy can have a bounce back year in ’10; at least, that he pitches a full year unlike ’09. Hoping for breakout from Hunter and better health for Lance.

Thanks, Ash. You know, it occurred to me that if Miggy and Valverde accept arbitration, that might be a good thing. At that point they are no longer considered free agents, and I think we could finally trade them.

Perhaps this is blasphemy, but why not trade Oswalt and Berkman, too? Let them go to sure-fire contenders to finish out their careers. I’m fairly confident that their list of possible teams leans more towards the standings than anything else.

Miggy, Valverde, Berkman, and Oswalt combined make almost 50 million dollars a year. Trade them for young players, and bank that money for a later day.

Oswalt and Berkman would be a little hard to trade because they both have no trade clauses and expensive “hometown hero” contracts. I’m doubtful about Lance waiving his NTC at all, because it sounds like he’d much rather retire as an Astro. Oswalt might waive it, but only for a surefire contender like the Yankees. And his production does not match his price as of this year. Maybe at the trade deadline if he improves next year.

That’s what I just wrote. Yes, they both have NT clauses, with a list of preferred teams, but if approached about a contender, who knows what they’ll say? Let’s face facts. If they want to play on a winner, at least for the next two seasons, they’ll need to play elsewhere. Also, I’d like to disagree about the “expensive” contracts. If anything, Lance and Roy gave Houston home town discounts.

Don’t think the ‘stros should resign Tejada. The money it would take to sign him would be better spent by making a run at signing John Lackey. I think Lackey is from Abilene. Maybe he would give us a discount to get closer to home. Chris Johnson has been hitting well lately. I would like to see Johnson and Manzella brought up and played at SS and 3B as much as possible for the rest of the year.

Tag, in all due respect, your comment above re the Astros “owe the veterans a chance to finish .500″ maybe the dumbest comment I have ever heard…at the least, it is in the top 3.

“Owe the veterans”???? For What, another under achieving season led by a totally clueless manager. You comment about all the high payouts, so why do we owe them anything more? With a few exceptions, most of them will be gone in a year or two anyway.

I do not recall ever hearing an “ex-Astro” or an “ex-major leaguer” express gratefulness for when the ‘Astros gave us a chance back in 1990 (whatever) to finish .500.” Think about what you said, Tag, and if you can’t see the why this is such an outrageous comment, then you need to find a new profession.

I watch nearly every Astro game on MLB TV, for which I pay $160 a year for the privilege. Guess what, today I watched the US Open rather than Coste, Keppinger, Erstad, Blum, Quinteros, Miggy..our all time double play record holder, even Lance or Lee (never to be confused with ‘Charley Hustle’.)

Why pay for that privilege? So I can see if they can reach 500. Here is a clue, Tag…unless you win the pennant, nobody remembers….not the team, not the players, and not the commentators like you?

I know what most of these guys can do and several of them wouldn’t be picked up by any team. Let me see the rookies, and let me see them NOW! Run a survey and ask the your fans. Have you seen the attendance lately? Cooper and Wade are the only ones who care about the final record before they fade into the sunset. Can you imagine ANY circumstance where a team would hire Cecil C as their manager?

The future is now. I don’t care how they do. This I do know, they can take a called third strike as well as Erstad, Michaels, etc do in their pinch hit roles. It is sickening.

Let us see what these young guys can do….life Norris, Gervacio, Paulino, Johnson, Manzella, etc.etc. Why did they bring them up. I am sure Chris Coste is a nice guy and his story is wonderful, but if he is our future catcher then we are truly in deep trouble.

Tag, the veterans get a combined (roughly) $80 mill a year…and we owe them?????? You need to run for congress with your math and reasoning. The constitution says nothing about owing the vets a try at .500.

YakYakVegas

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