Berkman looks ahead to 2010

There’s a reason Lance Berkman has been my favorite player to cover in my six years on this beat. In addition to being accessible and media friendly, he gives honest answers to questions and is usually right on the money with his analysis.

So when Berkman was asked Wednesday what he thought about the Astros’ chances of contending in 2010, he certainly had a few ideas:

“It’s hard to prognosticate for next year when you don’t know what your personnel situation is going to be like,” he said. “You don’t know who’s coming back and who’s not. I think until you know that from a personnel standpoint, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen.

“The one thing I do like about our team next year is the fact I think we’re going to have Roy [Oswalt] and Wandy [Rodriguez] and Bud [Norris] and then [Brian] Moehler in the rotation. I think we have four pretty solid starters that give you a chance to win. That’s where you have to start. That’s the whole foundation to the team.

“Everybody would like to add another starting pitcher, and certainly I think we need to, but the reality of the economics in this club and what we have in our farm system to trade, that may not happen and we may not have an opportunity to do that.

“But I do think that if you want to look for a positive going into the season, you have those four guys as your one through four starters. A lot of teams would be happy with that.”

Oswalt, Rodriguez and Norris are under contract for next year, but Moehler is a free agent. He’s facing off-season knee surgery, so his return to the Astros isn’t a given.

Other players under contract for next year include second baseman Kaz Matsui, third baseman Jeff Keppinger and outfielders Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Michael Bourn.

The Astros’ potential free agents are infielders Darin Erstad, Aaron Boone and Miguel Tejada, outfielder Jason Michaels and pitchers Jose Valverde, LaTroy HawkinsTim Byrdak and Doug Brocail



I like Moehler; however I would not consider him as a #4 starter. He?d be a good #5, that is if he can pitch effectively like he did last year and part of this year. His knee surgery is a bit of a concern, and he?s not getting any younger. Anyhow, I?d consider bringing him back next season, unless there?s a better option.
Speaking of which: do you know if the Astros are considering Fulchino as a starter?

Valverde, Hawkins and Moehler are the only free agents we should bring back. The money we free up from Miggy should go to a GOOD #3 starter, a guy like Randy Wolf for example, that can really solidify our rotation. Our offense will be our weakness, and with the Cardinals having a strong lineup and an absolutely killer, shutdown rotation, we need to step it up. If Drayton doesn’t sign a legit #3 starter but still talks about being a champion, he is a flat out-and-out liar.

Ashitaka, in your scenario the money we free up from letting Miggy walk is only enough to pay for the pay raises Hunter Pence, Wandy Rodriguez, and Michael Bourn will be getting.Even then, that’s still over payroll because Drayton will likely reduce it from $105 million to $85-95 million. So you have to let almost all the lower priced free agents walk, like Blum, Erstad, Michaels, Boone, etc, just to make it in under payroll.Then if you want a legitimate #3 starter, you have to let Valverde walk (just offer him arb, he will decline).Even then, you’ve shot your offense in the foot by letting Tejada walk; Chris Johnson and Tommy Manzella are both projected to perform in the .600-.700 OPS range at the big league level.So at that point you have to think about letting Moehler walk and using that money to take a chance on a better third baseman, like Adam Kennedy, who had a good year with the A’s and would be the ideal platoon mate for Keppinger.

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