Free agency begins Friday. Who do you want?

Beginning Friday, the Astros and other teams can open their wallets and start signing free agents. Based on my recent conversations with owner Drayton McLane and general manager Ed Wade — particularly McLane — it doesn’t appear the Astros will be opening their wallets very far. That depends on how you look at it.

The Astros still figure to have a very competitive payroll, but they are in a tight spot. Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Kaz Matsui will make a combined $54.5 million next year, and Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Wandy Rodriguez are going to get large raises in arbitration. The Astros say they can’t sustain the record $107 million payroll they had last season, but bringing back all the players already under contract could bring it already into the $80 million range.

Add LaTroy Hawkins (let’s say at $5 million) and you’re sitting at about $85 million. That leaves a little wiggle room. Add Jose Valverde ($12 million?) and you’re tapped out. Neither McLane nor Wade willl say exactly what the payroll will be, but if I was forced to guess I would say in the mid-$90 million range. As you can see, that doesn’t leave much room to take any additional contracts.

So, what are the Astros’ needs? A starting pitcher. A back-of-the-bullpen reliever? A right-handed hitting third baseman? Wade seems to think a reliever is the biggest concern. There’s no doubt they need a solid starting pitcher, but this takes us back to economics. A solid starting pitcher to plug into the No. 3 spot in the rotation probably isn’t affordable.

Wade said Wednesday he and his staff have made contact with dozens of available players. He said the Astros will be aggressive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be dishing out a lot of offers.

Here’s a list of available free agents as compiled by mlbtraderumors.com (age is in parenthesis):

Catchers
Eliezer Alfonzo (31)
Brad Ausmus (41)
Paul Bako (38)
Rod Barajas (34) – Type B
Josh Bard (32)
Michael Barrett (33)
Henry Blanco (38)
Ramon Castro (34)
Chris Coste (37)
Sal Fasano (38)
Toby Hall (34)
Jason Kendall (36) – Type B
Jason LaRue (36)
Chad Moeller (35)
Bengie Molina (35) – Type A
Jose Molina (35)
Miguel Olivo (31) – Type B
Mike Redmond (39)
Ivan Rodriguez (38) – Type B
Brian Schneider (33)
Yorvit Torrealba (31) – Type B
Matt Treanor (34)
Javier Valentin (34)
Vance Wilson (37)
Gregg Zaun (39) – Type B

First basemen
Rich Aurilia (38)
Jeff Bailey (31)
Hank Blalock (29)
Russell Branyan (34)
Miguel Cairo (36)
Frank Catalanotto (36)
Tony Clark (38)
Carlos Delgado (38) – Type B
Nomar Garciaparra (36)
Ross Gload (34)
Eric Hinske (32)
Nick Johnson (31) – Type B
Adam LaRoche (30) – Type B
Doug Mientkiewicz (36)
Kevin Millar (38)
Fernando Tatis (35) – Type B
Chad Tracy (30)
Daryle Ward (35)
Dmitri Young (36)

Second basemen
Ronnie Belliard (35) – Type B
Jamey Carroll (36)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Mark DeRosa (35) – Type B
Nick Green (31)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
Orlando Hudson (32) – Type A
Adam Kennedy (34)
Felipe Lopez (30) – Type B
Mark Loretta (38)
Pablo Ozuna (35)
Placido Polanco (34) – Type A
Luis Rodriguez (30)
Juan Uribe (31)

Shortstops
Eric Bruntlett (32)
Orlando Cabrera (35) – Type A, can’t be offered arbitration
Juan Castro (38)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Adam Everett (33)
Chris Gomez (39)
Alex Gonzalez (32)
Nick Green (31)
Khalil Greene (30)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
John McDonald (35)
Luis Rodriguez (30)
Marco Scutaro (34) – Type A
Miguel Tejada (36) – Type A
Wilson Valdez (32)
Omar Vizquel (43)

Third basemen
Rich Aurilia (38)
Brian Barden (29)
Adrian Beltre (31) – Type B
Aaron Boone (37)
Craig Counsell (39)
Joe Crede (32)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Mark DeRosa (35) – Type B
Pedro Feliz (35)
Chone Figgins (32) – Type A
Nomar Garciaparra (36)
Troy Glaus (33) – Type B
Adam Kennedy (34)
Mike Lamb (34)
Mark Loretta (38)
Melvin Mora (38) – Type B
Pablo Ozuna (35)
Robb Quinlan (33)
Miguel Tejada (36) – Type A
Juan Uribe (31)

Left fielders
Garret Anderson (38) – Type B
Marlon Anderson (36)
Jason Bay (31) – Type A
Emil Brown (35)
Marlon Byrd (32) – Type B
Johnny Damon (36) – Type A
David Dellucci (36)
Cliff Floyd (37)
Joey Gathright (28)
Matt Holliday (30) – Type A
Reed Johnson (33)
Greg Norton (37)
Wily Mo Pena (28)
Dave Roberts (38)
Gary Sheffield (41)
Fernando Tatis (35) – Type B
Marcus Thames (33)
Randy Winn (36) – Type B

Center fielders
Rick Ankiel (30)
Rocco Baldelli (28)
Marlon Byrd (32) – Type B
Mike Cameron (37) – Type B
Endy Chavez (32)
Coco Crisp (30)
Darin Erstad (36)
Jeff Fiorentino (27)
Ryan Freel (34)
Joey Gathright (28)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
Reed Johnson (33)
Andruw Jones (33)
Corey Patterson (30)
Scott Podsednik (34)
DeWayne Wise (32)

Right fielders
Jermaine Dye (36) – Type A
Brian Giles (39) – Type B
Vladimir Guerrero (35) – Type B
Joey Gathright (28)
Eric Hinske (32)
Geoff Jenkins (35)
Austin Kearns (30)
Jason Michaels (34)
Xavier Nady (31) – Type B
Randy Winn (36) – Type B

Starting pitchers
Brandon Backe (32)
Cha Seung Baek (30)
Miguel Batista (39)
Erik Bedard (31) – Type B
Kris Benson (34)
Paul Byrd (39)
Daniel Cabrera (29)
Chris Capuano (31)
Aroldis Chapman (22)
Bartolo Colon (37)
Jose Contreras (38)
Doug Davis (34) – Type B
Lenny DiNardo (30)
Justin Duchscherer (32) – Type B
Adam Eaton (32)
Shawn Estes (37)
Josh Fogg (33)
Jon Garland (30) – Type B
Tom Glavine (44)
Mike Hampton (37)
Rich Harden (28) – Type B
Mark Hendrickson (36)
Livan Hernandez (35)
Rich Hill (30)
Shawn Hill (29)
Jason Jennings (31)
Jason Johnson (36)
Randy Johnson (46) – Type B
John Lackey (31) – Type A
Braden Looper (35) – Type B
Rodrigo Lopez (34)
Noah Lowry (29)
Jason Marquis (31) – Type B
Pedro Martinez (38)
Eric Milton (34)
Brett Myers (29)
Vicente Padilla (32) – Type B
Carl Pavano (34) – Type B
Brad Penny (32)
Odalis Perez (33)
Andy Pettitte (38) – Type B
Joel Pineiro (31) – Type B
Sidney Ponson (33)
Mark Prior (28)
Horacio Ramirez (30)
Jason Schmidt (37)
Ben Sheets (31)
John Smoltz (43)
Brad Thompson (28)
Brett Tomko (37)
Jarrod Washburn (35)
Todd Wellemeyer (31)
Kip Wells (33)
Randy Wolf (33) – Type A

Closers
Mike Gonzalez (32) – Type A
Kevin Gregg (32) – Type A
Fernando Rodney (33) – Type B
Rafael Soriano (30) – Type A
Jose Valverde (32) – Type A
Billy Wagner (38) – Type A

Right-handed relievers
Luis Ayala (32)
Danys Baez (32)
Joaquin Benoit (32)
Rafael Betancourt (35) – Type A
Chad Bradford (35)
Doug Brocail (43) – Type B
Kiko Calero (35) – Type B
Buddy Carlyle (32)
Chad Cordero (28)
Elmer Dessens (38)
R.A. Dickey (35)
Brendan Donnelly (38)
Octavio Dotel (36) – Type A
Kelvim Escobar (33)
Eric Gagne (34)
Geoff Geary (33)
Dan Giese (33)
Edgar Gonzalez (27)
Tom Gordon (42)
Jason Grilli (33)
LaTroy Hawkins (37) – Type A
Matt Herges (40)
Bob Howry (36) – Type B
Jason Isringhausen (37)
Jorge Julio (31)
Masahide Kobayashi (36)
Shane Loux (30)
Brandon Lyon (30) – Type B
Gary Majewski (30)
Guillermo Mota (36) – Type B
Joe Nelson (35)
Chan Ho Park (37) – Type B
Tomo Ohka (34)
Tony Pena Jr. (29)
Joel Peralta (34)
Troy Percival (40)
J.J. Putz (33)
Juan Rincon (31)
Takashi Saito (40)
Duaner Sanchez (30)
Rudy Seanez (41)
Justin Speier (36)
Russ Springer (41) – Type B
Julian Tavarez (37)
Brad Thompson (28)
Luis Vizcaino (35)
Tyler Walker (34)
David Weathers (40) – Type B
Jeff Weaver (33)
Jamey Wright (35)
Yasuhiko Yabuta (37)
Tyler Yates (32)

Left-handed relievers
Joe Beimel (32) – Type B
Bruce Chen (33)
Alan Embree (40)
Scott Eyre (38) – Type B
Casey Fossum (32)
Mike Gosling (29)
John Grabow (31) – Type A
Eddie Guardado (39)
Mark Hendrickson (36)
Ron Mahay (39)
Will Ohman (31) – Type B
Darren Oliver (39) – Type A
Horacio Ramirez (30)
Glendon Rusch (35)
Scott Schoeneweis (36)
Brian Shouse (41) – Type B
Ken Takahashi (41)
Jack Taschner (32)
Ron Villone (40)
Jamie Walker (38)

 

 

6 Comments

By “aggressive”, I assume that Wade means that the Astros will sit back until players that sort of meet the team’s needs get desperate and will sign for anything just to have a job for 2010. That’s the only way they’ll be able to stay within the rumored payroll limit.

Or they could go the rehab route again – let’s look for aging pitchers or players coming back from career-threatening injuries – Brad Penny, Jason Schmidt, Troy Percival, Tom Gordon (42 years old – a direct replacement for Doug Brocail!). Maybe Nomar can play 3B.

There’s a good chance that the Astros will start 2010 with a lineup with five offensive holes at 2B, C, 3B, SS and P (and maybe CF if Bourn backslides). Could be a long season, particularly with only two starters who are clearly above league-average.

Tell me again why this team can’t be blown up (trade any or all of Oswalt, Berkman and Lee for prospects; release Kazuo) and started over. More fans might be interested in seeing a young, hungry team, even a losing team, than a bunch of overpaid veterans playing out the “Astros ‘ 45th Season.” (Where else but with the marketing-driven Astros could a 45th anniversary be a big deal?)

Brian, it seems like you?re not even considering the possibility of bringing back Tejada. If it is any indication of what you heard or talked about with Ed or Drayton, that?s a good thing. Now as I?ve said several times already, if it was up to me, I wouldn?t bring Valverde back either (I?m not sure whether or not I would offer him arbitration), and use the ?wiggle room? for good bench players, some interesting projects (Noah Lowry), and keep the rest for a mid season acquisition and the draft.

i’d really like to see kaz get traded for some pitching prospects. that way maysonet could become the starting 2nd baseman, which he deserves. and that would free up some cash in the budget to go after a solid starting pitcher.

First and foremost, we can all agree that not being able to sustain $107 million is a blatant lie; McLane is a multi-billionaire and people WILL come out and see a winning team. This business about Drayton not being able to have such a large payroll is absolutely untrue; he has more money than the Steinbrenners, and that is a FACT, he simply doesn’t want to hurt his profits any more.
Secondly, spending $12 million on Valverde would be an indescribably massive mistake, one of the worst signings in franchise history, bar-none. We are a small-market team, we simply CANNOT AFFORD to dump eight figures into a single relief pitcher. We CANNOT. Bring back Hawkins as the closer. For another solid back-end arm, go with a much-cheaper-than-Valverde Beimel. Those two, plus Sampson, Arias and Gervacio, will make a strong pen. The bulk of the money MUST be used to sign a solid starting pitcher. Kyle Lowry or Justin Duchscherer would all be smart risks. How about going after Randy Wolf again? Pitching pitching pitching…the Yankees finally figured it out and won the World Series…STARTING PITCHING.
If there is money left, third base; Glaus, DeRosa, Beltre, Mora and even Adam Kennedy should be looked at.
I’m utterly shocked at what’s coming out of the front office right now; Valverde should NOT be our main concern. The idea that they want to spend $12 million to a single reliever and setting for giving Wesley Wright the last rotation spot is simply unbelieved to me. Drayton let Pettitte walk after 2006 and we haven’t been the same since, and it’s no coincidence; THE STARTING ROTATION MUST TAKE TOP PRIORITY, ALWAYS AND FOREVER.

I’d offer arbitration to Tejada and Valverde, then hope like h*** that they turn it down and sign with other clubs, thus yielding some much-needed draft picks. Then I’d sign Ben Sheets and hope for the best. Basically, I could live with a 100-loss season or two if I thought the Astros were rebuilding, but there are so many conflicting moves and signals from ownership and the front office that I really don’t know what they’re doing, and probably they don’t either.

i could see signing ben sheets to a low end, incentive laden contract as a good way to go. since he is coming back from the flexor tendon injury, it isnt really known how he will be able to perform. so you cant throw a lot of money his way. but a 2-5 million for a year with incentives wouldnt be a bad deal. have an option for 2011, or if he comes back as his old self, just tear up that contract, and give him a real one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 74 other followers

%d bloggers like this: