Astros should focus on rebuilding, not contending
Originally Published: November 9, 2007By Phil Rogers | Special to ESPN.com
How time flies.
GM: Ed Wade
Manager: Cecil Cooper
'07 record: 73-89, 4th NL Central
'07 payroll: $87.8M, 15th MLB
Runs scored: 723, 13th NL
Runs allowed: 813, 11th NL
OPS: .742, 11th NL
ERA: 4.68, 12th NL
Fielding percentage: .983, T-8th NL
Primary needsTwo starting pitchers: The Astros are painfully thin behind Roy Oswalt. Their starters were 10th in the National League in staff ERA and would have been worse had Oswalt not delivered his usual quality work.
Free agentsRHP Jason Jennings, 2B Mark Loretta, 1B Mike Lamb, OF Orlando Palmeiro, LHP Trever Miller and RHP Brian Moehler. In the picture: The Astros are likely to aggressively pursue the second tier of free-agent starters, which includes Josh Fogg, Odalis Perez, Steve Trachsel, Matt Clement and Kyle Lohse.
Trade baitRoy Oswalt: Only Johan Santana would create a bigger stir in the market than Oswalt, if the Astros chose to make him available for trade. They would probably do it only if Oswalt forced the issue, as he's their No. 1 foundation piece, but it seems unlikely that they can contend in the next two or three years so why not at least listen to offers? This is something that could develop before the trading deadline next season. Woody Williams: A major disappointment a season ago, he appears at the end of the road.
Farm aidLHP Troy Patton: He's long been considered the organization's top pitching prospect even though he throws in only the low-90s. He is a fierce competitor, making the most of his skills. He got to Houston last September and could stick in the rotation this spring. C J.R. Towles: An excellent athlete, he has overcome a history of injuries to become the heir apparent to Ausmus. His overall package of skills compares to those of a young Jason Kendall. RHP Felipe Paulino: An old-fashioned flamethrower, Paulino has an Ubaldo Jimenez-style fastball. He used it to win two games for the Astros in September. There are questions about his command, which could force him to start 2008 in Triple-A, but he's got a lot of potential.
OutlookFor a smart man, hands-on owner Drayton McLane does not seem to have grasped the importance of building from the ground floor up, robbing tomorrow for a brighter today for many years now. The bill appears to be coming due. Wade's primary focus should be on rebuilding the farm system, not trying to get the big club back into contention. There are a lot of people in baseball who think this team is headed for an extended downward spiral because of the lack of depth throughout the organization. Phil Rogers is the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune, which has a Web site at www.chicagosports.com. His book, "Say It's So," a story about the 2005 White Sox, is available at bookstores, through Amazon.com or by direct order from Triumph Books (800-222-4657).
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