Posted on: October 14, 2010 7:21 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 11:57 am
As the sports world waits for the crowning of a champion, 22 other teams are busy preparing for spring training. What went wrong for these teams, and what does 2011 hold? MLB Facts and Rumors here at CBS Sports will be answering those questions through all of October. Now: the Houston Astros.
Few teams were as bad as the Astros were in the first part of the season, and then few teams were as good as the Astros in the second half of the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
When I see Carlos Lee (pictured), I sometimes I think of the line in "Major League" when Charlie Donovan says, "I forgot about Dorn, because he's jolly high-priced." Lee owed $37 million through the next two seasons.
Lee didn't hit a homer in the season's first month, entered June with a .206 batting average and finished the season hitting .246/.291/.417 with 24 homers and 89 RBI. He's a below-average designated hitter that plays in the National League.
It's not to say Lee was all that was wrong with the Astros. Others struggled, such as Lance Berkman and Pedro Felice.
What may have been more devastating was seeing prospects the team had been counting on, such Tommy Manzella, Jason Castro and J.R. Towles struggle.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
A lot of credit has to go to first-year manager Brad Mills. The team went 40-59 in their first 99 games of the season before finishing 36-27 the rest of the way. Mills also did it without some of his high-priced talent, as the team jettisoned Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Pedro Feliz.
Third baseman Chris Johnson had a good season, going .308/.337/.481 with 11 homers. Hunter Pence cashed in on the promise he'd shown early in his career, hitting .282/.325/.461 with 25 home runs, 91 RBI and 18 stolen bases.
The team relied on good starting pitching during its good streak from Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and J.A. Happ, and all four of those starters return for 2011.
HELP ON THE WAY
Ugh. Not really. That's the problem with cutting your losses and going young -- you need young players to replace the old ones. It's cheaper, but the Astros have one of the worst farm systems in the majors.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2011
The second half of the season raised the bar for the Astros, so fans will be expecting at least a .500 team, if not a run at the NL Central title.
SUGGESTIONS FOR 2011
The Astros took the right direction during the season, trading Berkman and Oswalt.
Houston has Berkan, Oswalt, Feliz and Kaz Matsui off the books, but there's not a whole to to spend that money on in free agency.
Although Berkman had hinted that he wanted to return to Houston, the teams needs to resist nostalgia and give Brett Wallace a chance at first base.
The optimism from the last part of 2010 will be gone by the All-Star break and the team will finish ahead of the Pirates in the National League Central, but won't be challenging for a title.
Check out the rest of the R.I.P. reports here.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .
Posted on: July 29, 2010 2:13 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 5:24 pm
The Phillies have completed a deal for Houston's Roy Oswalt, which will give the Phillies a vaunted Big Three in the rotation along with Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.
Wednesday night, we learned that the Phillies and Astros agreed on an Oswalt trade, with only the ace's approval needed. That has come.
Oswalt will bring a 6-12 record that will unquestionably start trending positive with the Phillies behind him. What the Phillies want more than that record is his 3.42 ERA in 129 innings, having struck out 120 and walked 34. Oswalt looked like the years of being a bona-fide ace were behind him after a poor 2009, but his 2010 has answered those questions and more.
While Philadelphia clearly erred in letting Cliff Lee go, it's to GM Ruben Amaro's credit that he struck for another pitcher and hasn't allowed the trading of Lee in the offseason to impact his decisions. Unlike some would do in his position, Amaro realized that the Lee deal was done -- finished. A sunk cost. You don't make decisions about the best way to improve your club moving forward by bemoaning moves of the past.
In addition, while Lee is a superior pitcher to Oswalt, Amaro also positions his rotation better for future success what with Oswalt under contract for 2011. Lee, of course, will command an exorbitant price as a free agent this offseason.
The Phillies also scored a coup by getting Oswalt to agree not to demand his 2012 option be exercised. According to ESPN's Amy Nelson, Philadelphia will instead allow Oswalt's no-trade clause to be retained as well tacking on an extra million to his 2012 buyout.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that the 2012 option is actually a mutual option, and if Oswalt declines his end of the option, the buyout is unchanged. If the Phillies exercise their end and Oswalt opts out, that's when the buyout increases -- thought to be $2 million.
Given Philadelphia still retains the potential to pick up the option for $16 million, that extra million is certainly worth the protection of not having to lock into 2012. Given Oswalt has had multiple back problems along with a bevy of wrist issues, not being locked into a soon-to-be 33-year-old is a smart move.
But that's not all the money Philly saves. The organization will also receive cash to help cover Oswalt's deal -- $11 million to be exact, according to ESPN.com . Oswalt is due roughly $25 million for the rest of the contract, including the 2012 buyout. The fact that Houston will foot the bill for almost half that total is impressive.
The trade is a three-for-one deal, with J.A. Happ the centerpiece headed to Houston along with two minor-leaguers.
Happ broke through in 2009 with a sterling 2.93 ERA in 23 starts and 12 relief appearances. While he helped propel Philly to a second consecutive NL pennant, he is simply a mirage. His BABIP has been unbelievably low in his major-league stints with a sky-high runners-stranded-on-base rate without a K/BB ratio approaching solid. It's why his xFIP last season was 4.49, and why one shouldn't be fooled by his 1.76 ERA through three starts in 2010 with an xFIP of 6.33. Anyone who strikes out five batters a game and walks seven will not see a sub-2.00 ERA last long.
Happ was injured in mid-April after making two starts and recently completed a rehab assignment but was assigned to Triple-A to continue his rehab. He was called up to the bigs to start on Sunday after Jamie Moyer hit the disabled list. Happ is essentially the NL version of Daisuke Matsuzaka -- doing it all with smoke and mirrors.
The two prospects in the deal are Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar .
Gose is only 19, and is currently trying to make his bat come alive at High Class A Clearwater, an aggressive level for his age. He's hitting .263/.325/.385 in 461 plate appearances, swiping 36 bases. He has a lot to learn about baserunning, however, as he's tacked on 27 times being caught stealing. Gose was ranked the No. 6 prospect by Baseball America in the offseason and was also named the best defensive outfielder in the system.
Gose is being spun to Toronto, who wanted the youngster in the Roy Halladay deal -- and uses a trade chip acquired in the Halladay deal to get it done. According to Rosenthal, Brett Wallace is being sent to Houston, whowas traded to Toronto from Oakland for Michael Taylor, who had been acquired from Philadelphia in the Roy Halladay trade. One could argue, then, that the Jays apparently preferred Gose to Taylor, but that Philadelphia wouldn't give him up.
The 23-year-old Wallace is hitting .301/.359/.509 for Triple-A and is in his first season as a full-time first baseman. He figures to be the long-term replacement for Lance Berkman in Houston, although one has to wonder about Wallace's talent now that he's been traded three times in a two-year span. (He was sent to Oakland by St. Louis in the Matt Holliday trade last season.)
As for the prospect from Philly that is staying in Houston, the 19-year old Villar is playing for Class A Lakewood and hitting .271/.322/.358. There is not a lot to like here about the shortstop, though he is admittedly raw. Gose is raw too, but has a higher ceiling and some semblance of tools. One thing Villar has going for him is he can pick it on defense despite a staggering 42 errors in 99 games which isn't really indicative of fielding talent at that level.
Altogether, it is a rather underwhelming return Houston received for Oswalt. It is clear that the Astros sold Oswalt at a discount, much like Arizona and Dan Haren.
-- Evan Brunell
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.
Posted on: July 28, 2010 4:51 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2010 5:18 pm
Price cautions that it is an unconfirmed rumor. The rumor is interesting, as it may signify that the Phillies have decided assuming Roy Oswalt's contract and parting with multiple prospects is not the right decision .
Lilly's 3.69 ERA is belied by a .261 batting average on balls in play and a 4.48 xFIP, so are essentially moving to replace Jamie Moyer. Giving up Happ, a promising young-left hander, for Lilly seems like a steep price. Happ has three starts to his name in 2010 before falling to injury. He was optioned to Triple-A after a rehab stint and is trying to put his season back together (4.84 ERA, 1.47 K/BB in 22 1/3 innings).
Lilly, meanwhile, is finishing up a four-year, $40 million deal before hitting the free agent market.
The Phils are right in the thick of the division race, but swapping Happ for Lilly smacks of a desperation move after closing themselves off to an Oswalt deal. Whether or not one thinks that's the right call (it is, in this man's opinion), it doesn't give a team license to go and make another bad trade.
That's not even considering the fact that Lilly's no-trade clause has the Phillies on it, as Ken Rosenthal reports for FOX Sports.
SI.com's Jon Heyman, for his part, reports the Phillies are looking at Cleveland's Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona. Westbrook is essentially the right-handed version of Lilly, while Carmona is young, productive and locked up for years to come. Now that's someone you trade Happ for.
-- Evan BrunellFor more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.
Posted on: July 20, 2010 7:58 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2010 9:39 pm
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro hinted Tuesday that the Phillies might make a deal for a starting pitcher in advance of Saturday, reports Martin Frank of the Delaware News Journal .
If a deal doesn't happen, the best internal candidate is J.A. Happ, although he has pitched poorly in his road back from a left forearm strain. Other internal candidates exist, but there is no overwhelming choice.
The Phillies sent Kyle Kendrick to the minor leagues Tuesday, opting to call up Andrew Carpenter as a long reliever. Kendrick can't be the fifth-starter solution as he cannot be recalled for 10 days -- unless someone gets hurt. So why would Amaro make such a risky move to leave the team without a fifth starter?
"I think we know exactly what we’re going to do. I just choose not to tell you," Amaro tells Frank, presumably in a haughty voice.
The Phillies have been linked to Ben Sheets, although word out of Oakland camp has the A's uninterested in dealing Sheets. A curious move, given Sheets has an underwhelming 4.53 ERA in 20 starts for the A's and will make a full $10 million on the year.
Other starting pitchers the Phillies could be interested in that would come as a complementary piece (in other words, not a blockbuster trade such as Roy Oswalt) include Kevin Millwood of the Orioles and Jake Westbrook of the Indians.
After a strong start to the season, Millwood quickly deteriorated, hitting the DL with a right forearm strain on July 6. He was activated off the DL Tuesday and is on target to start Thursday against the Twins. This may not line him up well for a trade to Philadelphia, given he would be unavailable to start Saturday unless dealt before Thursday. And it's difficult to imagine Philly pulling the trigger without seeing Millwood pitch in at least one game coming off the DL.
-- Evan Brunell
Posted on: June 15, 2010 5:51 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2010 6:01 pm
The Phillies are in an unfamiliar place to them: At 32-29, the squad is in third place, 3 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta.
The good news for the back-to-back NL champions is that two integral parts to their NL pennant from 2009 are on the verge of returning.
Jimmy Rollins is struggling to put a right lower leg strain behind him that has already cost him two DL stints on the year. Rollins will begin a rehab assignment with Class-A Clearwater on Tuesday reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer . Without any setbacks, Rollins should be back inside of two weeks.
The 2007 NL MVP has played just 12 games on the year. He hit the disabled list days into the 2010 campaign with a right lower leg strain and then came off the DL in early May, playing five games before re-injuring himself on the first day of interleague play. His presence is sorely missed on the Fightins as Rollins' .342 batting average on the season is significantly higher than replacement Juan Castro's .229 mark.
Meanwhile, starter J.A. Happ allowed four runs over two innings for Double-A Reading on Sunday. While the results were poor, Happ was pleased with his performance according to the Philadelphia Daily News . It was his second rehab start in his progress from a strained left forearm that has caused the lefty to miss most of the 2010 season. He has two starts to his name in the big leagues, giving up zero runs over 10 1/3 innings.
He will make his next rehab start on Friday, location to be determined, Martin Frank of the Delaware News Journal notes .
When Happ returns, manager Charlie Manuel will have a tough decision on his hands. Jamie Moyer replaced Happ in the rotation and has been the third-best starter on the team. While his 5.03 ERA ranks fourth among the current starting rotation, it was 3.98 before Boston's dismantling of Moyer on June 11.
Meanwhile, innings eater Joe Blanton has struggled mightily to start the season, throwing up a 7.28 ERA in eight starts. Manuel may not want to bounce Blanton from the rotation, however, because of Blanton's history of success. The other candidate for demotion is Kyle Kendrick, who currently has a 4.80 ERA over 12 starts and one relief appearance.
Speaking of Kendrick and Moyer, the two will flip spots in the rotation against the Yankees. Moyer will now follow Roy Halladay with Kendrick drawing the ball on the final day of the series. It will give the Yankees different looks from the mound in each game.
-- Evan Brunell
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.