The Astros signed the heir apparant to Craig Biggio at second base and the rumor is they’ve given Kaz Matsui a three year, $15 million deal. These days, that’s not a ton of money for a guy who was the regular second baseman on a pennant winning team. Matsui had a solid season at the plate but with the solid stick you also get the injury concerns so having a guy like Chris Burke on the team is pretty much a neccisity.
I like the move though. Matsui is a solid contact hitter who will also draw a walk. He also had an excellent season in the field with 14 fielding runs above average. He also had an .870 revised zone rating, which would have led the National League if he had qualified with enough at bats.
Baseball America recently unveiled their list of the top ten Astros prospects and catching prospect J.R. Towles tops the list. Towles is ready and they’re even making Brad Ausmus a backup next year. Hopefully Ausmus can teach Towles some of the finer points of the game behind the plate while Towles continues to rake with the stick.
Felipe Paulino comes in at number two and he’s major league ready as well. It’s funny how Paulino could end up anywhere from a fifth starter to the team’s closer with the departure of Brad Lidge. And while Paulino was roughed up in his short time with the Astros, his numbers with Corpus Christi were pretty solid.
Michael Bourn comes in at five and he helps solidify the Astros decent but not great prospect list. Bourn was the guy who came over from the Phillies. The Astros only first round pick on the list is Eli Iorg at number ten and even he was a supplemental pick.
The Astros shored up their bullpen by sending the speedy outfielder Josh Anderson to the Braves for relief pitcher Oscar Villarreal. I like this move because the right hander can be a workhorse. He’s spot started and in two different seasons in his career he’s topped 90 innings. His walk rate was up last year but so was his strikeout rate and in Villarreal, you get a solid middle of the bullpen option night in and night out.
Josh Anderson had a solid cup of coffee in 2007 but he doesn’t have a lot of punch. His career slugging percentage in the minors is just .373 and while he’s probably good for 30 or 40 steals, I’d rather have a guy who’s slated for a corner outfield spot to have more punch.
It sounds like the next order of business for the Astros is to sign a second baseman. They’ve started the process of talking to Tad Iguchi and Kaz Matsui and Luis Castillo are also in their sights.
When Brad Lidge was good, he could be scary good. That season he had back in 2004 was nothing short of awesome the only problem is, that was three years ago. Since then, Lidge has been good but inconsistent. He really stunk it up in 2006 but he bounced back this past season to put up some solid numbers. Anytime you have a reliever striking out 100 guys year in and year out, you have a potential keeper but with Brad Lidge getting ready to test the market, the Astros must have felt it was better to cut bait on him then to have him cut bait on us.
The Astros also Eric Bruntlett to the Phillies although this looked to be more of a throw in of sorts. I like how the utility infielder is willing to take a walk but he was hardly a vital cog to the Astros getting back to their World Series status.
Michael Bourn is a slick fielding, base stealing centerfielder that will give the Astros some options to go along with Hunter Pence. Bourn put together some solid numbers last year as a fourth outfielder and probably just as important, he’s a Houston native so the kid will be coming home. Geoff Geary is a decent middle reliever who struggled after a nice season in 2006 and Mike Costanzo is a former top Phillies prospect and the third baseman belted 27 homers last year at the Double A level.
I have mixed feelings about the trade. On the one hand, the Astros got a couple of nice, young potential starters but you always hate to see a special player like Lidge go. Still if you go with the idea that Lidge is gone after 2008, then the trade makes sense considering Lidge’s struggles in the past. Still, I would have thought a trade deadline deal might have gotten them more although that could backfire if Lidge regresses back to his 2006 self.
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