“How did it get so late so soon?” - Dr. Seuss.
The Astros are no longer at their theoretical franchise crossroads. With the ownership situation settled, a new GM and preparing to compete in a new league – the Astros tripped, fallen, brushed themselves off and lumbered past the crossroads and have embarked on a new direction.
…well, the same direction – just a different vehicle. Whereas, Ed Wade chose to use a conventional gas-friendly family sedan, Jeff Luhnow chooses to use the awesome hovering skateboard that Marty McFly pimped in Back to the Future II.
The point of both vehicles is to get from one place to another.
With the first pick in June’s draft and several questionable trade pieces, the next seven months will be critical to the Astros long-term success. Not every move needs to be a homerun, but it is imperative that the Astros make competent transactions that advance the franchise in some form or fashion. After 106 losses, fans have little patience with the organization and, with the recent eviction to the American League, fan loyalty is at an all-time low. Having Luhnow make a series of impressive moves will go a long way in developing goodwill among fans.
In 2010, Ed Wade sold off Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. He did the same in 2011 with Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. And, Jeff Luhnow looks to do the same with Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee and Brett Myers in 2012.
The plan? Stock the farm system and be competitive in a few years.
Oh, and plenty of finger crossing!
The only valuable trade asset with known availability is Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy is a veteran and has a track record of success – any team would be lucky to trade for him. While Carlos Lee and Brett Myers may be able to fetch a quality prospect contingent on how well they perform in 2012, as of now, their value is exponentially less considering their production and paycheck. As of now, Carlos Lee couldn’t be traded for all the empty Butterfinger wrappers he has in his pockets. However, if he performs in 2012 and Crane is willing foot the bill, a team might take a flier on Lee and offer a nice prospect in return… same for Myers.
Yes, parting is such sweet sorrow… unless you get something really nice in return.
As Luhnow reviews his options, he will have to take into account that these players’ values can increase or decrease at certain junctures in the season. As I once saw tattooed on a stripper’s ass – “timing is everything.” And that statement still holds true today… the Astros will need to gamble. They need to gamble on their own players’ values and they will, as always, gamble on the value of what they receive in return.
History tells us what we think will happen – but none of us can really read the future. Wandy can be a legitimate Cy Young candidate or he can get hit by a bus on his way to the park. A person can crunch numbers until they’re blue in the face… but there is absolutely no certainty in baseball.
Jeff Luhnow can only make educated predictions as to what he think will happen and make logical decisions going forward. This is the same method everyone else uses – but Luhnow goes about it in a more advanced, scientific way. He plays the numbers and plays the odds – I’m down with that!
We know where we stand as of right now – but in seven months from now?
Obviously, trading Lee or Myers now would be a huge disadvantage because their value is extremely low. Instead of settling with “whatever you can get,” the Astros are better off waiting to see if their production increases by the trade deadline. In any deal, it is obvious that the Astros will have to compensate most, if not all, of the money due to these players in order to receive a legitimate return anyway… so why not hold out and see if there is something better offered later on?
And, what about Wandy? When is the best time to send him packing?
As of now, he has established value and looks to be a bargain considering what other teams have paid in the free agent market. He also has value considering what teams have traded away in deals for pitchers similar to him. Fact is – if traded today, Wandy Rodriguez could fetch an awfully nice prospect or two.
That’s a given.
But, in this situation, Luhnow can decide to be greedy and gamble on Wandy’s 2012 season. If Wandy puts together a season in 2012 that is similar to 2011, it is possible that his value can increase significantly because the market will become significantly more demanding of his services. As of now, it appears the only desperate team in the league is the Nationals – certainly the Phillies and Braves will be competitive and the Marlins have signed every free agent west of Albert Pujols – the Nationals have found themselves in the unenvious position having to keep up with the Jones. Even though they traded for Gio Gonzalez and will likely severely overpay for Prince Fielder.
I’m sure the Cardinals, Tigers and Blue Jays would be interested in dealing for Wandy Rodriguez now, too.
However, would it make sense to say that more teams will be desperate for Wandy’s services at the trade deadline? Granted, this is contingent on Wandy’s performance – but what if the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays are within a few games of each other at the end of July? What if the Brewers and Cardinals or Giants, Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are battling for their division titles? If any of these teams feel they’re a lefthanded pitcher away from overcoming the competition, there is no sense in thinking that Jeff Luhnow will not ask for a king’s ransom in return.
Perhaps he can even work the market and have teams bid on Wandy’s services? Unlike Roy Oswalt, Wandy does not have a no-trade clause and Wandy cannot cherry-pick himself into a no-win situation for the Astros.
On the other hand, it’s still a huge gamble. Luhnow will have to bank on Wandy having another stellar season. Wandy can very well drop off production-wise and leave the Astros holding their collective ducks.
Either way, I’ve always been a big fan of Wandy and, nationally, he does not get nearly enough respect for his body of work. Wandy is an outstanding pitcher and has been for a few years now – he would be an outstanding addition to a team pushing for a playoff position. But, if these teams want to find out firsthand– they’ll have to pay.