As the Astros scurry up the standings amid a 5-1 run, Wandy Rodriguez hot stove talk has inexplicably gone into high gear.
However, trading Wandy isn’t as easy as it seems. …or is it?
Ed Wade tried it.
This off-season, Jeff Luhnow may have looked into it
But, as I pointed out last year, I didn’t think Wandy would be dealt until the trade deadline of this year. …but, then again, I might be wrong.
So, let’s take a realistic look at the possibilities facing the Astros, let’s examine a little bit of the history and see if we can’t determine viable options for Jeff Luhnow.
Ed Wade Just Couldn’t Do it
In 2010, when Ed Wade began wheeling and dealing, he sent Lance Berkman to the Yankees and Roy Oswalt to the Phillies. Wade surely took calls on Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers but likely didn’t get what he perceived as “fair value.” So, instead of dealing these guys for a fraction of their worth, he made a controversial decision to re-sign them.
At the time, it wasn’t a terrible idea. Wade may have felt the Astros could compete in 2011 (*cough* fatal mistake *cough*) or he may have felt that Myers and Rodriguez’s trade value would only increase. It was a gamble – but Wade was committed to getting his deal.
Now, before I go on, let me explain why I believe Wade chose to re-sign Rodriguez and trade Oswalt. As I’ve said before, Oswalt was a cancer. Oswalt threw his teammates under the bus, leveraged his no-trade clause and handpicked the team he wanted to play for. Ed Wade had to weigh his desire to remove Oswalt from the team and yield some sort of value (which Brett Wallace didn’t seem so bad at the time) against keeping Oswalt and having him possibly contaminate a young budding baseball team. Rodriguez, on the other hand, wasn’t as much of a public figure as Oswalt and certainly didn’t show his ass to the media – as Oswalt did. Easily, Rodriguez was worth the risk – Oswalt was not.
So, Wade felt that he didn’t need to rush a potential Wandy Rodriguez deal – or a Brett Myers deal. So, in 2010, he re-signed them both. Looking back, he may have made the right decision on Rodriguez but he re-signing Brett Myers turned out to be, in my opinion, the worst move of his regime. (although, if Myers can put up decent numbers, it’ll bode well in Wade’s defense.)
There has been a saying amongst those “in the know” regarding Wandy’s trade value over the last two years – “Wandy’s trade value will never be higher.”
As the 2010 trade deadline approached, there were many people who thought Wade would deal the lefty because, as they saw it, “Wandy’s trade value will never be higher.” On July 31st of that year, Wandy had an ERA of 4.49 – which was on the sunnier side of the 6.09 he was posting in June of that year. Although he finished the year at 3.60, he struggled in the first half of 2010. Seeing that he was 31, didn’t have an overwhelming track record for success and 2010 was his 3rd year to post a sub-4.00 ERA, his value wasn’t all that high. However, taking all of those factors into account (and he was relatively cheap), I can understand why people claimed, “Wandy’s trade value will never be higher.”
But, in the face of his detractors, Ed Wade held onto Wandy and paid him to stay.
People assumed Wandy’s value had come and gone.
As the Astros limped into the 2011 trade deadline, the writing was on the wall for our floundering hometown team. They were beyond horrible. They were 35-73 at the deadline and alone as the worst team in baseball. They chose to, once again, cut their losses as they traded Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. Scuttlebutt arose regarding a potential Wandy deal – but, again, it didn’t happen.
After a horrible start, Wandy’s performance plateaued. There was a lot of talk that, even with the money Wandy was making, this was the best time to deal him. However, GMs may have been a little skittish to strike a deal for Wandy.
There were even rumblings that he’d be dealt after the trade deadline in a waiver deal. The Rockies claimed Wandy but a deal couldn’t be worked out.
And, now, 2012 is a different story. Is Wandy’s value now higher than it has ever been?
Will it be higher next year?
Is This The Year?
So far, Wandy Rodriguez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. At 1.64, he has one of the ten best ERAs in all of baseball. He’s eating up innings and has yet to give up a homerun. Without a doubt, this has been Wandy Rodriguez’s best April. Hands down.
Even with the money that Wandy is making, it is hard to imagine a point where he had higher value than right now. He has established himself as a front-end starter who has produced consistent results over the last five years. …and, he’s in the midst of a hot streak.
However, since Wandy is producing and other players are stepping up, the Astros have found themselves in an unfamiliar position. They’re fielding a competitive baseball team.
As I am writing this, the Astros are fresh off a series win against their division rival Cardinals and a clean sweep of the Mets. Currently, the Astros are 13-15 and they are only getting hotter. Obviously, if the Astros were 7-20, the first half of the season would serve as an audition for Wandy – but now, teams lusting for Wandy’s services must now have to compete with another bidder.
The Houston Astros.
Winning The Gate vs Winning The Future
If the Astros continue to be competitive, Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane are going to have some serious discussions about whether or not to blow up our Houston Astros. 100 losses and getting unceremoniously booted from the National League has gotten Astros fans particularly sour. Fans are rightfully are pissed. But, if the Astros can find a way to play meaningful baseball in September, it’d go a long way in recovering a lot of the goodwill lost from the previous few years. It’d also send a message to the city: we intend to win.
…and it will bring fans into the stadium and Jim Crane will see dollar signs. Astros win, Jim Crane wins and fans win – that’s what Michael Scott calls a “win, win, win.”
I am of the opinion that Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow are victims of their own success (and Ed Wade’s success, too.) Its likely that Crane and Luhnow had no idea the Astros would be competitive. How could they have known that Jose Altuve would go off like this? Or Jed Lowrie? Or Schafer? Or Wandy? The Astros brass likely projected the Astros would be completely out of the playoff picture by the All Star break, so trading high priced veterans at the deadline would seem fairly logical. However, with a few wins under their belt and with gate numbers likely on the rise, they may feel they’ve fallen into a gold mine!
…and that’s not such a bad thing.
As a matter of fact, winning trumps all. Winning now beats winning later!
Our Houston Astros have shown a desire to compete – this opens up a whole new can of worms and brings a lot of questions to the forefront.
It is a given that Jim Crane’s chief goal is to get people to spend their money on the Houston Astros. It is also a given that everything he does is to get people to spend their money on the Houston Astros. As of now, fans aren’t exactly buying what he’s selling – but if this team can find a way to be competitive, history tells us that fans will support this club. People in Houston will spend their money on a winner. Thus, winning is the best way to market the Houston Astros. And, as a businessman, Jim Crane fully understands this. Drayton McLane understood this, too – which is why he never fully committed to rebuilding.
Simply put, fans do not understand the concept of rebuilding. Fans only understand “the Astros suck.” And all they have to do is look at the win/loss record to prove their point – if Crane promises them some wins, they’ll show up and spend money. Houstonians have shown that they’re not going to sit through nine innings of a subpar product. And, if the Astros trade Wandy, Brett Myers and Carlos Lee – it is likely that they’ll present a subpar product and Crane will continue to see meager gate numbers.
…and that just can’t happen.
In a way, Crane and Luhnow need to realize that the Houston Astros are their most worthy adversaries for the services of Wandy Rodriguez. In reality, being competitive will thicken Wandy’s market as the Astros emerge as serious competitors for his service. Crane and Luhnow will have to make a decision at the trade deadline and it will be based on the club’s position in the standings and whether or not there is a realistic chance that they compete for a playoff spot. On July 30th, the Astros will play their 104th game of the season – will they need to be at .500 or will they need to be within a few games of a wild card spot? I’m not sure – but I am sure that the number could be lower than that of previous years because of an expanded playoff format.
Point being, the Astros cannot afford to trade Wandy Rodriguez for pennies on the dollar when there is so much at stake – like capturing a playoff spot, making money and goodwill to Astros fans.
This needs to be a blockbuster deal for the Houston Astros. This needs to be a deal that Luhnow can point to and say “I’m sorry we gave up Wandy, but the guys we got in return will be the faces of our franchise for the next 15 years.”
If he can’t say that – he shouldn’t make a deal.
This makes Wandy even more valuable. Teams that are interested in Wandy should be well aware that the ball is in the Astros court, and like last year and the year before, there is no need to trade the lefty for an inadequate return. These teams will have to recognize that if they don’t put their best foot forward for Wandy’s services – there is a realistic possibility that the Astros won’t deal him at all.
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