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Ed Wade Defenda Est

The Astros, after spending a lot of time talking up the fact that they were going to look for a left-handed option in left field to possibly platoon with Jason Michaelsgave up the ghost on Wednesday and admitted that it wasn't going to happen. 

If you're having trouble keeping up with the Astros moves, then I'm with you. This club's lack of direction is completely astonishing. At the trade deadline last summer, they gave up Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, then made a big public scene about how it was time to rebuild. Of course, they later re-signed Brett Myers to a long-term deal despite the fact that he was over 30 and would have fetched better prospects than Berkman or Oswalt did. They gave up the pre-arbitration (and admittedly mercurial at this point) Felipe Paulino to the Rockies for Clint Barmes, with the idea that Barmes would be an upgrade on Tommy Manzella. While that may be true, it's also not something a rebuilding team does, especially when Barmes' arbitration award is likely to be close to $4 million this season.

So then, I guess we're going for it! Seems kind of hollow now that Oswalt and Berkman are gone, but hey, at least we've got a plan again. Berkman expressed interest in coming back and the Astros said no. Why? Brett Wallace looked overmatched last year. While he and Berkman share a position to everyone in the world but Tony LaRussa, Berkman could have either kept the seat warm or played 1B/LF, backing up Carlos Lee and being a mentor for Wallace. Instead he's a Cardinal. Now the Astros are giving up on finding their platoon left fielder because of asinine logic.

Wade did admit the club had interest in Jack Cust, who signed with Seattle, but he was concerned about his defense.

Then why were you interested in the first place? This was about the money, in all likelihood. But saying that you had second thoughts about Jack Cust because of his defense is like saying you had second thoughts about moving to urban Detroit because of the crime. 

"The more we've talked about the composition of our club, we would love to see Brett Wallace be our first baseman," he said. "If we go out and sign a left field of some magnitude with an expectation that he's going to play in a platoon situation or regularly, we're almost putting ourselves in a position of Carlos having to be the first baseman and that pushes Wallace off the page.

"I don't want to create an environment where Brett's opportunities disappear simply because of us acquiring someone else. If we get into Spring Training and Brett is struggling and we think moving Carlos [from left field] to first base makes sense at the time, we're going to be evaluating [Brian] Bogusevic and others."

The more you talked about it? I think you should probably have a concrete plan before you go to the Winter Meetings, Ed. They are paying you money to assemble a baseball club. (Or just admit it was about the money.) 

Look, there's nothing wrong with wanting Brett Wallace to get a look in spring training. Given his recent track record, (traded three times, poor numbers for a prospect in a hitters park in Vegas, awful MLB debut) I think the Astros have a right to not think he's ready for the show right now. Does that mean he won't show up and dominate in spring training? No. Does it mean a backup plan oughta be on hand? Yes.

Does that backup plan necessarily have to be a major leaguer? No. Bogusevic was worse last year at Round Rock then he was in 2009, but definitely has a lot of what you'd want in a fourth outfielder. The problem is, so does Michaels. Bogusevic is a perfect Carlos Lee caddy in terms of matched strengths and weaknesses, but it isn't going to give Michaels a lot of playing time. In fact, turning it over to Bogusevic and seeing what you have is exactly what a rebuilding club would do.

The problem in sorting out the 1B/LF logjam is that Lee getting at-bats and proving last year was a fluke is absolutely essential to the club. Lee has the biggest albatross contract in Astros history. Two more years of a player who might have been the worst regular in baseball last year at $18,500,000 each. Regardless of what they do with anyone else on the team, rehabilitating Lee to the point where he's at least somewhat attractive at the deadline is in the Astros best interests. He becomes a 10/5 player next offseason, so he'll be able to block trades. If he flops again, the Astros have a sunk contract. If he plays well, and perhaps shows that he can be a bad defender at first base rather than an abysmal defender in left field, then the Astros can recoup some of the money left on his contract. Or some better prospects in exchange for him if they'd rather go that route.

If Lee being strictly a first baseman is in the best interests of his value (Wallace getting half a season of...seasoning isn't the end of the world), then the Astros should absolutely go out and get another left fielder if they're going to keep pseudo-contending. Bogusevic and Michaels are both probably not suited to playing every day, although Bogusevic could use a decent chance.

If Lee being a left fielder is in the best interests of his value, then Wallace can start at first no matter what, Bogusevic can be Lee's caddy, and Michaels can become irrelevant. Which of course would never work, because Michaels used to be a Phillie, and that means he needs a bigger role than he deserves. 

Bottom line: this isn't as complicated as Wade is making it out to be. But if he can't even pick between rebuilding and reloading, then why would you expect him to figure out something like this? Ed Wade defenda est. 

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.