Jim Crane, the Astros newly confirmed owner said that we would see some moves after Thanksgiving. Whether he was talking front office moves or trades and signings was not clear at the time. Reports say that Crane will meet with Ed Wade on Monday to discuss 'things', perhaps his employment status, how to keep Tal Smith busy so he doesn't muck this team up even more (a ball of yarn might suffice), and whether the time is right to trade Wandy Rodriguez.
The groundwork is there for a deal to Colorado, having talked of several possibilities when they claimed the left-handed pitcher back in August, but Troy Renck at the Denver Post says they have now moved on to other alternatives after balking on Wade's asking price of Drew Pomeranz and Willin Rosario. According to Jim Bowden the Nationals were in on Rodriguez too as of two weeks ago.
In a drive to cut costs and get from under the four contracts bequeathed to him from the previous regime, Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Carlos Lee and Brandon Lyon, of those the first would be the easiest to shift. However the Astros will have to eat a significant part of that $33m left if he were traded if they want something (which they will want) back.
Meanwhile I read this, which talked about a possible trade to the Reds for Yonder Alonso. Now the Reds and Walt Jocketty have said that Alonso would be available for a #2 pitcher, a qualification that Rodriguez marginally fits. Alonso had a very good major league cameo in 2011 for the Reds, putting up a .943 OPS, fueled of course, by a high BABIP. But he drew walks at over 10% of the time and has stolen bags at the minor-league level. He has played most of his career at first base, which rather limits the options on him, even if we have a DH from 2013.
With the free agent starting pitching market decidely flaky this year, teams may look twice at Rodriguez as spring training gets closer. Mark Buerhle, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt seem to be the only pitchers worth chasing.
The two previous acquisitions this offseason do not give us much of a benchmark. The Indians traded Chris Jones for Derek Lowe and made the Braves eat 10 of the $15m owed to Lowe for 2012. Meanwhile the Royals acquired Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera.
If the screws are not already on Wade, then the pressure is really on to make a killing on this trade. Has Crane has read the reports on the Michael Bourn trade that have surfaced since the season ended? What would he think of such reports?
Crane has already made it clear that the franchise is not in great financial state and needs to cut its cloth accordingly. But for 2013 bar Rodriguez the Astros books are currently blissfully uncluttered. If the Astros could get out from under half of Myers remaining $14m, and eat all of Rodriguez's 2011 salary, Crane would have a lot of freedom moving forward.
They would need almost their entire tranche of current prospects to pan out including Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Villar and company. The systems should be given a boost with the first pick of next year's draft, but that group really could do with some serious augmentation, and trading Rodriguez seems to be the fastest way to do it.