So according to Ken Rosenthal, the Astros are still looking for both catching help and a left-handed outfield bat, even with their payroll constraints, neither of which make sense right now.
If Brett Wallace was tanking through spring and all the Astros' catchers were not doing too well in Kissimmee then I could understand Rosenthal's logic. I'm really not sure if the Fox Sports commentator is reporting actual fact or that he has seen the Jason Castro injury a week late and is making up candidates to replace him.
Lets deal with the outfielder rumour first because it is the easiest.
The Astros are at their payroll limit, but would like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with Jason Michaels if they go with Carlos Lee over Brett Wallace at first base, which is hardly a sure thing. Wallace is hitting .362/.388/.617.
Even before Spring Training opened Ed Wade seemed to suggest that the only way Wallace did not start 2011 as their everyday first baseman if he had an awful spring. And the first baseman is doing the opposite, even though Spring Training statistics should be handled with extreme caution and do not translate into regular season performance. Still, anyone who has watched or followed the Astros over the past week or more can see that Wallace has been tattooing the ball, going 4-5 last week with a grand slam and two doubles, and 7 RBI in a 14-8 win over the Orioles.
Now he did qualify his original statement, but since he does not reference in-house candidate Brian Bogusevic, it makes me believe he does not know what he is talking about. And this is as if they have not been trying to find a left-handed outfielder all winter. The best they could come up with was Matt Diaz, who was a right hander and blessedly signed with the Pirates before we could "snag" him.
And while Bogusevic has not had the greatest of springs, the converted pitching prospect should win one of the spots on the 25-man roster because he bats lefty, as opposed to Jason Bourgeois, who is having a better spring, but hits from the other side.
I also find it ludicrous that Ed Wade is still scraping the bottom of the barrel for catching options considering Towles' bumper week.
The team's greater need is a replacement for Jason Castro, who is out for the season due to a torn ACL in his right knee. The Astros like Brayan Pena, but the Royals won't trade him with Jason Kendall still recovering from shoulder surgery.
Stress should be put on 'like' rather than they have made an offer, or have inquired about his services, but at this moment in time, why would you trade for Pena, a guy with a relatively low ceiling without giving J.R. Towles a fair shake for 2011? Playing Towles in 2011 is a risk, but at this point the Astros are not going to get anywhere unless they start taking risks on players. He was a four-star prospect before the 2008 season three years ago.
His confidence probably has taken a few knocks, but he was also injured last season and has played on some very bad teams. It cannot be easy for a young player starting out in that sort of environment. He could have another awful season in 2011, but equally he could do very well and reward the Astros' faith in him.
Overall it seems Rosenthal's column is as lazy as Topp's work on their Lance Berkman card.