The Astros have moved beyond the point of saving, at least for this season. Houston has compiled the worst record in the National League so far, standing at least three games behind any other team as of Thursday. They're 10 games out of a wild card spot, let alone winning their division, and they weren't all that talented to begin with.
The only thing left to do is burn it all down and try again next year. I understand that Ed Wade is infatuated with his "core" players, and while I think some of them are overvalued by him, that's fine. The Astros don't need to get rid of Brett Wallace or J.A. Happ while they're still cheap. On this team though, if you make real money, you should be shopped. With little regard to replenishing the major league roster, because as we've figured out, that clearly no longer matters. The Astros can afford to go with a litany of pre-arbers like Angel Sanchez, Aneury Rodriguez, and Brian Bogusevic. They probably will be worse than what the Astros already have, but it's not like that was getting them anywhere anyway.
With that said, here's an attempt to cobble together some decent trade proposals for some Astros players that earn their salaries, but are no longer bargains.
2011 stats: 2-3, 3.45 ERA, 47:13 K/BB. 3.42 xFIP.
Salary still due as of July 31: $27.83 million over 2 1/3 years, counting buyout.
Rodriguez is one of the few Astros that has clearly been good this season. He's been one of the better starters in the National League over the past three years, and could command a pretty fair price on the open market. The contract he signed before the season will take him from relative bargain to about right on the verge of his worth by the time it ends.
The Yankees have gotten some really nice contributions so far from Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia. But they don't really have any sure-fire bets in their rotation for future success outside of C.C. Sabathia, and Rodriguez could be a step towards solid. The Red Sox actually have three solid starters, but both John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka have been horrendous and they could use a sure thing at the No. 4 spot. The Reds lead the NL Central despite horrific performances by Edinson Volquez, Mike Leake, and Travis Wood to date. They could likely also use a solid starter.
Trade I made up: Rodriguez to the Red Sox for Matsuzaka, Jose Iglesias, Michael Bowden, and $5 million.
The Astros have needed a real live shortstop since Adam Everett's prime, and Iglesias brings outstanding defense to the table. The bat may not be excellent, but he'll have value either way. Bowden is in the Happ mold; someone who may not have a high ceiling but could come in right away as either a starter or reliever. I think he could be a decent bet for future success, especially in the National League. Taking on Matsuzaka's contract at that point would be a $9 million bet that the Astros and the NL can turn him around--it's not like Houston is going to have a lot else to do next year, so they might as well attempt some reclamation projects with upside.
Edit: It's been pointed out to me that Matsuzaka has a no-trade clause. I think he'd waive it at this point for a chance to rebuild his value.
2011 stats: .280/.332/.446, five homers, .344 wOBA.
Salary still due as of July 31: $2.3 million, two more years of arbitration eligibility.
Pence is still considered "young" by Astros standards, but at 28, this is likely as good as he's going to get. It's pretty good, too! He's a good defender in right field, and he's got a solid bat at a corner, though you'd prefer to see him walk more. The reason the Astros would move him starts with those two remaining years of arbitration eligibility: given typical raises, his salary would hit around $10 million next year. Pence is a really solid ballplayer, but it'd be hard for the Astros to justify giving him that much money if they could get good value for him.
There are a few teams with slumping right fielders that I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to, but these teams are all still in it and could definitely use another bat. Magglio Ordonez's disintegration has been killing the Tigers, Bobby Abreu has slowed down and Vernon Wells has been atrocious in Anaheim, the A's have needed an outfielder who could hit ever since they dealt Matt Holliday, and Raul Ibanez's slide has left the Phillies playing 6 on 8 on offense.
Trade I made up: Pence and Jeff Keppinger to the Tigers for Andy Oliver, Daniel Fields, and Brennan Boesch
Oliver would be another near-MLB ready arm for the system, which will need it since Rodriguez and Myers will both be shopped. Fields has held his own in the Florida St. League at young ages, and would be Pence's heir in right. Boesch would hold down the spot for the time being, and the Tigers would get a decent replacement at second base as well, where they've been disastrous this year.
2011 Stats: 1-3, 4.79 ERA, 44:22 K/BB, 4.08 xFIP
Salary still due as of July 31: $16.3 million over 1 1/3 years, counting 2013 buyout.
Boy, it sure would be nice if the Astros would've moved Myers at last year's trading deadline instead of letting him turn into a pumpkin in Houston. Really though, Myers hasn't pitched quite as bad as his ERA has indicated. He's still not a great pitcher, but he can be a perfectly capable third or fourth starter. The Astros might have to chip in some of his salary to get actual talent for him, and that's something they should do. They need the players more than the cash right now.
Teams that could be interested: See Wandy Rodriguez.
Trade I made up: Myers and $5 million to Cincinnati for Todd Frazier and Brad Boxberger.
The Reds get a useful starter for their stretch run and the Matsuzaka cash so he's a bargain. In Frazier, the Astros get a major league ready infielder who could start at second and move over to third if Chris Johnson continues to flounder. Boxberger is already in Double A and could be an option for the rotation or bullpen within two years.
2011 Stats: .267/.337/.362, 14 stolen bases, 327 wOBA
Salary still due as of July 31: $1.46 million, one year left of arbitration eligibility.
Bourn is an interesting situation for the Astros. Unlike Pence, his value tends to be less tangible to other teams because so much of it is stuck in how great he is defensively. He's not an ideal leadoff hitter because of his poor on-base percentages, but he's still a really good overall contributor to the club. If the Astros could get fair value back for him, considering where they are, they might as well take it. But there's not really any need to shop him because he'll be undervalued next season as well.
2011 Stats: .196/.318/.321, 1 homer, .298 wOBA
Salary still due as of July 31: $1.3 million
Barmes could bring some stability to a club that loses it's starting shortstop or needs a defensive replacement. He's not much with the bat, but he can still pick it. The Astros shouldn't be asking for much in return.
Trade I made up: Barmes and his salary to the Cardinals for Bryan Anderson
The Astros could use another option at catcher, and though Anderson hasn't hit well at all this year, he has a track record of being better than this. It's a decent gamble.
2011 Stats: .244/.274/.391, four homers, .290 wOBA
Salary still due as of July 31: $24.6 million over 1 1/3rd years.
Haha, I'm just kidding. Nobody wants Carlos Lee.
Teams that could be interested: Sugar Land Skeeters.
Trade I made up: Releasing him outright.