Addition of Wilson Complicates Matters

Original found at the Chronicle
We shall see if the hat fits

The Astros signed centerfielder Preston Wilson today to a deal that will run at least one year, but could last as long as four.

Wilson played last year for Colorado, until the last-place Rockies ditched him for salary reasons, and prospects, to the Nationals.

You may remember him, as I do, striking out in key situations during several matchups between the wild card-contending Nats and our beloved '05 Astros.

Wilson can punish a poor fastball, but good heat makes him wilt, and superior breaking stuff can get him, too.  Worse, he does not bring any significant plate discipline to the table.  The Astros could use some power -- what team couldn't?-- but where they are really substandard is in OBP, and Wilson won't help there.  

Of the 41 National Leaguers who drove in 72 or more in 2005, Wilson ranked 36th in OBP and 32nd in BB/(AB+BB). (To show the difference between Wilson and two of our favorite players to pine over, I'll simply note that Brian Giles finished first of those 41, and Adam Dunn finished second.)  People may look at Wilson and say that strikeouts are overrated, and I'd agree, if you walk a lot.
Wilson does not.

If I were Jason Lane, I'd have a bad feeling about the signing of Wilson, even though he did outslug Wilson by 32 points.  The Astros have never given the underconfident Lane the space he's needed to really grow into the role many Astro fans have foreseen for him, and this may be the club's way of shortchanging him again.  Yes, it's true that Lane had a worse OBP than Wilson, but I might reply that the 31-year old Wilson is unlikely to improve in that area, while Lane, 2-1/2 years Wilson's junior, is.

At any rate, I think it's more likely that Lane becomes a fourth outfielder again, while Burke stays in left and Taveras in center.  Less likely, Burke is traded.  Burke improved streadily through 2005 and even if the Astros ultimately plan on moving Burke, they probably see 2006 as his showcase year, and figure it foolish to trade him before he can be displayed.

While Taveras is not entrenched, I think that the Astros--rightly, in my mind--would like to continue the Taveras experiment, and see if Willy can take another leap forward, as he did so notably in 2005.

This afternoon, Tim Purpura spoke of adding a run-producing bat to the middle of the order, and the email those of us on their list received proclaimed that the Astros had added a former RBI champ.  Both statements are true, while somehow missing the point.  You could just as easily say that the Astros have added a bat that will swing and miss a great deal, while it is much harder to win an RBI crown in Houston than in Colorado.  And the loyalist in me is screaming that once again a company man has gotten screwed.

I'm sure the first time Wilson connects in the seventh inning of a tie game against a mediocre middle reliever, I will hop enthusiastically aboard the PW-train.  That's my nature.  The uniform makes me a fan.  Hell, I liked Carl Everett when he wore the navy and gold.  But to me, today, it seems as if the club has made a move simply because they felt pressure to make one.

What do you think?

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