Pondering the Astros free agent offer to LaTroy Hawkins

On the eve of full fledged free agency, the Astros have made an offer to LaTroy Hawkins. I sincerely hope that Hawk is back in the fold next season. While needs exist in the rotation as well as in the infield, LaTroy should demand a contract that's worth between $2 million and $4 million this season. True, investing that kind of money into a man who will pitch fewer than 60 innings may seem like a waste, but Hawkins may be valuable than most late inning relievers for a couple of reasons:

1) Despite being 37 years old, Hawkins' skills should not diminish much if any going into 2010. His K rate isn't what it once was, but as long as his BB numbers stay respectable Hawk will be able to provide valuable innings either as a set up man or closer. A look at his FIP vs. ERA from 2009 shows that luck was definitely in play, and a normalizing trend should occur in the upcoming season. Still- a huge part of being a bullpen contributor is not being yourself. Someone like LaTroy will be asked to maintain a lot of leads, and I would prefer to have a more proven commodity in that role than a younger player who is prone to bouts of combustability.

2) Drayton may be saying all the right things about running a tighter ship, but the reality is that the Astros' payroll is still going to be large and our resources will not be allocated efficiently. Such is life with a franchise whose minor league operations are in shambles and whose major league contract commitments are laughable in some regards. As much as we may want the Astros to be run in a sabermetrically oriented fashion, the simple fact is that it's not going to happen.

The club may spend foolishly, but Drayton has never shown that he will skimp on overall payroll. He may not have always made the moves we wanted him to, but money is available to be spent, he will spend it. We may not agree with his decisions all the time, but the track record is there. My point is that the Astros aren't like our government and its continually growing debt. At some point the chickens will come home to roost, and it won't be pretty. You can argue that the Astros' chickens are roosting as we speak, but in general the effects of the Astros' overspending is not like the effects of a government overspending. Prospects can come out of nowhere, veterans can find the fountain of youth en route to surprising seasons. The housing market isn't going to miraculously improve, and China won't embrace a more equitable exchange rate just because. Inefficiency in sports is more often the rule than the exception, but it's not always a death sentence.

What was I talking about? Oh, yea- LaTroy Hawkins. He fits in with that whole inefficiency idea I was going on (and on) about. Maybe $4 million is a little bit too much for a 5th place team with no farm system to be spending on a reliever. Ed Wade loves relievers, we know this. I'd rather him spend that $4 million on LaTroy than any other bullpen option. And yes, he is going to spend that money on a reliever. Remember Oscar Villareal? I know you do..

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