Astros show interest in Kelly Johnson, Gustavo Chacin and Jason Michaels sign on the dotted line

After second baseman Kelly Johnson was non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves, a number of teams have expressed interest in him. That link notes that the D-Backs are on record that their hat has been thrown in the KJ ring, but Tim Dierkes said Monday on his site that three NL Central clubs: the Pirates, Cardinals and Astros desire his services to various extents.

Johnson's non-tendering came as a surprise to many, including clack, and his bat would be welcome in Houston, assuming he returns to his normal self after a down 2009. Take Bill James' optimistic projection and the fan's projections off FanGraphs, and you can get a pretty good idea of what is expected out of the middle infielder in 2010.

This wouldn't be an offseason-defining signing by Ed Wade, but if the Astros could get Johnson, the team would be much improved. The Diamondacks are in a position where they would trade another one of their backup infielders in order to create space for Johnson. Neither the Cards or Buccos have the greatest infields in the world, and while Pittsburgh signed Bobby Crosby to bolster theirs, it's not as if Kelly Johnson wouldn't be able to get significant playing time in Pittsburgh. St. Louis may not get Troy Glaus back, which leaves them with Skip Schumaker, David Freese, and Joe Thurston at 2B/3B entering spring training. Not exactly household names.

Pedro Feliz is an upgrade for Houston over Geoff Blum, but it's no guarantee that Feliz will be even a win better than Blummers. Kaz Matsui is injury-prone at second, is coming off a disappointing season and his backup, Edwin Maysonet, does not project to be anything special. Cost is something to focus on, as KJ made $2.8 million in 2009 and should demand a contract worth more than that in 2010. A deal in the mid-3 millions for one season maybe a gamble worth taking, especially if Wade cannot sign a starting pitcher or convert Jason Bourgeois to a second baseman as some have hypothesized.

Just when we thought we were getting rid of him...he pulls us back in. Or rather, we pull him back in. That's right: Jason Michaels has been re-signed to an $800,000 contract. Again, not a disaster, but the money could have been better allocated elsewhere. I would still like to see the team make a move for Ryan Church, if their budget allows for it. Bottom line, as with most of the Astros' moves, this won't be the difference between a postseason berth and another Astro-less October. Michaels wasn't near as bad as I thought he was in 2009, but I would have liked to have seen Wade think a little more out of the box. Reggie Abercrombie, and the aforementioned Bourgeois and Church could be in the running for the fifth and assumedly final outfield reserve spot.

Alyson Footer also tweets that Gustavo Chacin has been signed to a minor league deal and given an invite to Spring Training. Chacin hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007 and hasn't pitched a full season since 2005, so let's not hold our breath on anything happening for him with the Astros. His experience working with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg in Toronto most likely has a lot to do with his being given a shot. Think of him as Russ Ortiz with perhaps a bit more upside.

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