First, a Pudge interview, for your viewing pleasure.
Normally, your TCB writers don't like to speculate or pass along rumors. We like facts, and don't want to play the "maybe this, maybe that" game. Today though, I will make an exception as all we really have to go on is speculation as far as this trade is concerned. Per, Lone Star Ball, a local sports radio show in Dallas has said that the PTBNL is Jose Vallejo, a AAA second baseman. This seems plausible as Jamey Newberg listed Vallejo as one of the possibilities to be the PTBNL.
Again, Nevarez and Vallejo (if indeed he is the PTBNL) aren't going to turn the organization around, but it does, I believe, show that for the first time that I can recall, Drayton McLane, Jr. is willing to accept that his team has significant flaws and that he is going to allow his GM to do what GMs in that situation do. That is, trade away veteran players for younger, less expensive pieces. This deal could backfire potentially- like DQ notes, Pudge was talked about just last week by McLane as possibly being part of the 2010 catcher equation. That still could happen, with Rodriguez being a FA at the end of the season, so we shall see.
It depends on how important you believe "mentoring" is for younger players. Jason Castro is our catcher of the future, but it's unlikely he'd start the 2010 season as such. I don't know what this does to the possibility of Pudge returning to the club in 2010 is, but it certainly leads me to believe that McLane is serious about cutting payroll. If he wasn't keen on paying the rest of Rodriguez' salary for 2009, it's unlikely that he would sign a veteran catcher with diminishing skills like Pudge this offseason.
The Astros were lacking sorely in up the middle players, and Vallejo is now an option. From everything I've read, he cannot play SS, so he's stuck behind Kaz Matsui for a season. A bench role, is an optimistic future for Vallejo, as he offers speed, defense and little else. Maybe he figures it out offensively, but the odds are stacked against him.
Will this be the last move that Ed Wade makes? I would never have guessed that Pudge would be leaving, and the Astros certainly have veterans that other teams could use in pennant chases. LaTroy Hawkins is one such name. Miguel Tejada and Jose Valverde are two other options, but they'd have to pass through waivers first, and being bigger names don't bet on it. Interesting times though....