Unexpected Consequences For A Possible Astros Sale

Why this "Drayton is looking to sell the Astros" story finally hit the big time with his press conference yesterday, at the start of a long offseason that will be mostly devoid of moves, is beyond me. All I know is it was the worst possible time, because I have way too much time to dwell on it. For instance:

Let's say this sale takes a year to finish. By December 2011, Tillman Fertitta or Warren Buffet or someone will own the Astros. The new owners will have two of its star players in their third year of arbitration and another approaching free agency. Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn will be entering their Age 29 seasons while Wandy will be 33. Do you know what that means, boys and girls? No long-term contracts for any of those three. Ditto J.A. Happ and Matt Lindstrom. If anything, I bet Chris Johnson could sign a three- or four-year deal and be safe, but don't expect this ownership group to sign any of these guys long-term.

What does that mean? They'll probably be moved. Maybe not right away, but at some point in the next two years. The Astros don't like to sign guys long-term while they still have arbitration years left anyway, but I can't see any long deals being struck until the team changes hands. At that point, the new ownership may be reluctant to lock up older players to long deals and instead, focus on younger players like Johnson, Castro and Brett Wallace.

It also probably signals the end of Tal Smith's run in the Houston front office. I don't believe the new ownership will want him out (whoever they are), but Smith is getting up there and may feel like retiring and running his arbitration business full time. Just a hunch there, so we'll see what happens.

Conversely, I don't think the Astros will avoid signing free agents. As we saw with the Rangers last year, they did bring in Vladimir Guerrero, but only on a one-year deal. I can see the Astros taking a similar approach, which might have priced them out of Juan Uribe Land before the bidding started.

Lastly, Carlos is probably gone and probably for peanuts. Seriously, if Drayton can get a bag of peanuts for him, he's headed to the American League. And Drayton will eat some delicious, delicious peanuts. Every sale is different, and there probably won't be a huge amount of pressure to move him no matter what, but that press conference Friday was a sign to the rest of the league that the Astros are open for business, but of a very particular kind.

I'm already excited about 2011...

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