Can the Astros be Contenders...err...Competitive Next Year?

Trying to take my mind off of how horrible the 'stros are this year, and got me thinking about what the roster may look like next year.  I've got the following assumptions:


-Lance Berkman's option will be declined (or he will be traded), taking $15M off the books. The scenario I see playing out is that Houston doesn't trade him, declines his option and signs him for a cheaper 2 year deal.

-Wandy, Keppinger, Pence, Lindstrom and Bourn will be offered arbitration.

-If Oswalt is traded, the money saved from shedding his contract will be used to acquire starting pitching.

-Any prospects acquired via trade this season will not be ready for the bigs next season.

-Feliz, Moehler, Michaels, and Myers will leave via free agency.

Moving forward with those assumptions, this is the roster I've got:

C Castro $400k

1B Berkman $8M

2B Keppinger $2M

SS Manzella $400k

3B Johnson $400k

RF Pence $4M

CF Bourn $3M

LF Lee $18M

Bench: Bogusevic ($400k), Blum ($1.5M), Q ($400k), Bourgeois ($400k), Navarro ($400k)

Total for position players: $43M

Rotation: Oswalt/free agent ($16M), Wandy ($6M), Paulino ($400k), Norris ($400k), ?????

Bullpen: Wright, Chacin, Lopez, Fulchino, Gervacio (all $400k), Sampson ($1.5M), Lyon ($5M), Lindstrom ($6M)

 Cost of pitching: $38M

That's $81M on the books, which probably leaves ~$15M in available payroll.  I think that bullpen is adequate.  The glaring holes are in the rotation and offense.

-I think the biggest questions are if Berkman and Lee's 2010 performance is an indicator of age or a fluke.  If it's the former, there is ZERO hope for Houston to be competitive in 2011.  If it's the latter, the offense has a chance to be much improved.  Personally, I think both are in for a moderate rebound.

-Will Wandy bounce back? I think Wandy/Paulino/Norris can be expected to be a league-average 3-4-5 combo.

-Is Keppinger an everyday 2B?  I think so.  Whether he can be counted on in the 2-hole is questionable IMO.

-Can Johnson/Castro/Manzella be counted on offensively?  I think they will do fine, as long as they are in the 6-7-8 holes.  None will ever be 1-5 hitters IMO.

-The good thing is that there should be plenty of starting pitching available on the free agent market.  I know the Astros won't be in the market for a Cliff Lee (we need that $ for Carlos Lee instead...ugh), but there's a long list of guys who might be affordable and who could bolster the rotation and possibly fill the 2 hole: Harden, Bedard, Garland, Lilly, Myers, Penny, Sheets, Vasquez, Webb, Wellemeyer, Westbrook, Young.


The more I look at it, the more it looks like this year...putting together a lot of shaky pieces and hoping EVERYTHING falls into place.

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