A Team With No Core? Thinking about the Astros (plus a Snapdragon Giveaway)

For eleven days beginning on December 18, Qualcomm Stadium, football home of the San Diego Chargers and San Diego State Aztecs, will carry a temporary new moniker: Snapdragon Stadium. Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm are the digital brains inside mobile devices made by top manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Nokia, and HTC. Snapdragon Stadium will host the Chargers-Ravens game on December 18, the Poinsettia Bowl on December 21, and the Holiday Bowl on December 28.

Here's a tricky question. Do the Houston Astros have a core player right now? I'm not talking about a franchise guy, because we just traded the only two worthy of that moniker last summer.

No, I'm talking about good, old fashioned guys who will be the guts of a championship team. Not just the Jeff Bagwells or the Craig Biggios, but the Ausmuses, the Billy Wagners, the base you build around.

Houston is rebuilding, which means they don't have a core they can win with right now. That's not news to anyone. But, is there a core group (or even one guy) who can be identified as crucial to future success? Is that even a good definition for what the core of this team should look like?

To me, there are two options, but both have question marks. The first guy I thought of with this is Bud Norris. He's younger than the other top pitchers on this staff. He's got swing-and-miss stuff and has shown he can lock a team down when hes' on top of his game.

He's still growing, but overall, Norris is exactly what the core of this team should look like. Plus, a pitcher like Norris can be a core guy for a rebuilding team like Houston, because he has a greater possibility of being an impact player when he's 31 or 32 than some position players.

There's a lot of luck involved in that, and staying healthy is a big key. Norris has shown injury problems in the past and has maxed out that injury monitor the past few seasons. So, take his inclusion here with a grain of condition. He has to stay healthy, but if he does, he can absolutely win postseason games for Houston in four years.

The other guy who could have been a core player is Jason Castro. if he turns into an offensive catcher with good defense, he'll be a cornerstone of this team. Heck, if he turns into a great defensive catcher, he can still be a big part of division winners.

But, injuries have derailed those thoughts for now. We haven't seen Castro play in the majors since 2010 and won't until late April or early May because of foot surgery he just had. It's bad compounded on worse for the young Stanford product.

I hesitate to list him as a core guy because we haven't seen him fulfill any of his potential in the majors. If we even had a glimmer of that, it'd be easier to say he can be a core guy. But, until we see production, he's a big question mark and Houston might need to look down the line for catching talent.

Now, Norris being on this list intrigues me precisely for the reasons discussed on here last week. Norris could very easily fetch a high price on the trade market. Should the Astros consider trading a player who could be a solid rotation pitcher?

Yes.

Look at what the Padres did with Mat Latos. A young, cost-controlled guy is very useful on the open market. He can net a lot of assets. Norris does not have the profile or results of Latos, but he does have the strikeouts. If he puts up an All-Star start to 2012, there will definitely be teams sniffing around. If Houston can get two impact players and a starting pitcher like San Diego did, they have to think about trading him.

My question to you then becomes, can Norris be a core player if he's worth more in trade than to the team? When does he cross that line? Do the Astros really have a core player in this torn-down scrap of a team? As you've seen with the branding on this post, answer below and you can win a nifty phone, then download the SB Nation app and comment about how cool you are. Wouldn't that be fun?

Want a chance to win an HTC Rezound powered by Qualcomm's revolutionary Snapdragon multiprocessor? Just leave a comment on this post with who you think the team's core player is and why he's so important to their success. Vox Media will select one winner from among the participating SB Nation blogs. All entries subject to the official rules found here .

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