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Hot Stove Part Two: The One That Got Away

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Craig Biggio's shot in late
 August notwithstanding
This man probably gave Billy Wagner his toughest loss. . .but won't be an Astro anytime soon

Well, there's no way around it: the best free agent fit for the Astros has done got away.

Brian Giles, whose mix of moderate power and high onbase percentage was just what the doctor ordered as far as the Astros' anemic offense goes, signed a 3 year, 30-million deal with with the Padres on December first.

Just the week before, Giles' camp had rejected an offer from the Padres, and it seemed a sure thing that the right fielder would do what Ryan Klesko can so far only hope to do: get the hell out of Petco Park.

Giles has become known for his ability to get on, but while he hasn't been quite as vocal on the matter as Klesko , the Padres' new home ballpark has cost Giles some home runs, as well. After hitting 54 home runs over 258 games for the Pirates in 2002 and most of 2003, Giles has since hit 38 in 317 over the last two years at cavernous Petco.

ESPN had spun the story of Giles' signing as one of a hometown discount, but after making 8 mill a year for the last three years, and seeing most of his major stats drop each year since his truly monstrous 2002, I thought 10 million per was about what he'd get from any sane team, Yankees and Red Sox obviously not included. The story was more hometown, and Giles, not the Padres, will take the discount, and it'll be in production, not in cash.

Too bad. Let Clemens go, and with Bagwell off the books next year, Giles' contract was eminently doable for the 'Stros. Boy, they could have used him. Considering the Astros finished finished ninth in the league in homers, Giles' power numbers could have pushed the Astros into the top three or four in the league in that particular stat. But it was his on base percentage--his ability to draw a walk--where Giles would have been invaluable to the 'Stros. After Berkman--who is of course one of the game's best at working his way on when he doesn't get something to drive--and Ensberg--who can show impeccable judgement, but can be streaky--the Astros had only one player who was better than the league-leading Phillies team. That player was Ausmus, who never gets enough credit for his ability to work a walk, but who also adds those walks to a fairly anemic batting average: OBP is still mostly BA, and Ausmus, to say the least, will never be among the elite in getting on because of it.

Giles could have come into Houston and finished second on the club in OBP and fourth in homers without even really trying. Think of the Giles/Berkman/Ensberg/Lane heart of the order that would have then be created. It would have been an almost classical mix of onbase and power. . . .

Ah well, I need to get over it. It won't be happening now.

When ESPN reported the story, they mentioned the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Indians, and the Dodgers as teams that had been pursuing him. Strangely absent was the name of our beloved Houston franchise. I can't help but wonder what that meant. Did Clemens' reticence to commit cost Purpura here? No-one seemed to think Giles would sign with anyone so quickly; at the very earliest, you figured Giles'd have his people parade his credentials at the winter meetings. Given the deck Purpura has been handed by Roger, maybe Purpura was hanging back, hoping--expecting--the contest for Giles' services to become protracted past the holidays, at which point, with Roger's decision in hand, he could step forward and make the 'Stros a late, serious player in the negotitations to sign the guy.

A story over on the official site says 'Astros Looking for Economical Offense' and I wonder if that's simply the take now that Giles is gone, or if that was the deal all along. . . .