Alyson Footer's story on Astros.com is a real mixed bag, but it did hold the interesting tidbit that is referenced in the title.
Out of abject laziness stemming from having successfully taken the LSAT this morning, I'll roll with a large block quote from the article:
Wade acknowledged the club will have "payroll flexibility," as has been the case for several offseasons. The Astros' payroll was somewhere between $88-92 million, and there are no indications owner Drayton McLane is going to slash the budget for '09.
Starting pitching is the No. 1 priority. Wade is fully prepared to aggressively pursue Randy Wolf, who won't come cheap. It was Wolf's desire to table contract negotiations until after the season, but rest assured, now that the offseason is here, Wade is ready to pounce.
Ben Sheets is another talked-about potential free agent, and it's likely the Astros are interested. But given Sheets' injury history, the club will proceed with caution. Don't expect any outlandish offers made that could come back to haunt the home team.
The rest of this post will serve as me simply synthesizing two of my previous posts, but again, I'm light on the critical thinking capacity.
Not related to anything else in this post, but something that needed to be addressed: the Astros paid a hell of a lot more for their team this year than $88-92 million. Drayton better start considering raising our payroll -- not taking any red ink to it. (Source: Cots Contracts).
Randy Wolf, came and gave us stability in our rotation down the stretch, but I hope we push him away. Although, it doesn't appear that Ed Wade will be doing that anytime soon. Edward has been jones-ing for Wolf since this time last year [I believe he actually offered Wolf a contract something like two days after the World Series last year (I might be exaggerating, but only a little bit)]. Here's my hang-up though: He's NOT that good. Per my analysis of our pitcher's DIPS RA for 2008, he's a candidate to allow 4.70+ Runs per game next year. I don't want to pay too much more than league minimum than that.
Now, on the subject of Wolf, AstroAndy made an excellent point about Wolf in that aforementioned post's comments section. Since I didn't notice it until it was buried, I assume most of you missed it too.
I think it’d be important to figure out why Randy Wolf’s DIPS is a full point off his real ERA.
Hell yes it is. Thank you for calling me on that.
This was my response -- now slightly edited (I'm quoting again, and I'm somewhat sorry at this point)
Combing back through the numbers, Wolf’s Astros-split appears to be off because adjusting to league average defense kills him. He had an above average LOB% which reinforces this. His line-drive rates weren’t off league average, but his HR/FB were well below average -- that's unsustainable.
Because there was a lot of defense involved, I guess I have to soften my stance on Wolf, but I can’t too much. Wolf played in the best pitcher’s park in the league and then in front of the best defense (by RZR) in the league as well. While our defense will, hopefully, be this good next year, Wolf still has built his house on a precarious foundation. His HR should go up, which is not good for someone with his BB% and all it takes is a misplay or two a game on a BIP and he’s suddenly a number 4-5 pitcher again.
Given that risk, I’ll take a compensation pick and say goodbye.
So I still don't want Randy Wolf back in an Astros uniform. Everyone can feel free to take issue with me on it if they want to.
FINALLY: Ben Sheets. Footer indicates that the Astros will be interested, but not willing to take out a second mortgage on the MMP for him. There are two possible ways to read this statement. Either Ed Wade is truly interested in Sheets and he wants him to be an Astro and he is just posturing, or our organization is stupid.
If it is the former then, I think Ed Wade is truly getting off to a great hot stove season. This move forces Sheets to start questioning his reservation price to sign because he has to start wondering what he can command from teams given his recent fore arm troubles. Better yet, he might be considering taking a 2-3 year deal, at somewhat more of a premium per year, in the hopes of staying healthy under a non-Yost regime and then hoping for a better, long term deal after this one. I get the feeling that Sheets could be considering this option given that his mildly torn flexor muscle tear is certainly driving down his market value. Like I said about a two weeks ago though, Sheets is not hurt because he's too fragile this time, he's hurt because he was abused.
Does this drive down Sheets value as a starter? Yes. Is it significant? No. My analysis last time was not saying that Sheets is a Bedard or a Kazmir who suddenly become useless in about 5 IP, what it means that Sheets has to be used intelligently. If he is, the risk is reduced and we stand a good chance of ending up with a 180 IP of dominant baseball. That is something the Astros would be insane to pass up this off-season.
Hopefully Ed Wade is just putting on his poker face; causing someone like Ben Sheets to wonder if he's so risky that the Astros are really going to consider making a multimillion, multiyear commitment to Randy Wolf vs. sign him. While I'm not sure that Wade sees the forest through the trees on Wolf, I think that Ed Wade is already bargaining with Ben Sheets through the media.