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Plan? Schman: What is the Astros front office thinking?

I just got finished reading this piece by Brian McTaggart.  I read it; I read it again, and then I thought, "Sonofabitch." Why? Because I can't discern a single line of thought from McTaggart's interview that would indicate there's any kind of plan for the Astros.  I don't need a blueprint, but at least some sort of trajectory, and if not a trajectory, at least an indication that our front office is in fact in touch with reality.

Why the fuss? Here are the selections:

The first task for the Astros is re-signing their own free agents, a list that includes impact players in shortstop Miguel Tejada, closer Jose Valverde and reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Houston likely doesn't have enough payroll flexibility to retain all three, and Tejada's future with the club would be at third base instead of shortstop.

Ok.  So Wade is allegedly gunning for two of the three.  My guess would a pairing of Tejada, plus a reliever and that spending would pretty much close off payroll for the 2010 season.  $7.5 million in 2010 for Tejada is what I'm guessing we'll offer and I imagine that Hawkins will look for at least a $5 million deal coming off the season he just had (if you don't prod the raw numbers, he looks stellar).

So our main objective for 2010 is to bring back a SS to play 3B at age 35 or 34 (honestly, I'll never get Miggy's age right).  And then sign a closer-esque reliever.  After that, the goal, ostensibly, will be to plug the roster with in house pieces for the league minimum and hope that of Bud Norris, Feliepe Paulino, Yorman Bazardo, and Wesley Wright at least two can perform at or around league average for the course of the season.

But wait, we apparently also have a void our outfield.  This one was news to me.  Of our current corps of minor leaguers, I think the only "stenghth" we might have is in the outfield.  Am I wrong?

Nevertheless, Ed Wade had this to say about our "situation" in the outfield:

"From the standpoint of position players with both Jason Michaels and Darin Erstad being free agents, our extra-outfield situation at this point is an issue," Wade said. "I'm not saying we wouldn't bring both guys back, but both are free agents, and we have to recognize we have a void now."

Really? A point at issue? The services of two veteran bench warmers who happened to play outfield at some point in their career is really worth a likely $2-3 million in their two contracts?  Yordanny Ramirez, Reggie Abercrombie, Brian Bogusevic (just to name our AAA OFers, but not to slight the Gaston's and Locke's of the world) couldn't slot in their spots for less than $1 million? Interesting.

So from that point, I can't tell if Wade is conceding that he can only spend enough to sign one of the Valverde/Hakwins/Tejada trio because if he signs two of the three he can't afford to round out the bench, or not.  But in all honesty, that has me worried. 

Next up, something that's be eating at me for awhile, but Wade's quote brings it to the surface:

"If we can mix and match with Geoff over there and provide more offense, that's something we have to pay attention to," Wade said.

I get that Blum is allegedly an über-utility IF.  But if Wade is really gunning for Tejada, why did he re-sign Geoff Blum so early? A piece like Blum seems best signed in January or February when someone like Blum hears things like "league-minimum" and "major league job" and jumps at the opportunity to sign after sweating it out all offseason.

There's also discussion of Wade looking to trade for a SP, but who does he trade? For whom? And why?

And it's at the point in the article that I started over, re-read and realized that Wade is literally just slapping duct-tape on this team and hoping it all holds.  But with what purpose? I don't know.  If Drayton's taking a hard line on the payroll because he doesn't want to lose money this year, why not just hold everyone we have in place? Offer arbitration to our FAs, and then whoever rejects it, take the picks and fill the slots with in house players at league minimum? If everyone rejects arbitration, we have a payroll of $80 million on opening day and we get finally see what are farm system actually has in it, and that seems more entertaining than the Ed Wade duct-tape ball that's being rolled right now.  Hell, just throw some money at Hawkins and have someone we trust to close baseball games and still save Drayton a sizable chunk of change to invest in the 2010 draft.

Wade doesn't seem to be trying to make the roster better, he seems like he's trying to plug leaks on a sinking ship—but will still end up taking on water.  And I have myself back to, what is the Astros objective for 2010 and beyond? Does anybody see it?

None of this is to say that I don't think the Astros can compete as assembled, or attempted to be assembled, in 2010, but my concern is that is there are plans for 2011, 2012, and beyond? Or is it going to just be duct-tape and prayers for the foreseeable future?