The other night when I was sitting in the press box at Round Rock, the unofficial word was that Sutton was the PTBL in the Keppinger deal; just as it was leaked at the time of the trade. The discussion took place between beat writer who had heard the trade was conditional and that there was a a Player in Column A for the Reds if Keppinger was successful, and a player in Column B if Keppinger struggled out of the gate.
While Keppinger is solid addition to our team, I'm totally dismayed by what this trade represents. The Astros needed a boost at the platoon at 3B when Boone announced he would be undergoing open heart surgery, and with Chris Johnson's wacky platoon split, there wasn't a great match inside the system. There are two ways the front office could have played the situation: Admit that the level of production we were hoping for from the platoon in question wasn't that much and gone with either Blum or Johnson full time and see how it worked out, or look outside the system.
They opted for the latter, but in foolish way. By all accounts, there were to be a number of released players at the end of the season, and Keppinger was one such player. With a surplus of talent in the Reds infield, Keppinger wasn't someone likely to make the team. Even if he had stayed within the organization, should the Reds have made it official that Keppinger would not be a vital asset, I think that he could have been acquired for cash considerations or a lesser player than Drew Sutton.
Yes, Sutton doesn't have a long track record of success in the minor leagues, but he absolutely scorched the AFL last winter. Further, he represented freely available talent when Kaz Matsui inevitably would have gone down with an injury—something Kaz has already done. We're likely to keep Keppinger at 2B in the interim, but the reason he brought to the team was his ability to maximize a platoon split at 3B, not serve this function.
At the end of the day this probably won't be a move that Astros fans will look back on years from now and mutter obscenities at Ed Wade et al., but the thing that seems dangerous to me is that we're still trying to win at all costs—now. In less than two years, Kaz Matsui is off the books, and the question becomes who will we get to replace him? Keppinger could be an adequate full time player, but Sutton had the potential to be more than that, and cheaper. The answer, though, is likely a free agent of some sort. But that just perpetuates the cycle of bloated contracts, aged veterans in decline, and a derth of freely available talent in the minor system.
I'm all for trying to win as many games as possible, but at some point our front office is going to need to start planning for the post-Berkman, Oswalt, and Lee years. Getting those three off the books will free up a ton of money, but as we've learned over the last few years, you cannot buy a full team of talent. Especially for a team with so many holes.
This trade just feels hasty and sloppy.