Regardless of what you think of Drew Sutton's potential to be a viable contributor to the Astros, he was clearly the best hitting middle infield prospect the organization had to boast in their minor league system.
Now that we know he is no longer an option, who are the other second base prospects the Astros have to offer?
First, let's take a look at what Drew Sutton has done in his career as a minor leaguer:
Those numbers include his AA season in 2008 where he OPS'ed .931, and was a 20/20 man to boot. He's a switch hitter, and was showing signs of becoming a nice player to have on your club. His projections for this season are extremely respectable for a guy who hadn't yet sniffed AAA.
That's what we gave up. Here's what is left in terms of players who could still legitimately be called prospects:
Edwin Maysonet, 27 (Round Rock)
Craig Corrado, 24 (Lancaster)
Felix Molina, 25 (Corpus Christi)
Marcos Cabral, 25 (Lancaster)
Albert Carwright, 22 (Lexington)
That about sums it up. If I've missed any players, I apologize. The point I'm trying to make is that beyond Sutton there is really nobody else that looks like an obvious candidate to be a successful major leaguer. Either these guys are too old to be regarded all that highly, or they're too young to say one way or another.
What irked me about this move was this was another example of the Astros sacrificing any potential for a low cost alternative, for an immediate gain. True, the loss of Aaron Boone left a pretty big hole on the infield, and the Astros were desperate. Cincinnati was in a position of strength, in that Jeff Keppinger probably would not have even made the Reds' opening day roster. Still, while the Astros do not have a good farm system, it does not make any sense to trade away from little remaining talent is available.
Think about it in terms of personal banking. Everyone works in order to earn income to dispose of in any way they so choose. Basically, when you receive a paycheck you can either:
- Deposit it in the bank
- Spend it
- A combination of the two
- A number of teams believe in saving now and waiting until a more advantageous time to spend
- Others spend and save in somewhat equal amounts
- While others, and I fear the Astros are among a scant few that qualify, spend a great deal, while leaving themselves little margin for error
All three options have their advantages, all three options have their drawbacks. The more you spend initially, obviously the less you have in reserve in case of emergency. If all you do is deposit your paychecks and spend none of your income, you'll end up living the life of a miser. The third option, spending and saving, seems to be the most prudent choice. Spend wisely, and have enough money in case you need to make a withdrawal.
Baseball teams operate in much the same way, but here players act as income. The off season is when teams earn their "income". The regular season is when teams will spend this income. Each team has a different manner of spending, allocating and evaluating their scare resources
In essence, when injury or poor performance occur, most teams have the luxury to dip into their minor league systems and pluck out a player who can play on the major league level, at least for a short while. At this point, however, it's painfully obvious the Astros can't make that kind of withdrawal- the screen at our ATM would read: Insufficient Funds.
I don't think anyone will debate that the Astros couldn't have gone into this season with just Geoff Blum manning third base. If Chris Johnson had won the job outright from Blum, that would have been a different story. We saw glimpses of what Johnson can do, but we also saw that for the most part he's still extremely green. More time is needed in the minors, and hopefully in 2010 the job will be his. For the time being though, a stop gap was needed, and Jeff Keppinger was the choice. Time will tell if this trade works out in the Astros advantage, but regardless, the philosophy of this organization seems inherently flawed and any chances of future success will be hindered if these flaws aren't corrected.