Here's my last crazy statement of the week: The Astros should definitely go after Cliff Lee and they shouldn't stop there.
Why? Because this roster and team should be in "win now" mode.
As I mentioned in the comments earlier this week, there is an easy way to fix what ails the Astros. Sign Lee, which will give Houston a solid four-man rotation that's as good as any in the league (read: San Francisco). Trade for Adrian Gonzalez to play first base. Sign Juan Uribe to play shortstop. I'd even add one more: trade for Gordon Beckham and make him the starter at second. That would bump Kepp into a super-utility role, where he could get 300-400 plate appearances backing up at short, third and second.
That'd cost Houston about 30 million and six or seven talented prospects (including one or both of Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino). Jordan Lyles? Gone. J.D. Martinez? Sayonara. Jay Austin? Say hello to the White Sox. The farm would be gutted, but the offense may actually be good enough to win the pennant.
You're shaking your head right now, saying "No way, no how," aren't you? If you're not, you should be. I'll explain more after the jump...See, the sneaky truth about this roster is that it's pretty old, even after dumping a lot of the old players from the past few years. Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence, JA Happ and Tommy Manzella will all be 28 next season. Wandy will be 31 and Brett Myers will be 30. Even guys like Chris Johnson (26) and Felipe Paulino (27) are older than you'd expect for a team that's just starting a rebuilding process.
If you want an explanation for why this rebuilding club played so well down the stretch, there it is. This is a team of guys in their primes. This is a team that should have its championship window open now. Instead, we're talking about not competing for another two or three years. By that point, Bourn, Pence and the rest will be on the downside of their careers.
That's why I said the Astros should go all out this winter signing free agents and the like. Their window is open now and the core of this team will probably not be around by the time the Astros are ready to compete with Jordan Lyles and Jason Castro.
While 30-year old players don't tend to drop off dramatically, would you bet on a speedster like Bourn aging well? How long before he starts losing a step? How long before he becomes Dave Roberts or Juan Pierre? What about Pence? While he's a valuable player now, if this is his peak, what happens when his performance starts declining? He's not the kind of bat that can carry the middle of the lineup now. If that slips?
Happ and Wandy should age well, and Myers proved this year he can win with a diminished fastball and great planning. What happens in three years, though? You get the point. We will most likely not see all of these guys playing a crucial role for the Astros when/if they finally make the playoffs again.
So, if the Astros want to build around Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, they need to make some deals to get them some help. If this team is going to make a run, it needs another big-time starter, so go get Lee. He'll only cost 25 million a year. Gonzalez will make 5.5 million next season in the last year of his current contract. Uribe, according to the crowdsourcing here, should make around 6 million per year. Beckham will be cheap money-wise, but the cost in prospects will be pretty great. There are also questions about Gonzalez's shoulder and whether he'd sign an extension. In my plan, the Astros would let him walk and take the compensatory picks, but I'd also be fine with signing him to an extension. Of course, to do that, the Astros would need to offload Carlos Lee...
As you might have gathered from my interest in the minor leagues, I don't actually like this plan at all. Gutting the farm system so soon after it showed signs of rebuilding would be disastrous. I'd much rather look down the road a bit at a wider window of contention with Lyles, Martinez, Austin and possibly Ben Heath, Dallas Keuchel or Dan Adamson/Austin Wates. The moves above are moves I would have wanted the Craig Biggio/Jeff Bagwell Astros to make, but I don't see star players like those two on this roster.
What do you think? Is this team ready to compete right now? Are there any moves the team could make so they could compete for the World Series next year? Which players of this core group would you sign to extensions?