The Astros face an interesting problem. They finished with a league-worst record and weren't even competitive for much of the season. They traded away their only viable, marketable stars at the trade deadline for prospects. They have an increasingly frustrating situation with ownership that may continue to be Drayton McLane or may be the newly minted Jim Crane. They also suffered through one of the worst attendance seasons since moving to Minute Maid Park.
In short, the Astros need a jolt from somewhere to re-energize the fan base.
Most fans talk about that jolt coming through free agency. Yesterday, many of you speculated on what moves Houston could make and how that would help them be competitive. I know Crane is not going to go out and sign Albert Pujols, CC Sabathia and Jose Reyes in the same winter. Much as I'd like to see it, he's not interested in building a team that way, or so he said at the press conference when the sale was announced back in May.
So, what could he do to still energize fans while keeping to a cost-benefit analysis? How about bringing back either Brad Lidge or Roy Oswalt?
Neither would be a popular choice, because they will both cost money and have lost effectiveness in recent years. As much as I'd like to see Roy bring his veteran presence and work ethic back to the starting rotation, I get the sense he's looking for a multi-year deal and I'm not sure the Astros should commit to that.
No, if I had a choice of those two, I'd say the Astros go after Brad Lidge for the bullpen. They wouldn't have to sign him longterm after the season he's coming off of, but he'd be a tangible link to the past for fans who are jaded by this current collection of rookies and role players. Lidge wouldn't have to be the closer, but might bring some veteran stability to a very young bullpen.
Would he be taking a spot that could be manned by EDR or any number of younger guys? Most certainly. Would his signing be contingent on Brandon Lyon being shown the door? Almost without a doubt. But, who would you rather have, Lyon or Lidge?
Lidge is a lottery ticket, but just like Grady Sizemore, he's a good buy. Plus, he has the added benefit of being a good PR move even if he doesn't pan out. If he pitches badly, Houston can still keep him around next season to provide a familiar face to fans. That kind of marketing is worth a one year contract on a team headed for another losing season.