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Tough Decisions For The 2011 Houston Astros

Scout on the Astros today: "Sixty wins should be the over/under for them."  - Buster Onley (Twitter)

Talked with several scouts who think the Pirates will finish ahead of the Astros this year -- PITT is better, to them, and Houston is worse. ."  - Buster Olney (Twitter)

Another year and even more questions surround the Astros going into the season.  "Will they" and "if" seem to be the Astros best asset going into the season.  If the Astros play more games like the exhibition against the Boston Red Sox, the series in Philadelphia, or the batting practice that we threw in the opener against the Reds then we're in for a really long season.

In my last blog, I went over what a new owner may or may not do if he or she purchases the Houston Astros. On May 25, the Houston Chronicle reported that Drayton McLane was nearing a deal to sell the Astros to Houston businessman Jim Crane. Could the clock be ticking on Astros fire sale or change of direction?

Jim Crane was in attendance for the Astros exhibition game against the Red Sox sitting with Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. This could just be me needing glasses, but I'm pretty sure I saw him running to the Minute Maid Park offices screaming "DRAYTON, DON'T CASH THAT CHECK! I've changed my mind and I'd rather invest in GM or Washington Mutual Banks."

I think as fans, there are a lot of things to be optimistic about this year. One of them is Jim Crane and the potential change of ownership for the Houston Astros. On the field, there are plenty of things to be excited about such as Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson, Wilton Lopez, and Hunter Pence. What about a possible deadline trade? As much as you would hate to see Wandy Rodriguez or Brett Myers go, would it ease the pain if you saw a prospect like Manny Banuelos, Martin Perez, or even Jesus Montero come back in a trade? Would that ease the pain of rebuilding?

Let's put ourselves in Jim Crane's or another owner's shoes for just a second. If you're on the outside of this organization, how would you view Ed Wade's blueprint for the future? What about his offseason choices this year? I know that Ed was given a broken ship, but at what point is a new owner going to look at his book of work and simply say "Did he do enough with what he was given to make these team competitive or did he simply make bad decisions."

The Astros are going to face some tough decisions this year that could affect the future of the organization for this year and years to come. Let's take a look at what tough decisions the Astros could face in this year.

Will things really be better with a new owner?

That's a big Smokey and the Bear 10-4 Roger that good buddy!  I have to admit that I was surprised that the general reaction from fans wasn't a 100% excitement when it appeared that Jim Crane could be closing in on purchasing the Houston Astros. I generally thought that the reaction would be relief and happiness, but there were many fans who were actually upset on how some fans were excited about being free from Drayton. Maybe I went a little overboard about saying "If I wasn't at work I would be running down the hall screaming We're Free!"

Regardless of how you feel about Drayton or even Jim Crane, it is in the best interest of this organization and this team for the Astros to change owners. I hate to tell you, but Drayton isn't getting any younger and a new change of direction is exactly what this team needs. A new owner could have a domino effect on who's the GM, personnel on the field, and how others view this team. Could this be the Ed Wade farewell tour in 2011? A new owner could view every move that Ed Wade has made in the recent years as simply bad decisions.  

What happens if Brandon Lyon can't cut it as the closer?


1. Fulfilling its function adequately; usable.

2. Functional and durable rather than attractive. 

There is a fine line between being a serviceable closer and dependable closer. Brandon Lyon proved on opening day just that. He is more than capable of filling in from time to time much as a setup man would do, but just doesn't have the stuff and ability to get swings and misses to close full-time. I think it's only a matter of time before the Astros move Wilton Lopez into the closer position. The Astros could look at outside options such the Red Sox Bobby Jenks or another available closer at the trade deadline. There are a lot of clubs that have 2 or 3 closers in their pen that would be a huge upgrade from Brandon Lyon.  Don't get me wrong. I think Brandon Lyon is a great bullpen arm. I just don't think that Lyon is an adequate closer and was forced into the closer role due to a lack of experience on the staff.

What If the Astros trade Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers?

Rebuilding and stock piling prospects is never a bad thing. The general reaction from most fans will initially be rage simply because the Astros traded their two best starters. This organization needs to think about what's important for the long term and not what's needed to compete right now.  What if Ed Wade was able to bring back a prospect such as Manny Banuelos or Jesus Montero of the Yankees? Are you still upset? Could this happen? It's highly unlikely that the Yankees trade Montero, but never rule out clubs that are willing to over pay at the trade deadline. Trading your No. 1 and No. 2 starters will sting a little now, but in the long term it's what's best for this organization.

Would the Astros really consider trading Michael Bourn?

For a team rebuilding, I wouldn't consider anyone on the Astros roster as untouchable. Trading a two-time Gold Glove winner such as Michael Bourn generally seems like a bad idea. On the other hand, with his rising price tag and newly hired agent Scott Boras the Astros could simply decide that they're not in a position financially to go long term with Bourn. The Astros could look at internal options like JB Shuck in AAA, T.J Steele in AA, or Austin Wates at Lancaster as a cheaper solution in the near future. Shuck would definitely be a downgrade on defense, but could be an upgrade offensively. Putting Bourn on the trade market would definitely bring back a top prospect plus other pieces. This is one of those moves that is really going to sting, but could be something that the Astros just can't avoid and simply is just part of the business side of the game. Will they trade him? Probably not, but I wouldn't rule it out.

It's probably a little too early to throw in the towel just yet, but it's never too early to have that contingency plan on standby. Let's face it. The Astros have a ton of holes and if they continue to play as poorly as they did in the spring and in the first four games of the year then it's going to be a very long year. The current Astros front office or a new owner could soon be forced to make decisions sooner rather than later.

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