Well, the Astros' trade for Carlos Beltran has been a mixed success so far. Beltran himself has been spectacular as advertised, but the Stros remain in a struggle to stay over .500, let alone challenge the suddenly surging Cardinals for the NL Central. This has gotten several people to speculate that Houston may turn around and deal Beltran to a real contender later this month. Here's Albert Chen from Sports Illustrated:
Last week's Carlos Beltran-Octavio Dotel-bunch of minor leaguers three-way swap was not small stuff, but it's a trade that could easily blow up for both the A's and Astros. There are a dozen closers out there that I'd trust more with my ninth-inning lead than Dotel, who despite his 14 saves hasn't exactly proven that he's got the closer's mentality to lock down games. (Sorry, Bill James, but makeup is just as important as strikeout-to-walk ratios for closers.)
You probably missed this because the A's ended up winning in 10 innings, but in Dotel's first outing in an Oakland uni on Saturday night, he entered the game in the eighth inning and promptly gave up a four-run lead. Yes, Dotel is a significant upgrade from Arthur Lee Rhodes, but he's no Keith Foulke.
In Houston, Brad Lidge probably will turn out to be a better closer than Dotel (he's got better stuff, and as a prospect in the minors, Lidge actually was more highly regarded than Roy Oswalt). But by getting rid of Dotel, eighth innings in Houston, formerly a sure thing with Lidge, will now be an adventure. Which leads to the ridiculous prediction of the day: In a month, the Astros will find themselves 10 games behind the surging Cubs, then will deal Beltran to another contender and ax manager Jimy Williams. ...
With all due respect, I think that's exactly bass-ackwards. Carlos Beltran is the kind of player you can build a championship caliber team around. He's a great hitter who plays a difficult position well, and has speed and on-base skills to boot. Trading him for prospects on the grounds that he's unsignable is the kind of mediocre no-desire-to-win thinking that made the Royals dump him in the first place.
Whatever happens this year, the Stros have the core of a good team going forward in the likes of Berkman, Ensberg, Lidge, Pettite, Oswalt, Miller, Everett, and maybe Jason Lane (we'll see about him). They have some decent talent on the farm (more on that in a bit), and most importantly, they have some high-priced veteran talent that could not only bring a nice price on the trade market, but also would help to free up the funds needed to keep Beltran (and Berkman) around for a few more years.
Yes, I'm talking about the original Killer B's, Biggio and Bagwell, along with Jeff Kent. Biggio would be a good fit for the Giants, who could use someone (anyone!) with on-base ability to bat ahead of Barry Bonds. The Yankees might be persuaded to give up (say) Brad Halsey and a pot of gold for Kent, as second base is the one weak spot in their lineup. Several teams could use a first baseman that can still hit - the Angels, the Twins, maybe the Padres, the Dodgers, and so on. My point is that all three would not lack for suitors if they were offered.
In return, the Astros could concentrate on getting some pitching depth, another corner outfielder or two, and maybe a first baseman (though they could easily shift Berkman there if they wanted to - he played first at Rice). These are usually commodities that many teams have and can part with. The Stros have a couple of decent second base prospects in Chris Burke at New Orleans and Brooks Conrad at Round Rock, so filling Kent's shoes should be doable.
I know, trading a couple of fan favorites is never easy and could risk a dropoff in attendance. I think, though, that Beltran's play has been good enough that if these moves were complemented by a genuine effort to sign him, the fans would be mollified. They might even be happy to let Bidge and Bags go to a team that really can win now if it looks like it can't or won't happen here.
Will that free up enough cash for Beltran, enough to keep the Yankees and other big-money teams at bay in the winter? Maybe, maybe not. There's no guarantees in this business, especially when dealing with a Scott Boras client. The Stros do have one big advantage, though, which is that they alone can talk contract to Beltran for the next five months. What do they have to lose by giving it their best shot and convincing him that he's the key to their quick turnaround? They can try that before making any trade offers, and if they feel it won't happen, they can still fall back on dealing him. But why not reach for the brass ring first?Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 03, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack