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Astros punt on Ensberg

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, but it still kinda does.

While the rest of his former teammates were on the field with their wives and children as part of the Astros’ annual family day, third baseman Morgan Ensberg was seeking them out for goodbye handshakes and hugs.

Ensberg’s mercurial tenure with the Astros came to an end Sunday morning when the club designated him for assignment, giving it 10 days to trade or release him. The Astros don’t plan to send him to the minor leagues.

Ensberg, who was hitting .232 with eight homers and 31 RBIs and never could recapture his All-Star form from 2005, became expendable when the Astros acquired third baseman Ty Wigginton in a trade with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday.

“I was kind of expecting something,” Ensberg said. “My mind is little bit more at ease because I know what’s going on. It’s a function of opportunity here. Other guys played really well that happened to play third base, and that means my opportunity shrank.”

Tom, who’s unimpressed with the deal and the related deal that acquired Wiggington for Dan Wheeler, disputes Ensberg’s assertion about others playing well at third for the Stros this year. I’ve got to say, while it’s certainly possible that Ensberg is washed up at 32, it’s also possible that his injury last year just hasn’t fully healed, and that he’s got a bounce-back in him. While it’s certainly justifiable to dump a guy like Ensberg if the club is headed in a youth/rebuilding direction, it’s hard to see how replacing him with the 30-year-old Wiggington, whose lifetime stats are nothing to write home about, moves them in that direction. Plus, DFAing Ensberg undercuts whatever trade value he might have had, since in a bit more than a week he’ll be available for the waiver wire price. (On the other hand, he may not have all that much trade value to begin with – as Will Carroll writes, “I could only find one team that’s made any inquiry”.)

Whatever. Maybe Tim Purpura has something else up his sleeve. All I know is, this doesn’t look like it’ll get the Stros anywhere they want to be.

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3 Comments

  1. Kevin Whited says:

    While it’s certainly justifiable to dump a guy like Ensberg if the club is headed in a youth/rebuilding direction, it’s hard to see how replacing him with the 30-year-old Wiggington, whose lifetime stats are nothing to write home about, moves them in that direction.

    Inexplicably, Ensberg still seems to have his fans after two years of mediocre production.

    It’s really pretty simple — the Astros have figured out what most fans have figured out (besides the few holdouts) and are cutting their losses. Maybe he’ll bounce back with another team, maybe not.

    Wigginton is sort of a cheap (compared to A-Rod!) stop-gap who’s a steady, but unspectacular producer at a position that hasn’t seen much production for the Astros in recent years. He won’t be among the league’s best, but he won’t be among the league’s worst. That will make him an upgrade for the Astros, and they will control his contract for several years.

    No, it’s not an acquisition that, by itself, is all that impressive. But you can look back at the Gerry Hunsicker era, and see lots of little deals that, by themselves, didn’t look all that impressive. Maybe Purpura is trying to catch some of Hunsicker’s magic of many small moves. *shrug*

  2. Here’s another tidbit from the Baseball Prospectus:

    “Losing faith in Ensberg has seemed like only a few consecutive oh-fers away, but the timing of the decision to cut bait and be done with him and bring in Ty Wigginton seems particularly strange. Ensberg’s actually been hitting well of late (.319/.373/.447 in July), but it’s as if the belated recognition that Craig Biggio wasn’t helping them alerted them to the virtues of vigilance against crummy performance in other places.”

    Christina Karhl, who wrote that, goes on to be fairly supportive overall of replacing Ensberg with Wiggington, but she also adds that if the Stros get nothing for Ensberg, it’s a gross miscarriage of management.

    From my perspective, Wiggington for Ensberg and Wheeler is neither here nor there. It doesn’t make the Astros any younger, and its arguable at best that it moves them towards the postseason this year. I could certainly be wrong about that, but that’s my evaluation of the deal at this time.

  3. G-Man says:

    The Astros have totally mismanaged this situation. Maybe Esnberg is washed up, but I would have like for thenmto give 250 quality plate appearances to figure it out. Instead they gave up on him in May and he’s been a part-timer ever since.

    Let’s face it – the Astros have always hated Ensberg’s approach at the plate. They had to grin and bear it when he was hitting, but when he was struggling they started pounding on him to be more “aggressive”. At some point you have accept a player for what he is rather than what you want him to be. Maybe the Padres will understand that better than the Astros, and if Ensberg has anything left, maybe he can the Astros regret this move.