[NOTE: This post was generated the day before the Mitchell Report was released containing Miguel Tejada's name. And you know what? Screw it, I still like the deal. Juice up, Miggy! And welcome to H-town!]
"I don't think we need to rebuild. "Rebuilding is for some of those teams who haven't won. We need to fill in some of the areas where we have not had good performances."
-- Astros owner Drayton McLane
Uncle Drayton actually uttered these words back in July 2007, when a floundering Astros team was looking at dumping veteran players like Mark Loretta to try and bring in some prospects, but it's a quote that's perpetually indicative of his thought process. "We will not rebuild, we'll retool. We need to think and act like champions." (Something along those lines, at least.)
Fast forward to December 12, 2007. What a difference five months makes. New manager, new GM, and now a shiny new $13/yr shortstop. Indeed in five months time, the Astros have gone from the possible veteran-dumper to the trendy, new veteran-dumpee, trading five spare parts of varying age, talent level, potential and baseball IQ (I'm lookin' at you, Albers) for one slightly aging, stud middle infielder.
Let me first say that I like the trade. I don't love it, but I understand it. At the very least, I'm far more excited for baseball season now. While on the surface this deal may smack of the McLane-esque "we don't rebuild" mindset, when you really examine it, it was also the practical thing to do and here's why:
1. The nucleus isn't getting any younger. The Astros have $40M of their payroll committed to their core untouchables in Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Carlos Lee. These three are all under contract for 3-5 more years. Berkman and Lee will be turn 32 before or during next season; Oswalt will turn 31 in August and has made it clear he intends to hang it up after this contract is up. To choose the route of a lengthy rebuilding process while paying these three all of that money and watching the window close on their respective primes would be foolish. It's a core group (along with Hunter Pence) that can hang with the top four of practically any team in the National League. Add to that the fact the National League Central is baseball's most imminently winnable division, and it becomes clear that the time is now to try and scratch something together. Miguel Tejada takes that core group from "satisfyingly impressive" to "potentially deadly".
2. Rebuild with what? By all accounts (expert and not so expert), the Astros farm system is in a drastic state of disrepair. And we're not just talking about it needing a paint job and some landscaping; no, if the minor leagues were a trailer park, then the tornado came through and leveled the Astros whole rig. In other words, the Astros farm system is going to be at least a couple years of rebuilding itself away from being able to help the big club sustain any serious "rebuilding" effort. So if that's the case, then we may as well have some fun, guzzle some $8 beers, and try to win now in 2008 and 2009 at the major league level, while Ed Wade quietly goes about the business of cleaning up the carnage that Hurricane Purpura left in its ample wake.
3. If you can't pitch with them, crush their spirits with your bats. Even with a potential move or two still left to execute, it's obvious that this is not an Astros team that is going to string together winning streaks by overwhelming opponents with their arms. I think one of our listeners put it best when he said that the starting rotation in 2008 is:
(4) Who else
(5) Is there?
If Drayton is truly in the "win now" mode he appears to be in, then I still think the Astros have at least one fairly prominent signing left in them (Josh Fogg? Livan Hernandez?). That said, even with another signing or two, the Harvey's Wallbangers (salut '82 Brewers) approach of lining up a murderer's row and trying to outslug teams makes some sense, especially when you consider the cozy confines that the Astros play in 81 games out of the season.
People will give Drayton McLane props for stepping up and paying Tejada $13M/yr the next two seasons, but he should very easily have that paid off by July with the additional concessions sold at all of the 4 hour and 45 minute, 15-12 games in which the Astros are going to be invovled. Myself, I will gladly scarf down a few more $10 helmet sundaes and $8.50 cheeseburgers if it means getting to the postseason. Really, it's the least I can do.