Fixing a hole

added 10/20/2006 by Bob Hulsey

One of the most glaring weaknesses on the Astros last season was a slugger to hit behind Lance Berkman, giving Houston a 1-2 punch to anchor the offense. Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane fell off, Preston Wilson struggled and Aubrey Huff showed only occasional power. In retrospect, it was amazing Berkman hit as well as he did and that teams still pitched to him.

There are several candidates who might fill that spot next year and here I will attempt to break down the likely candidates from most desirable (in my opinion) to least:

Andruw Jones - CF Atlanta Braves

2006 OPS:.894
HR:41
Age in 2007:30
Durability:9
Clubhouse Mesh:8
Contract Status:Final Year ($13.5 mil) Will likely expect more money in next contract
10-and-5 rights:Yes
Positives:Outstanding defensive player and consistent homer threat
Negatives:Low batting average
What would it
take to get him?
Pitching and a framework for a contract extension.
Comments:Classic cleanup protection who is not injury prone or in need of a defensive replacement in late innings.

Vernon Wells - CF Toronto Blue Jays

2006 OPS:.899
HR:32
Age in 2007:28
Durability:8
Clubhouse Mesh:8
Contract Status:Final Year ($5.6 mil) Said to want "Beltran money" in next contract
10-and-5 rights:No
Positives:Gold-Glove caliber defense but a step below Jones
Negatives:Weaker stats on road/grass.
What would it
take to get him?
Chris Burke and some pitching plus a framework for a new contract.
Comments:Louisiana native may be willing to accept deal that brings him closer to home. Not a true cleanup hitter.

Alex Rodriguez - IF New York Yankees

2006 OPS:.915
HR:35
Age in 2007:31
Durability:9
Clubhouse Mesh:7
Contract Status:Signed through 2010 ($27 mil) but has an out clause after this year
10-and-5 rights:No, but has a limited no-trade clause
Positives:As a shortstop, he would fill two offensive holes
Negatives:Boras client with history of postseason failures
What would it
take to get him?:
Ensberg and prospects plus the Yankees would probably need to eat part of his contract.
Comments:Not truly a cleanup hitter but intangibles would make him as good as one in the lineup.

Manny Ramirez - LF Boston Red Sox

2006 OPS:1.058
HR:35
Age in 2007:35
Durability:7
Clubhouse Mesh:4
Contract Status:Signed through 2010 ($18 mil) with club option at $20 mil in final two years
10-and-5 rights:Yes
Positive:Almost slump-proof, the guy just flat out hits
Negatives:Defensive liability and noted flake
What would it
take to get him?
You mean, what would it take for the Sox to get rid of him? Probably Brad Lidge or Chad Qualls
Comments:The best bat not named Albert Pujols but tender knee and tender psyche make him risky. Needs just 30 homers to reach 500.

Miguel Tejada - SS Baltimore Orioles

2006 OPS:.877
HR:24
Age in 2007:31
Durability:10
Clubhouse Mesh:7
Contract Status:Signed through 2009 ($12 mil)
10-and-5 rights:No
Positive:Like A-Rod, fills two holes at once.
Negative:Dogged by rumors of performance-enhancing drugs
What would it
take to get him?
Probably too much if the Orioles are asking for Roy Oswalt.
Comments:Not a true cleanup guy but a Drayton-sized alternative to A-Rod. Hits well at Minute Maid Park.

Alfonso Soriano - OF Washington Nationals

2006 OPS:.911
HR:46
Age in 2007:31
Durability:9
Clubhouse Mesh:5
Contract Status:Free Agent
Positive:High stolen base numbers as well as high power numbers
Negative:Still wants to be a second baseman
What would it
take to get him?
Reportedly rejected a five-year, $70 mil offer to stay in Washington. Astros would probably need to offer at least $80 mil.
Comments:Too much speed to bat cleanup and strikes out too much to lead off. A defensive liability in the infield though adequate in the outfield.

Carlos Lee - LF Texas Rangers

2006 OPS:.896
HR:37 (28 before deadline trade)
Age in 2007:31
Durability:8
Clubhouse Mesh:7
Contract Status:Free Agent
Positive:Power numbers continue to climb
Negative:Below average defense
What would it
take to get him?
Tough to say what his market value is after late-season decline but is probably in the 5/60 salary range.
Comments:A poor man's Manny Ramirez without the rep to intimidate opposing pitchers. At least he could hit behind Berkman unlike several of the others listed above.

Gary Sheffield - RF New York Yankees

2006 OPS:.805
HR:6 (in 39 games)
Age in 2007:38
Durability:6
Clubhouse Mesh:6
Contract Status:Free Agent
Positive:Still good defensive player when healthy
Negative:Likely in decline
What would it
take to get him?
Probably to outbid everyone else and somebody is bound to overpay for him.
Comments:A Bagwell-esque hitter when healthy, the real question is how much he still has left in the tank and at what cost.

Jim Edmonds - CF St. Louis Cardinals

2006 OPS:.821
HR:19 (in 110 games)
Age in 2007:37
Durability:5
Clubhouse Mesh:7
Contract Status:Free Agent
Positive:Hits at Minute Maid Park like he owns it
Negative:Years of diving for balls has taken its toll on his body
What would it
take to get him?
A promise that fans would forgive him for all the years he killed us as a Cardinal.
Comments:Gives an all-out effort but concussion and back ailments mean he can't be counted on to play a full season.

Moises Alou - OF San Francisco Giants

2006 OPS:.923
HR:22 (in 98 games)
Age in 2007:40
Durability:4
Clubhouse Mesh:8
Contract Status:Free Agent
Positive:Had good years hitting at Minute Maid Park
Negative:Too brittle to be counted on for an entire season
What would it
take to get him?
Enough to forestall retirement. He made $5.8 mil last season.
Comments:A stopgap answer. He's almost as old as Craig Biggio and less healthy.

Luis Gonzalez - LF Arizona Diamondbacks

2006 OPS:.796
HR:15
Age in 2007:39
Durability:7
Clubhouse Mesh:10
Contract Status:Free Agent
Positive:A fan favorite from two previous stints in Houston
Negative:Likely in decline
What would it
take to get him?
Probably not much if we promise he gets to play regularly.
Comments:Another stopgap answer. I do think he and Edmonds were the best opposing lefty hitters at using the Crawford Boxes. I'd sign him as an upgrade to Orlando Palmeiro and might platoon him with Lane if nothing better comes forward.

Jeromy Burnitz - OF Pittsburgh Pirates

2006 OPS:.711
HR:16 (in 111 games)
Age in 2007:38
Durability:8
Clubhouse Mesh:9
Contract Status:Free Agent
Positive:uhhh...I'm thinking...
Negative:Astros have passed on him last two off-seasons. That .230 batting average last season might be why.
What would it
take to get him?
Any contract offer that wouldn't embarass him.
Comments:He can still show power but he doesn't seem to have the batting stroke anymore.