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Baseball America looks at the Astros

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by Mr. Clutch, Dec 12, 2007.

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  1. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/features/265244.html

    In two years, the Astros went from World Series participant to a total rebuilding job. Their 73-89 finish marked just their second losing season since 1992, but it wasn't an anomaly. Though owner Drayton McLane expects his team to contend again in 2008, Houston's rise won't be as swift as its fall.

    The Astros built a consistent winner through their farm system. Few teams worked the now-defunct draft-and-follow system or the Venezuelan market as well, and they also had a knack for finding quality, low-cost college seniors. But the talent has dried up this decade, and Houston has had to invest heavily on free agents to keep winning. That approach has proved costly, not only in terms of big league salaries but also in its affect on the club's drafts.

    In three of the last five drafts, the Astros have forfeited their first-round pick as free-agent compensation. McLane has become more reluctant to offer arbitration to his own free agents, so only once during that period has Houston received bonus choices of its own. He also has been increasing unwilling to buck MLB's slot recommendations. All three of these factors resulted in a disastrous draft in 2007.

    By signing Carlos Lee and Woody Williams as Type A free agents, the Astros surrendered their first two draft choices. Offering arbitration to three of their own Type A free agents—Aubrey Huff, Andy Pettitte and Russ Springer—was a low-risk proposition that could have yielded three first-round picks and three supplemental first-rounders, but Houston declined to do so. The Astros couldn't try to compensate by drafting players with high price tags because McLane refused to exceed MLB's guidelines.

    Houston thought it had signing parameters in place with its first two choices, third baseman Derek Dietrich (third round) and righthander Brett Eibner (fourth), as well as righty Chad Bettis (eighth). But they all asked for more than slot money and wound up opting for college over pro ball. The Astros spent just $1.584 million on the draft, $3.6 million below the average of the other 29 teams.

    They also haven't been aggressive internationally, especially since former director of Venezuelan scouting and development Andres Reiner left the organization in February 2006. Reiner, a pioneer in establishing a Venezuelan pipeline, helped sign players such as Bobby Abreu, Carlos Guillen and Johan Santana, as well as the club's current top pitching prospect, Felipe Paulino. The Astros haven't brought in any comparable foreign talents in recent years.

    Disappointed with his club's performance on the field and in the front office, McLane has cleaned house. He fired general manager Tim Purpura and manager Phil Garner in August. Former Phillies GM Ed Wade assumed control of the front office in September and appointed interim manager Cecil Cooper on a permanent basis. Wade also restructured the scouting department, reassigning senior director of player personnel Paul Ricciarini and coordinator of amateur scouting Tad Slowik.

    Wade's new scouting director is Bobby Heck, formerly the Eastern crosschecker for the Brewers. Heck contributed to a run of productive drafts in Milwaukee, but it's doubtful the Astros farm system or major league club will rebound without a shift in philosophy.

    (This was before trading more of our farm away to get Tejada, not that I oppose the Tejada trade).
     
  2. DoitDickau

    DoitDickau Contributing Member

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  3. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    lock it up!
     
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