Shortstop was by far the biggest weakness of the 2010 Houston Astros and Ed Wade has already declared it a position that needs to be improved this offseason. He’s also stated how he’ll stick to his plan to get younger through the trade market and draft without adding costly veterans through free agency (I’m looking at you Pedro Feliz). However, without any viable internal options outside the Manzella-Sanchez duo, I think you have to look at trades and free agency. If you don’t improve a position where the aforementioned duo combined for 1 HR and 0 SBs in 155 games, you can’t say you’re committed to building a competitive roster. There’s a chance Houston finds a trade partner who’s willing to part with a young, above average starting shortstop, but I doubt it. And although the summer of 2010 was a fantastic start to reloading the farm system, I don’t know that Houston has much proven trade-bait. I’m going to review some of the names that are available at shortstop on the free agent market:
The Atlanta Braves exercised their team option on Alex Gonzalez, which was basically guaranteed, and Johnny Peralta signed a two year deal with Detroit. This leaves four viable options for Houston. None of them excite me much.
Orlando Cabrera: About as consistent as you’ll find, Cabrera still doesn’t seem able to find a home. He’s played for 5 different teams in the past 5 seasons. Maybe Houston will make it 6 but although he’d be an improvement offensively (who wouldn’t?) he’s 36 and there’s no telling what he has left. Also, he could make $4-5 million this season which is probably not something the Astros want to do.
Edgar Renteria: Most of his value anymore comes from World Series games and Houston won’t be in the 2011 World Series. For all the questions about Cabrera’s age, Renteria is a much older-looking 34. He played in just 72 games in 2010 and just now announced he’s not retiring. Not worth it and not a good fit.
Miguel Tejada: The argument for Tejada basically starts and ends with whether or not he’s still a shortstop. Before being traded to San Diego, Tejada started 93 games for the 2010 Orioles; all at 3B. But for the Padres, he made 57 starts at SS. He certainly held his own there but he wasn’t spectacular and does he have the legs to play there a full season? Probably not. His bat still looks great. He hit 8 homeruns in his 58 games for San Diego in one of the worst parks for hitters in all of baseball. If Houston decides to sacrifice some defense for some pop at the plate, a Tejada return to Houston may be the best option.
Cesar Izturis: My inclusion of Izturis should more than effectively illustrate the bleakness of options. Izturis is a great defensive shortstop but so is Tommy Manzella. And Izturis brings little improvement offensively over Manzella/Sanchez. Houston would be much better off using an internal option than giving any money and a roster spot to Cesar Izturis. My apologies to Cesar and his agent.
My conclusion: Hope for a trade. Hope with all your might.