As the winter meetings are about to close shop for another year, the Wandy Rodriguez trade rumors are beginning to pick up speed. The more time passes the more it looks like Rodriguez won’t be around in 2012 and with Brett Myers also being shopped, the odds of a very different rotation seem pretty high. The Astros rotation could see 4 of the 5 starters from the 2010 opening day roster gone, just another signal that times are changing along Crawford street. If or when the Astros trade Wandy and/or Brett, the Houston rotation will look vastly different. The left over starters would be Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles and J.A. Happ along with 2010 rule 5 selection Aneury Rodriguez and September call up Lucas Harrell. We could also see Paul Clemens join that five or even Brett Oberholtzer, both obtained in the Michael Bourn deal. We could also see a new candidate emerge from today’s Rule 5 draft but a position player or reliever are more likely selections. Considering that Jordan Lyles will be on some type of innings limit, all this could lead to an all out competition for 3 to 4 spots in the rotation come spring training.
J.A, Happ may be the most intriguing member of the current staff. He pitched well in 2010 but struggled for most of 2011 before being sent down. Once he returned, he pitched well and is setup for a make it or break it year in 2012. If he could give the staff a strong season, that could help the rotation immensely but a down year could be a major problem. With Lyles still only 20 years of age, Happ will be looked upon for the quality innings that he couldn’t produce last season.
The ‘Stros could still sign a bargain bin free agent to help with the innings load as every year, veterans pop up looking for a spot. If Wandy, Myers and Carlos Lee do end up being traded away, the payroll will be microscopic. Crane would like to lower the payroll but he could put some back in just to make sure the rotation is at least stable. Don’t expect a top of the rotation starter, since we are trading those guys away to begin with, but a 4th or 5th starter could be an option.
The rotation, just like the club, has seen an incredible transformation since the beginning of the 2010 season. That appears to be continuing in 2012 or until the ideal five are found, with young arms a few seasons away, that might not happen for a good long while.