Do the Astros have untouchables?

Jeff Luhnow’s first week was quite the interesting one. We saw his first major trade fill the vacant shortstop position and add a potential young starter to the rotation. Given that, the most interesting part of the transaction was not who joined the club but who left, Mark Melancon. The young righty was slated to be the Astros closer for the near future and his name hardly, if at all, came up in trade rumors. So when the national press announced the trade, it sent shockwaves through the Astros’ fan base and raised interesting questions about Luhnow’s view of the club. We know he will try to trade the higher priced veterans but did not expect he would also be willing to move some of the younger talent. It now raises the question as to who our new GM would move in the right deal?

The three obvious gentlemen to move in any deal are Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Carlos Lee but the club’s roster does have a few other players that could interest other clubs. Bud Norris would certainly be a popular Astro in trade conversation due to his salary and club control figures. Norris is still 4 years away from free agency and another 2 from arbitration so both big and small markets would be attracted to the 26 year old righty. He has steadily improved his statistics over the past three seasons and last year was viewed as a possible workhorse number 3 starter. He showed flashes of possibly more but it gets dicey projecting top of the rotation potential as this stage of his career. Clubs might be willing to actually pay more for a guy like Bud because of the low cost and control than even a Wandy and certainly Myers. The issue for Luhnow is that for those very reasons, Jeff might want to hold on to Bud. Considering the club’s desire to keep salaries low while revenues increase, trading a solid starter for unproven commodities, although promising, could be a risky move.

While Carlos Lee is apparently a priority for Jeff Luhnow, another Astros’ 1st baseman may also have some value. Brett Wallace, a former draft pick of Luhnow, has received some interest from Cleveland but it’s really unknown how other clubs view him. Wallace has been a hot topic among fans for his lack of production and Mills’ refusal to play the young player. His attitude and work ethic have been called into question and his lack of power has been an issue since being called up in 2010. On the other hand, fans have called for more playing time to see if Wallace is just not good enough or a victim of bad managing. The problem with Wallace may be his position. Being a 1st baseman or possibly a DH in the AL, he needs to show much more power than he has and clubs will want to see that before surrendering valuable assets. Wallace can hit but so far the inside pitch has been his kryptonite and until those two question can be answered, the possible return for Wallace is a mystery.

A few other options that could attract some attention on the trade market would be Jordan Lyles and J.D. Martinez but neither appear to have enough major league time to make an adequate assessment of what they could become. They would be the type of players that Luhnow would want in return for a Wandy or Carlos which make them seem unlikely to be trade bait. The major league club will not look the same as last season’s squad simply due to the fact that the new man in charge has a plan and it may not involve certain people we thought it would.

Tags: Brett Myers Brett Wallace Bud Norris Carlos Lee Houston Astros JD Martinez Jeff Luhnow Jordan Lyles Mark Melancon Wandy Rodriguez

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