As most Astros’ fans were disappointed to hear Brett Wallace was being sent right back down to AAA with Carlos Lee‘s return, the truth is that this demotion will only be for a short time. Carlos Lee is trade bait, we know it and everyone in baseball knows it. If Brett Wallace had come back and proved nothing had changed then moving Lee might not have been such a priority. The opposite took place and Brett Wallace is once again in the Astros’ plans while Carlos Lee is once again something of an annoying predicament.
Lee is having a decent season and will help the lineup starting today but in Wallace’s short stint he had shown as much power, if not more, than what Carlos had provided all season long. The dilemma was coming and it took shape but the Astros did the predictable and probably only logical thing they could do, buy time. Wallace will get ABs in AAA and so will Lee in Houston which benefits both players. Wallace can keep stroking the ball with power and Carlos can, hopefully, increase his trade value just a bit more. Lee has no power anymore, comparing him to his former self, but does make contact and get on base. Given the right circumstance, an American League team, he could still be an important piece to the puzzle for another club. Wallace is an important piece to this club, imagine if he continues to hit this season upon his return, the guy could play 1st base next season and then move to DH when Jonathan Singleton arrives. His improved play could give the Astros a fantastic toy to play with which wasn’t assured they’d have coming into the season.
So when will Brett Wallace be up again? We’ve established it will be soon but how soon remains to be seen. I’d imagine no later than July 31st, right? Lee will be traded by then and the Astros much like in 2010, will turn over the 1st base position to Wallace. However, I can see it happening much sooner than that simply because teams need offense. I’m sure some squad will figure a boost to their lineup would need to be addressed and Lee could come at a reasonable price. The price on Lee will be reasonable, given his still big contract and lack of power. I don’t see a club giving up its very top prospects, that said, a move sooner rather than later could insure a club is willing to move a relatively good prospect in an effort to shore up their lineup in time to make a push for October. These next few weeks will be crucial for Lee and his trade value. A slump and a trade may become almost impossible while a surge and Luhnow maybe in the driver’s seat.
Lee and Wallace have both be lightning rods of criticism and they’ve earned it. However, the time has finally come for the Astros to determine which direction the 2012 ballclub needs to go. The present in Lee or the short-term future in Wallace, my money is on Brett.