It’s been 6 hours since the shock of the Pettitte deal with the Yankees reverberated around Houston. This city was almost as quiet as in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS when Pujols hit that very long ball off Lidge–it still hasn’t come down to earth that I know of!
It was quiet as a mouse at least until the flurry of phone calls and emails to the sports radio stations began as reaction to the Pettitte bombshell poured in.
My personal take on this deal? Good luck Andy, I really wish you well in New York. Just don’t expect the same warm welcome from Houston fans that you’ve enjoyed for the last three years.
Tim Purpura and the Astros did what was best for them and Pettitte did what was best for him–so be it. The Astros based their decision on the belief that Pettitte isn’t going to be healthy through the entire 2007 season. The supporting data for this is the cortisone shots Andy had to take just to make his starts in September.
They say what goes around, comes around. The Yankees and Pettitte didn’t bother telling the Astros that he was "damaged goods" in 2003. The Astros repayed both by not letting the Yankees know that Pettitte is once again, damaged goods.
Pettitte immediately strengthens the Yankees rotation as long as he stays healthy. However, a rotation of Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina and Pavano or whoever they stick in the 5 spot is still not strong enough to beat a potential Red Sox rotation of Schilling, Matsuzaka, Beckett, Papelbon and Lester.
What does the Pettitte deal mean for the Astros? It obviously leaves a huge gaping hole in the rotation. After Oswalt you have Woody Williams who is really a #4 starter and a bunch of rookies. The Astros knew they had to shore up the starting rotation even if Andy Pettitte would’ve been back. Now they should and hopefully will, redouble their efforts to get another #2 type starter by trading for Jon Garland of the White Sox, Jake Westbrook of the Indians, Jake Peavy of the Padres or Jason Jennings of the Rockies.
A Garland to Astros deal could work if the Astros are willing to give up Taveras, Buchholz, Hirsh and maybe throw in another pitching prospect like Zeke Astacio.
For Peavy, the Padres would certainly demand Ensberg, Hirsh, Buchholz and maybe another prospect. Rockies want Burke for Jennings and the Astros have already turned down Lidge for Westbrook of the Indians. All deals are still potentially do-able with some minor substitutions.
Ensberg and Hirsh plus prospects is a no-brainer if they hurry up and sign Aubrey Huff, now that they have the money to spend since they won’t have to give Pettitte $14 million a year.
Burke for Jennings can work if they believe strongly enough in AAA switch hitter Brooks Conrad and AA lefty second baseman Jonathan Ash because Biggio is still firmly entrenched at second base for the 2007 season. The Westbrook deal is the hardest for the Astros to make since they don’t want to give up Lidge. They would almost certainly have to give up either Qualls or Wheeler–both an integral part of the 2004-2006 Astros bullpen.
The wildcard in all of this could be the Marlins dealing Dontrelle Willis. Florida has expressed an interest in Willy Taveras for 2 years now. If they are ready to deal the D-Train, a package of Taveras, Hirsh and Buchholz just may get it done.
Tim Purpura and the Astros face some tough choices this off-season. Now that Pettitte is gone, it is quite likely Clemens will follow suit. Can Purpura make a deal for Garland, Peavy, Willis, Westbrook or Jennings to shore up the rotation behind Oswalt? Can they sign Huff and deal Ensberg for starting pitching? If Taveras goes, will Burke be adequate in Center Field until Hunter Pence is promoted? If Burke is dealt, can Biggio have another career year like 2005 until Conrad or Ash are ready in 2008?
This is a game of Texas Hold ‘Em for the Astros. Will they take a hand of 9/10 and turn it into a straight or will they end up with a bust?