Jason Jennings for Willy Taveras, Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz?
Wow! What a horrible trade for the Astros! Tim Purpura has lost his mind or is smoking crack–that was the reaction of most Astros fans in Houston today.
But, hold on a minute! Before you rank this as the worst fleecing in the Astros history, let’s examine some facts.
Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz are rookies who posted 5+ ERAs in their "moment to shine" at Minute Maid Park. Willy Taveras had an OBP of .325 in 2005 and .333 in 2006–not good for a leadoff hitter. And he was part of the 7-1 black hole in the 2005 and 2006 Astros lineup. Yes, he had that .291 batting average in 2005, but it fell off to .278 in 2006 as teams figured out how to stop his slap-hit infield singles to 3rd.
On the surface, Jennings has a career 4.74 ERA and is nothing more than a #4 starter for the Astros. However, keep in mind, his entire career was spent pitching at Coors field for half the season and he was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2002 with an ERA of 4.52. That year, arguably one of the best pitchers in the NL, Mike Hampton, posted an ERA of 6.15 at that same Coors Field. Hampton subsequently posted a respectable ERA of 3.84 for the Braves in 2003 before his arm fell off. If you use those inflated ERA stats, Jennings’ ERA should come down by at least 1.5 runs over his career. A pitcher with a career ERA of 3.24 is a darned good #2 starter behind Roy Oswalt.
Another good pitcher that went from the Stros to the Rockies is Darryl Kile. He won the right to free agency after the Astros lost the arbitration case in 1997. Kile posted an ERA of 2.57 at the Astrodome in 1997 and went on to post ERAs of 5.20 in 1998 and 6.61 in 1999 at Coors Field. Kile then pitched for the St Louis Cardinals where he posted ERAs of 3.91 and better. Now, no one can dispute the fact that both Hampton and Kile were good pitchers even if their careers were cut short by injury and death. Not to give Jason Jennings the same benefit of the doubt is doing the Texas native an injustice.
The free agency question remains, but, there are indications that Jennings wouldn’t be averse to signing a relatively long term deal with the Astros sometime between now and the end of the 2007 season. He said in his interview with 790, The Sports Animal’s Charlie Palillo today, that as a Texas native he was very happy to be coming home and pitching for a proven winner. He also joked about not having to pitch against college opponent Lance Berkman any more.