Loretta An Astro–Where Does This Leave Ensberg?

According to ESPN and the Astros Official Website, Mark Loretta and the Houston Astros have agreed to a one year, $2.5 million dollar contract plus incentives worth up to another million dollars pending a physical.  Apparently, Roy Oswalt asked Drayton McLane to talk to his and Loretta’s agent, Bob Garber, about Loretta.  Brad Ausmus’ role is a bit murkier, but one presumes that he talked Loretta into coming back to Houston.  Ausmus must have been pretty convincing for Loretta to take less guaranteed money than the Texas Rangers were offering.  I can’t get any official confirmation, but, Loretta was quoted as telling the Rangers "he wanted to go to a team where he would get significantly more playing time."  T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers’ beat writer does state that the team was told Loretta would sign elsewhere.

I have two main questions–what did the Astros promise Loretta?  Obviously, 2nd base will continue to be manned by Craig Biggio, at least until he gets his 3000 hits.  Berkman is entrenched at 1st base and Everett at short stop.  Those are no brainers.  So what constitutes "significantly more playing time"?  The only questionable infield spot happens to be 3rd base, currently and tentatively manned by Morgan Ensberg.  That leads me to my second major question…

Where does this leave Morgan Ensberg?  Right after the end of the regular season, this same question arose with Aubrey Huff being a free agent and clearly having made overtures to the Astros.  He finally took the offer from the Orioles, when it became clear the Astros weren’t looking for another left-handed 3rd baseman, and with the Right Field job looking to be Luke Scott’s to lose. 

At that juncture, it looked like the Astros had decided they were confident that Ensberg would rebound from his dismal 2006 season, maybe closer to his 2005 season where he was 4th in MVP voting and earned a Silver Slugger award.  Now, with the Loretta signing (pending that pesky physical), it looks like Ensberg’s position with the club is precarious once again.

Did the Astros really sign Mark Loretta to be the ultimate utility player they are claiming publicly, when they already have uber-utility man Eric Bruntlett already signed to a one year contract for a measly $525,000?  Or, is this a way to try to trade away an "on again, off again", by his own admission, injury-prone player in Morgan Ensberg? 

The Astros still have a hole in their starting rotation–anyone who thinks Woody Williams is really a #3 starter and Wandy Rodriguez is really a #4 starter is smoking something not sold at the local gas station…

With Pettitte’s departure, the Astros need a solid southpaw in the starting rotation.  Trading for one is about the only thing the Astros can do now with Lilly and Wolf gone to greener pastures–Mulder and Redman, the remaining lefty free agents have too many question marks. 

Again, what is going to happen with Ensberg?  Will the Astros trade him for a legitimate lefty starter, one who can fill the #3 or #4 slot for them?  Time will tell, but I, for one, believe time in an Astros uniform is running out for Morgan Ensberg.

Update 6:59 PM CST, 4 Jan 07, Mark Loretta is officially an Astro again!!!  Welcome back Mark!!!!


  1. kayleexxx@aol.com

    Lorretta can play third base but they may be better off using him as more of a “utility player”since he can play multiple positions.but then comes the questtion of will he except the role? I dont know if he envisions his self as a starter or not.

  2. Rita

    This is what I know so far–The Rangers offered him $3.5 mil guaranteed for one year, he turned it down, his agent stating he wanted to go to a club that would give him more playing time–he chose to sign with the Astros for $2.5 mil for one year with incentives that could add another million to his bank account–the Astros are publicly saying that he will be like an ultra utility player, subbing for Biggio on the road, maybe 2nd half, and maybe some playing time at 3rd base…

    Now, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Biggio will play the 1st half as the starting 2nd baseman at home and most likely on the road until he gets his 3000 hits. The Astros supposedly promised Loretta much more playing time than the Reds or Rangers could do, so, my question is, do they honestly expect Biggio to get next to none as far as playing time goes after the all star break or does that mean they sort of kind of with a wink and a nod promise him more playing time at 3rd base because they don’t trust Ensberg to be a good enough regular at 3rd base?

  3. ssw77@aol.com

    I was surprised with this signing as it came out of no where. I think it is a great pickup! When Biggio or Ensberg sits I think Loretta is an excellent number 2 hitter. (I expect a bit of a rebound as he has had more time to recover from his injury that I believe sapped his bat last year.)

    As for Loretta’s role. Chone Figgins and Billy Hall come to mind. These guys in the past were getting starters at-bats despite not having a true position of their own (Yes, they have positions now). So I expect something like a glorified infield platoon. If Berkman rests once a week while Biggio and Ensberg rest twice a week that would open up 5 games a week for Loretta. Assuming Ensberg isn’t traded.

  4. Thomas

    Loretta is an offensive upgrade over Biggio, Everett and Ensberg(Ensberg from last year) and I can only assume that he is going to get a signifigant amount of playing time(just not at any one position). As much as I would like to see Lance sit at only first base, I could see the Astros moving him to the OF once every week or 2 and letting Loretta play first, and sitting Biggio/Ensberg/Everett about once every 5-6 games and letting Loretta play their positions(assuming Loretta can still play 3rd/short). I see Loretta as more of a 2b than **** or 3b, but I don’t think he’ll be any sort of liability anywhere in the IF.

    Having Loretta in the lineup is as a 6 or 7 hitter will be a great boost in our offensive #’s(I’d still like the #2 hitter to have a little better OBP).

    -Stros Bro


  5. austinflygurl3@yahoo.com

    I was so excited to see Loretta return to the Stros mainly because I am a Red Sox fan and am glad he is near. LoRider as we called him is awesome! Can’t wait to see him in the lineup and play!

  6. Rita

    It is a great signing by the Stros–completely under the radar and perfect for the team. We not only get a guy who’s a great clubhouse guy, but is willing to play anywhere he’s put.

    I am sure he’ll get to play 3-4 days a week easily. Just giving Berkman, Biggio, Everett and Ensberg/Lamb one day off a week guarantees he would start 4 days a week…and we can sure use his bat in the lineup.

  7. terrimartin@houston.rr.com


    From your “Anyone but Wandy” entry:

    >>”I would love someone to explain to me this love-affair that Garner (and to be fair, other managers too) has with a lefty in the starting rotation…last I heard, there are more right-handed hitters in MLB than left-handed ones…so, wouldn’t it make more sense to stack your starting rotation with right-handed pitchers? You know, the ones that have better stats against the majority of the hitters in MLB?”

    Then, from your entry above:

    >>”With Pettitte’s departure, the Astros need a solid southpaw in the starting rotation.”<<

    Sounds like you have inconsistent views on this. Just thought you’d like to clarify.


  8. Rita


    I was just being resigned to the fact that Garner is going to insist on a lefty in the rotation, so, although I’d prefer to have Sampson and Albers fill out the rotation if no trades are made, if Garner insists on a lefty, then the best one is most likely acquired via a trade and right now, Ensberg and Lidge are our two most tradeable commodities.

    Hope that clarifies things.

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