I’ve been thinking about this all evening and the thoughts just won’t go away. Why are the Astros so high on Richard Hidalgo? Why give him a guaranteed minor league contract? Why did they sign Mark Loretta? Why did they re-up Eric Bruntlett? Why do they keep saying that Mike Lamb is their Superman off the bench? Who the **** are they going to trade away?
The second to last question is easiest to answer–Lamb really is Superman off the bench! And the Bruntlett avoidance of arbitration is also just as easy–he’s the epitome of the super sub! He can play all positions except pitcher–granted he’s untested at the Catcher slot, but, he was the team’s emergency catcher in 2005. So, that brings us to the Mark Loretta signing. Again, on the surface it seems like an easy call–he was available, signed for a relative pittance, can play all infield positions and can be the contact hitter the Astros would need after Biggio gets his 3000 hits.
That brings us to the rather intriguing signing of Richard Hidalgo to a minor league contract. On the surface it seems like they were just looking to give the team a power hitting option to Lane’s bench spot–but, Lane doesn’t have a spot anymore on the 25 man roster if the Astros carry the normal contingent of 12 pitchers and 2 catchers.
If Hidalgo earns himself a spot on the 25 man roster based on his spring training performance ala Luke Scott in 2005, who do you relegate to the minors? Palmeiro is signed for 2007 to be a lefty bat off the bench right alongside Lamb–neither of them would pass waivers so they could be assigned to Round Rock. Bruntlett is the super sub who can play all infield and outfield positions. Loretta was signed specifically to be an infield utility man and to spell Biggio at 2nd base after Craig reaches the 3000 hit milestone.
Which leaves me with a rather intriguing conundrum. Two days ago it was Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and yesterday it was the Rocky Mountain News stating that the Astros are willing to move Morgan Ensberg.
Are the Astros really considering trading Ensberg or is it Luke Scott the one they are considering trading away for starting pitching? Would the Astros really trade away Scott, a lefty bat who is finally living up to the expectations of his phenomenal 2005 spring training stats and is slated to be a starter playing for the league minimum?
I’m convinced it has to be either Ensberg or Scott the Astros will trade away for a proven starting pitcher. Lane’s spot in the rotation is already gone after the Loretta signing. Again, if the Astros carry the traditional 12 pitchers and Hidalgo makes the club, someone has got to go. Waiting for spring training to decide the 25th spot on the roster is not the Astros normal way of doing business.
My gut tells me either Scott or Ensberg is going to be reporting to spring training for a team other than the Astros. Tim Purpura hasn’t finished wheeling and dealing just yet. There will be some more shaking up of the depth chart before the first game of spring training is played in 2007.