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The Houston Astros' Sad Situation

This is a really sad article about the Houston Astros' prospects. Its thesis is, essentially, that last year's trade for Miguel Tejada has been a disaster for the franchise, because the Astros gave up too much and Tejada wasn't good enough, and now he can't be traded.

It's true that the Tejada deal was a bad idea at the time that looks awful now, but that isn't the Astros' only problem. Another problem (to which the article alludes) is that the Astros owe $65 million in guaranteed contracts next year to Tejada, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee ($18.5 million!) and Kaz Matsui. Their highest payroll this millennium was in 2006, when it was $92 million, so they have virtually no room to maneuver.

The saddest part of the article, though, is this:

Trading [Matt] Albers and [Troy] Patton [to the Orioles in the Tejada trade] crippled an already weak farm system and prevented the Astros from making other moves. Albers would have made a nice piece of a Jake Peavy trade package.

That's insane. Albers turns 26 in January, and he struck out 26 batters against 22 walks in 49 innings as a reliever this year. Could he, in the absence of any sort of context, be a part of a deal for Peavy? To paraphrase an old post at Primer (which also gets a tip of the cap for the link), Albers could be part of a deal for Peavy in the same way as a bowl of Cap'n Crunch could be part of a balanced breakfast, if you include the skim milk and fresh fruit and whole wheat toast.

Unfortunately, the Astros' farm system has no fruit and only a couple scraps of bread crust. They mostly only have sweetened cardboard cereal. There's... pitching prospect Bud Norris, who looks pretty good. And 2008 first-rounder Jason Castro, who's performed well so far but can't be traded yet. And then who? Leandro Cespedes? 2008 draftee Jordan Lyles? In addition to the mess at the big league level, the Astros also have a terrible farm system. They're not a great bet to have another winning season anytime soon. As bad as things are likely to be for the Pirates the next year or two, I don't think I'd trade Pittsburgh's situation for Houston's.