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Schadenfreude Time: The Astros!

Pirates fans certainly have it bad now, but I'm not sure the situation in Houston is much better overall. Astros GM Ed Wade:

"Otherwise, we're not talking to anybody else. If things fall in our lap we have to think about — it's got to be something of a front-line nature — but I think we're covered with regard to competition at positions.

"In the existing player payroll budget, there is no more to cover anything of significance."

Wait... that's it? The Astros' 2008-2009 offseason:

Re-signed LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Signed Aaron Boone to a one-year deal worth $750,000.

Signed Jason Michaels to a one-year deal worth $750,000.

Non-tendered Ty Wigginton and Reggie Abercrombie.

Picked pitcher Gilbert de la Vara from the Royals in the Rule 5 draft and traded cash to the Royals for catcher and Rule 5 pick Lou Palmisano.

Signed Mike Hampton to a one-year, $2 million deal.

Signed Doug Brocail to a one-year, $2.75 million deal with an option for 2010.

Near the end of August, the Astros also signed Brian Moehler and Darin Erstad to one-year extensions worth a total of $4.05 million.

This is just a bonanza of mediocrity. The number of worthless players who will start the season on the Astros' 40-man roster is staggering, particularly for a team with a $103,000,000 payroll. The Astros currently have Geoff Blum (one season since 2003 with an OBP over .296) penciled in as the starter at third, Michael Bourn (who posted a .588 OPS in 2008) in center, a catching tandem of Humberto Quintero (.568) and J.R. Towles (.503; although, to the Astros' credit, they finally managed to get rid of Brad Ausmus), and Moehler and Hampton in their rotation. If any of their key players get injured, then it could get hilarious, because that's when Erstad, Boone or Michaels will join the lineup on a daily basis. I never thought I'd say this about any team, but the loss of Wigginton has the potential to be devastating; the step backward from Wigginton to Blum and Boone is enormous. The farm sy stem, too, is a mess, and despite a decent 2008 draft, it'll be a while before that gets fixed.

As bad as the Pirates will apparently be in 2009, they have a shot at catching the Astros if anything goes wrong for them. If I were an Astros fan, I'd be terrified about the lack of depth.