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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Astros Trade for Huff

Early this morning Astros GM Tim Purpura announced a deal that will bring Aubrey Huff and cash to Houston for two minor leaguers, Mitch Talbot and Ben Zobrist.

As much as I hate to praise the Astros, this looks to be a good deal for them. Huff is in his age 30 season and certainly doesn't have the break-out potential many believed he had 2-3 years ago, but he's still a quality bat for a lineup that sorely needs one. Other than last year, which was probably fluky, Huff has OPSed .800 or better every year since 2002. In 63 games this season he is hitting .283/.348/461. Those numbers are pretty much right in line with his career averages, so there is no reason to think he can't maintain that pace.

The only criticism I have for the Astros on this deal is that the optioned Jason Lane to the minor leagues in order to make room for Huff on the roster. I know Lane has been far from what the Astros expected, but most of that is from one horrendous month of May in which he OPSed a measly .542. In April and June he had OPSes .870 and .838, respectively. He has already walked 40 times this season and I wouldn't be surprised if much of struggles are a result of being jerked in and out of the lineup for the past month. And I fail to see how Orlando Palmiero and his .215/.292/.262 line is any kind of improvement over Lane.

As for the 2 prospects dealt to Tampa, they both appear to be mid-level guys at this moment. Talbot is a 22 year old righthander recently promoted to AA. In 90 innings he has struck out 96 and walked 29 while only giving up 4 long balls. Those numbers indicate he's got good stuff with the ability to miss bats, which is probably the most important indicator for minor league pitchers. His control seems to need work, as is the case for most young pitchers, but it doesn't appear to be a huge problem. Overall, he appears to be a decent to good prospect, but as the saying goes, "There is no such thing as a pitching prospect."

Ben Zobrist has a monster line in AA Corpus Christi. A shortstop that hits .327/.434/.473 is nothing to take lightly. The only problem with Zobrist seems to be his age. A 25 year old in AA isn't exactly a youngster. I'm not sure he has much of a future in MLB, but it's not out of the question.

More excitement from this deal may be on it's way. I've heard rumblings of Morgan Ensberg possibly being on the block (bad idea) and that the Astros are actively shopping Willy Taveras. (great idea) Huff can play both corner outfield positions, 3rd base, and 1st base. That gives the Astros alot of flexibility to move either Ensberg, Taveras, or Lane.

From my perspective Ensberg should not be traded at all. Even in a down year he still has an OPS hovering around .900. That's not easy to find, especially for under $4 million. Taveras should be traded for young pitching prospects. He's not going to bring a blue chipper by any means, so Purpura should be looking for gems still down in Single A ball. Lane should be made available, but right now his trade value appears to be at it's lowest point. "You don't make money in the market buying high and selling low." I forget what movie that's from. Wall Street is probably as good of guess as any.

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