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Scott Pianowski

Hot Stove Helper: Beat's so lonely in Houston

Scott Pianowski
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Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.

Houston Astros

There's not going to be a lot of meat in the Astros Helper, so you might want to grab some snacks from the kitchen before you dig in here. All set? Okay, let's try to scrape together a sandwich.

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The Houston profile doesn't look all that different from the Toronto club we discussed last week. Like the Blue Jays, the Astros are coming off a surprising (and yet forgettable) 86-win season, the rotation has just one name that jumps out at you (Roy Oswalt here, Roy Halladay there), the lineup is a mix of live spots and dead spots (despite the favorable rep, the Astros were 11th in the NL in runs scored last year), and the off-season didn't produce any buzz moves (Toronto did next to nothing; the Astros made a few small moves). In an effort to whip all of Houston into a hardball frenzy, we'll discuss the new Astros now.

Signed Mike Hampton to a one-year contract

It's an affordable deal ($2 million plus incentives) and Hampton still has that tidy ground-ball rate to point to, albeit the rest of the profile doesn't look appetizing anymore. Hampton at his best was never an overpowering type, and he fanned just 38 in 78 innings for the Braves last year. Maybe he'll be worth a $2-3 flier in NL-only leagues by the time mid-March rolls around, but he needs to show a lot before we give him any mixed-league attention.

Signed Aaron Boone to a one-year contract

The deal went for a mere $750,000 (a pittance in big-league terms) as the club apparently didn't want to shell out the moderate cash needed to keep Ty Wigginton around. I've been known to devote entire Closing Time entries to Wiggy, so I take this Boone signing personally (had this not been the cheap Wigginton replacement move, we probably wouldn't be discussing it). Boone will probably hit 5-7 homers and bat around .250 as an infield rover; feel free to write his name at the bottom of your list, and then cross it off before the draft begins.

Other Houston Happenings: The Astros re-signed a handful of notable players, including RP Jose Valverde (avoiding arbitration), RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Doug Brocail and SP Wandy Rodriguez (one of these years he'll learn how to pitch on the road) . . . Punchless CF Michael Bourn is expected to start the year batting at the bottom of the order . . . Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, Valverde, Rodriguez and Oswalt are all tentatively slated to participate in the World Baseball Classic . . . You're free to discuss any of this, or the snappy retro picture of Cesar Cedeno, in the comments.

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