Topsy-turvy Astro logic

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues at No. 25 with the Houston Astros.

2009 record: 74-88
Finish: Fifth place, NL Central
2009 final payroll: $108 million
Estimated 2010 opening day payroll: $88 million

OFFSEASON ACTION

Among the many ways to improve a team, any of the following four is generally unadvisable:

1) Sign a starter who punched his wife in the face with a closed fist less than seven years after cutting your starting shortstop for his arrest on domestic violence charges.

2) Trade for a reliever who nearly incited a brawl at the World Baseball Classic by mindlessly throwing behind a hitter, hurting himself in the process and ending the regular season with a 5.89 ERA.

3) Give three years and $15 million to a reliever who, historically, does not strike hitters out, does give up a tidy bunch of hits and isn't exactly a groundball pitcher in a home ballpark that almost necessitates as much.

4) Spend $4.5 million to lure a third baseman, in a market full of them, who set a career high with a .308 on-base percentage last year. His career, by the way, has lasted more than 4,000 plate appearances.

All four? That constitutes quite an offseason. Perhaps Brett Myers(notes), Matt Lindstrom(notes), Brandon Lyon(notes) and Pedro Feliz(notes), respectively, make Houston a better team. To commit upwards of $20 million for their services, however, is a stunning waste of resources, especially when … well, just keep reading.

REALITY CHECK

Everyone saw this coming. The Astros, in the World Series five years ago, were headed for a precipitous fall, and it wasn't even because of contracts like Lyon's or Carlos Lee's(notes) $100 million disaster.

Houston's track record in the amateur draft is not just embarrassing. It's stupefying, short-sighted, blatantly stupid, hilarious in a what-in-the-Sam-Hill-are-they-doing fashion and, well, if there's one word for it, then it's ironically appropriate: amateurish.

Since 2006, the Astros have spent $15.4 million on four amateur drafts. It is the lowest figure in baseball. Though they have coughed up $10.7 million in the last two drafts, the spoils won't show for at least another two years, which leaves the Astros with the current dearth of young homegrown talent. They could break camp with catcher Jason Castro (the 2008 first-rounder) and shortstop Tommy Manzella(notes) (who turns 27 in April) as starters.

The 2006 and 2007 drafts are among the decade's worst. Only the little-used Bud Norris and Chris Johnson have made the major leagues from the 2006 draft, and the Astros spent only $1.4 million in 2007, which hasn’t graduated anyone. Houston's insistence on hewing to slot recommendations at the behest of commissioner Bud Selig while most of the 29 other teams ignore them shows that playing company man isn't always the best route.

The Astros are old. They are financially hamstrung. Their owner, Drayton McLane, is trying to sell. There is no quick fix here, not with Myers or Lindstrom or Lyon or Feliz, and they're the only ones who didn't see it coming.

ASTROS IN HAIKU
Used to be defined
By Killer Bs. Now it's a
Different letter: L.

NEXT: Oakland A's

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