Purpura has confidence in current team
GM talks injuries, callups, farm system during web chat
Astros general manager Tim Purpura sat down for a live web chat to answers fans' questions regarding the passing of Sunday's trade deadline. He also talked about the progress of Jeff Bagwell and Brandon Backe, the current lineup and atmosphere in the Houston clubhouse.
Tim Purpura: Hi everyone. I'm ready to take your questions.
Base_Ball_2: Were there any trades the Astros tried to make that didn't go through?
Purpura: We had a deal that would have yielded us a starting pitcher that would have benefitted the organization, but due to contractual rights, the player we had we were unable to finalize the trade. Due to tampering rules, I'm not at liberty to disclose who that was.
tbone34: What is your gut feeling on Jeff Bagwell and whether he will be back for the end of the season and potentially the playoffs as a pinch-hitter?
Purpura: As Jeff progresses through his rehab, each day gives us a little more hope that he could return as a pinch-hitter. He's scheduled to take batting practice with the team in San Francisco and that should be another major hurdle that will give us some indication about where he's headed.
Base_Ball: Tim, did the Astros make any attempt to acquire Jose Cruz Jr.? If not, why?
Purpura: Due to tampering rules, I really cannot talk about specific players in terms of trades.
astrosdude09: Why wasn't a trade done for a left-handed reliever?
Purpura: We did pursue a number of left-handed relievers and we were very close on one situation. But ultimately the team we were involved with took a different deal. We couldn't satisfy their demands with the players we were willing to give.
aaronpitts: What is the atmosphere in the clubhouse right now? Is everyone optimistic with the current lineup and comfortable that no trades were made? Also, is there any talk of waiver trades at all?
Purpura: The atmosphere is positive, it's confident. I would say the players are comfortable with our team right now. They believe in each other, most importantly. They enjoy playing together. I think there was some sense of relief yesterday when we didn't trade anybody off our current club. As far as the future is concerned, we will absolutely be monitoring the waiver wire on a daily basis. Our goals are the same -- to improve our club if at all possible without mortgaging our future in a significant way.
Base_Ball_3: Is Joshua Lindblom a potential DFE (draft, follow, evaluate) candidate if he does not sign? I have not seen where he will be going to school if he does not sign.
Purpura: We would like to sign Josh. We've had active negotiations with him in the last week. It's our intent to sign him. If in fact he does not sign, we would still retain the rights to sign him, up until just before the June 2006 draft.
Base_Ball_3: It seems to me that the asking prices were very high for the players that were on the market. Was that the case for the players that the Astros had interest in?
Purpura: Yes, for the most part, many of the players we pursued were either overpriced from our point of view or not significantly an upgrade to our current club. It's my belief that clubs, for the most part, were not in a mode to reduce their salary commitments. That gives them the flexibility to retain those players into the offseason and try to get a better return on their investment. Players who are arbitration-eligible or have long-term contracts would seem to be more likely to be traded in the offseason as they were at the trade deadline.
aaronpitts: Does having so many rookies on the team worry you at all about any possible postseason games we might play in? It took Craig Biggio and Bagwell a long time to become productive in the postseason.
Purpura: Although we do have a lot of young players in our lineup, we also have some veteran players who have stood the test of a playoff atmosphere. I believe that players like Morgan Ensberg and Brad Lidge and even Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens will help young players deal with the pressures that postseason play, and even a pennant race, might produce. We have in large part a playoff experienced club. I think that will benefit us.
tonerow12: In your opinion, what will this year's team need to accomplish in order to classify it as a success?
Purpura: It's the goal of every Major League team to be competitive, make the playoffs and win the World Series. And that certainly is our priority at this point as well. There is only one World Series champion every year and if you haven't won it you haven't met your expectations. But, even if you don't win the World Series, as long as your team progresses and remains a top tier team, you certainly have fulfilled some of your goals.
dannyh1907: Which young prospects in the farm system are you excited about that we haven't been able to see much of?
Purpura: Pitching-wise, Fernando Nieve and Jason Hirsh at the upper levels have done a very nice job this year. Troy Patton, Hunter Pence and Jimmy Barthmeier have done a great job in their first seasons at the full season A level.
runningcowboy: How did you get to be the GM of the Astros? What positions did you hold before and what would you suggest to someone hoping to get into the business?
Purpura: My first experience in baseball was as an intern with the then California Angels. From there, I went to the Arizona Fall League as a staff member. I've been here in Houston the past 13 season and have worked my way from assistant director of the Minor League operations to assistant GM and farm director and now general manager. Experience, working in baseball at any level -- Minor Leagues, Major Leagues -- and at almost any position is a benefit. Academically, there are some great sports management programs out there, but also there are a lot of successful people in the game with business degrees and law degrees. Even no degrees. It's a wide range. You also must be willing to work long hours for little pay at the beginning of your career.
tbone34: I know our pitching is extremely strong, but the lineup could use a power hitter, especially when you think of playoff time against the Cards. Is there a good chance of picking up a power hitter in the next two months?
Purpura: With the emergence of Morgan Ensberg as a power hitter, the recovery of Lance Berkman from knee surgery and the promise of Jason Lane developing into a power hitter, we have the makings of a very strong middle third of our lineup. While we would certainly like to add another power hitter to our lineup, we feel at this point we also have achieved something that prior Astros teams haven't, and that is to develop some balance in our offensive approach. We have more contact hitters and more hitters with higher on-base percentages than we have had in the recent past. Since playoff games are typically low scoring games, we feel like that balance is an important characteristic to have as you head into the playoffs.
astrostodd: How close is Brandon Backe to returning and when he does, who will stay on as the fifth man, and what will happen to the odd man out?
Purpura: Backe would be eligible to come off the DL no sooner than Aug. 10. So far, his recovery has been very normal. While there's some hope that he would be available on or around that date, the type of injury he has is one where if you try to return too soon and re-injure yourself, he can face an extended period of time on the DL and could jeopardize his chances to finish the season healthy. As a result, we will be very cautious with how we bring him back from the DL. It's too early to determine who would remain in the rotation. We'll certainly evaluate Wandy Rodriguez and Ezequiel Astacio as they progress through the next few weeks.
Frank_Meyer: Tim, what do you see the team doing with Craig Biggio in the future? He is playing great, and everyone in Houston loves him, but our team seems very filled at second base with Eric Bruntlett and Chris Burke waiting for a turn.
Purpura: Craig has been an icon in this city and on this team for many, many years. His play has been exceptional, his contributions to the community have been numerous and he's playing today as well as he ever has in his career. Because of that, I would certainly look for Craig to return next year if that is what he would like to do. As far as Burke and Bruntlett, I think we've done a commendable job of giving them plenty of opportunities, and they have both been an important part of the success we've had so far. I'd look for them to continue to do that in the future.
astrostodd: Pitching has been solid and the bats have come alive. Can we continue this pace offensively for the remainder of the season? Assuming we are injury free of course.
Purpura: Yes, I think we can. Given the progress we've made offensively, I think there's hope for even more down the line.
astrostodd: Will Clemens continue to pitch past this current year, and if so, how much will we spend on him?
Purpura: I'm 99.9 percent sure that Roger Clemens will consider playing next year. It's the 0.1 percent that I'm unsure about that worries me. The effort he's put forth this season and last and the amount of time and energy it takes to prepare himself for a season, it becomes increasingly more difficult for him each year to be prepared to play at the level that he does. But whether he chooses to play next year or not, we are extremely happy that he will continue on for at least 10 years after his playing career is over as a consultant and special assistant to me. He will obviously be watching closely as his son Koby progresses through our Minor League system.
Ryan_Kinnan: What is the possibility of Luke Scott making a return to the roster? It appears he may have found his stroke again. Or does he still need some seasoning before he is ready to handle big league pitching?
Purpura: Luke has really turned it around offensively. He struggled when he was sent out earlier this season. His return will be dependent upon first of all, how he is playing, but also whether we have a need or not that develops due to injury or lack of performance by one our current players. In any event, he would certainly be a candidate for a September callup.
Andrew_Tyler: How well does your staff research the players you are attempting to trade for?
Purpura: Every player that we have interest in has been scouted personally by one of our Major League scouts, not only this year, but in prior years. In many cases, our current Major League scouts may have seen players even as amateurs. There is a great deal of data that they have watching the players in person. Additionally, we spend a great deal of time analyzing players from a statistical point of view as they progress through the Minor League system to the Major Leagues, and we factor statistical information as well. But an overriding consideration for the Astros is a player's makeup and how he plays the game on the field, and his approach to competition
hurtya: Mr. Purpura, you gave a percentage chance on there being a trade before yesterday's deadline. What do you think the chances are of a waiver trade?
Purpura: It's really impossible to give a percentage on a waiver trade because you don't know how many players are going to be put on the waiver wire.
trickmn: Was Phil Garner on the hot seat during any point of the season when the team was struggling?
Purpura: No, not at all. Phil has done a fine job since coming on board last July.
astrosdude09: What is your opinion on Willy Taveras and do you think he will be with the Astros for years to come?
Purpura: Willy has made a remarkable transition from being a Double-A player last year at this time to being a Rookie of the Year candidate in the National League. While you never know how long a young player's tenure with the club will last, Willy epitomizes what we have been looking for in this organization for a long time. That's a speedy center fielder who is a contact hitter and be a force on the basepaths.
trickmn: How much freedom does Mr. McLane give you when you are trying to make a trade?
Purpura: Drayton has given us a great deal of latitude in pursuing trades. He has always been supportive of our efforts to improve our club. He was certainly ready this week to expand our payroll in an attempt to improve our club. As far as the decision-making process, we in the baseball operations area do the analysis and research and when we are close to putting a trade in effect, I consult with Drayton and explain our thoughts and get his reaction. Universally, he has been supportive of our ideas.
d0id0i: Tim, I wanted to know what was going through your mind when we bottomed out at 15-30. If the Astros had not made a run of 42-18 the last two months, would you have handled the trade deadline any differently?
Purpura: While some people don't believe me, I really never lost my confidence in this group of players. Most of them I've known since they first came into the organization. I've seen them grow and develop, not only as players, but as people. If you're going to be in this business and you believe in player development, you have to be committed to giving young players legitimate opportunities to succeed at this level. I think we've done that and I think our confidence in them has paid off.
Purpura: Thanks for participating in this chat session. Now it's off to Phoenix!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.