Busy Astros use trades to build for the future
Club could still look to deal pitchers Wandy, Myers in August
MILWAUKEE -- Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez smiled at reporters who approached him following Sunday's game at Miller Park, which ended shortly after the non-waiver Trade Deadline passed without him getting dealt.
"Did I get traded?" Rodriguez joked.
After a whirlwind 48 hours in which the Astros traded away their two best players -- outfielders Hunter Pence (Phillies) and Michael Bourn (Braves) -- Rodriguez remained the longest current tenured member of an Astros team that gets younger by the day.
According to several national reports, the Astros were in talks with a handful of teams about Rodriguez, including the Yankees. General manager Ed Wade didn't want to discuss specific players. The reports stated that Rodriguez's hefty contract made consummating a deal difficult.
The Astros signed Rodriguez to a three-year, $34 million contract extension in the winter that pays him $7 million this year, $10 million next year and $13 million on 2013. There's also a $13 million club option for 2014 that comes with a $2.5 million buyout.
"We had active conversations up until about an hour before the Deadline on a variety of subjects, but nothing crystallized or made sense," Wade said. "We did what we tasked to do and what we promised we would do, and that's be open-minded and explore all possibilities with the ability to say no if something didn't make sense."
Rodriguez, who's 7-7 with a 3.47 ERA this year, could still be dealt at some point before the season is over.
Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.
"As a matter of course, we ask waivers on every player," Wade said. "There's no mystery about how we approach this. It doesn't mean we're interested in trading every player. It makes sense. There's no downside to asking on every player, and once we go through that process then we'll see where we are. Most players get through waivers during this period of time, and that leaves the door open to continued discussions."
In all, the Astros acquired 10 players by making three trades before the Deadline. They dealt Jeff Keppinger to the Giants on July 19 in exchange for two prospects, sent Pence to the Phillies on Friday in exchange for four Minor Leaguers and on Sunday finished a deal to send Bourn to the Braves for outfielder Jordan Schafer and three prospects.
"It's not a fire sale," Wade said. "I don't think I could be more candid with what we're trying to do here. We're trying to get to a point where we can have our core nucleus come from within and succeed at the big league level. By succeeding, I mean for an extended period of time."
The Astros will save more than $15 million next year by shedding the contracts of Pence and Bourn, both of whom were arbitration-eligible and having the best seasons of their careers. Pence ($6.9 million) and Bourn ($4.4 million) are in line for substantial raises for 2012.
They will probably still try to move Rodriguez and pitcher Brett Myers to shed even more payroll.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.