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Baseball Told the Right WayIn-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!
A ways back I met a guy who spent some time in the minors with Houston. The guy eventually got hurt and the Astros gave him a job as a scout, which he worked at for some time. In some of my more typical, overbearing arguments with him (just glad to find an audience) he did a very good job convincing me that his boss, Gerry Hunsicker, was one of the better GMs in the game.
His major point in the matter was that Hunsicker is, if only one thing, completely underrated as a GM. Think of GMs that are generally regarded as good, and his name almost never comes up. His point, and one I happen to agree with, is that Hunsicker's refusal to talk much to the media, or to "leak" information to Gammons like so many other GMs leads to the mainstream media generally ignoring him. Likewise, most people (even more-than-casual fans) also generally ignore him.
The arguments for Hunsicker are, however, pretty strong. Since he took over in 1995, the Astros have won four division titles and have had a competitive team on the field with only a mid-level payroll. The failure to win a single postseason series doesn't reflect poorly on Hunsicker, it means he was "only" able to build one of the four best teams in the National League. Some people dream for that kind of failure.
What Hunsicker (and his staff) are most responsible for is creating a player development system that has churned out a considerable amount of talent. I mean it, its hard to find a system that has produced so much in recent years. Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner (not drafted, but developed by Hunsicker), Jason Lane, Wade Miller, Brad Lidge, Morgan Ensberg have all come through their system, not to mention a lot of middle of the road major leaguers Tim Redding, Kirk Saarloos, Carlos Hernandez, Julio Lugo, Keith Ginter. That's a real lot of talent to pass through one organization in less than ten years.
Hunsicker has also made some deals to bring in the remaining pieces of the division winners. Guys like Octavio Dotel, Moises Alou, and Randy Johnson were brought in for not much in return, with the exception of Freddy Garcia and one year of Mike Hampton. Also, Jeff Kent was signed for much less than his worth. Some very good deals.
Hunsicker also has some very questionable moves: his insistence on overvaluing mediocre utility players like Vizcaino, Merced, Blum, Lamb, etc; his hiring (and continued support) of Jimy Williams; and the very questionable contract extension to Brad "outmachine" Ausmus to name a few. Today Hunsicker swapped Richard Hidalgo and cash for David Weathers. This one puzzles me.
I mean Hidalgo can hit. Never mind that he is maddeningly inconsistent, and a bad "clubhouse prescence". He can hit, and guys with talent like that usually fetch more in return than a decent 34 year old reliever who is closer to being "not decent" then he is to being "good".
So this had to be about money, right? One would think. Hidalgo is making $14M this year, $15M next year (although they would have almost certainly bought him out for $2M). Weathers is making $4M and will be a free agent at the end of this year. But the Astros also shipped enough cash to the Mets that it only saves them $3M overall. $1M in 2004 salary and the $2M buyout. So its only partly about money.
Was it about Jimy? Could be. Jimy likes to play favorites (ahem, Ensberg can hit Jimy) and its always been pretty well documented that Hidalgo was never liked in the clubhouse, although I'd like to think Jimy's recent benching had more to do with him hitting .202 in May and .179 in June.
It was Jason Lane, right? Pretty much. Jason Lane has a VERY good chance to be better than Hidalgo, this year, and definitely in the future. And of course he will do this all for a price considerably less than $14M. Check out his numbers,
LG ABs AVG OBP SLGLane is a good bet to hit .270+ with 20+ homers at the major league level. All he needed was some playing time, which he now has.
To be completely fair, Hidalgo was traded for the combination of all three facots. The Astros have a more than adequate replacement, an organizational dislike for Hidalgo, and now they have an extra $3M. So it makes sense why he would be traded. What I'm confused at is why he was traded for David Weathers.
I have to think there was some team out there that would have given up more than $3M, a non-prospect, and a mediocre 34 year old reliever for Hidalgo. The Astros have an offensive black hole at catcher, no matter how good his defense is, he's still got a .638 OPS. (up from last years .594, incidentally). They have a defensive black hole in center, and some major injury concerns in the rotation. On top of this they need help in the bullpen.
Does the acquisition of David Weathers fix any of these problems? You'd think that trading a guy with a career .857 OPS would help you fix at least one of these, but it doesn't. David Weathers is not the answer. Has Hunsicker seen the park factors in Shea and at Minute Maid? The league average ERA was 0.20 higher in Houston last year. Weathers gets a lot of groundballs, so he may not suffer as much from the move, but still. David Weathers?
Maybe this was the best deal Hunsicker could find in which case I apologize ahead of time. I don’t believe that though, there are plenty of teams with holes at a corner outfields spot (or DH). Hidalgo's RF defense is consistently near the top in the league, and a team would only have to pay him $3M to find out if his two month slump was about to end.
Anaheim, Baltimore, Florida, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Toronto could all use Hidalgo. Would none of them send off some bonehead like Weathers? Heck, even ask the Mets for more than Weathers, don’t discuss it unless Looper is involved. Or better yet, just make Hidalgo the fourth outfielder and pinch hitter, it’s a sunk cost anyways. I don’t see how Weathers is any more than a replacable part, he's certainly no solution.