PITTSBURGH - : Wandy Rodriguez #51 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The Good Team/Bad Team Fan Dynamic Theory goes something like this:
If my favorite team is good, and another team is bad, that other team should give my team all of their good players because they're totally just going to waste them.
It's an earnest kind of arrogance. It's like going to the hospital to visit a friend whose nose was bitten off by a badger and asking to take his flowers because he can't smell them. It makes sense, but it's more than a little rude.
The Astros are bad. They are talent's antonym. They have just a handful of players that other teams would want milling about their clubhouse, leaving Astros residue everywhere. They're going to push 100 losses this year, and they don't have a very good farm system. There isn't a quick fix out there.
But Wandy Rodriguez is, yet again, a bright light. The lefty took longer to develop than most pitchers -- he didn't have his first truly good season until he was 29 -- but he's been quite consistent over the past four seasons when he's been healthy. The Astros locked him up through 2013 with a team option through 2014. He'll be an Astro for at least the next three years if the team will have him.
There are teams, though, who could use another starting pitcher. Contending teams. And they're in estate-sale mode, looking through dishware, old lps, and half-used cologne bottles, wrinkling their nose at the price tags, acting like jerks -- like they're entitled to something of value. They get to Wandy, and think, saaaaaay. Here's something we can use. A left-handed starter who:
- Has a 3.34 ERA over the last four seasons, good for a 120 ERA+
- Has plus control and the ability to strike people out
- Is under contract for the next two years at a reasonable commitment of $26 million, and there's an option for 2014 as well
That's a player that every team in baseball would want. And the Astros are going to lose 90 or 100 games with or without him, so why not just give him to a contender for some prospects? Make everyone happy. They should just sprinkle their good players around the league out of charity.
Sounds good if you're a fan of a contending team. Sounds pretty offensive if you're an Astros fan. The Astros aren't going to contend this year. They probably aren't going to contend next year. But there's are only two reasons the Astros should want to trade Rodriguez.
The first is the hope that another team completely overwhelms them with prospects. Think the Mark Teixeira trade, where the Rangers received a future starting shortstop, a closer, and starting pitcher for a single player. It can't just be a quantity or quality trade. It would have to be both. Because as far as the Astros are concerned, what's the rush?
The other reason would be if the Astros are privately concerned with Rodriguez's durability. In theory, they'll have a couple of years to entertain trade offers for him, but not if his shoulder or elbow goes kerflooey. He's never had serious injury troubles as a big-leaguer, but he's missed at least a couple of starts every season, including 2011. Maybe the Astros are thinking this is his peak value, and they're a little scared that they'll pay close to $30 million for an oft-injured pitcher.
Maybe. But other teams are probably aware that it it's going to take more than a #15 prospect and a Peet's gift card to pry Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. There's no rush to deal him; Houston has all of the leverage. And if they don't find a deal to overwhelm them, they'll close up shop and open it back up next July. If that doesn't work, they'll do it again. The Astros should definitely be sellers at the deadline, but that doesn't mean they need to sell the display cases and fixtures just because they can.