The Astros probably aren’t the worst team in baseball. With a couple of solid drafts of late, they may not have the worst farm system anymore. And, thanks to the guys up in KC, they aren’t the worst run organization either. But their combination of a bad roster full of old players with large contracts and a management that is either unwilling to admit that a rebuild is necessary or unwilling to commit to one makes them the franchise that needs more help than any other.
Even the good comes with bad. Lance Berkman is a star, but he’s headed for his decline years, is having knee surgery, has a large contract and a full no-trade clause, plus little interest in leaving Texas. He should be a significant asset, but in reality, he may be a liability. And that pattern is found up and down the roster. The players with talent are mostly untradeable outside of Wandy Rodriguez, who they shouldn’t want to trade. It would be one thing if they had a bunch of good young talent surrounding that core, but that isn’t there either.
There is some hope on the farm, but it’s mostly a few years away, and there’s not a lot of depth there. It falls off quickly after Castro, Mier, and Lyles, none of whom are franchise players. They spent too many years ignoring both Latin America and the draft, and even with a recent reconversion back to building from within, the years of neglect have left them in bad shape going forward. The core of the next good Astros team is not yet in the Houston organization, requiring them to make a lot of savvy moves to bring in some high quality young players.
And, unfortunately, they just don’t seem committed to doing that. They spent the winter pursuing middle relievers and stop gap role players who won’t help the team contend now or in the future. Their owner is one of the most involved in the sport, and not in a good way. They have large payroll commitments going forward, and the GM is not exactly a shrewd market analyst or adept at finding bargains on a budget.
It’s just bad news everywhere you look. The Astros had a good long run of success, but they won’t see another one for a while.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.