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Mailbag: Any big trades on the horizon?

Mailbag: Any big trades on the horizon?

The trade deadline is fast approaching. Do you think the Astros are going to make any moves that will turn some heads? I think in the postion we are in now, we have players currently in our system or on our roster (Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane, Chris Burke, Brad Lidge, etc.) that we could get some quality starting pitching or a quality bat for in a trade.
-- Jordan O., Jacksonville, Ark.

Ensberg and Lane have no trade value. I have received dozens of e-mails over the last couple of months from readers who can't understand why the Astros don't trade those two for a quality starter. You cannot trade players who interest no one, and that's the case with Lane and Ensberg.

Burke has marginal trade value, but not as much as he did a couple of years ago. He'll be 28 in March and hasn't played in the big leagues on a consistent basis, so teams really wouldn't know what they're getting from a former prospect who hasn't proven himself in the big leagues.

Lidge was the big trading chip, but he's out until at least the All-Star break, if not longer. If he's still on the shelf on July 31, forget about trading him.

And the Astros have little to offer from their Minor League system. In other words, don't expect any major blockbusters come July 31.

With the annual Adam Dunn rumors circulating, what would the Astros have to give up in order to get him? Also, statistically, wouldn't his strikeouts be more damaging to this lineup due to the struggles the team has had being consistent this year?
-- Donnie B., Fayetteville, Ark.

Dunn's strikeouts would be a liability in this lineup, but it's his defense that makes him not a good fit for this Astros team. Let's say you put Dunn in right field -- they already have a subpar defender in Carlos Lee in left field. Add Dunn to the mix and the only above-average defender is Hunter Pence in center field.

Money is also an issue. Dunn is making $10.5 million this year and he has an option for $13 million in 2008. The option will be voided if he's traded, allowing for him to become a free agent after this season.

So what we have is a career .248 hitter who threatens to strike out 200 times a year and a subpar outfielder who's not much better at first base. The Astros already have holes in their lineup and their overall defense ranks among the bottom in the league. Dunn is a good home run hitter and he does walk a lot, but I just don't see him as a good fit on this club.

Lee is a proven RBI man. That being said, watching him jog to first base after he hits a ground ball is disheartening. Is what we have seen up to this point the new brand of Astros baseball? I started following this team back in the 1990s because of their gritty style of play, with the exception of Craig Biggio and Pence, I haven't seen much of that this season.
-- Nate K., Las Vegas

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You are not the first person who has asked about this, and I agree with you, Lee's baserunning has been disappointing.

I understand there are times when someone hits a sharp grounder right to the shortstop or second baseman and it's a no-doubter, a sure out. Under those circumstances, I can excuse a player for running less than 100 percent down the line.

But my argument is this: When you hit a medium-to-slow roller that looks like it will be a double-play ball, run hard. Make the fielder have to make a good play. Perhaps if the fielder sees someone running hard down the line, he'll be too hasty and perhaps bobble the ball or make a bad throw.

Lee is a terrific hitter, and the Astros are getting what they paid for in that respect. But in terms of defense and baserunning, I've not been terribly impressed.

I just saw that the Astros signed Chan Ho Park to a Minor League deal, and they are going to give him a shot. My question is, if he gets called up, who goes down and who gets moved out of the rotation?
-- Dutin C., Huntsville, Texas

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I am not counting on Park pitching a single inning for the Astros this year. He hasn't been effective since 2001, and by signing him to a Minor League deal, the Astros are able to take a look at him without making any significant financial commitments.

So far, Park's been very average. He had a bad first outing -- five runs over three innings -- and a better second outing, three runs over six innings. Park would have to be practically unhittable at Triple-A for the Astros to believe he would be a better option than Wandy Rodriguez, the only one of the starting five who's movable (no, they're not going to release Woody Williams, who's signed through next year and owed around $9 million at this point).

Seeing how Rodriguez has been pitching lately, why would the Astros give up on him?

As much as I love Burke, he's not a power hitter. The only thing I really see him valuable for is his speed. He's never been much of a good hitter, much less a great one, so are the Astros considering looking into free agency next year for an everyday second baseman?
-- Jason, Houston

Burke was never considered to be a power hitter, he wasn't drafted as a power hitter, so he's not expected to be one. He's been tabbed as a top-of-the order doubles hitter who can steal bases. I believe the club still envisions him as the next second baseman. I don't know if that transition will happen this year or 2008. I also don't know what options the Astros will have this offseason on the trade and free-agent front. Nothing in baseball is guaranteed, so I cannot say with 100 percent certainty Burke will be at second base on Opening Day next year. But I think he deserves a chance.

When guys get hurt -- like Adam Everett's broken leg -- what's the deal with making road trips and being at Minute Maid Park during home games? Are they expected to be at all the games, or can they just stay at home and what not?
-- Kate C., Norman, Okla.

Everett wasn't on this road trip, mainly because he needs to stay off his feet as much as possible as the broken bone in his leg heals. Once he gets back on his feet and starts rehabbing, I would imagine he'll resume traveling with the team. He's not required to be at home games, but I would expect for him to be there when the team gets back to Houston. I would guess by now he's going out of his mind with boredom and I'm sure he'll embrace the opportunity to at least lend moral support to his teammates while he's not playing.

Sometimes, whether or not an injured player travels with the team is up to management. Someone who's out for the year with an injury usually doesn't travel, because it's an extra cost the team doesn't want to absorb. But when a player is rehabbing, like Brandon Backe, he'll travel, because they need to be with the team's athletic trainers.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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