The Astros were quiet Thursday, but they were active in the days leading up to the big day. They obtained LaTroy Hawkins from the Yankees for Minor League infielder Matt Cusick, 22, minutes before the start of their game with the Reds on Wednesday night. Eight days earlier, they made a deal with the Padres that sent right-hander Chad Reineke, 26, to San Diego in exchange for starting left-hander Randy Wolf, 31.
Wade aggressively pursued Wolf and Hawkins during the offseason, but he lost out on both, due to Wolf's desire to stay on the West Coast and Hawkins' dream to play for the storied Yankees. Despite the Astros' standing in the National League Central Division -- after losing to the Reds Wednesday, they're in fifth place, ahead of only the Pirates -- the club was insistent it would not be sellers through the days and weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline.
Whether the Astros were "buyers," however, is up for interpretation. Some question how much Wolf, a fly ball pitcher with poor results away from pitcher-friendly PETCO Park in San Diego, can help.
Trading for Hawkins, who was designated for assignment by the Yankees five days ago, is also curious to some, who wonder what a 35-year-old journeyman reliever past his prime can do for a team seemingly not contending for a playoff spot this year.
If the Astros are focusing on 2009, the Wolf deal could prove beneficial. A strong two-month performance could help the lefty classify as a Type B free agent, which could net the Astros a compensation pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft, should Wolf reject an arbitration offer.
However, if Wolf were to accept the offer, the Astros would be on the hook for just a one-year deal and would have a serviceable veteran who could anchor the back end of the rotation in '09.
Hawkins' value can perhaps best be measured by how much relief he provides -- specifically, to his bullpen mates. Doug Brocail isn't the only reliever who has been overworked, and if nothing else, Hawkins could alleviate the workload dumped on a handful of arms whom the Astros need beyond this year. That includes the emerging Chris Sampson, who has been called on recently to pitch multiple innings, several days in a row, and in games that the Astros are losing by a significant margin.
While addressing reporters at Union Station soon after the Deadline passed, Wade firmly reiterated his belief in the team and its chances to be competitive with less than two months remaining in the season, which is why the Astros did not fall into the "seller" category during the trade season.
"We haven't given up," he said. "We like our club. We like the talent we have here," Wade said. "When people say, 'Give up on the season,' or 'Become sellers,' I understand that at different points in time, circumstances dictate that if you have an opporutunity to add young players for the long term, that you try to do that. We wouldn't walk past that opportunity.
"But the core group of players we have, we expect to have here for a long time. We expect Lance Berkman to be here, we expect Carlos Lee, Roy Oswalt, Miguel Tejada, Hunter Pence ... we could have traded Hunter to 100 different teams over the last couple months. We believe in the core group of players we have here."
The Astros did make one minor transaction just as the Deadline expired when they claimed right-hander Alberto Arias off waivers from the Colorado Rockies and optioned him to Triple-A Round Rock. Arias will report to Round Rock on Friday.
Arias, 24, has appeared in 12 games for the Rockies in 2008, posting a 2.63 ERA from May 7-June 2. In 30 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, Arias was 3-4 with a 4.73 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 45 2/3 innings pitched. He was designated for assignment by the Rockies on Tuesday to make room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Cory Sullivan.
The Astros also designated right-hander Chad Paronto for assignment in order to make room for Hawkins on the 25-man roster. The Astros have 10 days to trade, release or reassign Paronto the Minor Leagues.