Inbox: Will the Astros go after Pudge?

Inbox: Will the Astros go after Pudge?

Why aren't people talking about Pudge Rodriguez coming to the Astros? He's looking for around $3 million a year. He can hit, has a great arm, plays fabulous defense and can handle a pitching staff. So why aren't the Astros even thinking about it? One, maybe two years, until Jason Castro is ready?
-- Ryan M., Texas City

As far as I can tell, $3 million is too high, even though in any other year it would probably be considered a bargain. I do believe the Astros would pay $3 million for a pitcher, but for a catcher? Doubtful. They seem to be committed to giving four catchers a shot at two spots: Humberto Quintero, Toby Hall, Lou Palmisano and J.R. Towles. I'm not sure this is a good idea but that's where they're at right now, the day before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

I have a question regarding the payroll. Do you believe that the Astros' payroll is at absolute maximum capacity right now? Or do you believe it is possible Drayton McLane and Ed Wade could add a higher paid pitcher (via trade) in the summer if we are in the thick of contention?
-- Benjamin N., Houston

McLane has always been open to making a midseason acquisition and I would think the same would apply this year, even though the purse strings are obviously a bit tighter. Last year he approved trading for Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, and if there is a good deal to be had this year, I wouldn't put it past Wade to pull the trigger. It would behoove the Astros to perform a little better in the first half, however.

Do you foresee the Astros being a 90-win team this year? Even with other teams cutting spending?
-- Matt P., Bertram, Texas

I think 90 wins is unrealistic, considering the question marks up and down the rotation after Roy Oswalt. That said, I don't think it'll take 90 wins to win the Wild Card. I see the Astros in pretty much the same light as last year -- capable of finishing close to .500, give or take a win or two either way. I can't honestly say I see a contender this year but teams change over the course of a season and pitching can be improved. We'll see.

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Question:

How long does it normally take to build up a farm system with quality prospects?
-- Gus S., Fairfax, VA

Somewhere around three years, I would surmise. If a team can have three really good Drafts, I have to believe there would be enough talent to flood the system for a while. I still think it's too early to judge last year's Draft, but the early returns look good. I've said this a million times but I do mean it -- Bobby Heck, the Astros' assistant GM in charge of scouting, knows what he's doing and showed that during the years he helped remake the Brewers' farm system. And the core of the world champion Phillies was built during Wade's GM tenure. The right people are in place. Now we just have to wait it out.

So I think most people can agree that last season was a disappointment. After looking at the moves the team has made this season, I can't help but think that this season will be the same, if not worse, than the last one. Is there anyway to look at the glass half-full?
-- Daniel L., Spring, Texas

I believe the glass is always going to be half-full as long as you have Lance Berkman and Oswalt on your team. Carlos Lee is a tremendous hitter, Hunter Pence appears to be coming into his own and Jose Valverde has led the league in saves for two years in a row. Look, it's not a perfect team, we all know that. But there are good players on this team and they do keep things interesting. After watching yet another near-comeback toward the end of last season, I vowed never to count this team out. You'd think I'd learn by now. So even if they're 15 out with 16 to play, I'm assuming nothing.

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