With baseball's annual Winter Meetings approaching, Astros general manager Ed Wade already addressed one need when he obtained center fielder Michael Bourn, who will slide into the leadoff spot previously occupied by Craig Biggio, and, later in 2007, Hunter Pence. Now Wade will turn his attention to second base and pitching.
The Astros' lineup is shaping up favorably, and it looks like Pence, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee will anchor the heart of the order. Now Wade has to figure out if he'll spend money on a thin free-agent pitching market or shift his focus to the bullpen, which is in need of a facelift.
2007 finish: 73-89, fourth place, NL Central.
Deals so far: Re-signed C Brad Ausmus (one year), acquired CF Bourn, RHP Geoff Geary and 3B Mike Constanzo from Philadelphia in exchange for RHP Brad Lidge and IF/OF Eric Bruntlett, signed RHP Doug Brocail (one year).
Players eligible for arbitration: RHP Brandon Backe, RHP Dave Borkowski, RHP Chad Qualls, IF Adam Everett, IF Ty Wigginton, IF Chris Burke.
Free agents: IF Mike Lamb, IF Mark Loretta, RHP Jason Jennings, OF Orlando Palmeiro, RHP Brian Moehler, LHP Trever Miller.
Needs: Pitching, starting and relieving. The Lidge trade leaves the Astros without a closer. They will give Chad Qualls a look but prefer to obtain a proven closer from outside of the organization. The club also could use a veteran arm or two to bolster the rotation. The Astros have some money to spend, but with the free-agent market so thin in terms of starting pitching, they may allot their dollars to the bullpen and perhaps to second base.
Dealing strengths: The Astros dealt their strongest trade chip, Lidge. Burke and Luke Scott could be packaged for pitching, but with so few teams willing to part with valued arms, it's unclear whether Scott and Burke would bring in enough in return.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.