Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Is this the future Astros Center Fielder? *UPDATED* (12:00 PM CST)

With all due respect to Paul Sullivan, writing the epitaph for the offseason hopes of the Cardinals and Astros might be a bit premature. The offseason isn't finished just yet, and the Astros are trying to make the moves that will induce Roger Clemens to return next year and thus keep them competitive in the NL central:

With Carlos Beltran officially a member of the New York Mets, the Astros have set their sights on former All-Star outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, a product of Conroe High School.

Howard Simon, the agent for Burnitz, said Tuesday he spoke with Astros general manager Tim Purpura on Monday and that both sides are interested in working out a deal.

Simon said several teams have shown an interest in Burnitz and that he hopes to have a deal in place sooner rather than later for the free agent.

"They know that we have a short time schedule," Simon said. "We want to get this thing done within a week with whoever we get it done. ... He's very sensitive about playing with a contender, too."

It's been reported that the Cubs were interested in Burnitz, and I can only hope that the Astros honor his agent's desire to finalize a deal quickly before the Cubs have a chance to seriously explore acquiring him. Burnitz hit well enough at Coors field, but his statistics from his away games betray that this isn't the younger version (ver 1.2) who seemed to frustrate the Cubs so often when he played for the Brewers. This more mature Burnitz version (5.0) posted an impressive .322/.386/.670 (1.057 OPS) at Coors field, but when he was away from the rarified air of his home field he put up a considerably more modest .244/.327/.448 (.775 OPS). Further he posts Sosa-like triple digit strikeouts (124) and he's downright Korey-like when he's sitting on 2 strikes. Further, in 2003 (when he split time between the Dodgers and Mets) he posted a modest .239/.299/.487 (.786 OPS), and in 2002 Burnitz (as a Met) posted an embarrassing .215/.311/.365 (.676 OPS). No thank-you.

Perhaps the Astros like the numbers he registered at Minute Maid last year (after a whopping 9 at-bats): .333/.500/.556 (1.056). If you take his last 3 years statistics at Minute Maid Park (which still produces a relatively small sample) it does appear he hits well there: 2003 (8 AB's) - .250/.250/.750 (1.000 OPS); 2002 (7 AB's) - .429/.556/.857 (1.413 OPS) - yielding a Minute Maid Park three-year average of (24 AB's): .333/.448/.708 (1.156 OPS). With such a small sample, it would be interesting to see who was pitching against him those 8 games he played there over the last 3 years.

The Astros have also expressed interest in trading for Alfonso Soriano, which would be a major acquisition (it would certainly more than offset the loss of Jeff Kent) and might also go a long way toward inducing Roger Clemens to return. This off-season isn't over folks and there's still plenty of hot-stove action to come.