Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 5/29/12
Someone asked me last week, before the Astros lost four straight games to the Dodgers and Rockies, what would happen if this club ends up three or four games out of first place by the All-Star break in terms of potential trades of veterans. After all, the pitching has been terrific, the Astros have been competitive and the National League Central is not the best division in baseball. So what would happen if the Astros were actually within a stone's throw from the division lead or one of the wild card spots? Would they still trade Wandy Rodriguez or Brett Myers? (We are going with the premise that the Astros will be looking to move veterans enjoying a good season such as Rodriguez and Myers in exchange for young players). The weekend taught us that management is very, very unlikely to face that scenario at the mid-point of the season. The Astros have been competitive and have outperformed prognostications to this point. But it's still early and they are not a team ready to stun the baseball world and contend, even in a poor division. Despite all the encouraging signs -- the excellent pitching (prior to the Rockies series); the emergence of Jose Altuve; the find that is Jed Lowrie -- this remains a work very much in progress. There are good signs, there are alarming ones and there are several questions. At the top of the list of questions is the status of catcher Jason Castro. While Castro should be allowed some rope since he missed the entire 2011 season with a devastating knee injury, his performance behind the plate and at the plate is of some concern. Is Castro the catcher as the club moves forward? Can J.D. Martinez work out the kinks and become a more consistent offensive player? Has J.A. Happ found his consistency? Of course the major overall concern is the lack of offense, the doubleheader at Coors notwithstanding. More specifically, which player will be the central offensive figure for years to come? The reality is that player may not yet be in the organization. Of course everything will not be crystal clear by season's end but management should have enough information to make informative decisions going forward. The point is: It's been enticing watching this group which has exceeded many expectations. At the very least, on most nights, this is a very watchable team. On many nights, it's a darn exciting product. But several miles remain on the road back to contention, especially given the switch to the American League West next season.
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