Out with Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett. In with Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo.

Hey, did you hear the news? The Astros have a Bourn Identity. No, not that Bourne Identity . This Bourn Identity .

Say hello to your new centerfielder. Bourn. Michael Bourn. Former outfielder for my UH Coogs. He was the Phillies fourth round draft pick in 2003. He started last season in AA ball, and finished the season on the major league roster where he hit .277 in 119 at-bats. The guy's fast, and he's good defensively. And a fast guy with good defense is just what MMP calls for. The Astros now get to move my man Hunter Pence to right, which is his best position, and with those two guys roaming the outfield, Carlos Lee's lack of hustle hopefully won't be as noticeable.

The ‘Stros got Bourn as part of a five-player deal with the Phillies. Along with Bourn came reliever Geoff Geary and third-base prospect Mike Costanzo. In exchange, Houston gave up Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett.

There are several good things about this trade.

First, Brad Lidge is gone. Did you hear me? BRAD LIDGE IS GONE! I'm going to be honest. I know I wrote nasty stuff about Lidge last season. But I really like the guy. I really want him to succeed. I really wanted that last year. But just count me as one of those who think Albert Pujols ruined him as a closer. Maybe he'll rebound in Philly. Maybe he'll turn into what he was in 2004 and 2005 before Mr. Pujols took him deep in the 2005 NLCS. I'm one of those who thought a change of scenery would be the best thing to happen to Brad Lidge. That said, Philadelphia might not be the best place for a struggling closer. The Philly ballpark is kind of easy to hit homers out of. And the Philly fans aren't necessarily known as the most forgiving fans in the world. So if he starts the 2008 season the way he started the 2007 season -- blowing a save in the first game -- well, let's just say I think he should probably give Mitch Williams a call for some advice.

And I know that, with the Astros trading history, Brad Lidge is going to come back and torment the Astros, but I really don't think he was ever going to be able to get the job done here again.

What I also like is this deal makes the team younger, and it means we didn't waste valuable payroll space on Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, etc. I liked those guys, but as I've written many times, this team needs to get younger and rebuild. And that's what this deal does. Bourn will be starting his second big league season and he'll be playing next to another guy in his second big league season. If Bourn pans out, he and Pence could be a great combo for a very long time.

Another thing I like is that it appears that Ed Wade might have a clue. I've been hard on Wade, but he's already a huge improvement over Tim Purpura in that I don't think Purpura would've ever made this deal. Purpura was devoted to Lidge. There were numerous teams asking after Lidge before last season, and the Astros turned down all of the offers. Sure, Purpura probably would have screwed up any deal, but the trade value on Lidge was a lot higher last season than it is now. And even with that, Ed Wade was still able to get some players of quality.

And Drayton McLane is liking this deal because it allows him to get another African-American player in here. The Astros were one of the whitest teams in baseball last season. And Drayton caught some flack because of it. But now Drayton gets to go before the minority community and brag about how progressive he is -- it's a lie, and everybody knows it, but now he's got some tokens to support his claim.

There are some negatives. I don't like Eric Bruntlett being part of this deal. That means this team has just committed itself to another season of Adam Everett at shortstop. I'm sure Everett will start off hitting in April, like always, then will struggle to hit his weight the rest of the season. Plus, Everett didn't play much after he came back from his injury, so we really don't know if he's still got that range everybody bragged about. The Astros are now talking about signing a second baseman in free agency, and the player they're looking at is Luis Castillo. Castillo's in his early 30s, and he's okay with the bat and he's okay defensively. But he's probably going to command a decent contract of several seasons in length. Sure, there's nothing in the farm system, but I think the 'Stros should just try and get Mark Loretta for another season at another bargain basement price, then do what they didn't last season, which is trade him at the end of July to a contending team that really needs a bat at second, then maybe the 'Stros can use this to stock the farm system some more.

I also don't like that the Astros are now talking about spending big money on a closer. Don't waste money on a closer. A closer is worthless if there are no leads to protect, and the only pitcher who consistently has leads to be saved is Roy Oswalt. Save this money. Use it next season when some special player is on the market. Some special player that could complement this team, make it really good. Save the money for Johan Santana who'll be a free agent after the 2008 season. Put him in a rotation with Oswalt and Backe. And with the money the team will have since Woody Williams' contract is over, go find a closer then. And if the team's really desperate for a closer this season, call Scott Boras and check on Eric Gagne. After Gagne's closing run with the Red Sox last season, he's not going to be in position to command much of a deal. The team's going to suck anyway, so it won't matter if Gagne's blowing saves, and if Gagne is looking good, come the trading deadline, maybe the team can get some contender to trade a bunch of prospects for Gagne.

The off season is young. And there's plenty of time for screw-ups to happen, but I think Ed Wade's gotten off to a good start. Lidge is gone. The team doesn't have to waste millions of dollar on a position that they didn't really need to fill, and think this trade makes the team better.

Nice start, Ed. Maybe you're going to prove me wrong yet. I sure hope so. -- John Royal


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