A vague and ephemeral MLB rumor that the Astros have been contemplating dealing All-Star slugger Lance Berkman to the Angels for rising first baseman Casey Kotchman has been thrown into sharp relief in the upheaval following the Brewers acquisition of ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia from the Indians.
Though the validity of the rumor has never been established, the prospect of the trade becomes much more probable now that the Brewers have emerged as the prohibitive favorite to win the National League Central Division, or at least secure a wildcard berth, at the expense of the Astros as much as anyone.
Key to the proposition will be the team's determination of whether the Astros can remain competive this year, or should begin peeling off pieces such as Berkman, Carlos Lee, Roy Oswalt, Miguel Tejada and others in exchange for prospects and younger talent. If it was not already a clear choice with the Astros a dozen games off the pace, the Sabathia deal should make it painfully obvious.
Just exactly what the Astros are thinking will be recognizable in the play of veteran infielder-outfielder Darin Erstad, who after a number of years of difficulty staying healthy is playing excellent baseball offensively and defensively and should be heavily relied upon if the Astros expect to climb back into the pennant race.
If Astros owner Drayton McLane is inclined to punt, however, then Erstad will probably lose playing time to younger players whom the team will attempt to further acclimate to the big-league environment.
Ironically, an ongoing team poll of fans had nearly half of the participatants urging the Astros to carry on rather than reconfigure.