When Brad Mills left Boston’s bench to become manager of the Houston Astros, he knew he had his work cut out for him. The Astros were coming off their second losing season in three years and had a bare cupboard on the farm.
That work is becoming more difficult by the day.
As Mills’ club toils in the basement of the National League Central with the worst record in baseball, it has jettisoned two of its very few stars in trades over the past day. First it was right fielder Hunter Pence, considered by many an untouchable franchise cornerstone, in a swap with Philadelphia. Now, center fielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn is on his way to Atlanta in a reported trade that began Sunday’s circus.
That leaves Mills with a bare-bones roster devoid of the only guys who provided consistent production this season. Before his trade, Pence had a .308 average. Bourn finished his season with Houston at .303. The only other player on the team with more than 150 at-bats and an average of .300 was Jeff Keppinger. He was traded to San Francisco over a week ago.
Top starter Wandy Rodriguez also may be shipped prior to the deadline.
There is an obvious need for rebuilding in Houston, which has been ordered to strip payroll by new owner Jim Crane. Usually, rebuilding can be done around young, talented outfielders like Pence and Bourn. Now that that plan has been scrapped in favor of an overhaul from the bottom up (prospects galore are flooding the system through these deals), it is back to square one for Mills and the rest of the organization.
When Astros general manager Ed Wade hired Mills in October 2009, he said, “This is a guy that fits for us, this is my choice. When you take into consideration everything that you have to do, I think Millsey fits the bill perfectly.”
Mills has every ability to help the organization turn things around. Anyone who saw him in Boston knows that. Yet “everything that you have to do” may now involve a bit more than Mills had originally thought.