Astros continue rebuilding process

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Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (27) is forced out at home plate on an infield grounder by Astros' Justin Maxwell in the first inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Monday, Sept. 3, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Houston Astros are on track to turn in its second straight 100-loss season. They have not had a winning season since 2008. They are clearly in a rebuilding phase, but how long will it take for them to be competitive once again?

With the many trades the Astros (42-93) have finalized throughout the season — shipping Justin Ruggiano and Carlos Lee to the Marlins in separate packages, moving J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter to Toronto and many others — it has slashed its payroll drastically and is looking toward the future. The idea is to have room to add players who can fit and continue moving forward in hopes of achieving more wins.

“The good thing about our situation is we’ll have a lot more money than [the A’s] will at the end of the day, so we should be able to build,” Astros owner Jim Crane said. “We’re certainly optimistic that speed can come into the program. When you look at Oakland, they weren’t supposed to be able to compete for a few years, and they are running after a wild card.”

The Astros are relying on the development of its Triple-A Oklahoma City prospects, pitcher Jarred Cosart and third baseman Matt Dominguez. José Altuve, the 22-year-old second baseman who was named to his first All-Star team this season, is hitting .291 with 33 RBIs and 27 stolen bases and will be a key piece heading into the future. Brett Wallace has bounced between Oklahoma City and Houston this season and is expected to stay with the Astros for good now that the team can contribute.

This year’s No. 1 overall pick, Carlos Correa, who the Astros believe can become the face of its franchise, will be returning next year as well. The Astros will also probably receive the No. 1 pick again for the 2013 Draft, which will be another opportunity to pick up good, young talent.

“They understand where we’re going and what we’re getting to and it’s easy to see, and they want to put themselves in a position to be aboard when we move forward,” former manager Brad Mills, who was fired last month, said. “And I think that’s a big, motivating factor in itself. To be with the ballclub when it moves forward.”

It is unlikely that the Astros will be competing for a playoff position in the next couple of years like Oakland, unless some sort of miracle occurs, but they have certainly see an instant improvement from the past few seasons with good draft picks and an active offseason. It may be possible for the Astros to compete in the next four to six years if the players in the farm system continue to grow and learn from what they’ve been through.