Wolf Headed To Houston

The Deal
The Padres continued to sell off excess veterans as they look toward 2009 and beyond, this time trading lefthander Randy Wolf to the Astros for Triple-A righthander Chad Reineke.

The Big Leaguer
Wolf has served as a sound one-year gamble for the Dodgers and Padres in each of the past two seasons, as the California-born, Pepperdine product has tried to re-establish himself on the West Coast. The results, especially considering his pitcher-friendly home parks, have been underwhelming. The 31-year-old Wolf has gone just 15-16, 4.74 in a combined 39 starts. He was 6-10, 4.74 with San Diego this season with 105 strikeouts, 47 walks and 14 home runs allowed in 120 innings, but he was a different pitcher away from Petco Park, posting a 6.63 ERA in 10 road starts. The Phillies’ second-round pick in 1997, Wolf looked like a future ace early in his career, establishing career highs in wins and strikeouts in 2003 when he went 16-10, 4.23 with 177 strikeouts and 78 walks in 200 innings. But Tommy John surgery in 2005 sidelined him for most of the subsequent two seasons and took just enough bite off his high-80s fastball and sharp curveball. Wolf also throws a changeup to righties and a slider to lefties. The veteran lefty can opt for free agency when his $4.75 million contract expires at season’s end.

The Prospect
Reineke, who stands 6-foot-6 and weights 210 pounds, uses his height to his advantage to deliver his 90-94 mph on a steep angle to opposing batters. The 26-year-old righthander also throws a plus slider, but his inconsistent changeup, mechanics and command all suggest he may be best suited to a bullpen role. Reineke has been compared with former Astros’ reliever Chad Qualls, who has a similar repertoire and who made the transition to the bullpen at a similar point in his career. Houston selected Reineke in the 13th round of the 2004 draft, out of Miami (Ohio), and he moved to Triple-A in just his third full pro season, posting strong strikeout rates with Round Rock in both 2007 and 2008. Through 212 innings over the past two seasons, Reineke has gone a pedestrian 10-14, 4.54, but with 195 strikeouts (8.3 per nine), 87 walks and 22 home runs allowed.

Quick Take
It’s hard not to like this trade for the Padres, who get a potential late-inning reliever in Reineke without sacrificing a core piece. If so inclined, San Diego could sign Wolf again as a free agent this winter, while Reineke is theirs for the next six seasons because he has no big league service time.

While serving in the same capacity for Philadelphia during Wolf’s prime seasons, Astros general manager Ed Wade has witnessed the lefthander’s dominance firsthand. However, those days appear to be long gone, given Wolf’s recent track record and struggles on the road. Houston’s Minute Maid Park favors righthanded power hitters, too, which further magnifies the risk involved in making this trade. Plus, at 46-54 and 12 games behind the NL Central-leading Cubs, the fifth-place Astros are long shots to even contend for the wild card.

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