Astros win Astacio sweepstakes

By Jim Callis

July 31, 2001

Trade rumors swirled around Pedro Astacio for weeks before his future destination was settled on Tuesday. The Rockies dealt Astacio and cash to offset his 2002 salary to the Astros for Scott Elarton and a player to be named. That player reportedly isn’t on Houston’s 40-man roster, and could be a catcher in the upper levels of the system.

At first glance, Astacio’s numbers make it surprising that he’s so coveted. The 31-year-old righthander is 6-13, 5.49 in 22 starts, with 125 strikeouts in 141 innings. While he has a 5.50 ERA over the last four seasons, he also has a 48-47 mark with 698 whiffs in 779 innings and hasn’t missed a start. When he hasn’t had to pitch at Coors Field, he has had a downright solid 4.14 ERA. Of course, he isn’t exactly moving to a pitcher’s park in Enron Field. Astacio’s best pitch is a lively low-90s fastball, and he also can throw his curveball and changeup for strikes. He should give Houston another solid starter, bouncing either Dave Mlicki or rookie Tim Redding from the rotation. Astacio’s contract runs through 2002, when he’ll receive either a $9 million salary or a $1 million buyout.

Twelve months ago, getting the 25-year-old Elarton in any trade would have been a steal for the Rockies. Coming off of shoulder surgery after the 1999 season, he took the first half of 2000 to get going before starring in July and August. A righthander, he went 9-1, 2.93 in 11 starts, but he also worked 80 innings in those two months, an almost criminal amount of work for a young stud pitcher less than a year removed from a major operation. He hasn’t been the same pitcher since, going 2-3, 5.66 last September and 4-8, 7.14 in 20 starts this year. Elarton’s fastball, which used to peak in the mid-90s, was a shell of its former self before he went on the disabled list on July 17 with biceps tendinitis. Moving to Coors Field won’t be the easiest way for him to get his career back on track. The best news for Elarton is that he’s returning home. He was a 1994 first-round pick out ouf Lamar (Colo.) High.