He's owed $6.5 million this season, which the Astros will have to pay him. The Astros paid him $6 million last season, for 188 innings in which he provided an ERA+ of 83. And signing him cost the Astros their 2nd round pick in 2007 (it would have cost them a first rounder, had they not also signed Carlos Lee).
Richard Justice defended the signing earlier this spring, which is another reason why you probably should listen to what Richard Justice thinks about baseball. Seriously:
Williams seemed like a solid, no-risk signing. He was coming off a solid season in San Diego, and there was no reason to think he was at the end of the line. With Pettitte and Clemens likely gone, he would also be a perfect role model for the younger pitchers.
I didn't understand why Purpura would give him a second year, but it didn't seem like a big deal. I imagine his thinking was that if Williams was solid in 2007, he'd want him back in 2008. The money was reasonable.There simply was no way to know that Williams would have the worst year of his career and look like a guy with nothing left.
Maybe someone in the Astros front office should have considered that Williams, despite having a gaudy 3.65 ERA and 111 ERA+ in 2006 for the Padres, was playing in front of a great outfield defense (which Houston couldn't offer) and in a park that plays well for flyball pitchers like Williams (he had a 4.29 road ERA in 2006). And his peripherals were going down the drain in 2006, as well...he allowed 21 homers and struck out just 72 batters in 145 1/3 IP. He had a DIPS ERA of 4.82 while striking out fewer than 4.5 batters per 9 innings. That's a huge, blinking red light saying, "This guy is toast."
Anyway, it occurred to me a couple of days ago, when there was talk Williams would get released, that a team like the Rangers, who have more money available in their budget to spend on players than they have players to spend it on, could swoop in and offer to take Williams (and his contract), along with a couple of nice prospects, for the equivalent of Scott Shoemaker or Kevin Mahar (to list a couple of guys who were released yesterday from the minors). Basically, buying a couple of prospects from the Astros for $3.25 million apiece. The Rangers could then just release Williams themselves.
Unfortunately, the Astros farm system is so bad, there's probably not any package of guys available that you could get that would make eating Williams contract worthwhile.