Prediction: This is the beginning of the end for the Astros. It's all downhill from here. The money isn't there, and the team is getting old. Gerry Hunsicker will have to do a lot of things right for this team to succeed next year and beyond.
Offensively, there's not a lot to do. Brad Ausmus is a free agent, and although he's well liked on the team, prospect John Buck can do everything Brad can. Other than that, the team should focus on giving Morgan Ensberg the 3rd base job, and trading Richard Hidalgo. The team desperately needs to free up money, and trading Hidalgo is a good idea. He could go to the Braves, who will need a bat to make up for the loss of Sheffield. The team could then slide Jason Lane into that spot, without losing too much value.
>From a starting pitching standpoint, things have to get better. Roy Oswalt badly needs groin surgery, and after he does that this offseason, should be healthy in 2004. Wade Miller has been up and down, and probably needs the winter break to regain arm strength. Tim Redding is starting to develop blisters, which the team really doesn't want to start developing. Finally, Jeriome Robertson had a solid rookie year, and must build on that. Ron Villone probably won't be brought back next season, as the team should be looking for better arms. With Hidalgo's money gone, Hunsicker should investigate signing Sidney Ponson, whom he's long coveted for.
The bullpen doesn't need help. Wagner closing, Dotel and Lidge setting up. Ricky Stone and Kirk Saarlos should handle the middle relief duties. The team could use a LOOGY, and Mike Myers will probably be available. If Myers were to return to dominance in an Astro uniform, they'd start making arguments for the best bullpen ever.
I think this team is treading water, and will slowly start to sink. The Cubs are catching up, and soon it will be the Astros that are chasing.