It's a $1-million plus incentives contract to be a fourth outfielder and provide gritty, veteran leadership to all the kids the Astros traded away to Baltimore and Arizona.
Well, I guess he can at least platoon with Michael Bourn out in center. Except they're both left handed. And even if Bourn flames out and produces like his craptastic .277/.348/.378 line from last season, that's STILL better than the last two seasons of Darrin Erstad. So he can't be considered a "backup plan" or whatever.
I guess you could use him as a defensive replacement for Carlos Lee, but I'm pretty sure you could use Brad Ausmus as a defensive replacement for Carlos Lee, even if you let Ausmus keep squatting so that he doesn't leave his comfort zone. Erstad hasn't even outhit Ausmus the last two seasons.
I understand that it's hard to kill the team as a fourth outfielder making a million for one season, and that this isn't the end of the world. And he comes with a built-in safety valve: if for some reason you're not smart enough to keep him out of the lineup, his frail, frail knees will do it for you. But it pretty well tells the story of the Astros' offseason -- lurching around, throwing resources at whatever flotsam comes to hand without a clear notion of what you're doing.
I mean, seriously. They didn't have anyone at Round Rock that could give you Erstad's production? I'm sure Tim Raines wouldn't have turned down a second chance at the majors.