Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Astros trade Barnes, Lyles for Dexter Fowler

Exactly one hour after I wrote about how the Astros haven't done anything, they did something. The Astros traded outfielder Brandon Barnes and starting pitcher Jordan Lyles to the Rockies for center fielder Dexter Fowler and a player to be named later.

So what about this Dexter Fowler? He'll be 28 by Opening Day 2014, a switch-hitting outfielder how hit .263/.369/.407, and FanGraphs gave him a 2.2 WAR in 2013 (2.0 WAR from Baseball-Reference). Seeing as how Astros' outfielders as a whole hit .242/.294/.367 for a -1.6 WAR, Fowler is clearly an upgrade for the Astros.

Astros' leadoff hitters totaled a .249/.310/.321 slash line. Fowler, as a leadoff hitter, hit .263/.378/.411. Against RHP, Fower hit .237/.349/.392. The Astros, as a whole, hit .238/.288/.366 against RHP. But if we look at Fowler vs. LHP, we see he hit .323/.417/.444; whereas the Astros hit .259/.313/.382.

The big question is how will Fowler hit outside of the lunar surface that is Coors Field? In 2013 he hit .311/.396/.478 with a .358 BABIP in Colorado; that dropped precipitously to .214/.343/.335 on the road, with a .283 BABIP - in line with his .880 career Home OPS and his .694 career Road OPS, and he has a career .189/.338/.270 slash line in 13 games (51 PAs) at Minute Maid Park (too small of a sample size to get anything from).

So obviously, the Astros upgraded their outfield, which should next year feature George Springer in the corner and one of a number of options (L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman, to name two options) in the other corner. From a contract standpoint, Fowler will make $7.35m in 2014, will be arbitration-eligible for a third time in 2015, and won't be a free agent until 2016.

The Astros will now be in search of two starting pitchers, to replace Bedard and Lyles. Lyles, the Astros' 38th overall pick in 2008, has had trouble in the Majors: In 377IP (72 appearances, 65 starts) Lyles had a 5.35 ERA/1.45 WHIP, and had the worst season of his young career in 2013.

Are there questions? Sure. Is it an upgrade? Yes, on paper at least (which is all we have to go on, anyway). My biggest concern is how Fowler will play outside of Colorado, but that would be true of any player leaving Colorado. Ultimately, we wanted the Astros to upgrade at the outfield, but not at the long-term expense of the impressive farm system they've built - and it seems the Astros have done just that.

With trading away Barnes - the Astros' 2005 6th Round pick - the player on the 40-Man roster who has been with the organization the longest is now David Martinez, who signed as a 17-year old amateur free agent in 2005.