Friday, August 1, 2014

Cosart is apparently a Marlin, Pt II.

Yesterday, I indicated somewhat prematurely that the 2014 edition was not an exciting trade deadline.  Then things went kind of crazy, and lots of deals went down in the last few hours.  The BoSox traded in their veteran goodness for an interesting mix of players, the Rays got surprisingly little for David Price, and a flurry of other moves involved both contenders and non-contenders, including a stunning Astros-Marlins trade.

As the Constable has already indicated, the most buzzer-beating trade deadline deal involved the Astros sending three players to the Marlins, who sent three players and a draft pick back in return.  As this trade was going down, I was on my way out of the door, so I only managed to scramble a quick post up before the details even got finalised.

The comments in that post were interesting.  AC readers (and commentators) are generally fairly sharp, I think, compared to what else is out there in the comments section.  (I believe AC readers are 37% more handsome, and smell 56% better than the average internet reader, too).  There was an interesting mix of comments, with some shock and horror to start with, then more objective looks and acknowledgements of the potential players coming back.  In general, most the comments were positive.

Now that I have had a few hours to digest the trade myself, here is my thoughts on the players going to Miami:

Austin Wates (and no disrespect in saying this) is probably a non-piece here.  When you are the AAA CF, and when the three CF-capable ML pieces all head to the DL at once due to an unfortunate series of circumstances, and you aren't called up, I think that says something about the organisation's plan for you.  Also, at 26, his time is now, and I think that if the Astros wanted to drop him in at the ML level and see what happens for a couple of months, they had all the opportunities they needed.  I hope he has a nice career, but the FO clearly weren't in his corner, so this trade may be the best thing that ever happens to him.  'Nuff said.

Jarred Cosart is a very interesting pitcher.  I would describe him as having couple of plus pitches - both fastballs - with enough of an off speed arsenal to get by.  His lack of strikeouts are concerning, but perhaps speak to the lack of velocity difference between his two best pitches.  The only other thing that I would find concerning is the fact that he always - and the radio guys mention this a lot - seems to be fiddling with his mechanics.  He seems to struggle with control (perhaps as a result of inconsistent mechanics, or inconsistent thoughts about mechanics), but 90% of the time his stuff is good enough that he can throw one of his ridiculous 95mph cutters down the heart of the plate and get away with it.  When he doesn't get away with it, he can be hit hard, as he was a couple of times earlier in the year.

So Cosart is plenty good - a legit ML piece somewhere in the rotation - which is phenomenal for a 38 round pick.  But I want to get away from that for a minute, and think about who else the Astros have in the system.  At AAA, the Astros have Nick Tropeano, Mike Foltynewicz and Asher Wojciechowski who have not yet seen ML action, and all need a look in the next 12-18 months or so.  That is without talking about Tommy Shirley, David Martinez and Rudy Owens, who probably don't have the stuff, but may warrant a look.  Alex White is on his way back from TJS.  And Jake Buchanan and Brad Peacock are with or have been with the ML team recently, and have pitched with some success at times in the bigs.  Peacock, in particular, could put it all back together as quickly as he lost it - and he has been quite good for stretches at times this season.

At AA, things start to get more interesting.  Mark Appel, Luis Cruz, Kyle Smith and Kyle Weiland seem to be the cream of the crop there.  Some of the guys at this level may be ready for a look at this time next year, but they will probably be as ready as they ever will be in 2.5 years.  At Lancaster, Josh Hader, Vincent Velasquez and a handful of others have impressive ceilings.  Hader may be ready in 12-18 months as well.  The Astros have a lot of pitchers they need to cycle through the rotation prior to 2016, which is when I would expect that they want to really have a rip at contenting.

So it isn't that Cosart isn't good, or useful, or uncoachable, or too familiar with Twitter.  It is more that he is replaceable.  One of the guys mentioned in the two paragraphs above will be at least as good as Cosart, and the chances are that 3-4 or them will be.  That said, I was very impressed with Cosart's season, and thought that he made significant gains over last year, despite the worsening in ERA (but not in FIP/SIERA and other advanced measures).  I sincerely wish him the best of luck, and I will always be interested in how his career progresses.

Kiké Hernandez's loss could sting a bit.  There is a lot of value in a super-utility guy with occasional power, who doesn't strike out a lot, who can take a walk, and who runs the bases fairly well.  Which is what we saw in Houston and OKC this year.  Plus, he seemed like a popular, high-energy guy, and there seemed to be a sense of magic in much of what he did (but not when trying to throw runners out at home).  I liked his timing at the plate - he often seemed to make hard contact even on foul balls - and without checking the numbers (small sample size alert if we were to check the numbers, too) didn't seem to swing and miss a lot.  He seemed able to hit breaking stuff, and appeared difficult to overpower.  In short, I like him a lot.

However, it has to be said that Hernandez is relatively unheralded - which means nothing in itself - but he has also has only one half-season of great baseball under his belt.  This could well be the best that he ever plays the game, or he could stay at this level and have a solid career.  He could also be waiver-bait in 2 years or so if he is playing above his talent-level at the moment.  Marlins Stadium is unlikely to be kind to him - it is unkind to anyone not named Stanton after all - and so his pull-power may not play there as well as the Juice Box, or that other stadium in Arlington (for example).

(Addit: I missed a couple of points that I wanted to make about Hernandez in this article.  Firstly, he is blocked in Houston, unless you play him at third, and I think that the Astros are committed to giving Dominguez another 12 months before doing that.  Secondly, there is a very real possibility that Hernandez is the best player changing teams in this trade.  There is also a possibility that he is the worst of the 4 main players changing hands too.  His volatility is fairly extreme at this point in his career, and he will get an opportunity to play every day at the keystone in Miami).

So here is my take on the players that the Astros are trading away.  Unlike the Constable, I don't think that the Astros have decided to put "success" (whatever that is) on hold for a year.  Hernandez might be great, but is also volatile, and this could be a good time to sell high.  Cosart is eminently replaceable, but perhaps not immediately.  Whomever starts in the rotation in Cosart's place in 2015 will most likely perform at a similar level.  Wates' departure from OKC may allow Andrew Aplin to be promoted, and he clearly wasn't getting a look anyhow.  This trade has the potential to hurt, but I think any modern baseball trade involving prospects does.  And this trade isn't the Hunter-Pence-to-the-Phillies kind of haul for the Marlins, but both Cosart and Hernandez could develop quickly, and it seems to me that the Marlins are gearing up for a serious run this and next year.

Tomorrow, I will have a lash at looking what is coming the Astros' way.