Monday, July 20, 2015

2015 Trade deadline roundtable

Despite the idea that I've withdrawn myself from the whole Astros blogging thing, from time to time I get questions from Astros fans who are either really into my opinion or don't know that I've "retired." I still watch as many Astros games as I possibly can and I do read a few articles here and there, so I still like to answer questions that are sent to me. Recently, Chad sent me the following questions:

"With the upcoming MLB trade deadline fast approaching us, is there any position or player you personally feel Astros management should target?"

What a great question. Instead of just responding to Chad I decided that I would go a little further and coerce the fine writers at Astros County to contribute their comments.

Personally, I think the Astros need to address the rotation depth. I'm comfortable with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and even Scott Feldman. I would love four Keuchels in the rotation, but that just isn't possible and would cost a pretty price in future talent. At the moment, the following names have been connected to the Astros:

  • Johnny Cueto - Reds
  • Mike Leake - Reds
  • Scott Kazmir - A's
  • Cole Hamels - Phillies
  • Jeff Samardzija - White Sox
  • Andrew Cashner - Padres
  • Tyson Ross - Padres
As teams bailout on the postseason, we should start seeing some more names thrown around. Of the current list, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross intrigue me the most. Partly because they've got some strong peripherals, but mostly because they have control past this year and could help the club next year. Everyone else is a free agent after the season or has a ridiculous contract that includes a no-trade clause that is perceived to be used if the Astros try to make a deal for them (Hamels in case you're not following my dig).

Cashner and Ross have also run into a little bit of a luck issue with BABIPs above their career norms. I would expect them to improve upon their first halfs, which have been good but not great. Leake is also an intriguing name because his groundball rate is in the %50 range, which would fit right in with the shift happyness Astros.

All the pitchers above would provide an upgrade for the rotation. It's just a question of, "At what cost?" I'll take someone cheap like Leake or controllable like Cashner and Ross.

First base is an issue, but I have confidence Chris Carter will have a much better second half. I also think Jon Singleton could make an impact if necessary. I wouldn't be upset if the Astros acquired someone more reliable, but I'm comfortable with the talent they currently. Ditto to the outfield, which has been struck by injury. George Springer will be back in September and there are other options like L.J. Hoes, Domingo Santana, and Tony Kemp.

Bullpens can always use another arm, so look for that to be an area. Aroldis Chapman is the sexy name, but will come with a hefty price.

Here are the thoughts of other AC writers.


I'm going back and forth on my feelings for this. On one hand, we've heard for a few years now that there is a #plan and #process to get Houston to the point where they can sustain success for several seasons. This year's surprising results so far are evidence that the plan is coming together, so why deviate from that now? That line of thinking would lead me to say the Astros should stand pat or maybe make some small moves, like a second or even third tier starter simply because relying on McCullers and Velasquez will definitely lead to an innings crunch at the end of the season.

On the other hand, success is never guaranteed. We hope this is just the start of a great run but who,knows what injuries or developmental collapses are around the corner. This would lead me to say we need to strike now while we can and acquire a front line starter, another bullpen ace, and a solid corner infield bat. The Astros certainly have the resources, both financial and prospect-wise, to go for it, but does that slow or even derail the long-term plan?

I'll just say I'm glad I'm not Jeff Luhnow right now.

Masked Marvel

BatGuy talked about #plan and #process, and acknowledging what the Astros have done so far seems like a great way to begin.  Certainly, the plan - when Luhnow et al took over - was to trade for whatever they could get.  Because of what they were trading away - guys like the Wand-man and J.A. Happ - it was a quantity of B- and C-grade guys, rather than a smaller number of high-ceiling prospects in return.  The high ceiling guys in the Astros system have been accumulated mostly via the draft - think Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers.

So the easy part of the plan was getting any talent they could.  Now comes the next stage - concentrating the talent they have into the available positions on the diamond.  The Astros only have one major-league team, so they don’t have unlimited places to stash the talent that they have.  They could fill three outfields with Springer-Marisnick-Tucker in one, then Santana-Rasmus-Hoes in another, then Grossman-Villar-Presley in a third.  All of those guys have played in the majors in the outfield this year.  And that is without mentioning the Astros’ best prospect - Brett Phillips - and another couple of guys that could bust out in the future.

I wrote after the Dexter Fowler acquisition that I was happy to see two players go to Colorado in exchange for one.  The Astros did it again this year with the Gattis trade, sending three players (but only one on the 40-man) to gain one in return.  This signalled a transition to the next logical stage of the plan is to concentrate the available talent, because after all, the Astros can only have nine players on the field at one time.  This will probably continue, and will be the plan for this summer and offseason.

So, Astros fans, don’t get too attached to the guys close to or in the major-leagues.  Any of them - aside from perhaps a couple of players like Correa and McCullers - could be playing for another club by the end of the month.  The next stage of the process is to acquire some elite talent by trading a group of players, which would create space on the 40-man and would fill a hole for the Astros.  I imagine they would be particularly interested in a high-OBP/low-K corner infielder or outfielder which they could control after this year; or a starting pitcher, either as a pure rental or as someone controllable after this season.  The trades will probably hurt the farm, and we will get an idea of what the Astros think of Mark Appel, Tony Kemp, Brett Phillips and the abovementioned outfielders.  Selling a bunch of prospects for an elite player is probably the next part of the plan.  

In return, I would imagine that the Astros are taking a close look at the Padres starters, and anyone the Reds have.  They match up well with the Mets, if a young starter was to be traded for, but I can’t imagine that anyone is leaving the Mets anytime soon.  I am guessing that the Astros’ approach is to trade anyone who they think can’t contribute at a high level on the diamond in 2017.

The Constable

I can talk myself in and out of making an impact trade within about ten seconds of the initial thought. And I've said on Twitter that I am automatically going to hate any trade the Astros make for the first 24 hours, because I have Prospect Attachment Syndrome. This is a debilitating disease whereupon one cannot function as a fan because whichever prospect the Astros trades is automatically considered to be a perennial Cy Young or MVP winner. Why do I have this debilitating syndrome (I'm waiting on the creepy advertisements, with a creepy-yet-sort-of-hot cougar lounges on a chaise and seductively tells you to see a doctor)? Because the Prospects are where the hope was for the better part of five years. I've been an Astros fan for a long time, but five years of being told Prospects! Prospects! can take it's toll.

And we are living in an era in baseball where teams have Prospect Attachment Syndrome, as well. In the documents where the Cardinals broke federal law and then leaked the Astros files to the world, we found out that Luhnow tried to get Lucas Giolito for Lucas Harrell. Lucas Freaking Harrell. No, my friends, the price for any Impact piece - be it arm or bat - will be high.

Of course, the Astros have depth. When you preach Prospects! Prospects! for the better part of five years, you're going to have some to trade, and they can't all play on the field at the same time, so you either move the prospects, or you try to find a loophole that allows you to play 46 guys in one game.

I hated the Gattis trade immediately, but it's hard to argue that Rio Ruiz has a .618 OPS in Double-A and Mike Foltynewicz is a flyball pitcher with a high BABIP on a shuttle between Atlanta and Gwinnett (which is more of a long commute than a shuttle, but whatever). I still am not sure about the Gattis trade, but Mike Foltynewicz isn't Billy Wagner (yet) and Rio Ruiz isn't Chipper Jones (yet). I was sure about the latter two things immediately. Likewise Jarred Cosart and Enrique Hernandez.

So I guess this is where we have to trust the #process that everyone preceding has discussed. We have to trust that whomever the Astros send away isn't going to fit into the overall picture. But I don't like doing that. I liked it better when the front office looked incompetent, it made for hotter takes.