Friday, July 31, 2015

Astros trade for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers

(You) Hey. How's it going?

(Me) After spending all day thinking the Astros were about to land Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel - and, of course, there's still 18 hours before the Trade Deadline - the Astros went and took advantage of the Mets' really Metsing it up with the Brewers and got Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers.

Wait, what?

So if you were paying attention last night, the Mets and Brewers seemingly had a deal in place that would send Carlos Gomez to the Mets for injured starter Zach Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. Except it didn't happen, presumably because the Mets had concerns about Gomez's hip. Wilmer Flores cried, on the field, because some fans with Twitter behind the dugout told him he'd been traded. It was bizarre. Well, as it turns out, because (warning: oversimplified explanation ahead) the Mets' owners got suckered by Bernie Madoff, they don't have any money but agreed to the trade, anyway, and then remembered that they don't have any money, so the Mets wanted the Brewers to pick up $9m of Gomez's salary, the Brewers said "Nah, homey," and then the Mets made up some crap about Gomez's hip to get out of the deal.

Okay, so who is Carlos Gomez?

Gomez is a right-handed 29-year old outfielder, 6'3" 220lbs - he'll be 30 in December. Originally signed by the, yes, Mets as an amateur free agent in 2002, the Mets traded Gomez to the Twins (along with former Astro great Phil Humber) for Johan Santana in February 2008. After the 2009 season, the Twins traded Gomez to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy.

In 2012 he hit .260/.305/.463 for his first League-Average season, and followed that up in 2013 with a .284/.338/.506 season resulting in an All-Star appearance, a Top-10 MVP finish, and a Gold Glove. FanGraphs posted his WAR at 7.5. In 2014 he hit .284/.356/.477 with another All-Star nod - not that that means anything - and a 5.7 WAR. In 74 games this season, Gomez is hitting .262/.328/.423, a 105 OPS+, 1.7 WAR and 107 wRC+.

In short: for the last four seasons, Gomez is averaging .275/.335/.474 with 100 doubles, 19 triples, and 74 home runs and an average of almost 118 wRC+. He strikes out a decent amount - 22.3% K-rate this season to go with a 22.6% career K-rate.

So this year he's been average. How does that help?

You don't understand. Carlos Gomez is a really good defensive centerfielder. Let's compare, eh?

Avg. AL CF:    .266/.324/.409
Astros CFs:      .226/.285/.370
Gomez, 2015:  .262/.328/.423, 107 wRC+, 2.5 Def, 1.7 WAR
Marisnick, '15: .238/.275/.374, 78 wRC+, 1.1 Def, 0.5 WAR

So if you want to call Gomez's 2015 "average," you'd be marginally right. But an "average" centerfielder for the 2015 Astros is actually an upgrade.

What's his contract situation?

Gomez is obviously under contract for the rest of this season, so the Astros will take on the remainder of his $8m salary, but he's also under contract for 2016 at a modest $9m. So he's not a rental, the Astros get 220-odd games with Gomez in the outfield.

Whatever. Marisnick's still hot. What about Mike Fiers?

Mike Fiers, a 6'2" 200lb RHP who turned 30 this past June, was the Brewers' 22nd Round pick in the 2009 draft out of Nova Southeastern University - two rounds after his teammate J.D. Martinez was drafted by the Astros.

Can we stop for a second and pour one out for J.D.? 

Of course.

Okay, carry on. 

As I was saying, Fiers is really only getting his first shot at a solid rotation spot. His next start will be his 22nd, tying a career high he set in 2012 - his rookie year (I'm not counting the 2IP he threw in the Majors in 2011). He only threw 94IP in the Majors in 2013-14, making 13 starts in 25 appearances. This year, though, he has a 3.89 ERA/1.36 WHIP/3.79 FIP in 21 starts, 118IP. In those 118IP, he has allowed 117H/51ER, 121K:43BB for a 9.2 K/9 rate, 3.3 BB/9 rate. If K and BB/9 don't float your boat, that translates to a 23.8% K% and an 8.5% BB%.

He's also not exactly what you would expect from an Astros pitching acquisition - with only a 37.7% Groundball rate. He's also experiencing a 37.6% Hard-hit rate - an increase of almost 8% over 2014, all pretty much borrowed from his 2014 Medium-hit rate. He throws a fastball (89.3mph) 56% of the time, and mixes in a cutter, curve, and change all between 11-16% of his pitches. does this help?

What immediately stands out to me is that Fiers allows the Astros to move McCullers to the bullpen, managing his innings in the same way that they're doing with Velasquez. McCullers and Velasquez are obviously young pitchers unaccustomed to a full season workload. You probably already know this, but McCullers is 1.2IP away from matching his 2014 total (97IP), Velasquez is 12.1IP away from his 2014 IP total. Fiers is a serviceable pitcher that can fit in behind Keuchel, Kazmir, and McHugh alongside Feldman.

ORRRRR....the Astros could fulfill a pipe dream and flip Fiers in a deal to San Diego where his flyball rate isn't such a big deal in a barren landscape.

What does this do to the roster construction?

Gomez and Fiers have already been added to the 40-Man with no issues. The Astros had DFA'd Alex Presley, Joe Thatcher, and Not Fausto, and with Peacock on the 60-Day DL, there was room.

The 25-Man roster is going to be interesting, because it's firmly at 25. Those on the bubble:

With Lowrie's return, the Astros simply have too many infielders. Note that Valbuena got the start at 1B tonight over Singleton, who did hit his 1st home run of the season last night. Singleton could head back to Fresno and...see what happens. Marwin is more versatile than Singleton, and Valbuena's luck has to come around, right....RIGHT?

Tony Sipp was a candidate when Kazmir came on board, but he remains the only lefty option out of the bullpen. So he's probably untouchable. Valbuena and Carter are out of options, so they would have to clear waivers...which won't happen.

The other option - and it's not going to be popular - is to send Jake Marisnick to Triple-A. He has options left, and coming into Thursday's game he was hitting .238/.275/.374. Gomez makes him expendable. I know you think it's a joke to consider Evan Gattis a "left fielder" but with Tucker, Gomez, Rasmus, and Gattis (and with Springer's return, ideally in about a month), Marisnick is expendable.

Who did the Astros give up?

The Astros gave up four minor-leaguers, though one - Domingo Santana - has Major-League experience. The four, in no particular order, are:

Domingo Santana: We know Domingo. Had a nightmare Major-League debut in 2014, going 0x17 with 14K:1BB in 18 plate appearances. This season, though, in 14 games (42 PAs) he hit .256/.310/.462, still with 17K:2BB, but at least he made contact. He's projectable, still only 22. But he was just blocked, what with Springer, Preston Tucker impressing in his rookie season, and then the glut of outfielders.

Adrian Houser: 2011 2nd Round pick. In five seasons, Houser had a 4.30 ERA/1.37 WHIP, though in seven games with the Hooks this season, he's thrown 33.1IP, 39H/23ER, 23K:15BB. Houser was Rule 5 eligible, meaning that, if the Astros didn't add him to the 40-Man roster (which was unlikely) some team could come in and just pick him up like the Rangers did with Delino DeShields, Jr this last offseason. So basically the Astros got something out of Houser before running the risk of losing him for nothing.

Josh Hader: Acquired in the Bud Norris trade with Baltimore. Losing Hader hurts me a little bit, though I get it. He pitched extremely well in Lancaster last year - a 2.71 ERA/1.11 WHIP in the California League, which is similar to pitching on the moon. His brief stint in Corpus didn't go real well last year, but in 17 games for Corpus in 2015, Hader - in his Age 21 season - had a 3.17 ERA/1.29 WHIP with 69K:24BB in 65.1IP. But there are mixed reports on what Hader could become: a serviceable starter or a future LOOGY, or what? Again, there are roster concerns, though he wouldn't be Rule 5-eligible until after the 2016 season. Given the depth acquired and the goals of the organization over the next 15 months, it's hard to see where Hader fits in.

Brett Phillips: Oh crap this one hurts. This is the very definition of "you have to give to get." Phillips was the Astros' 6th Round pick in the Magical Draft of 2012. 21-year old lefty outfielder, just a sweetheart of a guy. In four seasons, Phillips put up a career minor-league line of .298/.371/.491. In 93 games in Lancaster, he hit .325/.391/.580, and carried that on to Double-A where in 31 games he hit .321/.372/.463. Oh, and he's 21.

Things work out differently for people, but right now I'm most upset about Hader and Phillips. Still, losing Phillips hurts. He's lining up to be the prize of the trade. The Brewers did well.

Did the Astros have to make this trade? 

It's impossible to know what trade talks fell through but the Astros had to make a move to take advantage of the wild ride that has been the 2015 season. In my heart I knew that losing Phillips was likely in any trade of substance, but it doesn't make it any easier. It's strange being in this position: a fan of the team that looks at trade impact now instead of on the "let's reevaluate in five years" side. In no way is the overall state of the Astros' system "in danger." This trade did not "clear out the farm."

Did the Astros get better?

Did they get better today? Yes. They upgraded the team today and still have McCullers...and Velasquez...and A.J. Reed....and we could do this for literally minutes. Will they be regret this trade in five years? Who knows - baseball is a faithless whore. Now, call San Diego...