But 2015 happened, and Conger was alright at the plate. He hit .229/.311/.448, and it was the power that gave him his value. His 107 wRC+ was 11th among the 45 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances in 2015. He was projected to make around $1.8m in 2016. He was the robot-dancing life of the dadgum party. Why trade him?
Could it be that the Astros decided to simply allocate the $1.8m they were projected to have spent on Conger in 2016 elsewhere? In the alternate universe that is baseball economics, $1.8m is not a lot of money. Luhnow already said as late as last week that the Astros could afford all of their arbitration-eligible players, if they wanted to. The Astros saved the $1.8m on Conger's 2016 salary plus whatever amount of cash comes back from Tampa Bay to complete the deal. How much is clubhouse chemistry worth?
And I think that's why it hurts. I think we can all agree that the Astros aren't just being cheap. They're running up tabs on service time and pre-arb players that are going to have to be paid in the not-too-distant future. But for years the Astros had absolutely zero personality. None. They were a collection of mercenaries, hired to keep the general manager in his position, faceless agents of baseball not necessarily meant to delight us, but to win just often enough to make it watchable.
Conger's MVP moment came *after* the Astros clinched the Wild Card on the last day of the season - two words, half of them profane, hilarious in timing and content. The robot dancing every time someone else hit a home run, the mythical Clubhouse Presence that perhaps fans value too highly. Well, as we have noted ad nauseum, the Astros value things differently than we do. Maybe it'll work out, but today I'm just sad over a backup catcher.